When you think of deep house, you think of Chicago and, to a lesser extent these days, Las Vegas, but Richmond, Va.? In a sense, this makes DJ Aakmael one of deep house’s best-kept secrets.
Aakmael comes from a musical background going across hip-hop, R&B, house, reggae, classical, opera, and jazz, with a mother who sings and a father who played in a local band. He started DJing at 16 for parties, school events, and weddings and, after college, began branching out to more genres.
College was also a time of being exposed to the music industry. Aakmael held multiple positions at colleges and universities with their music teaching staff.
All of this experience culminated into three major distinctions: One, being a DJ at some of Virginia’s and D.C.’s major house music clubs; two, being behind a radio program in WDCE 90.1fm for 20 years; and three, producing many releases since 2004. The latest is The Rise EP, out on March 30 on his own Unxpozd imprint, a label that may eventually grow to include more artists.
As well, Aakmael has held residencies at VA House, Metro, Clubhouse, After6, Club Colours, Nite World, and Hung Jury and performed at the Winter Music Conference.
Now that his latest release comes out this month, we caught up with DJ Aakmael.
How did you get into DJing?
I started collecting records very young, and eventually I got my first turntable and mixer. By the time I was in my first year in high school (1988), I was doing parties for students and other events – school talent shows, auditorium events. Well this led to years of me spinning, eventually for weddings, professional organizations, radio stations (WDCE, WPLZ, WVST), local night clubs (Metro, Flood Zone, Caffeine’s, Clubhouse, After 6, Colours, Factory, Nite World), and other private events.
When did you start producing?
I started producing seriously around the year 2000, although I made beats prior. There was a vandalism that happened in 1999 that disabled my DJ career at the time, so instead of replacing turntables, I got a CD recorder, a keyboard, and drum machine and haven’t looked back.
What do you use for DJing gear?
Technics 1200’s, Pioneer DJM700, CD mixers, Serato, USB flash etc., just depending on the function.
What gear do you use in the studio?
Right now PC, Pro Tools, Triton, Maschine.
How do you describe your sound?
Deep, dark, different with a hint of soul!
Do you have any releases coming up?
The RISE EP on Unxpozd, as well remixes for other labels.
Where are your favorite places to DJ?
Florida I guess for the most part. I’ve DJ’d many places in VA, played in D.C. a few times and NC, but Florida would have to be my fav at the moment.
As an underground DJ, what do you think about the rift between mainstream and underground electronic music?
To me, they complement one another. Like, can’t have good without bad, but which is good and which is bad? I think the underground stuff gives you the flexibility for a wider creative approach, whereas mainstream kinda puts you in a box. So, I vote for more flexibility, deep house soldier!
How do you find your music for sets – do you go digital, or still use traditional approaches?
I dig, dig, dig just like in the all vinyl days and tend to stray away from other’s top 10 lists.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming DJs?
Practice frequently, record as many mixes as possible, and get it out there!