[follow id = “kttrom”]
Two Cal Poly students had the opportunity to open for electro house musician Steve Aoki on Jan 31. Animal Kontrol, made up of communication studies senior Dillon Katz and alumnus Quin Donahue, took the stage hours before Aoki at the Recreation Center, after winning a Collective Efforts contest landing them the gig.
The duo has been mixing music together since Katz joined Lambda Chi Alpha and became friends with Donahue, after they found out they had a shared big “brother.”
Travis Moelter, a Cal Poly alumnus and big brother to Donahue and Katz, originally bought speakers, a mixer, a beat production pad and a microphone to start mixing music.
“It first started as a hobby, but then we got more experience and by the end of my time at Cal Poly, we had all been doing it for about three years,” Moelter said. “I graduated and passed the stuff on to them and they have taken it farther than I had. It is pretty cool seeing that from my two little bros.”
Animal Kontrol mixes and mashes a large selection of music genres to get the crowd moving.
“I would say that we have a variety of music — everything from hip hop to electro house and tech house,” Katz said. “We have played a lot of house parties, which is where the hip-house influence comes from, but we try to mix it up and span a lot of different genres.”
The two didn’t always agree with what those genres and songs should be.
“When we started, we had a clash with what music we wanted to play,” Katz said. “I was really for playing a lot of hip hop. Quinn was more on the electro side and we kind of found a middle ground.”
They have, however, always agreed that interacting with the crowd is the best part of playing at parties and clubs.
“It’s one thing being in the crowd; we have all been there, singing and dancing along to songs,” Donahue said. “But to be on stage and to look into the eyes of everyone in the crowd as I am singing with them, it is something that you can’t even begin to describe.”
Though DJs can often be one-man shows, Katz and Donahue play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses while performing and mixing.
“We pick each other up when one person has a fault,” Katz said. “Mixing each other’s perspectives ends up pleasing more people. We do have different perspectives and we do bring different backgrounds, which makes mixing a lot easier and more fun.”
Drawing from their different backgrounds and DJ experiences allows them to enjoy their performances as much as possible.
“We like to please as many people as we can,” Donahue said. “I think something that we have found that has been really successful is starting off with hip hop and moombahton and then working into electro house.”
Mixing different genres is not the only thing Animal Kontrol likes to play with when mixing; samples from Will Ferrel movies, Bill Clinton’s speeches, Mozart’s symphonies — you name it, they’ve tried it.
“One of our main projects has been mashing up songs and taking out samples that are really popular,” Donahue said. “Say for example, ‘Anchorman’ when he is going off the diving board, and mixing that with a house song called ‘Cannonball.'”
Being as spontaneous and creative as possible is important when mixing in random samples, Katz said.
This spontaneity can be found in the duo’s more eclectic music choices, as well.
“We like the whole groove and funk of music that has kind of been lost,” Donahue said. “We like the idea of mixing funk with progressive music. We played ‘Play That Funky Music, White Boy’ and everyone was singing along to that.”
Drawing on their key audience of college students, musical pasts can also produce a successful mix.
“We love bringing back the old ’90s rap that people in our generation can look back on,” Donahue said. “R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition’ — don’t tell me you can’t get down to that,” Donahue said.
Using their experiences from DJing various house parties, Katz and Donahue made a 45-minute mix they submitted for the Collective Efforts contest for a chance to open for Steve Aoki.
They spent 20 hours on that mix, working after school and work to get it exactly the way they envisioned. Katz’s roommates even got annoyed by them playing the same songs over and over again to tweak them.
But it was all worth it when they found out they won. It was a big shock, since they were hundreds of votes behind the first place DJ. However, the contest was judged on quality of mix, how contemporary it was and the number of votes. Animal Kontrol’s mix was deemed to be the highest quality.
“I was pretty stoked and a little jealous because I used to be right there with them,” Moelter said. “Nonetheless, it was very exciting and I wish I could have come up to see them perform.”
After they shook off the nerves of playing for such a big crowd, Katz and Donahue tried to soak up as much of the experience as they could, even filming some of it on stage with a GoPro camera.
“It was awesome sharing that moment with him,” Katz said. “We had worked together before and so once you push play, you are in the zone and you don’t really have to think about it. I was kind of nervous before, but it was just like any other thing we had ever done.”
One moment that stuck out to both Katz and Donahue was when they played “All Me” by Drake and the whole crowd sang along.
While both Katz and Donahue enjoy DJing, they are pursuing other career paths at the moment.
“I tried to network as much as I could after the concert,” Katz said. “I love doing it. The reality is that you have to pursue an actual career path for a little bit, but I think if the opportunity presented itself, we would definitely jump.”
While reflecting on the footage of Katz and himself performing at the Steve Aoki performance, Donahue said it wouldn’t be nearly as cool as if it was only him up there.
“I didn’t want to be a DJ to do it for myself,” Donahue said. “I want to be able to share the experience. If it’s just me up there, it is not quite the same as sharing the experience with someone who I have known for almost my whole college experience.”
Video by Paige Cross.