When watching Clippers games at Staples Center, most people take the arena's entertainment atmosphere for granted. The music you hear pregame, during timeouts, or at the end of games are a normal part of the experience. The sound effects that start the "defense" chants, or that come after a made basket — these magically play over the speakers so seamlessly that you don’t even think about it. We all know DJ Dense, but there's another man behind those songs and sounds you hear at the game, and his name is DJ Roueche.
DJ Roueche (pronounced ru-SHAY) has been the Clippers Music Director since the 2004-2005 season. Along with DJ Dense, Roueche is the man behind the scenes helping to create the electric atmosphere at all Clippers home games. Besides his gig with the Clippers, DJ Roueche has been controlling dance floors for over 17 years with his seamless genre-blending style. He is the official DJ for the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour and one half of the DJ/music production team known as The Suicide Doors. He is also the Contributing Music Editor to Volleyball Magazine and co-host for the Net Live Volleyball Podcast.
ClipsNation: For many people, music is just a hobby. But you have been able to make a career out of it. When did you first realize that you could make a career out of music?
DJ Roueche: When I moved to California in 1997, I was already DJing part time but I ended up getting a paid internship at Maverick Records [Madonna’s Record Label] to help pay the bills. While working at the record label I realized I wanted a career in music, but it wasn’t until 2003 when the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour approached me to be their Official DJ that I knew I could and would make a career out of it.
CN: That must have been cool working for and meeting Madonna, and playing music on the beach for the AVP Beach Volleyball tour. Since then, you have DJed for some big name artists, such as Dr. Dre and Gwen Stefani. Do you ever get starstruck?
DJ: I've never gotten starstruck, but there have definitely been times where I was in awe of the moment I was in. I've DJed events at Jimmy Iovine's house and I've had Dr Dre, Will.I.Am, Timbaland and Pharrell all standing right next to the DJ booth watching me DJ. [There have been some] very surreal moments for me knowing that tons of people would have loved to have been me at those times.
CN: Definitely! So when and how did you get started with the Clippers?
DJ: Since I was already DJing for the AVP, my DJ name had gotten around in the sports world. I was hired to work a Rugby event at the Home Depot Center, now StubHub Center, and the lady who was in charge of the game entertainment for that event was hired by the Clippers in 2004 to run their game entertainment. She was kind enough to bring me along with her to the Clippers.
CN: You partner with DJ Dense to fill Staples Center with music on game nights. What is that partnership like?
DJ: Working with DJ Dense is great. He's a true professional and I enjoy getting to work with him at every Clippers Home Game. I always joke with him that since no one sees me during the game, but everyone sees him and thinks he plays all the music, he'll get the blame if I play a song no one likes.
CN: Speaking of songs, how do you decide what songs to play, and when to play them?
DJ: It's all about preparing for as many possibilities as you can and then reacting to the situations of the game. When you've been doing this as long as I have, you can anticipate what's about to happen and plan ahead for it. I play music based off of what's happening in the game and the vibe of the crowd.
CN: What are a couple of your go-to songs to get the crowd pumped?
DJ: I have a remix of "Song 2" by Blur that I like to drop at exciting moments. During close games when the Clippers are down in the 4th quarter and fighting to get back in it, I like to play an edit I made of "Carmina Burana" by the London Symphony Orchestra while DJ Dense is on the mic pumping the crowd. It really gets the crowd going. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
CN: What is one of your favorite Clippers moments?
DJ: Game 7 of last year's first round playoff series with the Spurs. It was such a great series up to the point and we had Game 7 at home. When CP3 hit the game winner, instead of playing a song right away I threw both of my hands in the air in celebration. I was totally a fan at that moment and not a DJ. It was a lot of fun being a part of that game.
CN: That game was definitely an instant classic. When CP3 — who had injured himself earlier in the game — took that shot, I swear everything went into super slow motion. Be honest, how confident were you that he was going to make the shot? Did you eventually play a song, and if so do you remember what song you played?
DJ: I assumed we were headed into overtime. When CP3 drove to the basket and Duncan jumped out to defend him, I thought we might get the rebound with enough time left on the clock to score. But when Paul’s shot went in, even with about a second or two left on the clock, I knew we had won the game. As for the song, I did eventually play one, something high-energy I’m sure, but I can’t remember what it was. It was so loud in the arena that probably no one heard the song anyway.
CN: That whole fourth quarter was pretty amazing, from both teams. And having a star like CP3 to take the big shots is not something us Clippers fans are used to. Speaking of stars, former Clippers star Elton Brand announced his retirement this offseason, which sparked a debate on Clips Nation to determine who, if anyone, is deserving of the honor of having their jersey/number hanging in the rafters of Staples Center for the Clippers. You have had the opportunity of being around this team for a while now. Is there anyone you think that is deserving of the honor?
DJ: That’s a great question. I’m sure all the players that were mentioned in the Clips Nation debate are all worthy in their own way. I do think Elton would be a good choice if it ever came to making that decision. Elton helped the Clippers win their first playoff series since moving from Buffalo, and was even in the running for MVP that season. He was part of a group that showed other NBA players that winning as a Clipper was definitely possible.
CN: Brand was a popular choice, although many Clippers fans are still a little upset about the circumstances around his departure from the club. Another popular choice was Ralph Lawler. Would you agree that he is a strong candidate?
DJ: When people think of the Clippers, they definitely think of Ralph Lawler. So anything that honors or celebrates Ralph, I’m 100% in favor of.
CN: Speaking of Ralph, he has some pretty popular catch phrases, such as "fasten your seat belts gang" or "bingo". Have you ever thought of incorporating some of them into the game? Maybe we could hear Ralph's voice say "bingo" when a Clippers player makes a three-pointer?
DJ: We’ve tried incorporating his "bingo" into games, but with the crowd noise right after a three-pointer and our PA announcer Eric Smith doing what he does after made baskets, the audio clip of Ralph was getting lost. It was a great idea, unfortunately didn’t translate into the live action in the arena.
CN: That makes sense. The Clippers franchise has changed a lot in the last few years. A couple of seasons ago, Steve Ballmer paid a lot of money to be one the owner of the team. From your view, how has the new ownership impacted the franchise?
DJ: Mr. Ballmer has amazing energy, as I’m sure everyone can tell, and his energy is contagious. When he’s shown on the video board cheering and genuinely fired up for the team, you can’t help but get fired up as well. His attitude and genuine care for the team and Los Angeles make me want to be better at my job.
CN: Clippers fans can definitely feel his energy, from hearing him speak, to watching him do something that looks like dancing. This past season there was a totally different atmosphere in the arena, with many improvements to in-game entertainment. Steve Ballmer wanted to create a fan experience at the games, and came through in a big way. Can Clippers fans expect more of the same this season?
DJ: Absolutely. We’re always striving to make each season better than the last. I’ve challenged myself to expand my current music library I play from during games and I know DJ Dense and I are always trying to find ways to get the crowd more involved. I’m really excited about the upcoming season and I’m looking forward to getting back to Staples Center and interacting with our amazing fans.
CN: Luckily for Clippers fans, the wait is almost over. The home opener is set for October 29 against the Dallas Mavericks, and that game should be full of energy, especially after the DeAndre Jordan drama. What are four or five song recommendations the fans should play in the car on their drive to Staples Center for that home opener, to help pump them up?
CN: And finally, what is your prediction for the Clippers this season?
DJ: The Western Conference is extremely tough, but I feel like we’re built to hang with anyone. I can’t predict what’s going to happen, but I fully expect to be music directing Clippers games come next June.
CN: I can comfortably speak for all Clippers fans [when I say] that it would be great to hear you playing music at Staples Center next June. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions.
DJ: My pleasure.
DJ Roueche has been gracious enough to take time out of his schedule to come visit us a few times over the next week, to answer any questions Clippers fans might have. Leave your questions and comments below, and follow @DJRoueche on Twitter.