Hey, DJ: DJ Lazyboy

The Bay Area DJ talks his biggest inspiration, playing Boiler Room, and how to make the perfect mix.

While a name like DJ Lazyboy might suggest a half-hearted devotion to his craft, upon hearing Gregory Sherrell perform, it quickly becomes clear that his alias does not relate to his work ethic.

“My friends call me DJ Productive Boy because I’m always doing something,” he says.

Whether it’s practicing his scratch techniques that have earned him multiple DMC finalist titles, making virtual DJing videos, or simply supporting fellow DJs at their events, his presence is well known around the Bay Area and beyond.

Recently playing an opening set for Oakland’s Boiler Room , Lazyboy spent hours practicing and reaching out to his idols and mentors, like Z-Trip, Ferno, Goldenchyld, and Shortkut for advice on creating a dynamic and technically savvy set.

We got to chat with Lazyboy about his origins, taking requests, and his Boiler Room experience.

Catch him at MOM’s 8-year Anniversary this Friday, [June 2] at The Chapel.

SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing. 
DJ Lazyboy: Growing up in a musical Jewish household, we watched Fiddler on the Roof, and I told my mom, “I want to play like that guy!” So at the age of five I began my musical journey with the violin. My idols were John Williams because he could connect emotion and visuals with music so well, and Jerry Lee Lewis because he got down like a mad man and lit things on fire. After five years of that, my parents pressured me into practicing to the point where I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore, at least not under their terms. I picked up a guitar and messed with percussion a bit.

Then, when I was 17, I had a pretty awesome CD collection and they used to have dances at the local teen center. I asked if I could play some of my tunes there, they let me, and when I dropped tracks the girlies screamed! I knew right then that this was something I wanted to do more of. Sounds so bad but hey, I’m gonna keep it real. There’s something magical about dropping that fire and getting the reaction that puts a smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach. I love this.

SFW: What interested you about turntablism? 
L: Basically getting hands-on with the music. My first DJ idol was DJ JAM (Snoop Dogg’s DJ at the time), and he would “double cut” the records, which is when a DJ will repeat a phrase making it loop a couple of times before letting the track play. It caught my attention because it was just more than playing one record to the next. Then I came across DJ Apollo. His ‘90s Golden Era mixtape Get The **** Up basically taught me what style and precision were, as well as set an example of the kind of DJ I wanted to be. I would go out and buy the same records just to practice the routines, then replay the mix over and over to study how he did each part.

SFW: Who are some of your influences or mentors in the Bay?
L: Apollo, Vinroc, Icewater, Revolution, Pos Red, J. Espinosa, mainly in the department of skills, creativity and technicality. Jose Melendez and Greg Lopez for their house selections, and Rick Lee because he would always pick two songs to mix that had such different beat patterns that one would fill in the negative space of the other so nicely it would intrigue me. More recently, it’s shifted to Goldenchyld, Franchise, Beset, J. Boogie, and DJ TACO EMOJI mainly for their selections, although Goldenchyld is ill on the battle tip, too. Check them out if you want to hear some really amazing DJs.

When it comes to party rocking though — Oh man, my favorite DJ from the North Bay is Sykwidit (super slept on/lives under a rock) from Santa Rosa where I basically grew up. Dude is super up to date with music and is such a creative DJ. My mentor is Shortkut. He told me a few times that there are not many cats he would pass the torch to and I am one of them. He helps me with business questions, organizing my library, and even personal situations. Phenomenal DJ, even better human being. I am truly happy to have these people in my life, most all of them continue to inspire me to this day.

SFW: As someone who has been doing this for 17 years in the Bay, what have been some of your biggest challenges? 
L: I’m glad you asked. In the Bay and anywhere you call your hometown, it can be challenging to get on the radar of some of the cats throwing the events you want to be a part of. It takes the right kind of marketing, imaging, and networking. I’ve always dreamed of doing shows with Carey Kopp, Pos Red, Royce Rufino, Claksaarb, and some San Jose venues because they are throwing the types of parties I like and I know I’d connect with their audience well. This will happen.

SFW: Going off of that, what’s something you would like to change or see change in the local nightlife scene?
L: Venue owners, partners, and management finding a balance of the image they are looking for and the talent we have so much of here in the Bay Area.

SFW: We heard you take requests, while many DJs shun this practice. Tell us a little more about this. 
L: Shhhhh, don’t write that too boldly! I DJ a lot of weddings, so it’s normal to get requests and you can be exposed to some really incredible artists you would never have discovered. If I think it will make a good fit, I’ll drop it next. Makes less work for this “lazyboy” and makes the customer happy. If it’s awful, I’ll just nod my head and smile.

SFW: You played Boiler Room in Oakland last week. What was that experience like?
L: Oh my god, Becky, I mean Christina! It was indescribable in one word, but a mixture of excitement, humbling, anxiety, and appreciation. I was freaking out all week about what I was going to play. The Boiler Room audience is so diverse and there were so many different people in my ear about what my set should sound like.

I had to reach out to some folks I really look up to in the game to ground me. I took notes on my dry-erase board that are still up this very moment. My favorite DJ, Z-Trip, said, “Dig some champion b-sides” and “Do it for you listening somewhere else.” Ferno said, “Play what I listen to and believe in” and also suggested a 90-min work, 30-min break-work practice so as not to get burnt out. Goldenchyld said, “Do you unapologetically, this is not the Boiler Room, it’s the Lazyboy Show!” Shortkut told me this is a representation of how I get down so do me but also understand who will be watching this and who might want to book me based on my performance. No pressure right? Not to mention I was opening for Great Dane, J. Espinosa, Cut Chemist, and Invisbl Skratch Piklz. Oh, and just minutes before I went on, my laptop overheated! We grabbed a bucket of ice and put it under my laptop. I was terrified but it worked out! Thank you Traci P!

SFW: Tell us a little about what went into your mix. 
L: It touched a ton of areas. I kicked it off with a live remix of “Impression of You” by Giraffage, then dropped some Megadeth, Tropkillaz, Biz Markie, Anderson .Paak, The Jets, Camp Lo, Motley Crue, A.T.C.Q., Walshy Fire, Flow Dynamics, Aaliyah, Green Day, and D’Train. I made a point to reach out to some of the homies who produce and play their music that I truly believe in and bump on my own.

SFW: You’ll be playing MOM’s 8-year Anniversary this Friday. How did you connect with the MOM crew?
L: Jeff Illborn is a really good friend and he introduced me to Donovan Gordo (the founder of Motown On Mondays) who is now also a really good friend of mine. Gordo puts me on more than anyone in the Bay. He truly believes in me and pushes me to step up and show the world. For example, he put me on right before Shortkut and world champion battle DJ Cash Money. We have this joke where he fake introduces me as “The best DJ in the entire world who never makes a single mistake and will blow your mind with a flawless set” right before I’m about to go on. He always makes it a point to come to my competitions and support. He is also like a big brother. Both Gordo and Jeff are also wonderful DJs and even better human beings. I am so grateful to call them the homies.

SFW: What’s your ultimate Motown song?
L: Number one overall for me is “Before I Let Go” by Maze ft. Frankie Beverly because it makes you close your eyes and your body move, and you get the urge to sing it like it’s your own song. Also “Nothing From Nothing” by Billy Preston because when Billy comes in singing the harmony, between him and the piano, you can truly feel it.

SFW: And what would you still like to achieve in your career? 
L: Travel the world rocking all different crowds large and small. Tour with a reputable artist new or old. Gain more knowledge of music. Get better at digging. Spin more with my idols, and DJ more weddings because love is in the air and everyone is having a great time. I’d like to shout out all of my fans, followers, and friends. I love you, and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to share this journey and the music with all of you. Thank you for having me, Christina, it’s been fun!

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