The Senari Interview: DJ Ayres
by Couch Sessions
Senari: For those who may not know who you are, tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?
DJ Ayres: I’m Ayres Haxton, I grew up in rural Mississippi and I’ve been DJing in New York for 11 years. I do a party called “The Rub”, which is the first Saturday every month at Southpaw in Park Slope Brooklyn… this summer we are celebrating our 7 year anniversary. Cosmo Baker and DJ Eleven are my partners in that and we’ve also traveled a lot as The Rub. I have a record label with Tittsworth called T&A Records, dedicated to putting out club music on vinyl, and I do a dance music party called “Flashing Lights” with Nick Catchdubs from Fool’s Gold, and Jess Jubilee.
Senari: Coming from the south… what kind of music did you grow up on down there?
DJ Ayres: My parents are from the Mississippi Delta, and they were really into Delta Blues more than anything. So when I was a little kid, the music playing in our house was Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, BB King and so on. My grandfather was a classical composer and went to NYC every year to pick out clothes for his clothing store… he would bring back lots of classical records. So when we were kids, we heard Peter and the Wolf and the Nutcracker a lot. And we also listened to some records my mom got for us: Thriller, Cats, Annie and so forth. As a teenager I liked punk stuff, some electronic stuff, and I got into rap really early. When I was 8 years old, I remember having a dubbed tape of The Fat Boys, and I liked LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, and all the music from the Breakin’ movies. Then when I was 13 my uncle gave me a copy of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and after that I got deeper into it.
Senari: What’s the best record of all time? The most perfect record…
DJ Ayres: Perfect record…. Notorious BIG – Ready To Die is a perfect record.
Senari: What’s the first record you bought on your own? How old were you?
DJ Ayres: I’m not sure. One of the first things I bought with my own money on cassette tape was LL Cool J’s Walking With A Panther. I remember buying Information Society on 7″… that may have been my first vinyl record I bought for myself.
Senari: When was that? Late 80s?
DJ Ayres: Early 90s… so there must have been stuff before that but I don’t remember anything specific.
Senari: My first purchase, that I remember, was Jagged Little Pill.
DJ Ayres: Is that Alanis Morisette?
Senari: Don’t act like you don’t know!
DJ Ayres: I missed out on a ton of white people music because of where I grew up. But I definitely had some dubious tapes. That band LIVE, for example. NOFX… and the first Green Day album.
Senari: You know, I grew up in small town outside of Baltimore – we had a raging hardcore/punk scene. I feel like it was that way all over.
DJ Ayres: We didn’t get a lot of tours. The first tour I saw was Public Enemy. I did see Fugazi when I was like 16 though.
Senari: That counts. So, tell me how you started DJing. What was your first gig?
DJ Ayres: Mark Ronson lived on my hall when I was a freshman at Vassar. And a guy named Jamie Hodge, who had records on Plus 8, which was Richie Hawtin’s label. So I saw them DJing, and I started buying records because I was really into the Stretch Armstrong show, and some of the stuff that he played, you could only buy it on vinyl at Bobbito’s Footworks and Fat Beats. I started DJing by playing records on WVKR in Poughkeepsie, and I had a big pair of speakers so I started doing parties. Paul Nice lived in Poughkeepsie and would DJ at Vassar sometimes, and Mr Vince, and Darshan Jesrani, from Metro Area.
Senari: House parties?
DJ Ayres: Yes, but there was also a campus bar called “The Mug” where the good DJs played, and I started doing that weekly when I was 19. It’s so crazy to think back on Ronson spinning for $50 and having to bring his own turntables and mixer and 5 crates of records.
Senari: Haha, that is nuts! When did you move to BK?
DJ Ayres: I moved to Brooklyn in 1998. My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, is from Queens. A lot of my friends grew up in NYC, so it was the fun, easy thing to do at the time.
Senari: Tell me how the Rub got started. How did you meet Cosmo [Baker] & [DJ] Eleven?
DJ Ayres: Okay, so in 1999 I was DJing in bars and house parties and stuff mostly in the East Village and Fort Greene. I did a loft party for my friends, and their roommate was friends with Eleven, so he played with me there. Then when he was at Rawkus [Records], I would go get promo records from him and spin with him sometimes. By the time The Rub started, we were working together a fair amount.
Cosmo… he and I had met through ESPO and Max Glazer at On the Go magazine back when I interned there in 1997-1998. So we would bump into each other… back when he still lived in Philly and would come up here a lot. I booked him at The Rub the second time we did the party and kept bringing him back every few months until he moved here. Then it was sort of solidified that Eleven and Cosmo were the residents.
Senari: As part of The Rub, and individually, you’ve DJed, collaborated, toured with so many people… from Hollertronix to Ghostface… who was your favorite to work with?
DJ Ayres: It’s hard to pick a favorite because I’ve done so many things. Bun B was incredible to tour with… but then opening for Chemical Brothers was really nuts and really different. I will say that in terms of my career, Dave 1 from Chromeo helped me out a ton. He sort of discovered me through the Hip-House CD I did with Cosmo, before we were touring much. He had me open for Chromeo in NYC a few times and put me on with his brother A-Trak at their first CD release party. Then A-Trak played The Rub and didn’t hit us in the head for money, and in 2005, Cosmo and I went on a 6 week North American tour with A-Trak. That helped us tremendously to get exposure in 30 other cities. And Chromeo is great live.
Senari: The Sunglasses Are a Must tour?
DJ Ayres: Yes… I just looked it up, that was 2006.
Senari: The people want to know – How did a dude who grew up on a farm in Mississippi and then attended a liberal arts college in upstate New York get so into rave music?
DJ Ayres: Well there were raves in New Orleans. Also, in the South there was a small scene for Chicago house… like, I remember “The Percolator” got a lot of night time play on the R&B stations. I remember buying Smart E’s “Sesame’s Treat” on cassette single… and The Orb and Orbital and Prodigy and all that stuff. I was talking to Nick [Catchdubs] and Fashen yesterday and remembered that I saw Information Society live in like 10th grade. Then, when I got to Vassar, I got into a lot of nerdy stuff like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Photek, Autechre. And when I was DJing, I played Hot Music, Daft Punk, Dee Lite… all that stuff. When Drum & Bass peaked in the US I was playing a lot of that too, around 98.
Senari: Speaking of… you run a record label with Tittsworth. He used to be a big Drum & Bass head in DC – our readers know all about him. Do you guys have anything you’re working on? Is there a dubstep record in your future? Haha…
DJ Ayres: Oh my god, the next T&A EP is Dave Nada and it is so fucking crazy.
Senari: When’s that coming out?
DJ Ayres: When this producer finishes the dubstep remix for one of Dave’s tunes. I’m not joking at all.
Senari: Which producer?
DJ Ayres: It’s a secret. I can tell you there is a Nadastrom remix on it though, it’s minimal and it’s so good.
Senari: Is there anything else you’re working on that we should know about?
DJ Ayres: There is a lot stuff I’m working on. I did a lot of remixing work in the last few years and I was starting to get frustrated that I was limited by not knowing enough about music theory. So for the last 5 months I put a lot of the production stuff on hold and I’ve been taking lessons on the keyboard, in music theory and production. I have a ton of unfinished stuff which I am going to wrap up soon… original music, and hip-hop beats, and some techno stuff.
Senari: That’s great! I’m looking forward to hearing it. Ok, so lastly, we’re dedicating this week to MJ on Couch Sessions. What are your top five MJ songs and why?
DJ Ayres: Gosh that’s hard.. okay…
The Jackson 5, “It’s Great To Be Here”. It’s such a fun, uplifting song, and the drums are so fucking tough.
Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something”. The way this builds up with the drums, the bassline, then rhythm guitar and the little horn stabs come in… it’s all just a perfect storm. And his vocals are amazing, he pushes the energy up so high.
Michael Jackson, “I Can’t Help It”. This is such a sweet song. So pretty and the sentiment is wonderful… it really captures the feeling of falling in love.
The Jacksons, “Can You Feel It”. This is a cheesy pick and it hasn’t always been one of my favorites but as a DJ. I love the beat… like you could throw on just a loop of the intro and there is no way you could resist dancing. It’s funky as hell.
Michael Jackson, “Dirty Diana”. This song is CRUNK. It’s a pretty raw topic for MJ and he really goes in, he’s singing real hard on it. Crazily, someone pointed out that this was #1 on the iTunes store the day after he died. Today “Man in the Mirror” is #2, behind some Black Eyed Peas song.
I really hope people don’t push Michael’s music to the side because of all the weird shit in his personal life. Michael Jackson is so primary to me… like from being a little kid and jumping on the bed in pajamas to “Thriller” to rediscovering all his disco stuff as a DJ. Just talking about it and thinking about it again makes me really sad.
Find more info and music by DJ Ayres on his website, myspace and twitter! You can also catch him DJing every first Saturday at The Rub in Brooklyn and locally (in Baltimore) on July 17th at My Crew Be Unruly!