Saying goodbye to DJ Soundcheck
A lot of people ask me how I find the time to DJ. It’s true, there really aren’t enough hours in the day — but it’s also very true that we make time for the things we love.
The feeling you get when you’re vibing with the crowd and completely in control of everyone’s good time while playing music in a club or at an event is almost indescribable. It’s a very delicate art, and even the most skilled DJs have been humbled by blasé crowds. It’s what keeps things exciting and keeps DJs hustling week after week, including me.
Some of my best nights I can think of usually involved looking up from a mix I surprised even myself with and seeing Ryan “DJ Soundcheck” Aubin's giant smiling face. Of all the DJs in Honolulu, he is one of the very few who gets my style and tastes. It’s hard to stick with your own personal sound when the people dancing and drinking only want to hear Chris Brown, so any situation where we can stay true to ourselves is considered the utopia of DJing.
I first saw Soundcheck playing at a Thursday night party in 2011 at the old SoHo Mixed Media Bar in Chinatown, where he was getting away with throwing in tons of disco and indie-dance while keeping the dance floor packed. Before that night, the only people I ever heard going this far away from the mainstream and still killing it were DJs Deko and Delve. It was amazing, and I had to know who this kid was that seemingly came out of nowhere.
Turns out, he met SoHo owner Daniel Gray while at KTUH during DJ G-Spot’s radio show. For those who don't know, G-Spot is from Chicago, and Aubin was told by another DJ as he left that city for Honolulu that he only needed to look up one person. The advice was golden as G-Spot allowed Aubin to join him on his long-running “Underground Sounds” show for an interview and play a demo when Gray walked in.
EDM Hawaii also heard Aubin's demo and booked him at SoHo, which landed him the Thursday night residency and eventually First Fridays until the club closed in March 2013.
“I put together the #Checkin weekly event to ride the social media explosion in Honolulu nightlife and asked DJ Soundcheck if he wanted to be the resident and help me build it,” Gray said. “He did, and we had almost two full years of a great weekly. He wasn’t afraid to play throwbacks, 80’s, random pop hit remixes and unique genres that you would never hear out. That’s why I hired him and why that party’s programming was truly unique.”
During that time Aubin was discovered and booked for residencies at RumFire Waikiki, Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, V-Lounge, The Safehouse and tons of special events.
This week he is leaving Honolulu. As usual, when any great talent decides to leave I am sad but happy for them. With Aubin, however, there is definitely more sadness than happiness. In the same way I am happy/sad for DJ Dirty Secret as she takes Las Vegas by storm.
Still, Aubin has a good reason to leave. His new endeavor should be very lucrative.
“My business partner Benny Carasco and I are (starting) a medicinal marijuana farm,” he said. “With the momentum in the U.S. we are still on the cusp of a growing industry, and after a years’ worth of paperwork and permits we are able to expand our non-profit and create lasting careers doing something we both love.”
Was moving to Hawaii even worth it?
“It was totally worth it,” he said. “There are so many talented DJs out here to learn from. The scene is always changing; even in my short time here there were new spots opening up and great spots closing. It’s a small pool of regulars so getting to know everyone was so easy.
“My goal is to be back in three years; hopefully by then Hawaii’s laws will be more like Maine's.”
Looking back at how many amazing people I have met and said goodbye to, Ryan will definitely be one of the more impactful people in my life. Taking the time to work on mixes with me, showing me the ropes of playing out with nothing but encouragement and always with that enthusiastic smile when he hears me play — there's going to be a huge DJ Soundchceck-shaped hole in my life.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.