Plenty of leagues have DJs come in to play at bouts. Not many of those DJs are dedicated enough to volunteer for the league in other ways, or to create a roller derby soundtrack for run-of-the mill scrimmage practice. Rose City is spoiled in a lot of ways. This is one of them.
Keary, aka DJ Secret Agent Meow, has many roles within the Rose City Rollers: lead propaganda creator for the Wheels of Justice, relentless Photoshopper and graphic designer, founder of the Wheels of Justice Legion of Justice (fan group), Hellslinger’s boyfriend, general league boyfriend, and funtimes protagonist, to name a few. Most casual fans will know his work providing musical accompaniment to Rose City bouts as DJ Secret Agent Meow.
Game day at Memorial Coliseum. The Beatles played here too, you know. Pic by Meow.
After getting attention for his DJing of the WFTDA Division I Playoffs in Salem, I thought I’d ask Meow a little bit about his approach to DJing derby. Unsurprisingly, he approaches it with a deep sense of commitment and enthusiasm, as with his other roles.
Frisky: How did you get started DJing for roller derby?
Meow: In 2010, my girlfriend and I were fans of roller derby and RCR. She began to skate with the Wreckers program and became Hellslinger. I continued to enjoy the game from the stands but, as a musician and lover of music, found myself listening to the soundtrack and wishing it matched the game in front of me.
In the fall of 2011, I was lucky enough to befriend members of the Heartless Heathers who entrusted me with my first Rose City Rollers DJing gig at the 2012 Anti-Valentines Day party. From there, I’ve simply been lucky enough to meet wonderful people who gave me generous opportunities, placing me in the position I’m in today.
What was missing in that soundtrack that you’ve been able to add?
The first time I ever discussed music in derby, I said “derby doesn’t need a DJ, derby needs a soundtrack.” To me, an appropriate soundtrack has become a very important part of the game, more so than any sport I can think of off the top of my head.
To correctly and tastefully add music to a fast-paced sport, I believe you need to approach it as an orchestrator does a film score, not as a DJ does a club night. There are many emotions wrapped up within an hour of derby, emotions felt by the crowd and the skaters equally. My thought towards playing music over a game of roller derby is to be attentive to the excitement, stress, anticipation, and action of the game and add just a little bit on top with “the right song”. To me, that can mean everything from oldies to classic movie scores, from hip hop to death metal, from obscure indie rock to top 40 pop.
That’s a little more work than just putting on “The Final Countdown” when the game is close.
You DJ for intraleague scrimmages, Rose City home bouts, and this year, for the WFTDA Division I Playoffs in Salem. Do you bring different approaches to these events?
When I DJ weekly scrimmages for RCR, I use the time for practice, more practice, and MORE practice with the added “beta testing” of new material. Like many club DJs, I match beats when transitioning out of a track into another track, a task that is often stressful and is made more difficult during gameplay. Scrimmage allows me to study the game and practice finding appropriate music for different situations. The repetition also allows me the opportunity to memorize playlists and stay familiar with my equipment.
Game day in the RCR Hangar is a different animal. There’s a switch that I feel is important for all derby DJs to mentally possess, one that toggles from Disc Jockey to Soundtrack Orchestrator. For me, that switch actuates the minute the first lineup takes the track. During gameplay, it can be difficult to keep up with the pace while choosing the right tracks, which is why I’m so grateful to RCR for those Wednesday scrimmage sessions. You just never know when a hard wall will crumble and that underdog jammer will break free. Sometimes that involves looping the beginning of an epic song- Thunderstruck or Baba O’Riley for example, and cueing the beat to drop as the jammer escapes or when she calls a hotly contested jam. I love doing little things like that- they perhaps aren’t immediately noticed by anyone, but I feel it adds to the overall excitement when the music does what your heart just did.
Oath of the Legion
Finally, you mentioned the 2013 WFTDA Playoffs in Salem. Working that tourney was the honor of my DJ career. 35 hours of music, which I am proud to say included 690 unique songs. I use an industry standard digital DJ program by the company Serato, which is the best in the industry but does not facilitate playlists or have an “auto DJ” feature, so every one of those 690 songs was mixed manually. I had listened to the negative feedback regarding song repetition while in Fort Wayne with the Wheels of Justice, so I rationed my “top 100 hits” over the course of the weekend to ensure new, recognizable tracks of all genres each hour of each day. If you spent that whole weekend in Salem, you heard Buddy Holly into Slayer, One Direction into Kendrick Lamar and every type of music I could fit in between. It was truly a test of endurance -not a 50 lap killer- but a trial nonetheless. Luckily, the folks of the Cherry City Derby Girls and the WFTDA were fantastic and I was able to watch dozens of amazing games from the best view in the house. Again, I was truly honored to be a part and thankful that my computer didn’t crash!
Where did the Agent Meow name come from?
Between high school and college, most of my friends were computer geeks, and together we did varied amazing and far-less-than-amazing things related to said computers. Of course, part of the stereotypical lifestyle of the early social networking days was having a handle. I went for the least serious, least masculine, least strike-fear-in-the-heart-of-the-internet name possible, Secret Agent Meow. When selecting a name for derby ten years later, it seemed natural to revisit the most fun, light-hearted moniker I ever had. Also, cats are awesome and furry and anyone that takes issue with that can get lost. So there you have it.
Personally, I (Frisky) think that concept of a secret agent kitty is potentially scary. Cats are sneaky, yo.
Thanks for being awesome, Sir.
What’s on your roller derby soundtrack?