DJ Daytona: A game changer in world of EDM
Jeremy Velasquez isn’t trying to become famous. He’s just trying to be himself. It just so happened that on the way to being himself, the young disc jockey and electronic dance music producer became, arguably, the most talented musician/composer in the Grand Valley.
Proclaiming his composition talent and musical ear isn’t the sort of thing Velasquez, whose musical name is Daytona, would ever do.
But others will.
“He’s probably, in my opinion, the one who will make it big,” local DJ Ryan Stringfellow said.
Local musician David Goe, in his Dec. 14, 2012, Out & About column, wrote: “Very quietly, Daytona has built up a reputation as one of the best producer/DJs in Grand Junction. He also may be the most talented musician performing in the city right now.”
To either compliment, Velasquez, who has lived in Grand Junction for nine years, simply responded, “Wow,” In reality, however, he earned the praise through hard work — he’s been a DJ for more than 10 years and a serious producer for nearly that long — by refining his skills, keeping a pulse on what’s new and changing the perception that musicians can’t make a name for themselves in Grand Junction.
“There’s always been an ‘it’ factor with J,” said longtime girlfriend Kristina Juarez. “He’s good at finding what’s new and cool.”
Although Velasquez, 30, grew up in a musical family of vocalists and instrumentalists, he was instead drawn to electronic music, using his grandmother’s old record player as a makeshift turntable by transforming a mouse pad into a slippad to scratch records.
Scratching on a turntable is a DJ technique to produce sounds by moving the vinyl.
He was 15 or 16 at the time.
A couple years later, Velasquez and some friends drove to Santa Fe for a rave. It was his first. He just stared at the DJ.
“I was really interested in how he was making the sounds,” Velasquez said. “I’ve always known I wanted to be a DJ sort of, but to actually go to a party and see it, I was like, ‘I’m going to do that.”
“He became infatuated with DJing,” Juarez said, chiming in.
He bought his first turntables from New York City. They weren’t good, but they were cheap, Velasquez remembered.
He lugged crates of records around to house parties or other small shows. When he got spare money, he drove to Denver-area record stores to sift through new music.
It was the late 1990s and early 2000s at the time, the Internet hadn’t taken off, so there were no YouTube training videos, blogs, Facebook, SoundCloud or other social media sites to upload and hear music on.
Although Velasquez never went to college and didn’t technically graduate from high school — he got his GED — he taught himself how to DJ, then how to produce music because he realized music production was where his creativity could shine.
“I think when you are a DJ, you want to share music with people because you like music, but you always have a thought that, ‘I could make this. I have the ear.’ There’s just a point where you really try.” Velasquez said. “It’s hard, but I’ve learned a lot, sticking to it.”
He eventually acquired new equipment and learned more as technology progressed.
Velasquez’ current gear — a laptop computer and mini-controllers — fits into a suitcase.
“It’s incredible,” he said of the EDM transition within the past decade.
An improvement in technology and his ability to get paid for his EDM productions or his DJ shows has enabled Velasquez to ramp up his product as Daytona.
“His shows are very high energy,” Juarez said. “You can dance his whole set: Really heavy bass, really melodic. It’s one thing people notice about the tracks he produces. I think it’s what people are looking for right now.”
Daytona knows he’s doing something right because one of his most recent productions, “Dark Child,” was the top track for nearly all of December 2012 on DubStep.net, one of the largest national sites for dubstep music downloads and streams.
The 4-minute, 44-second track starts with piano, giving way to orchestral strings, ethereal, choppy vocals and a melodic synthesizer for nearly 90 seconds before a heavy bass line takes over for the duration of the track.
You can hear several of Daytona’s tracks through his SoundCloud account at soundcloud.com/d-velasquez or through his Facebook wall at facebook.com/D4YTON4.
“It’s one thing to drop your DIY recordings on SoundCloud for a couple dozen people to stream,” Goe wrote on Dec. 14, while Dayton’s track was No. 1. “It’s another thing entirely to have the hottest track on dubstep.net, a national EDM depository. ... ‘Dark Child’ hits right up there with the big boys.”
Daytona’s production ability has made him a game changer in the world of EDM locally because he has found a way to promote himself on talent “without being cheesy,” Stringfellow said.
Juarez calls Daytona a “New Age Mozart” because he composes on the computer.
“I think (production) is pretty difficult, especially if you are on the forefront and being creative with it,” Goe said. “Think about somebody like Mozart composing an entire piece. He has that in his head. That’s kind of what a (Daytona) is doing. You have to think about all these different sounds and put them together in a way that makes sense musically.”
At heart, Daytona considers himself an artist whether he’s DJing, producing, painting, dancing, whatever. He doesn’t plan on living in Grand Junction forever, but he’s happy to make music while he’s here.
“I’m not trying to be somebody,” he said. “I’m just having fun and being me.”