DJ Pain 1 is a prominent hip-hop producer, and over the years he’s worked with names you know like Young Jeezy, Public Enemy and Ludacris. He’s also a Madison local and active community member who volunteers for non-profits. We had the great pleasure of having him here at the Murfie office recently.
In this interview, he brings up some important topics—like the pressure that Madison police put on venues that try to book hip-hop shows. Unfortunately, the lack of hip-hop in Madison makes it hard for talented acts to really blossom in town. What you might not know about DJ Pain 1 is that his real name is Pacal Bayley. He’s a true lover of all dedicated musicians, a physical music collector, and a mushroom hunter—although he’ll never tell you where he finds morels.
Now, I don’t want to give away all the best parts. Here’s a transcript of our interview along with the recorded version (below) on our Soundcloud player.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Who: DJ Pain 1; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison, WI
When: Wednesday July 1st, 2015
K: So I am currently in one of the Murfie warehouse rooms surrounded by discs with DJ Pain 1. Welcome to the office, first of all.
DJ: This is kind of surreal.
K: It is. Being surrounded by so much music kind of makes you think about all the albums that have come out over the years.
DJ: Well all I see is boxes, so I’m just smelling cardboard—and there are all these boxes with numbers written on all of them. It’s like musical coffins or something.
K: That’s one way to think about it, for the people who store their CDs here. We do have people who get their CDs digitized and shipped back to them. But I suppose it is a good resting place, and these boxes are actually like water resistant and temperature—
DJ: Oh they are?
K: Yeah we make sure everything stays nice and cozy in there. But you know there are a lot of things to talk about in music, especially someone like you who is involved on all these different levels. So over the years as you’ve gained all your experience, the music industry has changed a lot, especially recently, in terms of the way people listen to music, and the way it’s being released. So in your opinion, is the music industry changing for better or for worse?
DJ: I think it’s always a duality. I think access is a good thing, and access has been improving for decades now. And so what access begets is saturation. And of course it changes the landscape as far as fans are concerned and their expectations of artists. They expect a lot of music, and they expect instant access, and they expect free most of all. And so that’s not necessary a bad thing, because it’s forced artists to really adapt in new and innovative ways, whether it’s just challenging the traditions of a genre or finding new and exciting ways to market and promote themselves. So, it’s good for some and bad for others, I guess that’s a subjective question. And I don’t necessarily know, because I’m benefiting a lot from it—but then on a macro level the music industry is just kind of crumbling before my very eyes. At first that kind of scared me, but now I’m just sitting there looking at my watch waiting for it to happen, because I kind of can’t stand the paradigm. But it also every now and then lets me in through a door, and then I make some money and get some notoriety off it.
K: Well I like what you said about finding ways to adapt that are new and interesting. I feel like that’s gonna be the differentiator between people who succeed regardless of how the music industry ends up being. So what are some of the best ways that you’ve learned to connect with your audience and make a living?
DJ: I give a lot of stuff away for free. And maybe the ratio is somewhere around 10:1 or 15:1. 15 being what I give away and 1 being what I sell. It gives me more leverage for the people that are following me and benefiting from the resources I give out. So I don’t know if it works, but it’s worked for me in some capacity, so I’m going to keep doing it.
K: Well especially if your music is good and people like it.
DJ: Yeah with me I really speak more to the producer community, so: free resources for producers, a lot of video advice for just aspiring artists of all kinds, and streaming Q&A shows, panels, the professional development stuff that we do locally here. I’ve done it around the country too a little.
K: So you’ve seen Madison’s music scene, and you’ve also traveled to different places. How does Madison’s music scene compare to other places?
DJ: That goes back to the word access. I’m gonna use Appleton as an example just because it’s so close and it’s so much smaller than Madison. I mean, their population is a lot smaller than Madison’s. You know alone we have 40,000+ just students, just like a transient population, but Appleton has more venues, more music events going on concurrently, more music festivals, and just it seems that there’s more access. And I know that things have changed maybe in the last year or two, but when I go there it appears to me that they have more going on. When you come to Madison there are very few options as far as live music goes, and especially if you’re a fan of what people would consider—quote urban unquote—styles of music. That’s unfortunate. Because I mean the talent here isn’t any less amazing. And I’ve been all over the place and we have great talent here. But I think access and opportunity not only allows for sustainability, but it also promotes talent too, and growth too. I mean people feel boxed in here, so I don’t think we’re all growing as much as we could be.
K: You know, when you say that, I do realize I haven’t seen a lot of hip-hop and rap shows being promoted.
DJ: No they’re all banned, it’s banned. Name a venue and I’m probably banned from it.
DJ: I banned myself from—no not Frequency. Frequency is like the island in the sea of cowardly business moves. And it’s not all—I shouldn’t say it’s all cowardly, when you have police come into your venue saying, “Here’s your liquor license, we’re dangling it over your head, and if you go forward with this hip-hop event, we don’t know what’s going to happen, wink wink.” And that’s happened to me a couple times actually, I’ve had venue owners call me saying “Hey the gang unit came in earlier and said they don’t want you here.” And…
K: That’s too bad.
DJ: It’s funny, it’s stuff out of a movie, a mob movie. But it’s happening. So venue owners are rightfully reluctant to book hip-hop.
K: Right, for the sake of their business. Those outside pressures.
K: And you’re right. That might not say anything about their preference in music, but when it comes down to that…
DJ: Some of the venue owners. Some of the venue owners aren’t cool.
K: Besides the Frequency, are there any other local venues that you really like in Madison?
DJ: Well The Inferno has closed its doors unfortunately. I love playing at The Union. I love DJing at Dane Dances. That’s not really a hip-hop thing, they play all types of music there, but it’s on the Monona Terrace and there are about 5,000 people there, so of course I enjoy that.
K: Maybe that means there’s an opportunity for another venue to come up. I think that Madison could benefit from some new venues.
DJ: Yeah, some—plural.
K: Of different sizes too.
DJ: We’re doing stuff in the streets. I was on 30 on the Square just now. My non-profit puts on a lot of events just in the street, urbancommunityartsnetwork.org. And we’ve been getting some grants recently, so we’ve been able to put on events and then pay artists to perform at our events.
K: Cool. So who are your favorite artists right now, whether they’re local or national? Is there anyone you’ve really been following?
DJ: I just listen to dancehall, I don’t really listen to hip-hop. But I don’t know. I like a lot of hip-hop now, it’s so eclectic right now. I don’t think it’s ever been this eclectic. Some people aren’t cool with that, but I like it. I like everything. So I’ll just say I like everything. That’s a cop out.
K: No, eclectic is good, I find it hard when people say “I only like this style of music”—well then, you’re missing out, you know? Yours is a fair answer, I think there’s a lotta good music out there and a lot of access, which is interesting to see how it shapes the landscape. So I always like to ask this throwback question, because our company is about adding the modern twist to your physical music collection—do you remember the first album you bought and what format it was on?
K: A tape! Nice.
DJ: Album? ‘Cause I bought a single…
K: I love albums, like the album nostalgia…
DJ: Yeah. I’m trying to think what…I was listening to a lot of music when I was a kid. It might have been like Motley Crue or Poison or something. I really liked 80s metal and hip-hop, and then oldies. So I had like the Cruisin’ 50s albums—you remember those? With the pop art on the front?
K: I think we have some of those here, haha.
DJ: I bet, yeah, they were popular. So I had some of those. I had Hammer tapes, ‘cause I liked Hammer, ‘cause I was five. And then the 90s came, and it was hip-hop and dancehall tapes, that’s really all I had.
K: Cool, like dancehall dancehall? Buju Banton and stuff?
DJ: It was, yeah that’s an interesting story. There used to be a place—are you from here?
K: Ah, Milwaukee.
DJ: Okay. So you don’t remember…how long have you been here?
K: In Madison? Six years.
DJ: Okay so maybe 25 years ago, there was a place called Discount Records right on State Street. And for whatever reason my parents had all these gift certificates to this record store. I think they won them off WORT or something like that. I don’t know if that’s true, but, shout out to WORT, if I can plug them.
K: Oh yeah, we love them.
DJ: Yeah yeah, you have to. And they were socialistic about it so they gave me one third of the gift certificates and I was like “Cool, I get to buy rap!”. But that was the gangster rap era. You know, ‘91, ‘92, ‘93. And so my mom kind of played into the hype and said “No, you can’t listen to that—but you can buy rap as long as it’s in Spanish.” And there wasn’t much out there, I didn’t know anything, there was no internet. I was six or seven, however young I was. And so I just bought what I thought looked like hip-hop tapes and it was actually dancehall records. But you know, in Spanish.
K: Cool, I love those surprises. Especially when you buy an album because the cover looks interesting, and it could be something completely unexpected.
DJ: Yeah, people don’t really do that anymore, that’s the sad part.
K: Yeah. That’s a huge topic that’s been covered in NPR, New York Times. You know, people write about collecting, and looking through people’s collections. Looking through stores and everything. So what we’re hoping to do here is kind of keep that alive in the digital age. But I know what you mean, I love looking through the bargain bin, or the new releases, looking at the covers. So I hope to see that exist in some way in the future.
DJ: Yeah my hands lived in the bargain bin.
K: Oh yeah. And I love collecting too, I love saying “These are my crates of vinyl. These are all my CDs. This defines me.” If someone comes into my room they’re like, “Oh that’s cool, that’s cool.” I love that!
DJ: Yeah, now it’s the playlist.
K: Sure, the playlist is king now.
DJ: But it’s not as visually exciting, you know?
K: Right. So I’m interested to see how that plays out. You know they promote playlists on different streaming services. “So-and-so made this playlist.”
DJ: Yeah, but until they make a digital playlist that you can hang on your wall or something, it’s not gonna be as cool.
K: I love the insights. And it’s so interesting to be alive right now when things in the music scene are changing. It’s just so interesting, you know. We’ve got one foot in the past, one foot in the future. Who know’s what’s gonna happen. Definitely all that remains is music, when you break it down. So, you seem like you’ve got a lot of stuff going on, some projects and everything. What do you have planned for the rest of this year?
DJ: I wish I knew. I have a semblance of a plan somewhere. I’m releasing a drum kit coming up, and that’s just kind of a pain to make happen, no pun intended. And then Sole and I have a second album—I guess it’s like a 4th album actually, because we put out two EPs and an album—a follow up to Death Drive, and we’re touring before that drop. I don’t know when that’s gonna happen, we didn’t set a release date. I’m working on a ton of stuff. I don’t know what’s going on in my life, honestly. This is the first time I’ve said this: Gun Play record coming soon. His album comes out, I wanna say this month. We’ll see.
K: Cool. Well I’ll keep a lookout for that. And one thing I like to ask since summer is just starting, and we’ve all been waiting for so long in Wisconsin for the weather to change—are there any summer activities that you love doing, that you’ve been waiting to do?
DJ: Getting ticks. I love it.
K: Getting ticks?! No. Did you get a tick?
DJ: I get ticks all the time because I hunt for mushrooms in the spring.
K: Oh, you are a mushroom hunter! Morels?
K: What are those big… “Lion of the Forest”, are they called? Then hen—
DJ: Chicken of the woods. Yeah I can see “Lion of the Forest”, they look like a lion’s mane.
K: Cool, mushroom hunting and keeping the ticks off.
DJ: Yeah that’s it. But now in the summer I just want to camp. I’m in the studio, I’m just a shut-in basically. And then so when summer comes it really bothers me.
K: Well mushroom hunting is a good reason to get some fresh air, and there are a lot of places around the Isthmus I’m sure.
DJ: Yeah, I can’t really talk about those…
K: Can’t give ‘em away!
DJ: State parks though.
K: Well cool. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer, and good luck with everything you have coming out. Thanks for talking to us.
DJ: Yeah, thank you.
Albums involving DJ Pain 1
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Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.