An exit interview with Obama’s White House DJ

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dj-mel

Barack Obama, perhaps the most musically savvy politician ever to serve as commander in chief, will vacate the White House in January 2017. One person who will harbor especially fond memories of the waning Obama era is DJ Mel, the Austin, Texas musician who has been playing top-level events for the president for the last four years, starting on election night in November 2012. DJ Mel was also behind the turntables at Obama’s inauguration in Chicago. As the election nears, DJ Mel talks about his experiences with TrackRecord’s Jessie Peterson. The DJ discusses how he initially got the job, what kinds of songs he could and could not play, and what it’s like to work at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally. (“It reminded me of election night, but on a smaller scale.”) DJ Mel also gives his musical thoughts on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and what songs he might play for them if asked.

A longtime veteran of the music industry with a wildly diverse resume, including gigs at Lollapalooza and the Tour De France, DJ Mel had not aspired to perform at any high-level political events, but DJing for Obama was nevertheless an honor. Mel’s selections caught the attention of other musicians, including Questlove and Mark Ronson, both of whom tweeted their admiration. The DJ was given a list of approved songs by advance men, but he occasionally went off-script, too. The key, he maintains, was his ability to read a room and decide what would be appropriate and what wouldn’t. “Twist And Shout” made the cut, thanks to its use in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

As for this year’s candidates, DJ Mel associates Clinton with the music of Alanis Morissette and Pat Benatar. What would be completely inappropriate for her? “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. Trump, he says, is tougher to figure out. “I can’t connect a genre to this dude,” he admits. But Trump’s music “would have to be something obnoxious. It would be something you’d hear at a WWE Monday Night Raw event.”

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