DJ Kurch – The DJ Next Door
“You just can’t let it get to your head,” DJ Kurch advises future young DJs and industry hopefuls—a piece of guidance he himself clearly embodies.
Far from fulfilling the superficial, self-important DJ stereotypes, 24 year-old TJ Kirchoff is the archetypal boy next door, if such a thing exists. He arrives at our interview in a turquoise LA Dodgers cap—I’m not sure what the rivalry is, but I’ll let the sports readers duke it out—and black Starry Eyed Music shirt, representing the DJ collective and record label he’s a part of.
Snacking on chips and guacamole, we begin to talk about his career, what led him to it, and what he strives to accomplish in the future—with a few fun tidbits in between, of course.
In addition to his weekly shows at various venues including Stingaree and Hard Rock in San Diego, he’s played in Miami, Vegas, as well as San Francisco. DJ Kurch has shared the stage with a wide range of DJs and artists including Benny Benassi, David Guetta, Steve Angello, Dirty South, ATB, Donald Glaude, the Alkaholiks, Living Legends, the Pack, Will.I.Am, Ying Yang Twins, Xzibit, DJ Vice, DJ Class, DJ Mad, Paradiso Girls, LMFAO, Hyper Crush, Cobra Starship, Far East Movement, 3OH!3, and many many more. He gets really excited when I mention his gig at Spin with David Guetta—the highlight of his career as a young DJ.
“I got a really cool picture with him—he’s really smart because he had the whole house thing going on and now he’s stepping into mainstream,” he says. “Now even the ghetto guy at the club will ask me if I can play that one house song with Akon and David Guetta, and I’m like, for sure, man.”
During his time at San Diego State, DJ Kurch began spinning at the house parties of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma. He would get out his records and keep on spinning until the last person left the dance floor in the early morning.
“I was horrible, I could barely mix two records together,” Kurch says. “All my friends would yell at me to shut my window while I was practicing.”
But spinning was his passion, and after graduating in 2005 with a marketing degree, he took on a job at Wave House and continued to pursue his favorite pastime during his free hours. He grew restless interviewing for jobs in the marketing field, jobs he did not want, and considered his boss’s suggestion that he DJ full time. From this conversation, stemmed the evolution of the DJ Kurch we now know.
“I didn’t want to have a 9 to 5 job—I’m still young so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to take my hobby to the next level,” he said. After four and a half years of DJ-ing for pleasure, he took that passion and turned it into a fulltime income.
His first real gig was at Red Circle in downtown San Diego and after that night, he steadily began to grow his network and calendar. Through various club promoters he met and marketing via various internet sites, he was able to expand the number of venues and times he played. He eventually scored residencies at the Hard Rock, The W Hotel, On Broadway and the Keating.
He can go on and on about house music—unlike some of today’s amateurs, he started listening to “real” house in 8th grade and started his spinning career with this multifaceted genre. I was recommended a few artists and songs to add to my limited collection of Guetta and five million versions of Sandstorm. Right now, he’s loving a bootleg house remix of old-school Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine.”
With the job, however, mainstream hip-hop has become part of his listening repertoire despite his distaste of the large amount of “garbage rap” out there today. Remember the annoying DJ you heard when you last went out who played random songs you never heard of? That wasn’t Kurch—he plays for the crowd no matter how much he may dislike the music on the radio nowadays.
“You think you’re sick of “Bad Romance”? Try listening to it 40 times a week,” he says, telling me about his daily routine of checking the Top 40 lists and other songs the crowds are listening to lately to prepare himself for his job. On his personal iPod, Kurch’s tastes vary from Miles Davis to Frank Sinatra to Jay Z—one he especially admires.
In his downtime, Kurch tries to stay away from the scene—makes sense when your fulltime job is being in the scene. He mentions an underground speak-easy club he recently went to where attendees need a password in order to get in—the theme was 20’s and the place featured a live jazz band with a retro, red-lit ambiance.
“I want to take my dad there when he visits,” Kurch said, mentioning how supportive his father has been of his career. “I used to practice on his old drum set and he went out and bought me a new one—anything involving music, he’s always been behind me.”
The more Kurch tells me about his job, the more I realize that he’s made an art out of crowd watching—he really is all about the crowd and if they don’t seem to be enjoying the music, that’s his cue to try something different. He observes the audience throughout the set, making sure everyone’s having a good time.
“If I see a 50-year-old woman in the crowd, I’ll make sure to play for her too,” Kurch says, showing his versatility in playing anything from house to hip-hop to jazz to rock. His sets put a hip-hop twist on house and a house spin on hip-hop.
“Kurch is a very versatile ‘Open Format’ DJ. He can DJ with Xzibit one night, and Steve Angello the next. His understanding and love of music allows him to excel and play shows that most dream of. On top of all that, Kurch remains down to earth and extremely humble,” says owner of Encore Entertainment, Dan Krieg.
Kurch will often arrive a few minutes early just to say “what’s up” to the venue’s staff—you know, the people behind the scenes.
“The bartenders are the ones who are sober and will remember how you play. Even the security, bouncers—especially nowadays, every little thing you do can add up,” he says.
Our “DJ next door” hopes to travel more in the near future and DJ in other areas of the country—and possibly, even the world will get to experience the versatility of Kurch’s performances and the modest demeanor that makes him stand out.
“I don’t know what I’ll be doing 10 years from now, but I’ll always look back and love these times and the journey. I am extremely blessed and appreciate all the positive people in my life that have helped me get to where I am.”
Catch Kurch at his weekly residencies Wednesdays at Confidential, Thursdays at Hard Rock, Saturdays at Stingaree, and Sundays at Bar West.
Follow DJ Kurch on Twitter @DJKurch