We had the good fortune of connecting with Joseph Torres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joseph, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
There were a few things that led me to starting my own business, but I don’t have shortest answer to this question. After working my first two jobs as a busser at Carrabba’s and at The Grill within The Wigwam Resort, I knew that I didn’t want to work for someone the rest of my life. However, I wouldn’t have had that mindset, had I not read “Rich Dad Poor Dad” which was recommended to me by one of my best friend’s, Jeff. The interesting part is that the DJ business was never planned, it was more of a domino effect. At the time, I was going to school for business at ASU, but once I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, I realized that you didn’t have to have a degree just to start a business. Having my first job allowed me to qualify for a credit card. For some reason BOA thought it would be wise to give an 18 year old a credit card with a $5K limit. My mind immediately wandered and thought about all that I could buy for five thousand dollars. I never thought I would be investing in a DJ business/career. I narrowed down my options to a 55 gallon semi circle fish tank and/or 5K worth of DJ equipment. I only wanted the DJ equipment, because I thought it would be cool to mess around with. It wasn’t anything that serious. I had hometown friends in Norwalk, California who DJ’d as a party crew, but that was the extent of me knowing any DJs. They did it just to party and make a few bucks here and there. I ended up buying the equipment, and I let it sit in my parents living room for months. A girl that I had went to high school with mentioned that she was having a Halloween party and asked if I could DJ? Because I had a crush on her, I obliged, having no idea what I was actually getting myself into, it was basically sink or swim. I survived the party and then she asked me if I could DJ a wedding for a friend of their family. I already thought that I knew music, it was something that I always followed, but I nobody show me how to run a business. My pops had bought and resold collectibles and antiques for years, but ebay and swap meets were the extent of his side business. I had previously attended a few family/friend weddings and most of the DJ’s seemed cheesy. Thinking that if these cheeseballs could do it, then I could do it too. I had the mindset that if someone paid this wedding DJ, then someone should pay me because I would play better music. It turns out there is a whole lot more to the mobile DJing business than playin what YOU think is best..
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I selected “Other” in regards to professional life and career because I could have selected all three options.. The last eight plus years have been a combination of Substitute Teaching/Coaching, Radio, Event Coordinating and Managing my own DJ business. I would say that I am most proud of putting myself into unknown situations and managing to figure it out regardless of the skills/experience that I lacked. Today would look much different if it weren’t for the people that I surrounded myself with. I thank my dad for that, he used to be my baseball coach growing up and he explained to me that if I wanted to get better at baseball, that I had to play with athletes who were better than me. I applied that same concept/theory to growing in life and made it a point to keep a close circle of individuals who were hungry to learn and grow, but I also made sure that they were decent/humble human beings. At age 22, coach Jacobs convinced me to leave the Boys and Girls Club and become a high school substitute teacher. After substituting 20 (give or take) random classes spring of 2012, I received a call that summer asking if I wanted to be a long term substitute teacher for Algebra I and II at Westview High School for a teacher who was going to be out on maternity leave starting the first day of the fall 2012 school year. To qualify as a substitute teacher in Arizona, unfortunately all you need is a four year degree and a fingerprint clearance card. Our education system gives no training for this job, some would argue that you are a glorified babysitter, but the reality is that there no training. To top it off, due to that fact that I was not considered highly qualified in math, all of the students parents that I was teaching, received letters in the mail stating that I was not a “Highly Qualified Math Teacher” basically covering their bases by law. I wasn’t upset at the truth, it just created more pressure, feeling that I had minimal room for error when approaching the board to solve/go over problems. While math was a strong subject for me in HS, there were still lessons that I had to relearn the morning of from the neighboring math teachers. Having 20 days of random substitute teaching experience to then being a full time teacher with no student teaching experience was wild. I finished the 10 week assignment, only to find out that a teacher downstairs in the math department quit. Once again I was asked if I would like to long term substitute and take over the position until the end of the semester, which was another 10 weeks. I ended up teaching five months straight with limited help and guidance. These five months taught me a few things, I realized that the teaching profession is undervalued even though people say they care about their teachers. I learned that once you start to care about a student, the level of stress goes from a level 10 to level 100. If you have 150 students between five different classes, and we guessed that the average teacher has the mental/emotional capacity to “care” for 80% of them, that is more than 100 human beings to think about. There is a reason why we remember the teachers who eat, sleep and breathe teaching. I wish the teaching profession was more competitive, so that all districts and schools could retain talented/excelling teachers. I realized that if I wanted to become a full time teacher, I would teach math and that I was fully capable of handling the job. I knew this because I survived the wittiness 300 adolescents (Two classrooms in one semester.) I also managed to do this again with a Geometry class at La Joya Community H.S. along with a Physics class during the Covid 19 lockdown. Mind you, both of these high schools are in what is considered a title I district and one of them happens to be my alma matter (LJCHS). Partaking in this profession is something that I am proud of, because I figured it out regardless of the disadvantages as a substitute. The pay was rough but the experience made it worth it for me. It sucks, but most substitute teachers are not viewed with much respect. It’s as if students and other teachers have a target on your back, its the nature of the beast, and I believe the only way to tame it is with intelligence and a hint of wittiness. The only reason DJing is/was of any interest to me, is because of the music I was brought up on, and I was big on “collecting music” aka downloading mp3’s from limewire. I wanted to have the newest records and anything that sounded unique/different. I loved sharing new finds with friends, I wanted to be that source, that one guy who could put you on to that new artist/genre. After DJing that first wedding, things escalated quickly. I had a friend convince me into quitting my tennis/fitness attendant job at the resort and pursue mobile DJing full time. I had no website and no money for marketing, I was relying on craigslist ads to bring in business which would help pay my car payment and car insurance. Luckily I quit after I paid that BOA credit card off with 12 months of no interest. With Craigslist and help from my mom, I was able to travel down the path of DJing. Without asking her/behind my back, my mom emailed a local radio jock (Raul RocDaHouse Torres) from (KJAM) Mega 104.3 and told him about me and my recent endeavors. She basically set up an informal interview that allowed me to meet at the studio and ask him questions about the radio and DJ industry. I remember asking an abundance of questions, which led to Raul giving me the contact of the promotions department (Albert Montoya) who gave me a shot as an intern. Interning as a promo rep allowed me to get my foot in the door, but luckily for me, I had brand new DJ equipment that made me look more attractive, especially since I was willing to set-up and play Mega format music for free, outside of concert events. (Looking back, I never realized that I was making the station look good, as well as the AE’s.) They were getting a free DJ with decent equipment that played to this curb appeal/overall experience of the event. Most interns working for free were doing tent/banner roll set-up and giveaways. Not to mention, the promotions department of the radio station often gets crapped on, there is high turnover and the trade off for the limited pay is access to concerts to see their favorite artists perform and/or they are waiting/looking for an opportunity to jump on the mic as a radio host/jock. There is a saying/phrase that “You don’t do radio to get rich.” You do radio for the platform that provides exposure, opportunities, and it allows you to have the ability to affiliate yourself with a brand. I started radio in 2009 and caught my break in 2014 when Todd Himaka who was the new Program Director and a DJ himself, told me to make him a demo so that I could start mixing on air for our sister station 101.1 The Beat (KNRJ) which played classic and current hip hop at the time. I made the demo and he gave me a shot. All of the mixes were pre-recorded at home and aired live on Friday’s for the SIXSPOT, 6p-7p. Before I go any further I have to remind you, that as a 20 year old in 2009, many of my peers did not find it appealing to listen to Mega 1043, its format was catered towards an older/ethnic demographic. I was playing music by Al Green, Santana, Isley Brothers, E.W.F., Zapp, Cameo, Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna. Unless you grew up with the music, you weren’t down with it. While these stations may have not been the most attractive to those my age, it had plenty of upsides. We were classic and nostalgic, other promo reps and interns who were fellow music lovers, thought it was cool that we got to play classic music, they were tired of hearing the same Top 40 at every event. The only thing they had was more resources/budget for newer vehicles, giveaways and promo gear/uniforms. Sometimes I felt like we were the Kekambas from that movie Hardball with Keanu Reeves. The other blessing in disguise is that I got to work with seasoned veterans in the radio game. They had so much knowledge and experience to share. It also helped me musically as a DJ learn about older music that I wasn’t familiar with. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned/realized with starting a business, is that there needs to be some level of innocent ignorance. While I thought that Wedding DJ’s were cheeseballs and I had the “I can do that too” mindset, I had no idea how much skill and talent that many radio and club DJ’s actually had. Nor did I know the amount of practice that they put into their craft. Had I known how many good DJs were already in Arizona and had I known how bad the politics were, I probably would have never started and found every reason not to begin/continue DJing. I mention this because I had no idea what actual “beat matching” was and I did not know any of the technical terms and/or the industry slang. I was trying to fake it till I made it. However, once I got to the radio station, I realized that if I was going to be out, representing this station, I should do it properly. I was always seeking advice and looking for someone to teach me anything that they were willing to share when I first started. Randomly, one of the bell/cart assistants at The Wigwam actually DJ’d and the only reason I found out is because I would talk to people in the cafeteria during lunch/break time at the resort. Once I learned what networking was, I became a networking junkie. After telling Josh (Bell/Luggage Attendant) that I didn’t know much about DJing and explaining that I heard this term “beat matching” but had no idea what it meant, he offered to come over and explain/demonstrate the basic idea. Mind you, this isn’t something that you figure out over night. Fast forward to a few months into the radio internship and I’m at Diamondback Stadium (Chase Field) and I’m supposed to DJ inside of the Diamond Club and I had a technical issue that I couldn’t figure out. April who was working on the promotions street team, told me that she had a friend named Jaime who was a tech guru that could basically fix anything and everything. Jaime comes over to the house, looks at my equipment and asks a bunch of questions that I could barley even answer. Turns out there was nothing wrong with my equipment, but there could have been a random glitch. To be honest, I think I was so nervous setting up for that event, that I plugged my RCA cables into the interface backwards and thats why it didn’t work. Jaime ended up becoming a secret weapon for me. Not only did he DJ and have an awesome DJ setup at his house, but he appreciated and respected the art and culture of DJing and Breakdancing. While I caught/met him at the end of his DJing/Dancing career, he was still willing to teach. Jaime taught me so much, and it was because of him that I learned how properly mix songs, how to beat match, how to EQ, how to use effects and how to properly record. Because of my friendship with Jaime, I learned the appropriate DJ lingo and I was able to be brought up to speed on what other DJs in the industry knew as well as what they talked about. This allowed me to be more seasoned as a rookie DJ when I was out at clubs/bars trying to network with other veteran DJs. To DJ out in clubs or venues, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time out aka politicking. You are out every weekend, listening to other DJs play, and most importantly, you have to find a way to build trust. Without trust, no DJ will give you an opportunity to open up and/or cover their shift. I was fortunate enough to build trust and was given many opportunities to open up and play the first hour, which is typically slow. (I never asked for money, all I wanted was the opportunity.) If I got paid, it was a plus. I was not the best and part of that was due to my stubbornness. It took a LOOONG time for me to come to terms with playing popular music and to play the original version of songs. Just because I thought a song/remix was good, didn’t mean the average guest/attendant did. My stubbornness had its pros and cons. It allowed me to develop my own sound which helped me thrive in the restaurant/lounge scene, but when it came to “party rocking” the 10p-2a shift, I had difficulties pleasing the crowd because I didn’t want to play all of the popular Top 40 hits that people wanted to hear. Between 2009 and 2014, I spent six years, building strategic relationships, opening up for free, playing gigs and events that veterans did not want, DJing radio events for $8 an hour, playing at sketchy house parties, DJing weddings which didn’t help your credibility as being a “Real DJ,” and I would still take random craigslist gigs. I was doing whatever I could to get my name out there. Looking back, it is difficult to believe that I have been apart of a wide rang of events. I did this while working at The Boys and Girls Club and eventually becoming a substitute teacher for 8 years. The turning point for my DJ career, which didn’t seem like it was really going anywhere, came when Todd Himaka (JabaOne) put me on-air for The SixSpot. At the time I was substitute teaching, mixing on air, working for a local entertainment company (S.L.E.) and DJing. Nolan who used to do marketing for S.L.E., took a marketing position at Spell Bound Entertainment, (formerly Triyar Entertainment) and knew that I worked at the radio station. Triyar had booked Ice Cube for a Sunday night at Maya Day + Nightclub and I helped connect the dots. I asked Nolan if they thought about promoting on air and he told me he was meaning to reach out to me. Todd the P.D. and Mattlocks the Promotions Director said that we as a station, would promote the show if one of our DJs from The Beat was able to open up for the show. There was a brief pause after Todd told me this, and then he said, “We thought that you should DJ.” Internally I froze and was ready to sh*t myself. Immediately I felt uncomfortable and I scrambled to figure out the best way to limit the pressure. I proposed that maybe it would be better if a couple of us from the station DJ’d the event, attempting to spread the love and exposure. Todd quickly said, “Nah, I think you’ll be fine.” (Fu*k!!!) I was excited and nervous at the same time. I prepped for this gig like I’ve never prepped before. I had never played a slot like this and I had never played for this many people with this much pressure, nor had I ever been direct support for an artist, not to mention an iconic name like “Ice Cube.” This gig becomes even more important because one of the partial owners from the nightclub was there and happened think that I did a swell job. A few months later I get a text/call from Triyar’s entertainment director, Knick Knack, asking if I was interested in interviewing as a resident DJ for Triyar Entertainment. They were in need of more DJs as they were getting ready to open up two brand new bar/club concepts. (Dakota and The District) He mentioned the note about the partial owner who attended the Cube show and said that they were interested in me. Triyar to me, was at the top of nightlife in Scottsdale, AZ. They had two of the best properties in town and both of these properties happened to have dayclubs. The W Scottsdale and Maya Day and Nightclub. To be apart of their roster was a blessing to say the least. Once again, I was able to attach myself to a bigger brand and leverage my association to book other gigs. This position on the roster was proof that I wasn’t just a wedding DJ or radio DJ. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get to pick or choose my shifts, I was now in a league with better talent and had to earn my stripes. How some DJs get shifts and jobs isn’t always based off of skill/talent. A lot of times, popularity and having relationships with spenders can get you more than one would expect. (There is no longevity in this approach) but it is rather annoying for those DJs who do put work into their craft. Sometimes you hear that venues want a face that is sellable/attractive. While clubs and partying seems like fun and games, those within the industry will tell you that there is a lot of toxicity involved. To have any form of longevity within the nightlife industry, one must maintain an immense amount of self discipline. You are constantly surrounded by alcohol (often free/comped), cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. People work hard during the week, sometimes at jobs they hate and then they rage on the weekend, trying to escape. To play music for a room full of individuals who are often intoxicated on some sort of substance, can be a challenge if you’re not on the same wavelength. This lifestyle and industry sucks many people into a black hole and then it spits them out with no remorse. I don’t mean to sound negative, but it is the reality. Bar Backs, Bartenders, Cocktail Waitresses, Bottle Service Attendants and DJs will often after party with clients and/or go out on “Industry Night” and it only fuels the fire. The amount of DUI’s that are a byproduct is unfortunate, not to mention how it effects your personal/family life. While the money can be lucrative for only working four nights a week, it has the ability to rob you from your family and your love life. Some would argue that it doesn’t have to be this difficult and that it is a personal choice to go out and after party. I would agree, I stayed away from after partying 95% of the time. However, after partying also involves rubbing elbows and kissing babies which can lead to shifts for many DJs. In general, most business is based off of relationships, even if the product is average/decent. Something that I learned from a couple veteran DJs, was to practice keeping a clean name. Basically, never talking sh!t about another DJ, security guard, bartender and/or bar-back because words spread fast. That is the easiest way to limit your potential gigs, especially if one of those security guards, bartenders and/or bar-backs become manager. It really is like being in high school all over again. It’s funny/ironic that I work in the high school only to see it all over again while working in nightlife. I’ve been with Triyar/Spell Bound Entertainment since 2014 and it has allowed me to do some amazing things. Even with the pandemic, I am blessed to be one of the few DJs getting back to DJing in Arizona. With limited capacity restrictions, there are many bars/venues who cannot survive, let alone afford additional entertainment. I feel blessed and privileged knowing that there are many DJs/Entertainers who wished they were getting the shifts that I am currently receiving. While I shed light on some of the ugliness of the industry, it has also allowed me to meet some spectacular people. Some who I believe will be lifelong friends. While I wish I could share all of the minor details of my story, there are a few names/DJs who have supported me and helped me get to where I am now. They shared advice, industry knowledge and music. They taught me how to politic, opened doors and allowed me to open and cover DJ shifts. Most importantly, they trusted me. Those names are: DJ Rhino, Raul Roc Da House Torres, DJ Thots, DJ Astonish, DJ Flair, DJ Soloman, JabaOne, DJ Decipha, Kick Knack and Chris Villa. Whats weird and interesting is that some of these DJs do not get along, which shows you that it is important to only judge individuals off of your own experience, rather than someone else’s interaction. I will repeat that I am extremely privileged and blessed to be where I am today. I know that across the country there are many talented individuals within the DJ/Entertainment scene who have been blocked/boxed out of popular venues due to fear of loosing shifts/jobs. However, I have made it a point to lend my hand out and pass on work/opportunities to those who are often overlooked due to shallow and ignorant politics. While it is easy to be selfish worry about yourself, it takes a certain level of humility to look around a recognize what is and what is not fair. We know that life is not fair and/or perfect, but if you ever have a chance to add some balance into the world, I would suggest that you try it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Monday – Day Trip to Sedona followed by a Board and a Bottle at Postinos Tuesday – M.I.M and Phoenix Art Museum, lunch at Lylo, dinner at Clever Koi Wednesday – Coffee/Snack at Lux, cruise through the historic home districts, walk around Downtown Phoenix, have dinner at Binkley’s. Thursday – Play a round at Verado or Mountain Shadows Golf Course, followed by Sushi at Hana, then bar hopping at The Theodore, The Little Woody and Shady’s Friday – Hike Camelback Mountain, Dinner at F&B, hang out a Cobra Arcade Bar with DJ Chris Villa, conclude the night at Bitter & Twisted or Undertow Saturday – Early Lunch at Little Miss BBQ, catch a Spring Training Game in Scottsdale, head to a pool party at The W or Maya Dayclub, Dinner at the Canal Club, finishing the night at Talking Stick Casino. Sunday – Breakfast at Dick’s Hideaway, Ice Cream at Churn, Dinner at Pho Thanh.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am a fan of complimenting others and giving credit when credit is due. While I understand that one has control of the efforts that they give, my success could not be attributed to one single person, group and/or book. Between nature and nurture, every book/page read, along with those in my immediate circle, everyone and everything plays a role in my success, even those who are no longer in my circle. For the sake of this question/interview, I will shoutout my parents for never forcing me in any specific direction, Jeff Kunowski for recommending “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and “The Noticer” along with Leonard Resecker for explaining and reminding me about the importance of never placing any individual on a pedestal. One book provided a pathway to an entrepreneurial mindset and the other taught me how to practice the art of giving myself “perspective” in any given situation. Most importantly, I think it is important to thank those that I have done wrong by, for the the tough and uncomfortable lessons that they have provided me with. Too many of us are looking for shortcuts to success, I know I was. Holding myself accountable, owning my mistakes and limiting my excuses are a few things that have helped expedite my growth.
Other: Spotify Playlist – @FeelGoodJawns (Instagram) Spotify Link – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7r8YU7ejZNNZpvvORiOuGG?si=EIsJ88CpTiqmXNC3LRwsJA
Kevin Brost Sean Patrick O’shea Tometi