“While aging has adverse consequences — like, maybe your body hurts — the other side of it is that you can open yourself more… A million people would say, ‘what the hell is he doing here DJing?’ But there is a no age limit on it. So to me aging with attitude means not being afraid to listen to your inner voice and express yourself. Forget the haters, man.”
Larry Weissman has a set routine the day of a show. Step 1: Drink lots of water and electrolyte drinks. Step 2: Make last-minute adjustments to the night’s playlists. Step 3: At around 6pm, bring the equipment to the venue to avoid lugging it right before showtime. Step 4: Make sure to check in with the tech crew and any VIP guests. Step 5: Get focused. There’s a long night ahead.
It beats the nine-to-five work routine that Weissman ditched at age 63, when he realized that retirement was looming and he would need something to fill his time.
Two years later, at 65, Weissman is DJ PreSkool. He plays regularly at several NYC venues and this summer, he’ll be working in Europe.
Weissman spent 30 plus years in Internet Technology jobs, eventually running IT services for Wells Fargo Bank, where he was vice president of technology. He was managing some 60 people and a huge budget, and when he started to think about what he wanted to do post-retirement, he decided to try DJing as a hobby. That’s when a light bulb went off. “Thinking about the way the economy is and the way I am, I couldn’t see myself just retiring, so I decided I was going to switch over to DJing full time,” he said.
Senior Planet caught up with Weissman at a café in Williamsburg and asked him about making the transition from IT to DJ.
What inspired you to make the transition?
When I first started to DJ as a hobby, the music I played was mostly what I was familiar with, like rock & roll and hip-hop. But then I got into dance music, and I found that my approach to it and my music selection resonated pretty well with the dance community in New York. I also wanted to do something that was more meaningful than technology. DJing allows me to communicate with people who I normally wouldn’t connect with. Luckily for me, the style of music I do is pretty popular with young people, so that helps me connect with them. A part of staying active is being around people who don’t only think the same way that you do.
Was DJing something you’d thought about doing before?
Back in the 70s, prior to getting into IT, I was a big hippie. I lived in San Francisco for many years on a commune and was deeply involved in live music production there, so I always have had a deep connection to music. When I moved here to Williamsburg in the 90s, I made a lot of artist and musician friends. A lot of them told me I should think about DJing because of the tremendous amount of music knowledge I had. Once I thought about it, I realized maybe it was something I could do.
You went to a local music production school, Dubspot, for lessons. Did any of the students think of you differently because you were an older guy?
There never was a point where I felt like anything but one of the students. For me, one of the great thing about music and the DJ culture in general is that it is super open. I made some friends in school and I got great feedback on the stuff I was doing. Music is a beautiful thing, and people do it to give pleasure — and so people in the music scene tend to be pretty good people. I certainly have had people who have trolled me or who have said mean things to me. But what I think is, that is not my problem, that’s their problem. And if someone is going to be negative I ignore them. I think that’s all you can really do.
How does your age and job experience play into it?
Being a senior, I’ve been here for a lot of music scenes. I was born in 1950, so there was the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the punk scene and the dance scene, so I have had this long history of music that I bring to my DJing and I think it makes it a little deeper then what some other people do. Also in some ways, after being in IT for 30-plus years, I had a leg up on the technology compared to a lot of the kids in the class at Dubspot, because I was so comfortable with it.
What does it take to be a DJ?
You can be a DJ with just a couple of records and a couple of needles, because venues have their own equipment, or you might want your own set-up — I DJ through my laptop, and I have about 3,200 songs on there. But you do need to learn and practice. DJing now involves a lot of software and equipment, and it can be overwhelming if you have no guidance. At a school like Dubspot, they give you a chance to play with the best software. Schools also teach you some technique and give you an understanding of the industry. But most of it has to do with a practice and commitment. Even at my age, if you like music a lot and think you have something to say about it, it’s worth trying. You know, DJing is a lot like having a conversation.
What are some of the challenges and rewards?
The key thing from the reward point of view is what do you want to do is you go out and find really good music that speaks to you and you hope it speaks to the people you are playing it for. There are nights when I have the whole dance floor,people are loving everything I play. And at the end of the night people come up to me and hug me. There really is no way to describe it. I am trying to make people feel really good and I think we live in a really rough world and there’s a lot of bad things going on, and music is one thing that can make your life easier. And I honestly think for young people to see someone my age doing something they really love and believe in is kind of a good example that you don’t have to settle for something less. It means a lot to me that I can deliver that message. On he other hand, behind that is a lot of work. I’m listening to music all the time, and I’m constantly trying to figure out what to play. I am very particular about what I play — I won’t play anything that is misogynistic, I wont play music that is crude or mean. I try to play beautiful stuff that will make people feel good.
If you could only have one album on a desert island, what would it be?
When you get right down to it I am still a hippie. I guess it would be Jefferson Airplane’s “After Bathing at Baxter’s” album from 1968. If I could only have one, that would be one.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Its like yeah, we get old, and you have to accept that, but to me it means not accepting rules about getting old and not accepting rules about how it’s supposed to be. No-one knows what it’s like to be 66 until they are 66. And second, while aging has adverse consequences — like maybe your body hurts — the other side of it is that you can open yourself more. I am a good example of that. A million people would say, “what the hell is he doing here DJing?” But there is a no age limit on it. So to me it means not being afraid to listen to your inner voice and express yourself. Forget the haters, man.
The Bottom Line
Classes typically cost $1,000 to $2,000 for a six-week course like the course that DJ PreSkool took at Dubspot. Online courses are also available — visit DJCoursesOnline.com. Once you’ve trained, you have to practice, which means either getting access to a venue that will let you use their equipment, or buying your own.
Besides training, you’ll need to invest on music and equipment — anything from $200 for a couple of needles and a few LPs, or up to $2000 for your own equipment. “If you are going to be a vinyl DJ, then you will need an extensive DJ collection,” Weissman says. If you plan to use your laptop, as Weissman does, then you’ll need to pay to download a library.
“You aren’t going to get particular rich DJing. I make about $2,000 a month — I also get social security, which helps a lot,” Weissman says. In NYC, Weissman get between $300 and $500 dollars for a gig at a mid-range club. Return depends also on what type of DJing you do: options besides club DJing include wedding DJ or one who only plays at small bars, which in typically pay $50–$150. “As an older person who is thinking about DJing, I would say you can’t survive on it, but it’s a way to make some money in an interesting way,” Weissman says.
DJ PreSkool NYC Dates
Check out DJ PreSkool’s website for upcoming dates in New York City
Ever thought of starting over? What’s your dream job?
Photo Credit: Jin Lee