Sometimes, versatility pays off. Case in point: DJ E-Clyps, who has successfully turned his many passions and talents into a life of art and community advocacy.
Hailing from Fort Wayne, Ind., E-Clyps is equally adept at scratching classic hip-hop vinyl or mixing soulful house tracks on CDJs. And when he’s in the studio, he’s not sure what’s going to come out of “his lab.” But it’s always quality.
Just check out his most recent releases on his Blacklight Music imprint, “Basement Bounce” and “Walk Away,” a pair of old-school house tracks that’ll warm up the dancefloor. And don’t sleep on some of his better lockdown-era tracks like “French Toast” and his pair of 2020 tech-house gems on Dirtybird – “Scooty Woop” and “Coffee Break.”
Additionally, over the years, he’s released music on such respected dance labels as Defected, Ultra, Toolroom, King Street, and Nervous. And back on the hip-hop side, he’s also served as tour DJ for star MCs like Gucci Mane. In more recent times, he’s mixed his musical endeavors with a newfound passion for photography, which he exercised fully during the Black Lives Matter protests of the 2020 lockdown. His stark and moving images found a home in a variety of outlets, including Time and New York magazines.
In line with his solid stance on social justice, E-Clyps hasn’t been afraid to call out his own music industry for its inadequacies, so he’s not one to stray from an opportunity to discuss any number of topical subjects. Accordingly, with some solid, new releases out on the market, we thought it was a good time to catch up with DJ E-Clyps – to get some vital DJ and studio tips, sure, but also to better understand his sound and vision.
DJ LIFE MAG: What were your original musical influences?
E-Clyps: My first influences were hip hop and a mixture of funk, jazz, and R&B. My uncle was the funk collector. My mom was all about the soul stuff. My grandma was more of the jazzier groovy stuff, and then when I found hip-hop, it changed everything.
DJ LIFE MAG: What got you into DJing in the first place?
E-Clyps: Watching rap music videos and seeing a DJ scratch on records gripped me. It was instant, like, “I have to learn how to do that,” like that’s what I wanna do. From there, it was an addiction I’ve never been able to shake. It’s in your blood, like “how-do-you-not-do-this-every-day-of-your-life” kind of a thing. I love it.
DJ LIFE MAG: Was there a tune, a DJ or an experience that impacted you?
E-Clyps: I used to watch the DMC battles and stuff, like… all of them. But I remember seeing a DJ live in-person at an underground party and just saw how you can change the entire mood of a person with music. People can come in having the worst day ever and leave feeling good – that’s a dope job to have. To be able to speak to people through music you love and hope they connect with it is what makes DJing different than just playing records. It’s never been like a job because I love what I do. Time flies every set because when you’re in that moment, you’re literally somewhere else – just you and the people. It’s what keeps us all doing it, even when things aren’t the greatest. You can’t see yourself doing something else. It’s just in you.
DJ LIFE MAG: Let’s get into one of your new records – “Basement Bounce.” It’s got a smooth groove, but it’s also got some cool effects along the way. What was your process in making it work?
E-Clyps: I approach every record the same way… I just go in the lab and go with the flow. If anything, I don’t go in anticipating what’s going to happen, so I can be surprised myself. All I remember was playing with the keys, and once I came up with the first chord, the ideas came snowballing, and at the point you’re just a conduit to the ideas itself. But the engineer in me loves the mixing process, too, because that’s where the effects and stuff come in. The Solid State Logic UC1 [plug-in controller] really helped the mixing flow, and the Slate Digital and McDSP plugs have been my go-to for a few years now. They just work in a way where you’re focused more on the mix and less dealing with the fluff.
DJ LIFE MAG: In the studio, what else do you use?
E-Clyps: For DAW, I’m Logic Pro X all the way. Some DAWs are better at certain things; but for the way I work, Logic Pro X just makes sense. Everything is laid out to do what you want and you can kick out ideas fast. As far as monitors, the Avantone CLA-10A’s have really made my mixes translate better, just because it makes you focus on what matters and not getting caught up in all the shiny new stuff. I added the new KRK S12.4 12-inch sub for playback and checking lows, but I don’t mix with it.
DJ LIFE MAG: What about hardware?
E-Clyps: Vital hardware? I’d have to go with the Cranborne 500R8 interface. To mix in the box, as well as implement 500 series gear, without patching and running cables everywhere with no latency has been the tool I’ve been hunting for. Why more people aren’t raving about this interface is mind-boggling, especially if you’re looking for a way to blend analog and digital in your workflow.
DJ LIFE MAG: Which producers or remixers impress you the most?
E-Clyps: I admire the greats: Dr. Dre, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell, Timbaland, etc. As far as electronic music goes, I don’t really admire many off the top because so many sound the same nowadays. There are so many loop-pack and sound-pack producers out now that even going through promos annoys me sometimes, because you’re picking the best version of a million clones. There’s some dope stuff out there, but it’s not being shown the proper respect, due to originality not being a criterion for what is dope as it once was. Originality is what used to separate the dopiness from the pack, and now it’s almost frowned upon to be too original because once something is trending, it seems like that’s what labels wants from artists now: clones. So, I guess I’d have to say I admire originality, strong drum work, and, overall, if the song is something that will last longer than news cycle or not. Making records is easy, making good ones is an art in itself.
DJ LIFE MAG: During the lockdown and beyond, did you get into live-streaming?
E-Clyps: Actually, I didn’t get into streaming. Like, I wanted to for a minute, but when the pandemic started and saw everyone was doing it, I opted out because at that point I didn’t feel that was for me to do. On top of that there, were so many things going on simultaneously in the world that I felt I would be better served doing other things. If I’m going to do something, I want it to be from a genuine place, and for me live-streams weren’t it. But respect to those who really are able to do it and have a blast while doing it.
DJ LIFE MAG: How did you survive the lockdown?
E-Clyps: I didn’t mind lockdown. I understood the why, and was completely content in my own space, and knowing if that’s what it took to keep others safe, then so be it. It made me more creative when I know others lost the urge to create. But also, the lockdown made me more appreciative of the stuff we tend to overlook sometimes. I had a lot of meaningful conversations with people because we then had the time to really have them and really dig deep into them. It also made me see proud how we as DJs and producers had the power to keep people motivated and inspired during such a bad time. Sure, we lost a lot of gigs, but we didn’t lose our life when so many did, and living is a blessing… so you have to embrace that and know that other people weren’t so fortunate. Many lost loved ones. It almost made you not want to look at social media sometimes because so many were dying and you never knew who was potentially next. So, for me, staying creative kept me from sliding into a dark place, I’m sure.
DJ LIFE MAG: How about when we began to gather again?
E-Clyps: I started selectively playing gigs when things opened up a bit, but only gigs I knew that were taking proper protocols to keep people safe. What 2022 looks like for me gig-wise I don’t know… but I’m always going to care about the safety of everyone and not just playing out.
DJ LIFE MAG: In the DJ booth, what gear do you use?
E-Clyps: My main gear in gigs are typically Pioneer CDJs and Pioneer mixers. I can play on almost anything, and I’m not afraid to try new gear out; but for most festival- and club-related gigs they’re typically the standard. So, it’s what you get accustomed to and they’re built really well, plus the layout is just always evolving. But give me a good rotary mixer and things get extra fun.
DJ LIFE MAG: How would you describe your style?
E-Clyps: As far as my DJ style goes, whether it’s dance music or hip-hop sets, it’s really me trying to give people a good set with some unexpected curveballs they didn’t see coming – and that’s always the fun of it. My sets tend to hit pretty hard, and the more subs in the place, the crazier it gets.
DJ LIFE MAG: Which DJs impress you and why?
E-Clyps: I admire different DJs for different reasons. Jazzy Jeff is the ultimate party rocker. Derrick Carter has some of the smoothest mixes ever. DJ Scratch and QBert are just unreal. Green Velvet is a monster on the decks. Nicole Moudaber, DJ Heather, so many to name… I admire DJs who leave it all on the decks. You can feel their sets. Their record selections are like an extension of themselves. However, they approach DJing – you can just tell they gave you a piece of themselves.
DJ LIFE MAG: It’s more than just the music…
E-Clyps: Good DJs are like mad scientists on the decks because you realize the decks are your way to communicate without saying a word. It’s not about you; it’s about the people you’re playing for. It’s one thing to say that to be politically correct and another to actually do it. You can feel the difference. Today’s DJ culture sometimes makes it about the DJ and the people the afterthought, and that’s not DJing. Real DJs understand your job is to give the people the best sets you can and leave them with a feeling that sticks with them – everything else is just ego tripping.
DJ LIFE MAG: So, in your mind, what makes a great DJ?
E-Clyps: I think what makes a great DJ is their motivation for doing it in the first place. Now that DJ culture is so huge and such an accessible art from what it used to be, it’s easy to just look at it as a way to be popular, or play festivals and stuff, or just to be seen. But to be a real DJ is in your heart. You have to love this, because there are some days and moments that will try you and if you never really loved it or your motivations are right, you will tap out. A great DJ plays the same for the smallest room as they would for a stadium. A great DJ knows their records, and also learns to read the room. A great one knows it’s not all about them, but for the people. And I’d say lastly, a great DJ is always learning… you never know it all, and the pursuit of taking it to the next level is the thing that drives you to every piece of gear, every new record, every opportunity to do it, day in and day out.
DJ LIFE MAG: What are some tracks that are always in your DJ box?
E-Clyps: Me picking three tracks? Whoa… that’s tough. But always in my box? OK… Cajmere & Dajae’s “Brighter Days,” the Underground Goodies Mix – just classic. Second, Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” That’s one of my favorite hip-hop records ever made. A third? A whole folder full of curveballs.
DJ LIFE MAG: Tell us about your experiences as tour DJ for rappers/MCs. What were your tasks on those endeavors?
E-Clyps: I was a tour DJ for Gucci Mane, as well some spot tour dates for other national artists when the situation arose. The experiences are fun as hell, but it’s also a job. So, you have to be on your A-Game. In my experience, you wore multiple hats. You checked the mics before the artist hit the stage, you communicated with the sound tech. Gucci trusted my ears to be sure everything sounded right before he got on. I also was the hype man, getting the crowd hype prior to him hitting the stage was part of it.
DJ LIFE MAG: For a DJ who wants to get into this, what are the requirements?
E-Clyps: Having a stage presence of your own is a must. Knowing how to, not only DJ, but also having the ability to get on the mic and warm the crowd up is a definite plus. Understanding signal flow is a must! You’re the last line of defense between the artist and the venue, so if you can’t communicate clearly with the sound tech you’re in trouble. When something isn’t right, they look to you.
DJ LIFE MAG: What else should a DJ definitely know?
E-Clyps: Also knowing their catalog like the back of your hand is important because the set list may change, depending on the city – so you have to remain flexible. Knowing how to communicate with the artist without always having to ask them things is another. No one wants a DJ that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Also, don’t be a fan – you can’t be starstruck by who you’re working with. They need you to be able to do the job, not being a groupie.
DJ LIFE MAG: Over the past couple years, your terrific photography from some of the BLM protests got significant exposure. Beyond your site, where can the public see it? How does that side of your artistry fulfill you?
E-Clyps: I started photography as a creative outlet away from music. When the thing you love becomes your job, you need another outlet to break away from it, to keep your mental health intact – and, for me, it was photos. I’ve been blessed to have my work featured in Time magazine, New York magazine, Flaunt, Adobe Lightroom, and others… and it’s weird now because I never thought anything would grab my heart the way music did – but photography has done that. It’s an extension of me now, so yeah… I’m a DJ, and a photographer working under the same name. You’d also be amazed how many of my other DJ friends have picked up cameras as well. I keep saying we should start a group to share each other’s work!
DJ LIFE MAG: We met each other a few years ago while we were both doing a project for Give A Beat, so I know that you stand strongly for social justice. Briefly, how does your artistry – the music and the photography – play into your stand for social justice?
E-Clyps: To me, the point of having any form of influence is to speak for those who don’t. Music often is the soundtrack of people’s lives – we express things in ways they wish they could and that’s why certain songs resonate with them. Photography is the same way… in the cases of protest and issues that affect the Black community and people of color, or even in social injustice, many of those voices will now live beyond the brief moment in time – they’ll speak forever. To be able to use both, to me, is a blessing because I’m now able to tell stories visually and musically.
DJ LIFE MAG: So, there’s a larger calling for your artistry…
E-Clyps: Some people only make music to drive their own ego. They don’t care about what the average fan may be dealing with in their own world or the difficulties they may face – and that’s a waste of influence. Some have gotten too high-minded in their exploits and forgotten about people, about connections, about being more than self. I mean, honestly… if you don’t care about them, why should they care about you? People spend their hard-earned money and resources to support what we do. Of all the tons of artists and DJs out there, they chose you… the least that one can do is show how much, not only you appreciate them, but also care that their lives are better by speaking up about things that may affect them.
DJ LIFE MAG: What’s next for you?
E-Clyps: I’d like to get into doing more remixes. I love remixing. Also, to work with more mainstream and underdog artists to really experiment to make some really dope stuff. Right now, I’m just focused on progress, and always pushing myself to make great music, play great sets, and be great to others… and any opportunities that come my way to make those things happen more often: I’m here for it. I’ve worked hard to even get to this point, and I feel like I’m just getting warmed up, so always looking to take things up a notch and build on things, ya know? Also, heavily focused on doing things in the community and finding ways to inspire others to make real change happen. So much is going on right now in the world, and if I can use any influence I have to help make those changes happen, I’m here for those, too… especially when it comes to Black creatives and creatives of color.
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