Digging With…DJ K.Ward

I’ve known of you since I moved to Raleigh in 2009 and heard about you as being a great DJ in the area. My spot for going out to dance was Mosaic back then so I’m sure I heard you DJing there at least a few times but we really didn’t meet until the night you introduced yourself to me at Ruby Deluxe. DJ SPCLGST invited me down and I ended up playing an all-vinyl set of dancehall and afro-Latin-style house music. You’ve always been my favorite DJ here in Raleigh and I feel like I can really jive with your selections. How long have you been DJing in Raleigh?

I appreciate the compliment Ryan, thank you. We are all working on making some beautiful noise wherever we are. Mosaic was a home for me and so many others because of the space, the people and the sounds played there. It was exciting to meet you that night at Ruby because the sounds you played are the backbone of my personal tastes and part of Mosaic’s nightly soundtrack. I started djing there some months after it opened in 2006 and orginally started djing in Raleigh at the old Helios in 2003 after moving from Carrboro.

When did you start DJing? How did you get into it?

I started buying records in high school and djing a bit during college. I have a lot of family in NYC and a cousin came down here for college and brought a house mixtape with him. I remember Blackout (Phase 1) by Lil Louis was on it and that pretty much brings us to where we are now.

I know you’ve got a digital set up now, can you give us a rundown of what your gig set up typically looks like? What kind of controller do you use? What type of decks? Do you use a software program? etc

I have a Pioneer XDJ-XZ, basically a controller that uses either USB or Serato. I use USB. I organize my files/songs through iTunes which syncs with Pioneer’s dj software, Rekordbox.

Do you still collect vinyl? If so, what do you typically look for when you’re digging now?

I still buy vinyl, all kinds of stuff. Afro, Brazilian, Electronic, House, Latin, 80s, 90s, whatever’s good and I can play out somewhere. Last thing I bought was probably on the Mukatsuku label. 

What are your favorite digging spots? Online or storefront?

I usually buy online from juno.co.uk, discogs or bandcamp.

What are your favorite places to play? Are there any specific events that stand out among others?

Favorite places to play are really the only places to play due to Covid-19 and that’s Five Star and William & Co. My favorite past events from the last few years would have to be the Day Party at Babylon, Mosaic Spring/Fall Music Fests and Mi Casa in Playa del Carmen.

I love that you’re also not afraid to switch it up. Your taste in music seems pretty eclectic. I haven’t played out a ton in Raleigh but I feel fortunate to have been able to DJ the same night with you for a few events at Cortez. What types of music would you normally play on those nights?

Again, I appreciate you saying that, thank you. Eclectic is an interesing word. I just really like a lot of different kinds of music and in certain venues or events it sounds good to mix it all up, whether the focus is a dining or dancing crowd. There are other moments though when some good house or techno is the answer.

I know you’re a house head though.  How and when did you get into that style of music? What is it about house that appeals to you?

House head, haha. I do enjoy it. Like I mentioned, my cousin from NYC is to blame. Not only for passing me the mixtape but also taking me out to a couple of spots where saw him house dancing. Amazing!!! Depending on the dj, the vibe, the records, etc, house has an energy that can be hype, sexy, relentless and I think easy. It just moves you.

I think many venues around town are very hesitant to entertain the idea of having a DJ play. I think the stereotype is always having a bass-heavy, window shaking, 4 to the floor thumping sound pumping out of the speakers.  It’s unfortunate that this misunderstanding gets in the way of them enriching the vibe of their venue. What would be your ideal venue if you had disposable income to spend on a place here in Raleigh?   

Yeah, this area tends to keep it safe and ‘comfortable’. I remember when I lived in Carrboro trying to score gigs at different venues and one of them was Caffe Driade. The owner at the time didn’t want ‘dj music’, whatever that is. However, new owners took over not long after and were open to what I was planning. I prefer outdoor spots, like that caffe, that can be converted into another space once you switch up the vibe with sound, lights and people into it.

What are your post pandemic hopes and dreams? What are you excited to get back to doing here in Raleigh? How are you feeling about 2021?

Post pandemic hopes and dreams include lots of travel and seeing where else I can land. Raleigh always has possibilities so I forward to planning some things with you and few select djs to create some cool moments with the music we like. I am looking forward to getting out of the house, on the road and enjoying life out there.

Check out some of K Wards mixes here…