Music Sounds Better With You: Five DJs to Check Out

Music Sounds Better With You: Five DJs to Check Out

Music is a universal tool that exists in every society. Tótem had the opportunity to interview these five DJs about their work.

From Norteñas to Nigerian funk, these five DJ’s are connecting with their audiences through the sound of music. Each of them carry something unique. As they play with different types of genres or bring music and politics together, they are inspiring and moving people. 


With each interview, Tótem asked, what album, song, or artist do you often play in your sets? Hoping to inspire the readers to check out new music. 


Mixchel Payan, Rainbow Serpent

“I had my first DJ set when I was 17 years old at a backyard show in East LA. I was literally just playing music off my laptop and hiding myself behind big speakers…” Mixchel Payan, is an artist and radio DJ/host from East Los Maravilla. Her interest in djing started in highschool and after graduating, she was involved with nonprofit organization, Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory. “There I got my first DJ lesson with Sessions LA.” said Mixchel. Now going on for two years, she hosts her own radio show at KQBH LA 101.5FM in Boyle Heights biweekly on Thursday nights. 


In a lot of her sets, Mixchel talks about change, power, and intersexuality. Bringing activism and art together, she creates a soundscape that inspires her listeners to reflect and connect music to direct actions from all over the world. In their recent mix, Stop the Annexation Free Palestine, she curated a one hour playlist with songs that have deep lyrical meaning of war, revolution, pain and suffering. These themes are so relevant to what Palestinians are currently experiencing, leaving you thinking, what does liberation mean for Palestine. Her radio show Rainbow Serpent is “A platform for musical prayers, merging diverse sounds with a message of solidarity to all oppressed people everywhere.”


For Mixchel, being a DJ for a FM community station has a huge impact in her style. As she challenges herself to play music that has never gotten much airplay or new artists. Playing different ranges of music, funk to punk, she is giving themselves the freedom to play and switch up the music that we don’t normally listen to on the radio. “I’m punk at heart, so I always love fast punk music. But I like getting creative and mixing punk with 80’s dreampop, 70’s Nigerian funk, 40’s blues, 60’s classic rock music. I just like listening to music that makes you wanna dance and sing.”  


Tótem: Is there an album, song, or artist that you play in your sets often or just love in general? If so, why?

Mixchel: Most recently, I’ve been bumping a lot of A.R Kane. A Love from Outer Space seriously got me through 2020. Listening to their album Sixty-Nine has a heavy influence on my own sound and I love the way they write. 


Check out their work @rainbowserpiente and @mix.chel 

Link soundcloud:


Rainbow Serpent airs biweekly Thursday nights at 10pm on @KQBHLA 101.5fm and you can stream it online at LPFM.LA


Gabriel Vidal, GFUNKTRECE 

Gabriel Vidal, is a record collector, organizer, and community DJ. Born and raised in Los Angeles, their relationship to music and organizing has been influenced by their family’s experience.“My music upbring was really fueled by my family’s political and spiritual journey within the Central America diaspora” said Gabriel. Their parents came to the US, as political refugees escaping the Civil War from their home county, El Salvador. As a community organizer they see the parallel DJing and activism, both tell stories,“Being raised in a revolutionary household with leftist views, I always looked at music as stories and music being is the expression of a person’s experience and beliefs…” 


Being a vinyl record collector, they love the idea of being able to build up and curate what song to play next. “I mainly play 70s-2000s, and within that I tend to play Electronic Music, Latin, Hip Hop, and Funk.” To them, playing music of unrepresented artists is important. Trying to be as inclusive as possible on their sets, they are challenging themselves to play and collect records from LGBTQ+ and BIPOC artists to get the recognition they deserve. The main thing for them is to be one with audiences and to move people to think more consciously of themselves and others. 


Looking back at their DJ career, they naturally stepped into the role of an organizer who collected records, tapes, and cds. As they got introduced to the technique of djing, they started to find it as an outlet of their own preservation and transformation.


Tótem: Is there an album, song, or artist that you play in your sets often or just love in general? If so, why?

Gabriel: It’s a hard one for me because it really depends on what I’m feeling. Some genres that I go to are underground house music, especially 90s house music and Afro Latinx music. It was really Black and brown folks that played a huge role in that sound and culture. But, an artist that I really love is ESG, they were an 80s post punk and funk femme fronted band. It was a fusion of funk, hip hop, and punk. To me, that’s what speaks to who I am as well.


Check out more of their work @gfunktrece

Link to Mixcloud:


Marivy Pazos, Misfortune

Moving around California at a young age, Marivy Pazos recalls the time of being a teenager on their computer burning CDs for friends. As they got older, this sparked them to pursue Djing. If you attend one of Misfortune’s sets, you’d except them something hardcore. “I typically play a lot of new wave, punk, anything rock & roll or that’ll make people dance and feel good. I’ve recently started collecting more disco and funk to throw in when playing. I’m always trying to change it up” said Marivy.


For the past three years Marivy has been on stage spinning their records. When asked if they remembered the first time they played, they recalled “I played a set after a 12 hour shift when I had two jobs. My friend was covering his band mates set at Monty Bar and asked me to bring a few records to play and I was hooked ever since” said Marivy, “I felt so at home up on the little stage as cheesy as it sounds but it made me so happy and it’s still the feeling I get now. Made me realize I always had it in me and I’m forever grateful to my friends who have given me the opportunity to spin. Shout out to John from Monty for believing in me!” 


Now, when on stage, they read the room and feel the energy coming from the audience. If they see people wanting to dance, they’ll play “Shit that keeps them til close, in a good mood, or until the cops get called ya know?”


Tótem: Is there an album, song, or artist that you play in your sets often or just love in general? If so, why?

Marivy: I have two, Devo and the Ramones. One of my best friends Sheila, the Devo Diva, would be at all my sets pre-covid and would bring me Devo albums to play, not just for her but to keep and now I play them with or without her at my sets as a dedication to one of my biggest supporters. The Ramones are just classic, I’d be ashamed of myself if I didn’t mix them somehow.


Check out more of their work @messyenough

Link to Spotify:


Andrew Gomez, La Cosecha Internacional

Born in Boyle Heights, Andrew spent most of his childhood in the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico. Surrounded by the music his grandmother and sister listened to, he is bringing life to those artists played in Mexican/Latinx households. Artists such as: Los Freddy’s, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Bukis, and Chalino Sánchez, he is representing and preserving Latinx and Chicano culture for new generations to come. “If you go to a bar or a venue, you can see the music of American’s being celebrated. Whether it’s metal, punk, soul, disco, or whatever. I love that music, but I also love the music my grandmother and sister listened to. I really thought it was sad that music like Los Freddy’s and Juan Gabriel was being left in these dive bars to die away with the older generation.” said Andrew. 


As Latinx families left behind a culture when coming to America, Andrew’s mission is to preserve and bring back songs for younger generations to enjoy. “The punks and metalheads really liked the old norteñas, corridos, rancheras, cumbia, but the problem with that was you would have to go to a dive bar. I feel like this type of music in order to have a life, it would need to be experienced at a venue like the Echo.” Starting to collect punk records at a young age, he has slowly shifted to collecting Latinx or Mexican vinyls.


As he is eager to share and play music for folks to enjoy, he sees “no point of collecting records when you don’t share them with people.” To him, his style is inspired by Quinceñera music or Latinx weddings. He is playing music for the documented people who grew up going to these parties, a tribute to a world he left behind back in TJ. 


Tótem: Is there an album, song, or artist that you play in your sets often or just love in general? If so, why?

Andrew: I don’t play this artist too often, but when I do people laugh and come up to me and ask who it is, that artist is Jonny Chingas, Se Me Paro. It’s probably one of the dirtiest songs that you have ever heard, but it doesn’t contain any bad words. My dad gave me that record and it was the first record that I ever owned. My mom didn’t let me listen to it, and my dad said “One day you’re going to love this record” and I still have it with me. 


He wants to thank NTS radio for giving him a show and a platform to play all his records and always being supportive of his ideas. 

Check out more of his work @la_cosecha_internacional

Link to website:  


DJ Theywept


Theywept started off their journey as radio DJ in Santa Barbara for college radio station, KCSB FM. Eager to learn and grow, they expressed interest in event djing, mixing, and producing. “I used to make basic Spotify playlists for the radio, but I really wanted to challenge myself so I started mixing.” said Theywept.


They Dj’d their first mix on old school CDJ’s from the early 2000’s. Most new CDJ’s have a USB port, but since this one was old, they had to manually burn songs onto CD’s. They described that they were really excited on their first attempt, but “was really bad and embarrassing.” After using the old CDJ’s Theywept felt more ready to continue learning other mediums of mixing. Transitioning into a more digital platform, the first application they used was VirtualDJ, a free audio and video mixing software. To them, it changed their life because VirtualDJ helped them with the basics of mixing and eventually expanded their knowledge of the practice.


Inspired by rave culture, they have an eclectic style of music that doesn’t follow traditional mixing. Listening to one of their songs, Perfect Music Virtual, their work ties into experimental drum and bass, getting your adrenaline pumped up. Most of their sets include different range of hardcore techo and futuristic y2k mixes. 


To build sets, Theywept searches for hours to find songs they like. After building a big playlist, Theywept pops them into Rekordbox and grabs their DJ controller (Pioneer DDJ-400). To come up with the perfect mix, they just start playing songs.When mixing, Theywept stated, “I really like to practice. So, I listen to every song and determine which flows best with the song currently on deck. I’ll try out a bunch of transitions and eventually build my set list.”


Tótem: Is there an album, song, or artist that you play in your sets often or just love in general? If so, why?

DJ Theywept: I really like this one song called El Diablo. It’s a Spanish song, super upbeat, and really gets the crowd going. It kind of sounds like itali disco a little bit- so everyone loves it! Another song is I Do Coke by DJ MC the nasty edition. It’s a silly song but I need everyone to know because I always play it on my sets! 


Check out more of their work @theywept

Link to Soundcloud:

By Frida Flores

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