By Martin J. Kidston
Red lights flashing, blue lights spinning, yellow and blue make green and the beat goes on. The music thumps, thumps from the tower speakers on stage while the DJ blares one musical story after another.
Its like, all about culture, you know.
Its about expressing yourself. Its about breaking the norm. Its about wearing $4 T-shirts advertising skateboard wheels, seeing who has the sharpest goatee and the whitest hair. Its about who can survive the mosh pit when Social Distortion rings loud and pumps the heart the hearts pumping, the musics thumping and the DJs smiling a big Cheshire-cat-grin, like he knows something you dont.
Chances are, he does know something you dont.
His real name is James Hayward, musical name, DJ Shades of Grey, and if Bo knows football, then Hayward knows music.
If I want to play Pappa Chubby, then Ill play Pappa Chubby. If I want to play the Stones, then Ill play the Stones, and people dig it, Hayward said. I like to slip in new bands that nobodys ever heard of its almost like giving them culture.
Culture surrounds a Rocky and Bullwinkle pinball machine. Culture comes under a Rainbeer X-ing and a Jagermeister banner that flashes in the glow of strobe lights and dance lights, and all the other lights that give rhythm to everyone, even those who dance the funky chicken.
But hey now, whatever your move, get your game on and dance dance to Smash Mouth and Powerman 5000. Dance to whatever the DJ plays, because you like it, and thats that.
And thats how it all started, that is, Haywards musical appreciation. According to this guy, it goes back to a record album he pulled from his young aunts collection when he was a kid. The record Kisss Rock and Roll Over.
The tongue thrashing, make-up wearing band was good enough to stick in Haywards medulla oblongata, and though Kiss wont get much air time in a progressive rave, the yesteryear band was the beginning of a musical habit.
Now, Kiss is a relic, vinyl is out and everything digital is in. And 1,500 CDs later, Hayward has taken his hobby to the masses like a monk to the hills. But if you aim to punish yourself to some good tunes, you can forget about country. And when it comes to the Back Street Boyz not on Haywards mixer. Hes from Detroit, and hes out to rock the house with his atypical style.
Brittany Spears is for 12 year-olds, Hayward insists. Im talking about techno rave, like Underworld, Fat Boy Slim and the Chemical Brothers. Im talking about the stuff that no one around here gets much of.
By the slim chance that someone does request a country-hoe-down-tune, Hayward said, he has a cure for that illness. Its called punk rock. Its called Social Distortion doing Johnny Cashs Ring of Fire, or Green Day singing Dominated Love Slave to a country twang. Its about Lag Wagon doing Brown Eyed Girl.
Its about kicking up the dust in this sleepy little town where Garth Brooks and Chris Ledoux are the norm. Its about diversity and creating options.
Having fun, thats my kick, Hayward said. Its an everyday gig.
Haywards everyday gig started by sheer luck five years ago when a fellow DJ stepped into the little boys room at the Gallery Lounge.
Its a funny story, Hayward said. I was hanging out at the Gallery one night, and this guy, he was a DJ, and me, I was curious, so I was overlooking his scene, and he had to take a bathroom break. This guy, he let me take over while he was out, so I grabbed my CDs and got on the mike and just started having fun. It came pretty natural for me. Later, the guy got fired and the owner, he called me and asked me to DJ.
Five years later, Haywards lighting the nights at Shamrocks and no ones complaining theyre too busy keeping tempo to the loud, in-your-face carnage of aggressive new songs that mark the times.
But that night five years ago, DJ Shades of Grey was born, taking center stage in Havres upstart musical scene. Now hes spinning requests for Korn and Kid Rock, for the Violent Femmes and Patty Smith. He gets it all, and fills the air with something new and fresh a break from the stale and routine.
But theres more to Haywards show than meets the eye, like the name he chose for his company which, by the way, he owns all $30,000 of it. DJ Shades of Grey sounds kind of shifty, kind of shady, but really, it stems from equal rights and the pursuit of a colorless society. And why not, music is void of race, absent of color, and tells only one story loud.
I was sitting around with this dream that Id like to have my own music store, and I was wondering what would a cool name be? Hayward said. I didnt want to be black or white, but something in between, like shades of gray, you know?
Did he mention the Grateful Dead was playing Touch of Grey when the idea struck?
Who said music doesnt have influence.
Nevertheless, taking his colorless idea to the musical scene, he backs up his beliefs with equal play for an eager crowd a crowd hooked on a feeling that flies in the face of a hard-hitting, hip-swaying fever.
I dont play one type of music, Hayward said. If the crowd wants it heavy, Ill play it heavy. If they want to freak out, then well do that, too.
When Hayward isnt equalizing the intensity of his high-tech equipment, he provides the play time for the tailgate parties at Montana State University-Northern. Then, throw in the weddings and private parties, and his gig is enough to keep a guy busy between musical scores. But on top of it all, Haywards wife has a new kid named David James, or DJ something about his grandfathers initials turned around backwards.
Im a brand new papa, he said. Thats a big kick; its really got me going.
Hayward said his newest project is helping to organize a punk rock concert at the Bigger Better Barn. He calls it a fund-raiser, of sorts, for the upstart Alternative Sports Club at Northern.
That aside, his only regret may be that he never saw Queen live in concert, thanks in whole to Freddy Mercurys untimely passing. But with acid jazz bands like Parliament and P Funk, who needs to reminisce. The trend is loud, its in your face, and for some, its finally in Havre.