After booking hardcore and ska shows around Denver for the past six years, DJ Maladjusted has taken his massive record collection and almost dogmatic devotion to vinyl and garnered a small but devoted following with his obscure selections. Spinning 2tone, ska and reggae every third Friday for One Step Beyond at Scruffy Murphy's, Maladjusted then scoots across town to Tooey's Off Colfax every First Friday for Future Wave, where he spins oi, hardcore and punk. Embracing such genres, DJ Maladjusted attracts devoted record geeks who understand the relevance of vinyl and the excitement of obscurity.
"It's the hunt that's so exciting," says Maladjusted. "Going into weird record stores in other cities, getting down and dirty on the ground, pulling boxes out of random places, asking the owner if he has anything in the back. And you might drive hours to a record store you'd never heard of, then spend hours digging through racks and find nothing.
"Or you might find that one gem," he goes on, "that one white whale record that you've been looking for. It's all totally worth it. But even the best vinyl collection doesn't make you a better DJ. You can have all the best vinyl ever released, but if you don't know how to read a room and keep the energy up, then you're gonna lose people."
Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Maladjusted was the young teenager soaking up all the music knowledge he could from the older guys who didn't mind him hanging around. "I had two different friends who both owned record/comic book stores," he says. "One was an older guy from New Jersey who knew about all the old Jersey hardcore bands, and the other guy was younger and knew about the current stuff. And I would go to both of their stores, and they would have a stack of records waiting for me, saying, 'This is what you should be listening to' -- stuff like Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front, Crippled Youth, American Nightmare, Converge."
Around the same time, Maladjusted was getting into the third-wave ska bands -- like the Pietasters, the Slackers, the Toasters -- that were blowing up in the late '90s. And like any teen with a hunger for expanding his knowledge of music history, he began digging for more information. "I started reading the liner notes of the CDs, looking at the bands that were thanked," he recalls, "the Specials and Madness, and older stuff like Laurel Aitken, Prince Buster and the Skatalites.Then I started looking for ska bands in Albuquerque."
Maladjusted eventually moved himself and his ever-expanding record collection to Denver, putting on hardcore shows and shopping around Denver's vinyl record stores (he was very saddened to see Double Entendre close, but is hopeful to see Growler Distro expand). "There are a lot of great soul and reggae records here," he notes. "There are people who empty out old jukeboxes and dump them into all these record stores."
Maladjusted acknowledges that spinning vinyl in the digital age is a complicated issue. "As far as practicality, there's no advantage to vinyl," he admits. "You've got wear and tear of the records, tons of equipment to maintain, the needles, the tables, people spilling beer on your records -- moving shit up and down from my third-floor apartment. But this is a tradition; it's the sound systems that Jamaican records were recorded and played on. And that's the vibe I'm going for. And people who appreciate vinyl, they're going to know."
And Denver is loaded with people who appreciate vinyl. The Denver Vintage Reggae Society has been taking over Tooey's every second Saturday for some time now, and when DJ Maladjusted began doing his own nights at Tooey's and Scruffy Murphy's, he was careful not to step on the toes of the scene's elders.
"The Denver Vintage Reggae Society has that locked down -- so I'm the new kid trying to do something on the side," he allows. "But they've shown me some respect; they've had me in there to DJ. With One Step Beyond, I didn't want to do just a ska night and rip off what they were doing, so I try and incorporate some soul and '80s stuff, a little bit of '77 punk rock. But then there's always people coming up and saying, 'Do you have any Deadmau5?' or this guy the other night who asked if he could pick out a record at random and have me 'scratch the shit out of it.'"
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.