When Eric Swanson used to think of DJs, he had a misconception that some people still believe – that DJs are “human ipods” without giving music too much thought and without needing any kind of talent. But exposure to DJing proved to be an art of supplying people with a way to embrace their feelings that move from one’s ear to their body had changed. This changed not only his concept of music and how it effects people, but his passion too.
Eric Swanson is DJ Sweetlife , the man with the power to not simply play music, but create an atmosphere that gives people the opportunity to get into themselves and have a great time. Music can instantly transform an environment, and Sweetlife has tapped into what makes people embrace the moment. Some people go to galleries to look at paintings – Sweetlife is almost a human gallery, exposing people to the art of music.
Read on to see how nice guys don’t finish last – they are just getting the party started.
- (*DJ Sweetlife will be spinning TONIGHT at The Drink ‘N Draw on South Side Bethlehem. Details Below.)
What propelled you into DJing?
I actually was a guitarist in a band and I completely looked down on DJ’s. I thought it was ridiculous that venues would pay people to play pre-recorded music. However, as I became exposed to more DJ’s I realized that there was a science to DJing and if done properly a skilled DJ could really move a crowd. Not necessarily by compelling them to dance but by sending a certain vibe into them. Whether or not they choose to dance is up to them. Certain people and cultures “feel” music differently, but the key is to get them to “feel” through music. I decided to try it for myself and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Tell me about your equipment. Do you use records? What are some differences between DJing with vinyl versus using a computer with digital files?
My current, and permanent setup, is of course two of the legendary Technics 1200 vinyl turntables and a 2 channel pioneer mixer. This type of setup is the “classic” DJ setup that was originally born in the Bronx NY. However, my setup has a modern twist where all my music is digital but is controlled by vinyl control records on the Technics 1200’s. So instead of bringing crates of records, I only have to bring my turntables, mixer and MAC laptop. Many people refer to this as the Serato setup. Named after the Serato music management program. First and foremost, the program doesn’t and cannot mix the records for you but it does make it easier for you to focus on that task. My back would probably like me to move on to a much lighter CD based setup but I am too stubborn and traditional to give up my Technics!
What music influenced you growing up?
I know its a generic answer but all music really influenced me. As a kid, I listened to and was influenced by everything from Michael Jackson to Metallica. Since MTV was pretty much my babysitter, I got exposed to many different genres of music at a young age. More importantly I began to tune in to how certain records and music videos made me feel, rather than necessarily how they sounded.
You can put on a crackly old Robert Johnson blues record and even though the recording is shoddy, you can still feel the raw emotion coming right through the speaker. On the other hand, you can have a Justin Bieber (my kids are going to kill me for this) pop record with pristine sound quality but completely insipid and disposable lyrics and that may make you feel completely different. However, there is a perfect time to play either record. So, I’ve learned every record in your crate is a different shade in your sonic palette.
Was it hard to get gigs at first? What kinds of jobs do you get now?
When I first started playing out, I was not interested in any club-type venue at all. I was perfectly content doing art house gigs, shows for local businesses and local cultural events. One of my favorite gigs was, and still is Home & Planet for First Fridays on Bethlehem’s South Side. Events at PopMart were a great time too. Most of the gigs I got in the early days were just from word of mouth or someone got their hands on one of my early eclectic mixtapes and tracked me down for a house party or event.
I was kind of like a phantom. I’d show up and rock an event then disappear. However, one evening I was spinning Home & Planet and none other than one of the most well known DJ’s in the area, DJ Cap Cee, happened to be in attendance. Now, whenever I did go out to party at nightclubs I would only go out to see Cap Cee. I really liked his DJ style and the way he worked a crowd. He wasn’t just a DJ, he was like a performer on the turntables. Well, he came up and we just started talking about life, music, etc… and eventually we formed a strong friendship that we’ve had ever since.
Cap Cee was a strong motivator to get me into the club scene and now that I have, I really enjoy this life. I’m not particularly in love with some of the music I have to play in that setting but the feeling I get from seeing people lose themselves on a dancefloor is completely worth it. My gigs now are typically club type gigs and college events however, this year the DJ crew I am a part of, Audio Dynamikz, is also confirmed for MayFair and Musikfest as paid entertainers! Its a great feeling that more and more people are seeing DJ’s as performers and not human ipods!
What was one of the best jobs you ever worked?
I really enjoy almost all my gigs but one of recent memory has to be the Muhlenberg Senior Ball this year in Valley Forge. There were over 1100 people there with an open bar. Well, in hindsight the open bar probably wasn’t the greatest idea. Since I also have video DJ capability, the music video, ambient clips or whatever I wanted on screens were projected on two 10x14ft video screens. I really had fun with that one. We danced all night and the floor was moving so much my needles would skip now and then. Girls were on stage dancing like the world was ending. I felt like the wizard of Oz with little old me controlling all that equipment.
What does your favorite music make you feel? Why is music so important?
My favorite music is like a drug to me. Some songs make me happy, sad, up, down and everything in between. I have songs I’ve known my whole life and I still get goosebumps from listening to them. Even though I am a DJ and I listen to hundreds of songs a day, I am no closer to understanding why this is. It just is. Some songs from foreign artists, even though you may have no idea what the artist is saying, you can feel the emotion through the song. There is just something about music that transcends race, sex, culture, ethnicity, language and who knows, maybe even humanity itself. Like any form of art, music is just another vehicle that transfers the human condition.
DJ Sweetlife will be in action TONIGHT (Thursday, June 10):
- Drink ‘N Draw hosted by TheBeedle ‘N TheWreen
- (CLICK HERE to learn more about these awesome monthly art events!)
- Hard Bean Cafe, South Side Bethlehem, 201 E. 3rd Street
- $10 admission – 21+ get to enjoy the drinks provided! (Underage still allowed admission)
- 7:00pm – 11:00pm
- Bring art supplies
- Live models – awesome music – beer – “mystery drink”
To keep up with DJ Sweetlife, follow him on FACEBOOK: I Like You, DJ Sweetlife
Follow Sweetlife’s entire DJ Crew: Audio Dynamikz
TheBeedle ‘N TheWrenn always have something going on: Drink ‘N Draws ‘N More