The Cap Series: DJ MetroGnome
For over 20 years DJ MetroGnome has been on the turntables. He's been a DJ in all facets, from club and party settings to corporate events, sporting events and more. Throughout his entire journey, he's always had a hat on.
This week on WDRFA The Cap Series you'll learn how DJ MetroGnome, a certified teacher of the art, used his degree in a different light than he first imagined. Early on he fought through adversity and now is an accomplished educator of the technical skill - more than 1200 people have been through his school Deckademics and other settings.
Check out this Q+A to learn more about his love for hats and journey of becoming a DJ to his inspirations and being a resource for the next generation.
What's fashion mean to you?
I consider myself to not be particularly fashionable. I feel like a lot of times I'm a professional teenager in terms of my fashion. For me, being a DJ and operating in the spaces I work and live in, I prefer casual fashion. I'm not one that's really known to dress up much, I a hoodies and sneakers and hats kind of dude. More than anything I think that fashion gives people a chance to give people a glimpse into their world.
What made hats an essential part of your outfits?
It's still people to this day that are shocked when they see me without a hat on. Full transparency, I've always loved hats and I've always collected them. I can remember back to Gaylon's on the west side by Lafayette Square, that's where I grew up. I had the price memorized down to the tax, I knew exactly how much I needed to pop the next hat. Even in 2nd and 3rd grade I was saving money my $15-16 dollars to go by whatever hat at the time I was into.
I've always had a big collection of hats and they've always been a big part of my life. Now when I started DJ'ing it kind of also became utilitarian to a degree because literally wearing headphones with a hat just works better. For me a lot of people see me in public when I'm DJ'ing or when I'm at events so that's one of the reasons why I'm always wearing them in that space. But they've always played a big part of my life and I have always been into hats probably more than any other particular accessory.
What inspires you on a daily basis?
I've always been a like a worker bee, always been a doer. I don't always have some grand plan, for me I just always find myself just not liking to be able, so I'm always working towards something. For me consistency really works for my personality type, so like Coaches, doing it every Tuesday for 16 years is insane to some people but for me it works. But as far as inspiration I just don't like to sit still.
What sparked you to instruct people and open a DJ school in Deckademics?
Teaching, indirectly has always been something to that has been kind of easy to me or I guess it just felt like something I could do. This is how I got into teaching. I went to Pike, I played soccer there, had a great career, All-State and all kinds of accolades and I thought my college career was really gonna take off.
But long story short, the college situation kind of got jacked up. I moved back from the University of Cincinnati to Indy for about a year and then I started coaching at Pike High School. Fast forward another year, that's when I started DJ'ing and the coaching just felt comfortable, it felt right and then I ended re-enrolling in school down at IU in Bloomington. I got into the education program, I was thinking I was going to be an art teacher, got my degree and I still didn't see any future in DJ'ing because I was terrible at it. But overall I knew I would be teaching in some facet, rather it be teaching art in a school or coaching soccer.
Then fast forward a few more years, I got to be a better DJ and then became a part of a program called Hip Hop Congress instructing kids at the and we started an Indianapolis chapter at the Martin Luther King Community Center at 40th & Illinois back in 2007. We did that for about two years and I realized that there was a whole lot of potential with teaching people to DJ but we weren't in the right space, we were in the basement, nobody knew we were there, we didn't have multiple rooms to operate out of and things like that. So long story short I knew it was going to work but I knew I needed to save up, redesign the whole program and build it out as an actual DJ school.
Why the name Deckademics?
The most closely related word is academics and deck is verbiage used to describe turntable. When I was trying to come up with a name I was kicking around ideas and I felt like it just rolled off the tongue.
What kind of events do you DJ?
Over my 20 year career playing I really have done about everything that I can imagine. I've held down several different weekly parties, I've done the club thing in a variety of capacities, played different styles of music at parties, I do a lot of corporate work, Red Bull, Nike, Adidas, NFL, live shows with artist that I grew up listening to that I certainly never thought I'd share the stage with and more. At this point if it ends tomorrow I am totally satisfied with what I have been able to accomplish. And then obviously, Take that Tuesday's that's Indy's longest running party at 16 years.
What's your favorite part about Take That Tuesday's?
I designed this party to be a DJ's night, not for the people and while that sounds so counterintuitive, what I mean by that is not that I don't want people to have fun but DJ's very often get stuck playing a lot of the same records because their big records or popular. Any DJ that comes can go 100 different places. What do you have in your library, what do you roll around listening to and want to play in public? So Take That Tuesday's, we say, whatever we play you just gotta take that, that's the motto. It's a DJ's night that can be old or new music, it can be underground music, or reasonably well known stuff, you're gonna hear a wide wasp of music. It's a music lovers night.
I tell all the DJ's, all the things that you would normally not play at the clubs or whatever, play that shit here. We've had over 150 DJ's in the last 16 years from all over the country.
What type of adversity have you faced on this journey?
The most adversity I faced was in the beginning, and I say this jokingly but when all my friends were lying to me saying I was good when I wasn't. You're not good at anything when you begin but that journey of trying to improve and better yourself through a new art form is going to take a while - going through those experiences and feeling like you failed.
I remember playing this party in Bloomington and came in after it was already cracking and playing a Biggie record into Tupac "How Do You Want It" and after just those two songs the entire venue left, like a vacuum sucked people out of the door. I couldn't even understand what happened but I remember driving home like "fuck this, I'm quitting", I was so embarrassed that I literally blew up this part in a matter of 3 minutes. The other side of things is if you're going to be good at anything then you have to have some grit and you have to know how to improve and figure things out.
What does We Don't Run From Adversity mean to you?
Don't be a punk in life. Life is going to be hard, it just is. We all go through a variety of struggles but you have to face it, you have to do better, be better, learn, grow. It's gonna be a struggle, it's gonna be hard but life is a beautiful struggle.
SHOP THE WDRFA x Ebbets Field Flannels Cap DJ MetroGnome is wearing here
This interview was done verbally and answers have been typed out by Michael Gillis.