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But with the advent of computer software tailored to beat-matching, DJs have a third option: Let a computer make the transitions. The technology also affords the opportunity to ditch the vinyl for the convenience of MP3s.
Purists argue that mixing by ear is the true art of DJing, and relying on a computer is merely playing other people's songs. Others, including Craig, say the means to the end doesn't matter, as long as your mixes don't fall apart. "I just think that we've gotten to a point now where it's like a math geek telling someone that they're cheating because they're using a calculator," he says.
To Craig, the true art of DJing is to keep people interested – and to get them to dance. Never mind that, because he has such limited use of his arms, traditional DJing would be impossible for him. Because the technology allows the DJ to move in and out of a mix more quickly, it also affords more time to elaborate on other aspects, Craig says, including reading and responding to the crowd.
Early on, Craig didn't always connect with his audience. That was partly out of arrogance.
"There were nights where I was like, 'Fuck it. I'm playing what I want and I don't give a shit if they run out of the room. And they ran out of the room.'"
But these days, songs that once broke the crowd, such as We Are Rock Stars' "Does It Offend You, Yeah?" can galvanize the room.
"Now I'm really at the point where I can play what I want to play," Craig says. "It was an evolution. It wasn't easy."
Decatur Social Club regulars Kimberly Turner and Scott Lockhart, a married couple in their early 30s, say they immediately bought into Craig's evolution. When they arrived in Atlanta two years ago, they made the "mistake of moving to Buckhead." They credit DSC with introducing them to a "whole other world of people we didn't know how to find."
When they first showed up at DSC, they made the novice move of walking in at 11:30 p.m. (The event seldom picks up before midnight.) It turned out to be worth the wait. "It was the best night we'd had in Atlanta," Turner says. "When we left, we were giggly, dripping with sweat from the dance floor, saying, 'Oh my god, we have to wait a whole week for this again?'"
Over time, they gained a deep appreciation for what Craig does.
"Here's this guy," Turner says. "He can't dance. And he's made it his initiative to come here every week and make other people dance. He saw something that we needed in Atlanta, and he made it happen."
Being able to work a room the way a great DJ does -- to go from inspiring 15 people to dance to inspiring 100, to push them from their quiet shells to a point where they're screaming, to boost the mix with something even more high-energy and watch them go crazy, or to drop it down and watch them go crazier -- is an ultimate display of power. Imagine, then, what that must be like for someone who has so little power over his own limbs.
He can inspire others to do what he's incapable of doing himself.
Craig likens DJing to a drug. You constantly want more. It's a major boost to the ego. A DJ can change the mood of a room. A DJ can become immensely popular. And a DJ can let that go to his head. As a result, Craig has a lot of friends. He's also made some enemies.
At 31, Craig hasn't exactly mellowed with age, nor has he helped dispel a bit of a reputation as a pretentious jerk. Over the past several years, he got into a much-blogged-about feud with the staff and owners of the Majestic, the 24-hour hipster hangout on Ponce de Leon Avenue. "If you ask around town, everyone knows this guy," according to a post by Lucas Power on an Atlanta.MetBlogs.com thread about the dispute. "A few people know his name, but mostly people know him as 'that asshole in the wheelchair.'"
He also was charged with disorderly conduct after confronting a cop whose patrol car blocked the handicap entrance of a local convenience store. And on his blog, he hands out "asshole awards" to any recipient he deems worthy.
He admits his haughtiness might be exaggerated, rather than excused, by his condition. He's used to people having to do things on his terms, because their way is often inaccessible. "A lot of people say that's been a bad thing for me," he says. "I'm a control freak, and everything is my way. Even in my private life, everything is done my way."
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