DJ Dain
DJ | Producer | Musicologist


Finding My Voice

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On October 7th I volunteered as an MC/Announcer for a special event with the Valkyrie WMAA called "Catacombs: Choose Your Champions" at SHUX. The setup was that four people would be pulled from the audience to play the boardgame Catacombs with the help and guidance of some of the game's creators. The main combat mechanic in the game consists of flicking one's player token at enemy tokens on the board. However, we added the extra twist in that a combat encounter would be resolved by having the players and GM pick champions from Valkyrie to represent them in a live duel using a variety of weapons at their disposal. These included rapiers, longswords, knives, offhand daggers, bucklers, and boxing gloves. My role was to provide combat announcements and flavor to hype up the crowd. Not exactly something I've done before, but certainly an intersection of skills I've developed. I brought my laptop and little equipment so that I could clean up my vocal processing, as well as add stadium style reverb and delay. My only point of reference for how I should speak was to emulate Michael Buffer. There's a familiar musicality to his cadence.

I dressed up in my motorcycle jacket and sunglasses. Wearing items that made me feel more powerful allowed me to step into character and add to the presentation. It may have been a bit of a cheesy "cool guy" stereotype look, but it fit the aesthetic I was going for. I had gloves and a modified Jolly Roger flag I would've worn as a cape, but I forgot to equip them before the start of the show. I figured leaning into the style and attitude of an anime character like Kamina from "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann" was a good fit.

I was really pleased that the audience was catching on to the vibe we were going for. Once they started chanting for the chicken champion character, I knew I could play off of their energy and attitude.

I wish I had a better literacy for reading combat to do more play-by-play of the action on stage. Even if I did, I'm not sure I had the best angle for commenting on the fights. There were a few times I wasn't exactly sure what had happened until the fighters acted out their deaths. It got more complicated as the game players got increasingly experimental with the number of fighters engaging in combat and mixing up weapons in unlikely ways (e.g., One hand with a boxing glove, the other a knife). I did my best to roll with it and skipped over announcing details that would've slowed down the show.

I really hope I get the change to do something like this again. It would be really useful to provide the game players with cards of the fighters and weapons to make things a little smoother. Such an addition could impact the pacing of the event, but we won't know until we try. I would also love to provide background music. There were so many moments that I knew exactly the songs that would have enhanced the mood. I can even produce original works to achieve such a goal. My fingers are crossed that we'll be able to organize and incorporate that element one day.

Some of you may remember my #AnchorFreeRadio show from last year. That was my first serious attempt at using my voice in a creative way. I mainly used it to fulfill the fantasy of playing "Radio DJ" where I could share music with people and try and drop a little knowledge here and there about the tracks. Between the feedback I received during that project and the encouragement I had going into this announcing gig, it's apparent that I should be doing some sort of podcast. Nailing down exactly what I want that to be has been very challenging. I know I want to curate and share music I care about, as well as nerd out about the history and culture of electronic/dance music. I've often felt as though those would need to be separate things. Perhaps there is a common ground where I can share classic songs and discuss their context in music history.

I was able to achieve a workflow and manage my time with my previous job so that I could commit to #AnchorFreeRadio. With a full-time job, I will have to get even more strict with how I divide up my free hours. There's a certain amount of preparation I prefer when I record audio. I don't want to sacrifice the progress I've made with #BADproject or give up DJ/Scratching practice either. I really need to try working on more things in smaller bursts each day or be okay with dedicating different days to different ventures. Either way, it's becoming more and more clear that I just need to start. I have always struggled with "pencil-sharpening", over-thinking, "analysis paralysis" behavior. I know for a fact that I have been able to find my way by just putting one foot in front of the other and not worrying about the first missteps along the way. #BADproject is very much in the spirit of being vulnerable and willing to be bad at something before you can start to improve. I need to embrace that philosophy and put it towards my overlapping interests.