Here at “Borderstan People,” we like to profile local movers and shakers who are spicing up the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Recently, we caught up with two new-ish neighborhood D.J.s who are bringing back the ’80’s in a modern-sort-of-way.
Khelan Bhatia and Adam Koussari-Amin are the two musician masterminds behind BreakfastClub, an ‘8o’s remix dance party held at Duplex Diner. This Friday, October 26, Bhatia and Koussari-Amin will host a Halloween-themed Thriller dance party at 9 pm.
Luckily for us, we had a chance to catch up with the D.J.s before the big night to discuss BreakfastClub, their favorite music and the District D.J. scene.
Borderstan: How and when did you guys first get into D.J.-ing? And when did you start working with each other?
Khelan: I started by creating playlists for myself and friends. Before long, I was my friends’ go-to-guy for providing music – usually through my iPod — at parties and other gatherings. I D.J.’d my first set about two years ago at Duplex Diner on a Thursday evening, their busiest night during the week. In all honesty, I was a nervous wreck. I thought I was going to screw up pretty badly. Well, I must have managed to do OK because they keep inviting me back! Adam and I met a few months ago through mutual friends. We first worked together in mid-August at a party called CTRL, where Adam is a regular D.J.
Adam: My experience began in college where I was part of a hip-hop dance troupe at UVA. As a choreographer, we had to cut and edit our own music for our shows. In terms of live performances, beyond friends’ parties, CTRL was my kickstarter at the beginning early this year. I had been watching my friend Jeff Prior perform some great sets at bars and clubs in the area, and we decided to throw our hats into the ring for a monthly party… And I am so glad we did, because its ongoing success has given me a lot of opportunities, including connecting with Khelan.
Borderstan: One of your main D.J.-ing events is BreakfastClub – How did you come up with the concept for this event and how frequently do you host it?
Khelan: After I guest DJ’d at CTRL, we lamented that DC doesn’t have a regular 80’s night…at least, to the best of our knowledge. After going through a few ’80’s-inspired names, Adam and I both thought that BreakfastClub fit pretty well with what we wanted to convey, especially as we wanted to host it at Duplex.
Adam: In order to make sure it stood out, we had the idea to incorporate remixes of ’80’s songs, in addition to the originals. Not only does it ensure that our catalog of songs never gets stale, it also puts a fresh feel on a ton of songs people have heard before. Songs that were once “head-nod” worthy only are now “break it down on the dance floor” awesome.
Khelan: We’ve only had one BreakfastClub so far, but due to continued interest, we’re going to try to make it a monthly event. The next one is this Friday, October 26th. Since Halloween is right around the corner, it’s going to be Thriller-themed. Costumes more than allowed (hell, they’re encouraged!).
Borderstan: Where are some of your favorite places in DC to D.J.?
Khelan: Duplex, obviously. They’ve got a great vibe and a wonderful staff. Kevin Lee, the owner, has been incredibly supportive. I’ve also D.J.’d at Dahlak, Saint-Ex’s Gate 54, L’Enfant, and most recently, at Town.
Adam: I have to give love to Dahlak on 18th and U. It’s where CTRL is hosted. The staff is super friendly, the drinks are strong, and the space is intimate, which lets me and the other D.J.s stay ground-level with the crowd and really interact with them. It’s also got a lot of history in terms of events that have started there…and a lot of great memories for me of being on the other side of the booth.
Borderstan: What is your favorite thing about D.J.-ing?
Khelan: To be able to contribute to the mood of a party… and make people dance.
Adam: The crowd reaction, bar none. The minute you play a song that everyone instantly loves, or even just gets that thumbs up or scream from a random person for a more obscure song, it’s an awesome feeling.
Borderstan: What is your favorite music to play and how do you go about making a playlist for a party? Can you tell us a bit about the process? How long it takes, how it evolves, etc.?
Khelan: I love electro, synthpop, hip-hop, french house, ’80’s pop, indie…you name it. If it’s got a beat, I’ll find a way to work it into a set. Putting together a setlist can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks — it all just depends. I try to guess, in advance, the mood of the party or event and tailor the set to the best of my ability. Before the first BreakfastClub, I started putting together the set a month or so before the event. Mostly because I’m a blend of a type A Washingtonian and nervous wreck.
Adam: Khelan’s a bit more methodical than I am… blame it on being a New Yorker. I usually start a week in advance collecting three times as many songs as I need and cram up till the last minute, whittling them down into something that the audience will hopefully appreciate. Timing is super important for playlists…things that get people jumping after midnight when they’ve had a few cocktails might actually turn them off if you play them at the beginning of the night. I’m pretty happy playing everything except country – sorry country fans – so long as it makes people dance. I’ve been told I tend to shy from top 40’s — even remixes — and play slightly more obscure songs, no matter what the genre. I want people to discover new music for themselves when they go out.
Borderstan: What are some of your favorite things to do, or favorite places to go in the Borderstan area?
Khelan: Borderstan is definitely the best part of DC. I love just wandering through some of the side streets with a coffee from Peregrine in hand and my iPod on full blast (at this rate, I’m probably going to be deaf by my next birthday). Long-time Borderstanis know that I love fashion and live music. Rue 14 is still my favorite boutique but I love going to vintage stores like Treasury too. For live music, 9:30 club is easily the greatest venue in the country while U Street Music Hall is the greatest club. And I’m (not-so) patiently waiting for the re-opening of DC Noodles… best comfort food. EVER!
Adam: I’ve been in the city for five years, but moved to the 16th and U area about two years ago… it is such a fantastic place! I love working out or laying out in Meridian Hill park, grabbing weekend bottomless brunches — Masa 14 is life — and catching local comedy and improv shows at Source Theater and other local bars. Most importantly, I live to go out dancing with my friends… especially if it involves us on the speakers at DC9. I’ve also been told I have an unhealthy addiction to Lauriol Plaza and have dragged almost every friend I’ve had there.