DJ Ballas: Making Astoria Dance
By Ilija Sekulovski
How long have you been a DJ?
Since 1989 – for quite a long time now. I was just 14 when I started to DJ for the first time.
What made you want to become a DJ?
I thought it was cool! (laughs). I was inspired by another DJ – and I thought of it as a hobby. But I kept doing it, and I enjoyed it so much it become more than a hobby.
Have you seen a shift in DJ culture since you start in 1989?
Yes, I definitely have. The music was really different back then. There was more variety, more originality. Now it’s just focused on a beat, or on house music.
A big change is that back then people enjoyed the music even if they had never heard it. If you brought out something new, people enjoyed it and danced to it, but now they just want what’s on the radio – what’s familiar. DJ’s back then we’re innovators and creators…now, not so much.
What’s the best part of being a DJ?
Despite the last answer, I really, truly enjoy what I do. The thing is, as a DJ, you make people have fun. You get the crowd having a good time, and you start smiling along yourself. You have the power to really change people’s moods with music, and it’s really enjoyable. You feel good when you’re doing your job. I always think of it like this: You DJ for the people, not for yourself.
You opened ICON, one of NYC’s premiere gay clubs, here in Astoria. Where did the idea come from?
We saw that there was a large gay community in Astoria, and not really a place for them to go. My investors and I decided to change that – we opened one up and went from there.
What sets ICON apart from other clubs?
The atmosphere. It’s just friendly. I can’t describe it any other way. It’s really a welcoming place – you never feel out of place, or like you don’t belong. We wanted to have a club where everyone could just have a good time and feel like they’re part of this family that they keep coming back to.
Besides ICON, where else do you DJ?
I used to travel a lot to DJ – I went to places like Boston and Washington. One thing that not a lot of people know is that I really love the idea of community. It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about, and as a DJ you wonder, “How can I use that to give back. How can I use my passion for the community,” and what I started doing was DJ’ing at a lot of school fundraisers and charity organizations. It’s great because you’re at an event that’s for a good cause, and you’re getting everyone pumped up and in a good mood.
You expanded from just DJ’ing to opening up an entire DJ business – Ballas Entertainment. What made you want to make that jump?
I saw how happy my DJ’ing made people, and I realized that I wanted to keep spreading the enjoyment of music, so I started Ballas Entertainment. Every event could use music – so we do birthdays, and fundraisers, small parties and big parties – anywhere that people want to have a good time, and where we can bring them a good time.