Roborotic: Interview with DJ Pesi

What prompted you to start Roborotic? What is behind the name?

The name comes from a night I did at the Liquid Room about five years ago. I had just moved back from Los Angeles, and saw that nobody was playing any good music around town. I hadn’t deejayed in quite some time, so I figured a coffee shop would be a semi decent place to get back into the groove. I planned on moving the night out of there once I was comfortable with it, but that never happened and the Liquid Room went under. Things tend to come back around, and the style of music I was playing then is finally becoming popular in Grand Rapids now, so I saw an opportunity to get back into the swing of things.

I’m a big fan of wordplay, so “Roborotic” is simply a fun name as well.

What sort of music do you primarily play? Why do you feel this is best?

I play a pretty wide variety of music, from 80’s new wave up through the current crop of indie dance rock. This is what I play, because this is what I like. I’ve always thought that a DJ not interested in the music he’s playing is a DJ not worth listening to.

There are various other retro-like dance nights around town, some even on this same night, what sets yours apart from those? Why might someone choose your night over that of a competing night?

Even though a portion of my night consists of a lot of 80’s music, I try to focus a lot more on “alternative” and lesser known music from that time. I’m much more interested in 80’s new wave and post punk… the stuff that informs the newer music I play. There’s a whole lot more to 80’s music than top 40 and movie soundtracks… stuff you’re unlikely to hear at the heart at Roborotic. And compared to a lot of other venues in town, the atmosphere at the Other Side knocks em all dead.

Having been to other nights, what do you think works or doesn’t work to make these more ‘themed’ dance nights a success? How have you used your experiences with this and your own interests to create your night?

Being a DJ is lot more than putting a bunch of songs into a random order and pushing play. And, y’know… it’s okay NOT to take requests. Not that I don’t take and/or listen to requests. But if it’s something that I don’t like and don’t think fits, I’m not going to play it. I have an idea for the mood that I want to create, and the flow I want the night to have. There’s absolutely nothing worse than being out on the dance floor, getting into a flow, enjoying yourself, just to have that interrupted by some song that doesn’t fit… or some cheeseball song that you’ve heard every week for the past four years.

What would you like to tell people who have never been out to your night or have only been out to a similar retro night? How would you lure people in to your specific night?

Well, that is the struggle, isn’t it? Really, I just want people to come and check it out for themselves, and make up their own minds. I think we’ve got enough positives with the awesome space we’ve got, the awesome drink prices, the awesome people, and the awesome music, that I think when people come and check it out, they won’t want to go anyplace else. Oh yeah… there’s also the FRICKIN’ LASERS 🙂

What are your plans for the night? Are there certain theme nights or events that you would like to have?

At this point, I have no specific plans. It’s been enough work just to get the night up off the ground and get people to start coming out. I’m sure there’s themed nights I’d love to have in the future, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

How long have you been working as a DJ? How did you originally get into it? Where does your name, DJ Pesi, come from?

Oh, I’m going to be dating myself here… Haha. I started life as a DJ back in high school, probably around 1989 or so. I was an antisocial kid with a large music collection, so I figured I’d DJ the dances at my high school. Fifty bucks for a night was a pretty sweet deal back then. What’s funny is that I’m still playing half the music I was playing back then. Some things just don’t change. I’ve done some nights here and there over the years, but nothing serious. I’ve always wanted to get back into it though, so when an opportunity presented itself, I went in full force. As for the name, “Pesi” is the name I use to sign all my artwork. The story behind the name itself is a long story for another time…

What is your experience in general that you feel makes you suited to this line of work? Your interests? Passions? Tell us a little about yourself.

I love music. I love dancing. I love the music I play at Roborotic, and I think that shows. I’ve always had a passion for music, but have never been any good at making it. So I’ve taken my creative energies down other paths. I paint. I draw. I make all sorts of weird little things. I can’t escape my love of music though. So If all I can do is play what I love for other people, that’s enough.

What sort of preparation goes into your weekly work?

It varies. Sometimes I’ll have a bit of a playlist made up, but more often than not I just wing it and let the music go wherever it and the crowd wants it to go. I’ve never been much of one for excessive preparation. I’m always on the lookout for new music though, so that’s probably where most of my time preparing for Roborotic goes. Well, that and the videos I put together for the projector.

I know a little of your other projects, but could you tell me what exactly you have going on?

Oh… where to start? First and foremost, there’s the art. I’ve been working the last several years on starting my own business called “Pesipop”. That’s sort of the catch-all for everything I do. The majority of my time is spent working on paintings, since all my other projects derive from those. I’ve recently taken to making prints of my paintings, so people have a more affordable entry in my little world. I also make buttons, keychains, and other little artsy things. I’ve spent a lot of time piecing together a screen printing shop, so I have plans for t-shirts, undies, and clothing in the works. There’s also a graphic novel floating around in my head, as well as plans for a children’s book. So… lots of stuff going on!

How do you find time to balance them all? Is there one that you feel takes priority? Is there one you would rather take priority?

Finding the balance is rough. A lot of times I don’t get a whole lot of sleep due to everything I’ve got going on. But I think the reward is worth the struggle. If I were to choose one thing to take priority, it would be the painting, since it pretty much has to be the focus, everything else is based on that. All the other little things are what makes it possible to survive though.

What projects do you have in your future?

Oh, way too many 🙂

I’ve recently had some success in selling my wares at some street fairs. Kids love buttons, y’know! So I plan on doing more shows, and getting my work out more.

One of these days I’d love to open up my own boutique of sorts. But that’s a ways down the road…

More immediate future… making Roborotic a success, of course 🙂

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that everybody should check out Roborotic. It’s an awesome good time 🙂

Thank you so much for your time! I know it is scarce to have some free these days.