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Behind the Turntables: DJ AJT

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at C Mich chapter.

I had never seen anything like it before; 50 drunken college kids in one room, all under control and in sync with each other. Usually I hate all places that are crowded and unbearably hot, but this time I didn’t mind it. Something about it was so amazing to me, the way everyone moved together to the buzzing of the speakers. The bass of the music shook the walls, as everyone within them shook the ground to match the beat. The drunken bodies moved in sync as the music droned out the noise of the outside world. It controlled them in the most transcendent way possible, moving them like stupidly happy puppets.

As I found my way to the middle of the crowd, the beat began to build. It grumbled through the floors and walls like rolling thunder, and everyone let their bodies flow with it. Just then, the deejay dropped the beat and all 50 of the stupidly happy puppets went wild, rocking and jumping together. The floorboards caved as all 100 feet struck the ground, and everyone swayed together like a sea of fish, getting lost in the music. The way it happened, it almost didn’t seem real. It’s like everyone in the room was under some crazy spell.

As the bodies moved back and forth, I peaked through the flailing arms towards the front of the room. There he was: the puppet master. His hands moved fiercely across his soundboards, flipping switches, and spinning the turntables. He moved so quickly, making it all look effortless. Forget the cheap speakers and bootleg downloads of Beyoncé songs, this kid knew real party music. He literally created songs that changed the mood of every single person in the room, allowing them to get lost in the mix of the beats. “Now this is real music,” I thought, and I had to find out who this kid was.

Austin Thomas, more cordially referred to as DJ AJT, started deejaying in 2009 when he was a junior at Catholic Central High School. He had always been a music junkie, but after a classmate introduced him to the mixing and spinning of the deejay world, Austin grew more interested in getting behind the scenes of the beats. He began by buying a beginner program and a mixer, playing around to see what he could do, and it didn’t take him long to realize that he wasn’t half bad at it. 

“I realized that this was something I was actually good at, and something that I wanted to do,” he said. After a year of dipping his feet in the water, Austin invested in some speakers to add to his growing collection of equipment during his senior year at Catholic Central.

With the end of his senior year rolling around, Austin knew that graduation parties would be the perfect way to put his new equipment and practiced skills to test. “I said to some friends, ‘Hey, let me deejay your grad party. I’m still kind of new at this, but I’ll give it a shot.’ And it went better than I had even imagined.” From there, his passion only grew.

One graduation party gig turned into two, and then three, and then four. He began playing at house parties over the summer, taking any opportunity he could get to try out new beats and songs. “It all took off from there,” he said. “I kept playing, and I kept getting better and better at it.”

The more he deejayed, the more popular his work became. As word spread, he became a common request for parties around campus. Between birthday parties, Greek Life formals, weekend house parties, and everything in between, Austin had plenty of opportunities to play for all different kinds of crowds.

He’ll play just about every kind of music, but his favorite is electronic.  He says he loves deejaying at house parties, because he has the freedom to play what he wants.

“I have a rough outline of what I am going to play before I go set up at a party,” he said. “Say I’m playing for a sorority, I have a certain style I stick to. We get a ton of requests, so you kind of have to stick to a script. But that way, it gives me a feel for what they want to hear.”

In the fall of 2013, Austin began his junior year at CMU, and his favorite year for his deejaying so far. “It seemed like every weekend something came up where I had an opportunity to deejay,” he said. “I got to meet a million people, specifically a couple of other really cool deejays on campus.” 

As a communications major, Austin wants to work for an action sports and lifestyle clothing company, which is another passion of his.  As much as he relishes his deejaying, he says it’s probably not something he would ever make his career focus. Deejays have become more popular with the growth of technology, so good ones become a dime-a-dozen, he says. 

“It’s a sweet music scene, but it’s very black and white; you either make it, or you don’t.”

For now, he doesn’t mind keeping it as a hobby. The junior, who chooses not to drink at parties, says it gives him something to do so he can still be a part of the action. “You get to see all 50 shades of every person at the party,” he joked. “ I watch the progression of people as they turn from incredibly sober, to incredibly drunk.”

All jokes set aside, Austin says that is actually his favorite part of it all; watching people move to his music. He says the adrenaline rush isn’t comparable to anything else, and it’s the best feeling in the world. In fact, people around campus aren’t shy about telling him how much they love his work.

“There’s been a few times that I have been recognized on campus,” he said coyly. “People will just come up to me and tell me how awesome my stuff was at a party.”

Those who know Austin, or have ever heard him deejay, know that he does it all for other people. Sure, he enjoys it for himself, but the real pleasure comes from watching it affect his audience- his friends, and even random strangers.

“Hearing people say they loved my work at a party…that’s it for me. I don’t give a sh*t if I get famous for this,” he said. “If I can make people dance, make people happy, then that’s it for me. That’s all I need.”

Until that party, I had never seen so many coordinated drunk kids. It’s funny, because most people wouldn’t exactly consider drunken limbs flopping left and right to be coordinated. But the flopping was so effortless; it wasn’t flopping. Everyone, at the same time, let the music take control of their bodies. They let it take control of their minds. They let it carry them, so each move they made was identical to everyone else’s. He was the puppet master, and we were the puppets. Without having to even open his mouth, he used his music to tell us what to do. I guess one thing is true: this kid knows how to pull some strings.