Since the tender age of 16, DJ Aakmael (soundcloud) has devoted his life to producing and curating some of the best house music the world has to offer. Whether it be educating the ears of countless listeners throughout his 20 year stint on WDCE 90.1 fm or representing the sound of Richmond, Virginia on international labels like Monologues, Church, and Axe on Wax, the American musician has done his part in keeping the fire of house music alive in the states!
We were lucky enough to speak with the multi-talented artist ahead of his forthcoming release Dees Beats on Dogmatik Records. Check out the full interview below where we discuss some of his favorite records, the inspiration behind his name, and much more!
To all the DJ Aakmael fans out there, how would you describe the record you recently put out with london label Dogmatik Records?
I would describe this project as the “Classic Aakmael Sound”. It contains all of the points that I try to convey, Deep with a slight Jazzy gloss.
How does the Dees Beats EP (great name by the way) compare to some of your other work?
It’s difficult for me to compare. I mean, I think each release tells its own story. So it’s comparable to me in that way.
As someone who hails from Richmond, Virginia and has helped shape the up and coming house music scene in the DMV area today, we’d like to know what truly sets this community apart from other parts of the country and even the globe?
Well the DMV is no stranger to House or Deep House. We have 95North, Pope and Oji, Bassment Boys, Ultra Nate’ to name a few! DMV has it’s own “sound”, but my style just seems to be slightly deeper and dubbier, kinda like the bad stepkid of the artists that came before me. It’s basically still growing in the DMV – slowly, surely.
Furthermore, are there any ways in which the scene can be improved?
Yes. I would love to see more venues open up to new possible opportunities. I can write a full list of problems and other stuff regarding improvements, but let’s keep this positive shall we :)
Can you explain the background behind your stage name? What does it mean and what was your inspiration in choosing it?
Well, in high school band some of us started giving one another “band” names and mine just happened to be Aakmael (the AA would be stressed like something’s caught in your throat). During that time I went by “Dj Greg”, which after a while I felt that name was plain and wack. I then chose Dj Devastator because I would battle other dj’s, but then I thought that was too transformer-ish. Thru the years people have always called me Aak, some even thought it was my real name. So since Aakmael was an old, made up name and I knew at that time nobody else had that name in the music world or that spelling, I stayed with Aakmael.
What was it like growing up in your household?
Musical. I kept myself busy with keyboards and a stereo (component with table, radio, cassette) before I had dj turntables, teaching myself how to play keys and open up fixing electronics. Music basically kept me grounded and out of trouble, as it does to this day.
What aspects of being raised by musician parents were most important in creating the artist and person you are today?
They exposed me at a very young age to all kinds of music ranging from Jazz to Funk, to Classical, to Disco, etc., and it’s been a part of my everyday existence. So I thank them for that :)
How do you see the role of the African-American musician in house music today? What are some of your concerns and hopes for the community that started the movement and kept it alive for so many years?
Hmmm not sure how to answer that. My hopes are that they start teaching the youth more about it to allow them to get into it more, and stop being damn stingy lol.
Your career now spans more than two decades. If you had one piece of advice that you wish you had when you first got started, what would that be and why?
Network, network, network. Networking is one of the most important pieces of this puzzle, and one that I learned much later.
From what we can gather from some of your social media posts, you seem to have A LOT of records! What would you say are top 3 favorites and why?
Wow that’s a tough one. Yes, I have a very large catalog of wax. Probably my #1 favorite record is The Art of Noise – Into Battle. That record was nothing short of perfection to me (still is), and I heard it as a child and it was just what I needed at the time. #2 John Coltrane – The Gentle Side of Coltrane. This is just a well-made well put together project, featuring some of his smoothest tunes. I love that record. #3 Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang. Funny story about this, is I have always been an avid classic kung fu watcher, not the Bruce Lee stuff, however, Shaw Studios, Ocean Shores and others was what I was into. I was working at a record store when the single Protect Ya Neck released and I saw the cover had a drawing of a sword and scroll. It caught my attention because to me it looked like some kung fu sht so I picked it up without even knowing who or what it was. I’m glad I took that chance because they’re still my fav rap group to this day. People would always try and say that I got into kung fu flicks because of Wu, my younger brother would swiftly correct them advising that I’ve been into kung fu flicks for years before Wu dropped lol. So I liked them because I’m a kung fu fanatic.
Interview by Yassin