DJ E-V Says Hello

Cleveland's hottest DJ on . . . being more than a human iTunes, how he copes with playing crappy songs, and why C-Town could be better to its DJs.

DJ E-V — better known at the BMV as Eric Vajda — hocks some of the best ear candy in Cleveland. From his perch in downtown clubs and on drive-time 96.5, the 26-year-old is constantly churning out fresh material — from creatively rejiggered popular songs to new hip-hop. Along the way, he's toured the world — playing before as many as 70,000 people — and given crucial early spins to everyone from Chip Tha Ripper to Machine Gun Kelly. The success hasn't ballooned his ego. E-V is still a serious-minded workhorse who's interested in standing out as an artist , not just as the guy pressing play.

To an average Joe, it seems like you have the best job. You're making music. You're in the club. Being a DJ is probably a Mario star with girls — instant invincibility. Is that it?

It can be, yes. And at times you can get stuck in that and just enjoy the perks of being a DJ. You don't have to wake up early, there's the girls, the free liquor — all that comes with it. But if you take advantage of all that at every point, then there's no longevity to your career, or even progression. For my career, I'd just be stuck in Cleveland — not that Cleveland's bad, but I'd just be stuck DJing in the local bar, and I wouldn't get to travel. So I don't really take advantage of any of it. It's nonstop work.

So what's in your car stereo right now?

In the car I just usually listen to talk radio, because I listen to music all day [laughing]. Howard Stern is my favorite, and then WMMS — Rover in the morning, Alan Cox at night. And then sports radio here and there. I try to keep up with sports, but it's too hard though. I can tell you what song came out yesterday, but not the score of the Miami Heat game. I know they won.

You probably get stuck playing crappy pop-radio songs all the time.

That's one of the reasons I don't listen when I'm driving in my car to music on the radio. I don't want to get sick of that song, because the person who wants me to play it is not sick of it. So when I do play it, I want to feel the same way they do about it. Between my mix shows on the radio, doing some other show, and then DJing the clubs how many times a week, I'm going to hear it so many times, I try to stay away from it so it's fresh.

Is the DJ community in Cleveland tight?

From my perspective, it definitely is. And it's underrated. And the problem is, we have no clubs to DJ at. There are no clubs here. West Sixth? All right, so you have Barley House. It's a bar — a great bar, don't get me wrong. You have Liquid, which they just transformed into a club and they're still working on it. Velvet Dog, a club, but still like a bar to me. There's no mega clubs like if you go to Cincinnati or Columbus. We end up DJing at a bar. We are background music. Which sucks. Until 2 a.m., when everyone's shitfaced, and they realize there's a DJ and then they start singing. At a club, it's more about the music, which makes the experience better because you can still hang out with your friends and have a great time, but the DJ gets a little bit more shine I'd say.

A lot of people have gotten a start after you played them or put them on a mixtape. What's it take to get the DJ E-V stamp of approval?

Don't come to me if you don't have a buzz. There's no magic wand I can use. Mike Posner, or MGK, I helped, but I wasn't the only reason they got popular; I was one of the many people who helped. If you're a local artist or someone coming up, create your buzz yourself, let me notice that, and then if I like the music, I'm going to jump onboard because I like the music. I trust you, you're already working your ass off. I'm not going to waste my time on someone who just has good music. Okay, great, you have good music, but in 2012, it takes more than just good music to make it.