Industry Insiders: DJ Reach, Beat Boy
Semu Namakajo, a.k.a. DJ Reach, is Manhattan’s very own household name when it comes to the world of nightclubs. Bringing his gift for musical mish-mashing to haunts across NYC, Vegas, the Hamptons, and Miami, Reach is best known for being one of the nicest dudes in the biz — just ask any club owner in town. In a city where the sincere have dwindled down to a mere few, this New York native brings nothing but the realness in his music as well as his life. That’s because the music undoubtedly is his life.
How’d you get your start DJing? I was one of those people who saw the craft and got the fever for that cool activity when you see somebody at the nucleus of the party, who is able to dictate the direction of the vibe for the night. So, whether you were coming in from having a hard day at work or celebrating the greatest day of your life, you’re at the mercy of the DJ. I thought that was so powerful. It just drew me in.
The first place you DJed? It was at a junior high school dance at the Cathedral School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I literally had a couple of records and cassette tapes. I went back and forth from a boom box and one turntable that was my brother’s.
What about your first paying gig? I don’t really remember my first paying gig. I feel like I should. It should be like when you go to one of those bodegas and they have the dollars on the wall. I should have my first paycheck on my wall.
What’s your weekly line-up? Tuesday’s at Brother Jimmy for an after-work party followed by late night at Southside. It’s a down-low hipster spot. Wednesdays I do Avenue, which is a sceney spot and all the celebs are there. That’s my image night. Thursdays I can’t even reveal. On my Twitter, I call it the “secret spot.” So, you have to follow me on Twitter to find out about it. It might move around a bit. Fridays I jump on a plane and I go to Las Vegas to spin at Tao, which is like doing a concert every week because 2,000 people come together under one roof, and the DJ booth is right in the center of the dance floor. If I’m not in Vegas on Friday, then I’m at the Hotel on Rivington. On Saturday’s, I’m anywhere from Vegas to the Hamptons at Dune. You can catch me all over. Miami at Fontainebleau, maybe I’m in London … who knows?
Who do you look up to in the business? Because I have a marketing company as well called Big Picture Marketing Group or BPM, plus I’ve been a promoter and a DJ, on the business side I look up to Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. They’ve been like mentors to me, as well as big brothers. I’ve worked for them for seven or eight years now since the very beginning of Marquee to the number-one grossing restaurant and nightclub in the country, which is Tao Las Vegas. On the DJ side it would be DJ Stretch Armstrong. I used to stay up way too late taping his late-night show, and then I ended up interning for him.
You also DJed on a late-night show for Carson Daly. What was that like? TV is totally different from any nightclub experience because so much is scripted and planned out, and there are retakes, and even though you’re in front of a live studio audience, there’s still a general path that your producers want you to follow. Carson is such an amazing and generous guy. He really loves music, and he gave me some creative license to play what I wanted to play as long as I stayed attuned to the general vibe and atmosphere he had going on. If it was Gwyneth Paltrow and she was talking about growing up on the Upper East Side in a townhouse and how she used to listen to the Beatles, I might play some Beatles songs and go into commercial with that.
What’s your favorite kind of music to play? I’m known for my musical palette, my repertoire, and it’s just a variety. I don’t want to use the term “mash-up” because I think it’s played out. I play the music that is representative to the soundtrack of the lives of the people who are in my generation. I play legends like Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain and Jay-Z. But it also includes anyone from The Cranberries to M.IA.
Does your line of work get you lots of ladies? It has its advantages. It’s a testament to the fact that you are in a category of performers, and if you do what you do well, you could be a rock star. You could be somebody’s hero, whether it is for just one night or for actual love.
Does it get annoying when people make requests? It opens you up to a challenge. If someone wants to hear Ritchie Valens, I have to figure out how to blend that in with Nas. I have to be like, “Okay, let’s try it.” Sometimes it’s annoying as hell.
What sort of negative trends do you see in the business? A lot of trends people tend to say are negative, I see as positive. They say, “All the DJs now use lap tops and Serato, and it takes away from the creativity and the craft of using vinyl.” I have 10,000 records in my house to this day. I’ve gone to the deepest, darkest crevices of record shops around the world. I value all of them. People think it’s limiting to have all the same music all download-able. You have to challenge yourself as an artist and as a creative thinker. You have to decide how you’re going to put it together and how you’re going to let your identity show despite the fact that everyone has access to the music.
What’s your dream project? It’s a project I’m working on right now. I’m approaching my 30th birthday, and every year I throw a huge party. All of my friends as well as celebs show up. We’ve had a thousand people come in the past. This year I’m taking 30 artists that I respect and have influenced me in some way and asking them to pick 30 songs, one per artist that has impacted them in the past 30 years. It will be a compilation of 30 artists who have influenced me and the songs that have influenced them during my lifespan.