Massapequa, N.Y. – Jimmy Strange, owner of Rhythm Force Entertainment on the South Shore of Long Island, has been in the DJ game since the early 1990s. In that time, he’s developed a stage persona, and an act to go along with it, spicing up his interactivity with humor, inventive games, and, most importantly, a sense of fun.
We asked the Massapequa-based Jimmy Strange (aka 52-year-old James Wilson) some questions about how he’s gotten it done for the last 30-plus years.
DJ LIFE MAG: Where did the inspiration to DJ come from?
Jimmy Strange: I was working at Manor East, a catering company in Massapequa, as a waiter when I was 18-years old, and I’d seen a lot of bands and DJs come in and play various events. I had watched them all and said to myself, “That looks fun, and they’re getting paid for it? That’s for me.”
DJ LIFE MAG: And how did you learn to do it?
Strange: After talking with one of the DJ companies, I started as a roadie, then a dancer-interactive guy, danced on MTV’s “The Grind” back in the day, too, started buying records from Music Trends in Levittown and Rock and Soul in Manhattan, started to build up my vinyl collection to 12 crates [laughs]. And carrying them around was no joke. I started DJing. Then I worked up to being an MC, then a lighting guy, then a computer-tech, etc. I did it all. I worked for myself, as well as others, all along the way. All in all, I was self-taught.
DJ LIFE MAG: We’ve talked about your business and the unique, fun quality you bring. Can you describe some things – props, attitude, games – that you’ve used that have helped set you apart?
Strange: At Rhythm Force Entertainment as Jimmy Strange, I’ve been doing this a long time — almost 35 years trying to differentiate myself from the competition on Long Island. The props and attitude I bring to my events are different and unique in all aspects – one being my style of attire and my interaction with my guests. My games and interaction have a flair for comedy, and I like to engage my audience so everyone enjoys the performance, like a show. I like to put myself out there in the midst of everyone to ensure a good time by all. The games I bring are a hybrid of games I’ve seen at the DJ Expo and reworked to fit my demographic along with my own creative spin!
DJ LIFE MAG: Describe the Long Island market for mobile DJs – where do you fit in?
Strange: In my personal opinion – and it’s just my opinion – Long Island DJs are a dime a dozen. There is always going to be someone out there who says they can do it better or bigger and for less. However, that is with any business, I guess – so it is what it is. Just do you and all will work out just fine. Where I fit in in all this, well… I can do the big stuff and I can do the small stuff and all that’s in-between. I love what I do, so it makes no difference in the type of events I’m doing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
DJ LIFE MAG: What’s the current state of competition in your area? Are younger guys coming in with iPads? Couples using Spotify, instead hiring DJs?
Strange: First of all, I don’t use Spotify, never have and never will, and tell clients not to use it either, as a professional DJ reads the crowd and takes them on a musical journey. The iPad and all the tech that’s out there are good in one form or another. But I’m from the old school where we carried crates of records — seven or eight crates sometimes. I’ll say that with the young guys out there today, they don’t have the know-it-all knowledge and didn’t grow up with the greatest musical genres like we have. They feel they can just Google an era and download everything and say, “I’m a professional DJ.” The equipment alone is a whole other story.
DJ LIFE MAG: What’s in your DJ system?
Strange: My basic set-up consists of a Pioneer DJ DDJ-SX controller, a Samson microphone, Serato DJ software, two MacBook Pro computers – circa 2012 because they’re the ones you can upgrade. My hard drives are terabytes. I have standard road cases and a hand truck. I have three ADJ Mega Bar RGBA stage lights and two Snowball lights attached to a RCF EVOX J8 active line-array PA system.
DJ LIFE MAG: RCF always has a big presence at our DJX show in Atlantic City…
Strange: Yeah, I upgraded my sound system from Mackie SRM450v2 units on tripods with no bass bins to the RCF set-up. I always wanted bass bins, but it just never happened for me. I saw an opportunity to get the RCF, and I just did it. I’m very happy with the portability and size and sound of RCF system. I feel like I made a good choice.
DJ LIFE MAG: Speaking of DJX – formerly known as DJ Expo – you’ve been coming to the show for a long time, right? For you, what’s the value of going to the show?
Strange: I’ve been coming to the DJ Expo in Atlantic City since it started, every year, and I’ve learned more and more to add to my arsenal, and I tweak it to fit my demographic. In 2017, I decided to give back my knowledge I’ve learned over the years and spoke to Mike Alevras and Daryl “Jake” Jacobsen to be included in the “Games” seminar on Tuesday. It went over so well that I wish I’d done it earlier. Since then, I have been included in the “Games” seminar and have brought my creativity and wisdom to the younger guys coming up. I believe these DJ shows are an integral part of our business because we can all learn something from each other.
DJ LIFE MAG: Jimmy Strange – what’s up with the name? Has it helped your branding?
Strange: Ha! The name, Jimmy Strange, happened when I was at an event in the early days. A co-worker, Tom Kilkenny, said to me at the event where I was just creatively being me, “Dude, you are strange – you are Jimmy Strange!” And it stuck. I’ve have had that name for over 30 some years. It’s my Facebook name and friends call me that, as well. It’s funny, in 2017, after I did the “Games” seminar at the DJ Expo, DJs in the hallway would call out my name. That’s when I knew I was recognized as a great entertainer.
DJ LIFE MAG: How have you marketed your company, Rhythm Force Entertainment? What’s been the best method for you?
Strange: My marketing has pretty much been all word-of-mouth and referrals. Seems to work best for me, anyway. Friends and family always helped out, too, spreading the word. My grammar school, Maria Regina in Seaford, always hired me for all the dances. All in all, it kinda just grew from there.
DJ LIFE MAG: Where do you see your business in five years?
Strange: I expect it to become more technical, meaning that the equipment will be smaller and faster. Wireless lights will be more compact with a stronger throw capacity. The use of projectors will be more widespread as well, in my opinion. DJs will have to up the game and skill set if they want to continue doing what they love for a living.
DJ LIFE MAG: Do you see yourself as an entertainer first – or a business owner?
Strange: I definitely see myself more as an entertainer than as a business owner. The day-to-day work isn’t as fun as working the tables at an event or getting out in front on the mic. Also, if you saw some of the events I do with the kids, the parents as well as the kids and myself have a blast dancing and laughing.
DJ LIFE MAG: What benefit do you get, personally, from DJing parties. In other words, why do you do it?
Strange: The benefit I get personally from the events I do is the smiles on the faces of the guests at my event. Some people have told me they’ve never seen many of the things I bring to the event, such as the comedy I work into what I do. Some guests have said I should have been a teacher with how I perform at the kids’ events. Some have come up to me to shake my hand and say thank you for making what would be just another party go above and beyond to make the most fun they’ve experienced at any other event, and how it looks like I’m in the right business!
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