DJ Step

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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.

Alaya Signs With Basick Records

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The term heavy metal evokes visions of head-banging and screaming, but “The Alaya Conscious” flips the script on what and who metal music relates to.

“We’re a ‘heavier’ sound with way more main stream hooks than you’d see out of a metal band,” says the lead singer and guitar player Evan Dunn. “We have choruses and verses in our songs. One of the biggest things that sets us apart, however, is that we don’t have any screaming. It’s all clean vocals. Gritty at times, but clean.”

The band consists of David Robison on the drums, Mike Rinkenberger playing bass, and singer and guitar player Evan Dunn. Their beginnings ironically started in rivalry and mishap – with Rinkenberger and Robison in one band and Dunn in another.

“The first practice we had scheduled was actually a ‘try out’ for me,” explains Dunn. “However it was scheduled for the day before the 4th of July, and I got hammered the night before and completely blew them off. I definitely started off on the wrong foot. They tried out a different guitar player, but when I was asked to come back, it was love at first jam,” and as of August 2007 they had officially become a band.

Rinkenberger named the band at a time when he was, as he describes, “a dumb ass and thought I was Buddhist.” All joking aside, the name “The Alaya Conscious” comes from the Buddhist term ‘The Alaya Consciousness’ which is described as “all thoughts past and present”, a nod to their vast influences apparent in their music.

During the day, Dunn works creating compositions for TV and producing music. He and Robinson are also music instructors, while Rinkenberger manages a music store. “We’re constantly around different styles where we teach and work,” says Dunn – a contribution to their ability to take elements of all types of musical styles and find inspiration for their own sound. “I’ve definitely grown over my years of being around music related work to find something in everything and appreciate it,” he says.

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If you ask the band members what their most exciting moment together is, they all agree – it is what is to come. “We’ve had a ton of great moments together as a band but our greatest moment is right on the horizon,” says Rinkenberger, alluding to their upcoming album “Thrones” and their impending contracts with Basick Records.

“They are a great label from the UK with lots of international talented touring heavy bands on their roster,” explains Robison of their UK label Basick Records.

“Alaya”, as they will be called on their next album for the sake of simplicity, know that becoming a success and being worthy of a record deal means countless hours in the studio and in rehearsal – on top of their day jobs. “It’s a job now that we are expected to take it seriously and not let the label, our lawyer, and anyone else involved down. We put in at least 20-30 hours a week now. We just recently moved into a band house where we do everything. Our basement is completely sound proof so we can play any time,” says Dunn. And that’s exactly what they do, fitting in rehearsals and cutting the record in whatever spare moment they have. “We make it work, and we don’t sleep,” he adds.

“We are basically in the middle of a tornado right now. I can just reach up and grab anything, and it will be something that has to be done, and soon. It’s a caliber of exposure that needs to be taken seriously,” says Dunn.

Right on the verge of being Chicago’s next big metal band, “Alaya” is wrapping up their album “Thrones” – spending their time mixing the record, getting together their album artwork, and prepping to start touring. Dunn says, “Bands play together for years hoping to get a chance at ‘making it’. We’re realizing now that it has nothing to do with the ‘chance’, but with how hard you work after you get it.”

Follow “Alaya” on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AlayaOfficial, on Twitter @alayaoffical, and on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/thealayaconscious.