Art Sriboonruang is a confident man. Still, by the time the 23-year-old veteran turntablist left for the grand finals of Guitar Center’s Spin Off contest in Los Angeles, he already suspected he wasn’t going to win.

So when his favorite, DJ Illtraxx, took home first prize, he wasn’t shocked. “He had the best crowd response all night,” says Sriboonruang, who claims he for sure knew he’d lost when he “looked out and saw 5,000 people with their hands in the air” during Illtraxx’s set. Despite his defeat, Sriboonruang was happy with his performance, calling his own set his “best material to date.”

Though he claims it hasn’t affected his skills, it seems as if real life has caught up with Sriboonruang, who spins as DJ As-One. In his high-school days, he would practice for five or six hours at a time. “I’m lucky,” he says, “if I get an hour of practice nowadays without my girlfriend bugging me.”

Sriboonruang moved out of his parents’ place about six months ago and into a house in Rockville with his girlfriend and another roommate. He has a job—as an assistant manager at a window-tinting operation—that keeps him occupied from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and exhausted until well after he gets home. The change in his lifestyle has meant considerably less turntable-practice time.

Initially, this came as a blow to Sriboonruang, who first took the stage at a Wheaton High School talent show when he was 14. Since then, the Aspen Hill native has competed in numerous events and battles, even taking first place at the Delaware regional for the 2005 DMC World DJ Championships—an annual gathering that he calls “the most coveted DJ battle.”

Sriboonruang credits his background in martial arts with fueling his competitive drive. That and an accommodating grandpa. “Me and my cousin actually started doing kung fu, and we were really serious about [it],” he says. “My grandfather…would drive us every weekend as far as Florida [and] up and down the East Coast.”

“I would say five years of competing and traveling definitely got me in the spirit,” he says.

Sriboonruang says he’s taken a “permanent break” from martial arts, but he’s covered plenty of ground for DJ competitions: He got to the 2005 Guitar Center finals by winning several separate local-level contests and ended up with a host of goody-bag prizes, including sneakers and headphones.

Unfortunately, he missed out on the mother-lode package, which featured a Scion xB. “In my mind,” reasons Sriboonruang, “it was a base model.”

Though Sriboonruang didn’t finish first, he’s not planning on giving up any time soon. In fact, he hopes that the Guitar Center competition and others like it will help to establish his name, and that eventually be a key player in the record industry. “A lot of the battle DJs,” he says, “have made the natural progression…to beat making.” Still, after nine years of spinning records, Sriboonruang has yet to release a mix CD—the calling card of any up-and-coming DJ.

Despite that fact, he remains confident about his chances. “I know how to produce,” he says.

—Mike Kanin