Chris Klassen, Deejay
Klassen, who performs under the name Prince Klassen, was born and raised in San Antonio. Following in the footsteps of his brother, Jason, he started deejaying at house parties when he was only fourteen. He now lives in Austin, where he regularly spins at Beauty Bar, Whisky Bar, and Nasty’s.
I remember my first gig at a club, in 2001. My friend Mikey—he goes by DJ Jester—was playing at a poetry slam in San Antonio, but he was gonna be out of town and he wanted me to play. He ended up giving me his spot, so I deejayed there every Tuesday night for almost three years. I wasn’t put in the spotlight, trying to make people dance or anything. It was more lounging, or people would be rapping or just kind of doing spoken word over it. Later it started to become more of a dance-oriented thing, like at nightclubs.
Back when I was in high school, my brother would have me record this mix show that was on one of the college stations in San Antonio called House Nation, and it was all house music for, like, three hours. I’d be at home every Saturday night, recording all these shows. I have three years, or something like that, on cassette. I started calling in and requesting songs and really getting into it, and then my brother got turntables, and I’d come home from school and start practicing. From there I was hooked.
Ever since elementary school, I’ve enjoyed learning about new music, and that’s partially because of Jason. He was always introducing me to things, so little brother wants to be big brother. I remember my middle school teacher freaking out because I’d always be talking about bands like Sepultura and then talking about the new 2Pac record, and he’d say, “What are you listening to? Why do your parents even let you listen to this?” They did, luckily.
My parents have been good with everything. My mom doesn’t ask, “When are you gonna get a real job?” or stuff like that. My dad has been really appreciative of what I’ve been doing. I always tell him, “Hey, I’m flying here,” or “I’ll be deejaying there,” or “I’ve played here.” I feel that internal thing where I want to make them proud, because I haven’t been the typical kid growing up—going to college, getting the corporate job. I’ve always been the rebel, so I feel like I need to make this happen, make them happy. I’m kind of bummed though; they’ve never seen me deejay.
I travel a lot, and every time I go out of town, it never fails: I have to go to a record store. There are a couple in Texas that I think are secret; they’re just not on the radar. A lot of other deejays don’t take the time to say, “Oh, I wonder if they have anything here.” I use Serato, the computer program for deejaying, but I still buy a ton of records. A lot of deejays now are just downloading. It’s so easy. But I don’t really do that. That’s a personal thing, because, you know, five thousand kids have that track now. Everything’s so accessible. In a way the digital age is killing off all the vinyl, but I still spend a lot of time looking for old stuff. You’ll never have everything you want.
I’m definitely in love with what I’m doing. I look forward to my Friday night at Beauty Bar the most. It’s not really stuck to one genre the whole night, but it’s more like Miami bass, Baltimore club music, and electro house. Just real dirty stuff. And just really hype. Everyone gets real sweaty. I look forward to it ’cause people really get down. There are bands that play early, and then by the time I jump on, the crowd is just on it. I love that. I first started at Whisky Bar when I moved to Austin, in 2004, and that was more disco, soulful. I try to keep the vibe like that now, but in the Warehouse District it’s hard. There’s a more poptastic mentality there. They want to hear radio bangers all night.
Sometimes people start dancing early, and then they stop. One track can really change everything. Sometimes the crowds don’t do anything at all. I recently had a night like that at Whisky Bar, where I threw everything at them, but they weren’t going for it. It messes with your head because I personally feel like I’m not doing a good job. And then it just makes me lower and lower and lower, and then, by the end of the night, sometimes I just don’t care. I always try to aim to where it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to do my best,” and I definitely try. But that one night was just not happening.
As far as the perfect night, I prefer either (a) no requests or (b) good requests. I don’t like requests. A lot of people don’t understand that I’m doing my job. You don’t like your boss hounding you, and neither do I. Not that these people are my boss, but they’re basically telling me what to do. If they let me do this, there’s probably something that they’ll like at some point. They think the whole night is based on them. Meanwhile, there are a hundred other people dancing.
It feels good to warm up the crowd and then let the headliner take it. Whenever I headline, I always try to pay attention to what the deejay ahead of me is playing and read the crowd. That’s another kind of head game. Sometimes you don’t know what they’re going to want to hear, and sometimes the deejay before you can just completely kill the vibe. There’s no saving it after that.
Since I started deejaying so young, I sometimes feel like I don’t have anything to fall back on, so why not keep striving for this? If any of my friends catch me at the right time, I’ll just be like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” When do I say when? Some of my other deejay friends are ten years older than I am, and they’re just now getting on the map. I don’t know if I want to go another ten years just to get on the map. Not that that is my main goal, but it would be nice, for sure.