DJ Badger:  The News and the Journal

Entry One Hundred Forty-Four.
Tuesday, 2011.09.20, 1:07 PM CST.

The Fall 2010 Chronicles, Part I:  Reuniting with my DJ mentor.
Current Mood:  Patient and hopefully productive.
Current Scent:  None.

Well, it's time for a special series of Journal Entries that I've been wanting to post for a while.  As is often the case with me, I have waited a bit too long this time around, but these are still worthwhile posts which I'll hope you'll take the time to read.

Last fall, I had a series of experiences which, in many ways, were pretty life-changing... or at least somewhat life-affirming.  I met an old friend for the first time in years, I met four different individuals whom I had admired for over two decades, and overall it was one of the most eventful autumns that I'd undergone in many, many years.


I'm starting off "The Chronicles" with a story about one of the most important and influential human beings that I've ever known:  a gentleman named Dave French.  Without Dave, I very likely would never have become a DJ.  He was THE driving force that introduced me to the DJ industry.

If DJing were anything like the world of vampires in HBO's "True Blood," then Dave French would be considered my "maker."


I know that I've told a lot of this story on my site before, so to those of you who have heard it in the past, I apologize for the redundancy.

Back in early 1988, I was a painfully introverted high school sophomore - socially inept and geeky.  I was "book smart" - I graduated at the top of my class and I was considered the go-to guy as far as computer stuff was concerned - but I wasn't popular.  In addition, I was a non-comformist.  Even though I attended a very rural, backwoodsy school, I personally eschewed the country life.  I wore a lot of black clothing and I preferred to listen to European bands such as Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, and - my personal favourite - Depeche Mode.  I wasn't quite a "goth," as I didn't wear any makeup... but I was kind of "creepy" to a lot of people there who didn't understand me (nor did they want to).  I had a few friends, but they were very few.

Dave French, circa 1990In February of that year, my friend Dave French, pictured to the right (please forgive the LA Gear fanny pack; I think that picture was taken in 1993 at the latest, so such things were acceptable), asked me for a favour.  He was running his own mobile DJ service, and he wanted some good-looking "free pass" cards for a forthcoming Valentine's event on February 13th.

I won't deny it:  I had nothing better to do.  Plus, it was exciting to be able to help him out.  I'd looked up to Dave for a long time.  Not only was he one of the funniest people that I knew back then, he was also a musical prodigy, with the ability to play practically any instrument.  Now a senior in high school, Dave was running his own DJ business (though I didn't quite yet know what that would entail).  I, on the other hand, usually sat around playing computer games and rarely left the house.

So, I agreed to create those "free pass" cards, and I did the best job I could with an Apple IIe (running "Newsroom" software for the graphic design and text layout) and a black-and-white, tractor-feed, dot-matrix Epson printer.  I made a front design and a back design, then cut them out and glued them together to make a "double-sided" free pass.  I even went so far as to make a purple "security mark" on the inside of each one using a felt-tip marker, so that he could hold them up to the light to verify the authenticity.  (For all I knew at the time, there could have had all kinds of scoundrels willing to counterfeit these cards in order to get free entry to a Valentine's event at a Catholic church.)

Dave dug the cards.  He was really pleased and thankful, and for reasons I still don't understand (except maybe just being bored with my life), I asked him the question that would end up irreversably changing my life.  I asked if I could tag along and help with the gig.

The name of the mobile DJ company was "Mirage Productions."  Dave ran the company, and his friends (and fellow seniors) Dusty and Gerard helped out.  They helped run the light controls while Dave DJed, and they helped set up and tear down the equipment.  In some cases, Dusty and Gerard even loaned some of their own equipment to the cause.  The show was modest, but Dave wasn't exceptionally wealthy, and he had a lot of initiative to do what he could with what he had.

The weekend before the gig, Dave and Gerard allowed me to go with them on a music-shopping run.  I personally had very little money with me, so it was mainly a learning experience for me.  I had lots of "records" at my house from when I was younger, but until this shopping trip, I didn't even really understand the purpose of a 12" vinyl single.

We headed into the "big city" of Tulsa, and they bought a few 12" singles, which cost about $4.00 each, at Buttons and some shop in Woodland Hills Mall.  The only single that I am 100% sure Dave bought that day was the Bangles' cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter."  I know he bought more music than that, though; between what he bought and what he played at his house before and after the trip, the following songs are etched into my memory as being directly associated with this trip:

  • The Bangles - "Hazy Shade of Winter."
  • M|A|R|R|S - "Pump Up the Volume."
  • Salt + Pepa - "Push It."
  • 3 Man Island - "Jack the Lad."
  • Blue Mercedes - "I Want To Be Your Property."
  • Keith Sweat - "I Want Her."

(If I remember correctly, I think that Dave took back an unopened cassette single of "I Want Her" that and traded it for store credit toward the 12" single.)

When February 13th came along, we got everything set up, and the gig went relatively smoothly.  I mainly acted as a "gopher" (you know, "go for this," "go for that,") carting around cases of cables and whatnot - mainly gruntwork, but I had a blast.  I really felt like I was "part of something."

For the next year and several months, while Dave attended our local community college and I continued with my high school courses, I helped at every Mirage Productions gig I could.  As time went on, I learned more about how to handle customers, how to take requests, and - my favourite part - how to work the light controls.  Dave didn't have many lights, and at the time the light controls were manifested as a rudimentary wooden box with toggle switches on top... but, to a small-town boy like me (no Bronski Beat reference intended), it was a really major deal to be able to "work the light board."

Also, as time passed up through 1988, I expanded my musical knowledge drastically.  I discovered "import" singles, which were much more expensive but much rarer and cooler to own than their American counterparts.  I started listening to KTOW (Tulsa's "progressive" radio station) and learned about a whole world of artists that I'd never heard on our pop station, K-107.  I soaked up the musical knowledge like a sponge while I slowly invested, more and more, into my own music collection.

Overall, I was a good, respectful kid, but my mind worked in a different way than a lot of people (to put it bluntly: I was weird), and I must admit that I was sometimes obnoxious and often way too curious.  I asked a lot of questions (about music, about DJing, and about girls - all subjects with which I had extremely limited experience at the time), and I sometimes behaved rather immaturely.  (Luckily, I got a chance to apologize for that later on in life.)

I had a lot of fun with Dave and Mirage Productions, but in 1989 he delivered some devastating news:  He was transferring to the University of Oklahoma, and he was going to be moving after the spring semester was finished.  Mirage Productions - my only outlet for getting out of the house and even really "meeting people" - was going away with him.

I tried to come to terms with Dave's impending departure, but that was too saddening and a bit terrifying.  My parents, however, had a plan.  They had noticed how their geeky little son had been "opening up" socially and "coming out of his shell" since joining the DJ world, and they knew (hoped) that I had the book-smarts to manage my own business.

So, my parents - not rich people, mind you - offered to "back" me in my endeavour if I wanted to start my own DJ company.  After a lot of discussion, they pulled out a chunk of their own savings and bought a decent music and light system, as well as a considerable amount of additional "dance" records, so that I could start EKG Mobile Music, my first DJ company.  Obviously, I was elated.  At the age of 17, I was able to found my very own entertainment business.

Dave was incredibly supportive, and helped us along the way, giving us recommendations and pointers about how to run the business.  He continued to be my "DJ mentor."  For the next few years, when he visited his family on weekends, he would often drop by my house so that we could do "mixing practice."  He eventually moved back to Tulsa, and continued to drop by and visit now and then.  I practically idolized him; as an only child, he was very much like the big brother I never had, and his assistance was absolutely essential to me.

In the mid-1990s, Dave (who had graduated college and was now working in the Tulsa television/production market) and I started drifting apart.  I had my set of friends, and he had his set of friends, and very rarely did our paths cross.  He eventually moved to Dallas, which prohibited our contact even more.

In the fall of 1998, after not visiting for a very long time (possibly a year or two), Dave met with me at one of the Cain's Ballroom retro nights, and we hung out for a while and caught up.  We were both older and more mature by this point (I especially had done a lot of "growing up"), and I had a great time.

I had no idea that it would be the last time I'd see him for almost twelve years.


I think I remember talking with Dave on the phone once or twice soon after that meeting, and there was never any indication that anything was wrong.  Eventually, Dave and I lost touch completely.

In the early 2000s, while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, my dad gave me some news I wasn't expecting:  Dave had gotten married.  He'd heard it through the country "grapevine," and I hadn't heard anything about it whatsoever.  I kept a straight face, but deep-down, it hurt.  A lot.

Then, at some point in the 2003-2005 range, soon after my final EKG Mobile Music gig, I was talking with someone about DJing while working one day at my very-non-DJ-related corporate day job.  I explained how I got into the industry, and I mentioned Dave.  She recognized the name, and moments later it was clear that she had (long before) dated him and was still friends with him.  Not only had he continued to keep in touch with her, he had sent her wedding pictures (he got married in Vegas, if I remember correctly), and he told her that he'd since gotten divorced - another thing I was hearing for the first time.

I love Facebook.  Despite its shortcomings, it's one of the most amazing services ever to be manifested on the Internet.  I have been able to catch up with tons of old acquaintances, classmates, etc... for free.

In 2009/2010, I found Dave online, and sent him a message.  We quickly became "Facebook friends" and did a LOT of catching up.  It was great.

Then, in the late summer/early fall of 2010, I received a Facebook message from Dave informing me that Recoil (Alan Wilder, formerly of Depeche Mode) was going to be performing at the Trees venue in Dallas in October.  I knew that Wilder was touring, but I didn't know about this event until Dave informed me.

Soon after that, I checked with my wife and bought tickets for Recoil, and on October 16th, we headed for Dallas.

On the drive down, I received a call from Dave on my cell phone to check our progress.  It was great to hear from him, and it hit me after the call that we hadn't event talked on the phone for over a decade.

Finally, Lanna and I arrived in Dallas and headed to the Blue Mesa Grill (my favourite Mexican restaurant in the world).  Dave and his girlfriend, Lori, arrived shortly afterward, and I was thrilled to see the man who changed my life for the first time in so long.

The reunion I thought would probably never happen.
Taken outside of Trees, Dallas, TX.  Photo by Lanna K.

Dave and I did a lot of catching up that day.  I apologized for being so awkward/immature/annoying when I was a kid.  He apologized for not telling me when he got married.  As far as why we'd fallen out of contact for over a decade was concerned... he explained that it was nothing personal; he'd just gotten busy, our lives had drifted apart, and he'd lost touch.  That was a relief.

After dinner, we headed to the Recoil concert (which was a good event for such a reunion, because, as Dave noted, I had introduced him to the music of Depeche Mode back in 1988), and it was a lot of fun.  I even got to meet Alan Wilder... but that's a story for another Journal Entry.  The next one, to be exact.  :)

Later that night/early morning, Dave, Lanna, Lori, and I all went to a wonderful pizza place near the Trees venue for some remarkable late-night chow and the trading of a few more stories from "the old days."  We also visited Dave's video production studio, Dream.Work.Conquer. Films, where it became apparent (not that it wasn't before) that Dave was doing what he loved, and quite successfully.

I will never forget the influence that Dave French had upon my life, nor all of the assistance that he gave me as I ventured further and further into the DJ industry.  I am extremely proud of his accomplishments, and I cherish the memories that I've been lucky enough to share with him over the years.  I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure we don't have to wait another twelve years to see each other again.

I'll post again very soon... with more details about meeting Alan Wilder!