DJ Sidereal on beating brain cancer and opening for Macklemore
Photo courtesy of the artist
DJ Sidereal has opened for Macklemore and B.O.B., played Paid Dues and the Vans Warped Tour and beaten brain cancer all before being legally old enough to buy a scratch-off. The 17-year-old is spending his last summer before his final year of high school releasing new music and building his buzz the old fashion way: meeting one person at a time.
Gimme Noise spoke to Sidereal about revealing to his classmates that he's a DJ, his new single "All I Need is Sunshine" and how a life-threatening growth put him on a path to become one of the Cities' most promising young turntablists.
What first got you into DJing?
When I was 11 years old, I had a thing called an arachnoid cyst. I was super into sports, I played state baseball teams, basketball teams, etc. Once it hit me that I couldn't do anything, I can't play sports, I'm not good at school, I started picking up the guitar. That really wasn't my scene, so when I saw DJ Abilities do his thing at Scribble Jam on YouTube when I was 13 years old, I thought "I need to know how to do that!" and I just started doing it in my basement on a pool table.
That arachnoid cyst is a form of brain cancer, which you beat, correct?
Yes. It basically strangles your brain. I had it in my skull, obviously, and it's one of the biggest on record and amazing that I even beat that out. It was an eight-hour surgery. I still battle with stuff from it daily, like headaches and crap. I still can't do any daily activities that a normal teenager would do like playing a game of pick-up basketball or football or baseball. I can't jump on trampolines or go on roller coasters.
How did you first discover that you had it?
I was at baseball try-outs to be on the state team. A kid pushed me into a pop fly that hit me in the forehead and knocked me out unconscious. I went to the hospital, they did a CAT-Scan and just found it. It was out of nowhere, the weirdest thing. I couldn't believe that I beat it myself. I was at the Mayo Clinic, in the cancer ward, with all these terminally ill kids around. It was a depressing scene, but I made it and I'm out, so everything's good.
How did you get that first set of turntables?
My dad helped me get a pair of super crappy Stanton P62 turntables and a two-channel NuMark mixer. I beat the crap out that thing. There's no paint on it, I still have it. It's mounted on my walls like a piece of art.
Did you let your friends know right away that you were pursuing DJing?
Oh no, I was definitely a closet DJ. A few friends and I went to Soundset a few years ago, and I had an after party at my house because nobody could get into the Soundset after party. I started to DJ and everybody was like "What? You DJ?" No-one had any idea. I was using all vinyl at the time because I didn't know what Serato was, and we just threw down a set and it was crazy.
How have your classmates reacted to you being a DJ?
It's kind of brutal at times. There's so many rappers in high school that never go anywhere, and then there's the DJs and people just blow you off. Once you prove that you're going to go somewhere, they catch on.
You've already played Paid Dues, Vans Warped Tour, SXSW and opened for B.O.B. and Macklemore, all while you're still too young to get into most clubs. How did you build your name up?
Just going for it. A lot of kids think "What is this person going to think about me if I ask them to help me out?" But really, you can't think about that, you just have to go for it. I met [rapper] Kosha Dillz off of Facebook. He was on a food drive tour and we did a show at the Boys and Girls club in the suburbs. That's when everything started to happen. I did that and a show at 7th Street with Toki Wright and those were the two shows that really got me going. I try to meet everybody no matter who they are. It could be a fan in the crowd, or a dude selling merch, or the headlining act. I try to shake everybody's hand and get my name out like a disease.
Do you have a favorite moment DJing thus far?
Definitely opening for Macklemore in South Dakota. 5,000 kids inside a basketball arena just raging.
This week you also put out the single "All I Need is Sunshine," what's the story behind that?
That's really just a song to bring out the light in Minnesota. It was such a long winter, and summer is finally here and the nice weather is finally here. I feel like there needed to be a summer-y vibe of a song with some local talent. My friends Novyon and D.Glove definitely came through on that track.
Where did the name DJ Sidereal come from?
Sidereal means anything amongst the stars. It's kind of an astronomical turn. I flip it to mean amongst the physical people stars, like celebrity stars. I just want to be, like, a celebrity dude. That's the dream many kids have and I just want to live that.
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