There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
DJ Baggadonuts (aka Doug Hill) slumps back on his teal couch, sipping a bottle of Guinness. In extra-large faded black shorts and white sweat socks, with a big blue doughnut, his label’s trademark, wrinkling over his beer belly, he looks like a misshapen club superhero. He is suffering the effects of a head cold: major congestion and a slight addiction to cherry-flavored NyQuil. Hill admits he’s sick enough that his own beats annoy him this Wednesday night.
Surrounded by 4,600 dance albums and a pit of wires, sequencers, keyboards, turntables, and drum machines, Hill complains that his cold has temporarily interrupted his musicmaking. “My head was just not up to heavy pounding,” he says regretfully. “I only worked for a couple of hours. I had the whole day to do it.”
For the full-time computer programmer, this is out of character. He is used to juggling the 9-to-5 with “four-on-the-floor beats.” Hill, 29, spent his formative years on a club kid’s clockgoing to Fever in Baltimore on Thursday nights, coming home an hour before work on Fridays, heading back to the warehouse that night, then taking a bus trip up to Boston, New York City, or Ohio for an underground bash Saturday, returning home sometime Sunday. He fondly recalls the early ’90s, when raves were popping up everywhere in the area, from under the 14th Street Bridge to along the railroad tracks in Baltimore near I-95.
Now, with the rave underground hounded by the cops and breakbeats filtering down to car commercials, Hill goes to clubs to dance and network. Leaving the heavy hours and heavy drugs behind, he has formed Donut Records and has started crafting his own sound. Hill says his shift from the dance floor to the turntables was inevitable. “It’s like going to college with a whole bunch of peopleafter four years, people go their own separate ways,” he explains. “We had four years of rave college.”
Hill’s master’s thesisthe recently released First Batch EPis marked by his experience as both dancer and computer geek. On “Simple Thing,” the incessant kick-drum stomp sets you in motion as sequenced swirls gust through the mix. Unlike most electronica, it grinds out minimally without sounding cheap. The B-side, “Heartburn,” ironically samples the earthy baritone from a Zantac 75 commercial, twisting it into a Cylon chant of “acid relief.” And the mix groans like a Battlestar Galactica soundtrack, complete with digital drones and fast-paced synthesizer fire. It’s easy to trance out during either songsomething Hill himself has to fight.
He says he can lose himself in a beat loop for a couple of hours before noticing that he has zoned out. Generally opting to create from scratch rather than download samples, he tries to figure out what will keep him and the crowds at Capitol Ballroom’s Buzz, where he spins every couple of months, dancing, and rival DJs trainspotting his sounds.
“If it passes the two-hour test, I’ll see what I can add to it,” he explains. “The hard part is [finding] time for exploring.”