Two years ago DJ Step was just Ben Stepnowski- a Connecticut native who had never stepped, no pun intended, a foot in Chicago nor mixed a track on a turntable. “The first time I came to Chicago was on new student admission day at DePaul. It was like a new world”, Step said.
Now DJ Step is a protégé of the highly acclaimed Crossfader King DJ Company, spinning his own sets at some of the hottest venues in Chicago and opening for DJ legends such as DJ Jazzy Jeff.
“Everybody is a DJ. It’s pretty much exploded now and everyone has at least one friend that claims to DJ and uses some type of computer with a gadget pad or light up buttons machine”, said Step. Wanting to stand out and become a master of the turntables and create his own sound, Step moved out of the familiar realm of electronic mixing and into the old school, technically demanding, world of vinyl.
“I was introduced to DJing during the age of Serato, which is the most popular computer program to help link up your computer’s mp3 files on to actual turntables and play them live. I progressed into this, learning the feel of real vinyl and what it feels like to scratch on real decks,” said Step.
Stepnowski’s planned career path in sociology changed when he went to a party and saw Matt Roan of the Crossfader King DJ Company mixing and engaging the crowd. That was his ‘ah-ha’ moment, realizing that DJing was more than just playing other’s hits. From then on he ‘stalked’ Roan, following him to every event and performance he could. “They finally told me that I could either intern with them or stop following them,” Step said, laughing.
Originally a fan of hip-hop, DJ Step has evolved his music to blend hip-hop beats with the industry popular modern house, creating a unique mix of sounds for his listeners.
Step doesn’t want his music to be just a trend or a hobby, but making a career out of his art takes long hours and hard work. While the rest of his friends are relishing in the festivities of their senior year, Step spends his nights and weekends working and honing his talent- doing all he can to create a long term vocation out of his music.
Even though Step is relatively new in the DJ community he knows what it takes to create longevity. “What separates pros from your friendly neighborhood controller-based DJ is knowledge of music theory, a technical ability to manipulate records (scratch or various turntable techniques), the ability to market yourself, and a keen knowledge of the roots of music and sonic qualities that tracks posses today”, said Step.
While his career is his priority, remembering why he got into the industry is what keeps him going. Step said, beyond the technicality and business it is most important to “remember why you got into this in the first place, and that is to have fun, and make people forget about the stress and hardships of their lives in order to lose themselves on the dance floor. This to me is why I got into the industry and how I keep my bearings as it changes”.
Follow DJ Step’s music and events on Twitter @djBenStep.