Why B recalls a decade in Milwaukee's DJ scene
For anyone who has heard DJ Why B, aka Christopher Gerard, spin in Milwaukee, there are a few things that are unquestionably apparent.
Never technically complacent, Why B always seeks out an innovative musical angle, projects a good mood and clearly loves Milwaukee.
Categorically known as a hip-hop DJ, Why B has amplified his capacity and his range as he has moved through musical styles and local venues. He has been everywhere -- small clubs, opening for national acts, accommodating the occasional wedding and hosting local birthday parties. Hip-hop may have begun as his genre of choice, but he has proven himself universally inventive.
This March marks Why B's 10th anniversary on the Milwaukee DJ scene and he plans to celebrate.
Like his early days at Thai Joe's, Why B integrates visual elements and artistic performance with a strong DJ experience. The first of these events, The Rick Jameson Experience, slated for Saturday night at Moct, brings together painting, dancing and graffiti art along with a four-turntable set.
The show coincides with the release of his bi-monthly radio show album, "No Request Radio," establishing a promotional radio broadcast featuring the No Request DJ crew playing preferred underground artists intermingled with comments on Milwaukee's music scene. Its distribution is based on word of mouth and as such, it fits precisely with Why B's desire for creative collaboration and elevated experience.
OMC: With three or four residencies a week, you're clearly an established DJ in Milwaukee. How have reached this level of success?
Why B: I couldn't tell anyone else how to get where I'm at ... When I started there were fewer spots, fewer venues and fewer DJs. I just came up on people that were trying to do something different and because it was different and because there were fewer DJs around, it was easier to get people to notice what I was doing. A lot of people don't want to view it as a job but it is. I like where I'm at, I just couldn't tell you how I got here or where I'm going.
OMC: Describe your approach to DJing.
Why B: I have no problem with people that go to a club expecting to hear exactly what they heard on the radio that day ... but don't come to hear me play. Everything I do is venue specific and time specific. I'm not going to play the same thing at 10:30 p.m. that I would play at 1 a.m. Even if it is the same place I play every week, something about the crowd is always different and it affects how I play. There is a venue in Milwaukee for every type of music if you search it out, and that's something I think I like about this city.
OMC: You recently bought a laptop and switched from vinyl to digital music. Why?
Why B: I think I'm probably the last working DJ in Milwaukee to switch from vinyl to digital. I think that it's good and bad. It gives you the option to play a lot of different kinds of music in a given night. I can have 10,000 songs with me from reggae to rock to hip-hop and house.
OMC: What's the disadvantage?
Why B: I think it can dilute what's going on. Now, there is so much more music -- a lot more bad music and it can make it hard to constantly sift through so much. There is more quality control with having to be pressed on vinyl. I think younger or newer DJs no longer have the sense of creating a collection. I literally have rooms of vinyl and I know exactly when and where I picked them up. With vinyl, because you only buy a small number of albums at a time, you really get to know your music. But I think today you are really at a disadvantage without digital because everyone else has it.
OMC: You've stated that you're a devoted supporter of Milwaukee. What do you like about this city?
Why B: It's not a huge scene, just because of the size of the city, but Milwaukee has always bred a lot of quality DJs. There aren't too many nights in Milwaukee that you go to clubs and the resident DJs and their guests aren't really good at what they do. You can afford to live here and work fewer hours and you can really concentrate on being an artist. There are good musicians and artists, and it's not really media driven but more about getting together and playing with friends and hopefully drawing an audience.
OMC: What is your favorite spot right now?
Why B: Moct is my favorite place in town right now. The owners let us do what we want musically as long as we are entertaining the crowd. They know a lot about music but they're not trying to manage us. They're really open to both old and new stuff.
OMC: Would you say you like DJing more today or 10 years ago?
Why B: It's different. Ten years ago it was totally new to me. I was listening to mix tapes because I wanted to know how they were doing it. I had been DJing in someone's kitchen for a year and the fact that people were asking me to play in clubs felt really good. But now, I'm way more confident in what I'm doing. Every time you DJ, it's a different situation. It can be the same night, the same spot that I DJ once a week, but the crowd is a little different. I just feel more comfortable dealing with those situations. And of course, eight or 10 years ago I wasn't a part of a group that wasn't taking requests.
OMC: Do you plan to ever leave Milwaukee?
Why B: I have no plans to move, ever. I love it here. I started 10 years ago and starting making a living maybe about a year ago but I've played at every spot in town at least once. Plus, of course, I love my mom.
themkeunderground | March 13, 2008 at 3:18 p.m. (report)
"Young Blood" is one of Milwaukee's shining talents in the dj scene. He gets much props from the underground as well as the mainstream, all the while keeping it real. Here's to another 10 more. Have to respect the shout out to momz.
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