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Hey DJ! Vol. 3 w/ DJ Heinz

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DJ Heinz is one of the masterminds behind the ever-so-fun Meatball Magic. If you’ve never been to Meatball Magic, it’s the definition of an alternative dance night.

It’s a bi-weekly event at an off-the-beaten-path gay bar in southeast Fresno, formed by a bunch of DJs who wanted to do something totally different than the top 40 that populates many local nightspots. Oh, and it’s about as unpretentious as you can get.

There’s another Meatball Magic on Friday night, and it just so happens that it’s also DJ Heinz’s (aka Vance Vasquez) birthday. So wish him a happy birthday and read all about how he get started DJing and what Meatball Magic is all about. Just a head’s up, there’s a lot of “I can’t believe I admitted that” to follow.

Where can people find you spinning currently?
Currently my co-DJs (Taffy, Todd Tomorrow, Cuckoo) and I have a monthly party (every third Friday of the month) called Meatball Magic. We just celebrated our 5th year anniversary! That’s where I can be found consistently. There is a Meatball Magic going on Friday (April 16) for my birthday. Other than that I randomly get asked to do different parties and play in different clubs around town.

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What styles of music do you play? Do you have a favorite?
My favorite, I think is electropop or stuff that people wouldn’t normally think to dance to in a club setting. Something along the lines of the Pixies or even a newer band like The Swimmers. I guess if I had to fall back on something it’d be disco-tinged and everything within it at the moment, nu-disco, electro-ish stuff. Everything gets recycled and I thank my lucky stars that people will never leave disco alone. I also love late 70s and early 80s Funk and R&B. It reminds me of my childhood.

What’s your favorite song of the moment?
Mmm… It’s hard to say. That’s such a cop-out answer, isn’t it? At this very moment, I’ll admit I’m in love with this song by the Wave Machines called “Keep the Lights On” or a song called “Tout est parfait” by Numéro#. That’ll probably change in about an hour though.

Since a lot of people probably know you from Meatball Magic, tell us how that got started/how you got involved in it?
Meatball Magic started out as a collaborative effort and always will be a collaboration of sorts. It was an idea that I had because I was frustrated that there was nowhere I could go and listen to decent music (that wasn’t top forty or country) and have a tasty beverage while I was at it. I was lucky that my friends felt the same way. I looked around and talked to people about it. I initially wanted it to be in the Tower District since I lived nearby. But it ended up at The Red Lantern. My friend Taffy (Tory Johnson) had a dance night a couple of years back at that same bar. I figured if they were open to it, I would try to ask if we could do something similar. I did and they were kind enough to let me have it on a Friday and here we are five years later. Honestly I don’t know what kind of party it would have turned out to be if I had it in the Tower. I still wonder from time to time.

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At any rate, Cuddles (Sandra Herrera), Cuckoo (Alan DeCoronado) and I (Heinz) started an adventure we now share with Taffy (Tory Johnson), Todd Tomorrow (Todd Frech), and a gang of supporters willing to help out at a moment’s notice that I hope will stay fun until its last day — which doesn’t seem to be any time soon.

How is Meatball Magic different from other club nights in town?
I could be self-effacing at this point– It’s hard to knock when everyone’s worked so hard on something with you, though. So I won’t be. Meatball Magic is different in a lot of ways but I’d probably break it down to these main reasons: There’s no attitude, we like the people who come, and it is everyone’s party. I think we do attract a certain crowd with the genres we decide to play out and I’m fine with it. We have Meatball because it’s fun and when it stops being fun, that’s when it will go away. We won’t eat you alive if you ask us to play something silly. That happens a lot…Which makes for an interesting mix. I could understand from a professional’s point of view how that could be a really bad mess– But if you go into it with the understanding that it’s anything goes, it can be fun, or a mess. There’s also no cover. However, let me just stress that by saying that, I don’t think everything should be free or that people shouldn’t get paid. I’m not that kind of hippie. I’m like everybody else who’s done this. I’ve been shafted by bar owners, promoters, and even friends. And that’s horrible after you’ve dragged all your stuff out, done your best, and only to find that at the end of the night they forgot their checkbook, or since they didn’t make as much as they assumed they would, you’re not going to make as much as they said you would.

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What inspired you to start DJing?
Frustration actually made me want to do it. I always thought at my 7th and 8th grade dances that if I could afford turntables, I could do better than the DJs they hired, even if my hands were shaky. I hated that I had to hear the same songs, over and over and over…Like a broken record. Again, frustration…What a weird epiphany to have during an interview.

What was your first gig?
Meatball Magic, officially I guess. Non-Meatball: Probably the first Prince Party that Devoya Mayo threw. I have her to thank for bringing me out of my shell with playing outside of Meatball Magic. Before that, I remember trying to do something with CD players (multiple “Discmans” hooked up to a stereo or something) at a party in a basement like ten years ago. That was a disaster. I can’t believe I just admitted that.

What was the first record you bought?
The first record I actually saved money for was Cheryl Lynn by Cheryl Lynn (I think). Either that or Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. I am an old man…But I was really young when I bought that record.

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Nowadays: Records, CDs, MP3s?
Yes, yes and yes. I love vinyl but I’m terrified of it at the same time. It stems from this memory that I had playing records when I was a kid. My hands would get super shaky and I still have this semi-irrational fear of scratching the record with the needle in an inappropriate way. Most of the time I use CD’s. It’s the format I’m comfortable with…Depending on the situation. I have a wedding coming up that I was asked to DJ for and I think in that case, having all the terrible music that comes along with DJ’ing a wedding at your disposal is probably best considering a wedding is never one person’s day. It’s everyone’s day and they all request something that’s equally frightening that you probably don’t have if you don’t regularly do that sort of thing. In that situation, I see nothing wrong with a little laptop bump and grind. Ultimately I don’t think it matters really what you use as long as you like what you’re doing… Because all that matters is the music.

What’s one song that will always get the dancefloor packed for you?
It’s always going to be the song your gut told you to play.

Tell us a favorite guilty pleasure song of yours?
“Videophone” by Beyoncé. I can’t believe I admitted that. The Fred Falke remix of “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. Someone kill me. Now. Fred Falke isn’t a guilty pleasure– The guilty pleasure part is that I like any variation of a Ke$ha song… AND that I know how to spell Ke$ha.

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From a DJ’s perspective: What’s one thing you’d change about Fresno’s nightlife?
Dance permits. Sleazy promoters, greedy club owners, and ridiculous DJs are horrible and will always exist– They’re always everywhere and will always be everywhere though at any given time. That whole dance permit nightmare is what I’d change, immediately with respect to Fresno. Oh yes…And something I’m guilty of often, the mentality that everything should be free. If you want to bring quality acts and be entertained by them, they deserve compensation. At some point a cover is going to come into play. Instead of getting angry or disappointed when you learn there’s a cover, there should be an assumption that one could already exist– At that point it’s your decision as a consumer to decide if the act inside is worth your pretty penny I guess.

What’s your dream gig?
My dream gig would be able to do what I love without having to worry about money. That’s basically what it boils down to for me.

Where can people find more about you?
I can be found on all the usual suspects in terms of social websites …I’m very stalkable. (tumblr: vanceypants.tumblr.com, twitter: @vanceinmypants, facebook: look me up.) I also have a radio show that airs every Friday night from 8PM-9PM on 88.1 FM, KFCF, titled Album of the Year (featuring indie/dance music) If you’re interested in learning more about Meatball Magic, it has a tumblr page (meatballmagic.tumblr.com, we’ve also got a fan page up on FB, and we’re on twitter: @meatballmagic)

Phew! I’m sure I’ll look back at this in a couple of years and feel really dated with the social website references. We do have a backlog of our set lists and photos from the past few years on myspace as well…If you dare venture on to the myspace anymore. (www.myspace.com/meatballmagic) If you look at the photos on the Myspace profile, you can see a lot of our past flyers, many of which were done by Cuckoo (Alan DeCoronado, twitter: @desvelos tumblr: mijito.tumblr.com), who is a brilliant graphic designer and DJ.

Responses to "Hey DJ! Vol. 3 w/ DJ Heinz"

MsJoey says:

I have to say that this is probably THE MOST UNPRETENTIOUS DJ interview I’ve read to date.
DJ Heinz is so down to earth and real and his love for music and playing great music shows enormously in this interview.
I love MM and am working on getting these guys an all ages venue cause as he states, “I always thought at my 7th and 8th grade dances that if I could afford turntables, I could do better than the DJs they hired” and that is sooo true.
Keep up the good work, Mr. DJ!!!