The Rocks Off 200: DJ Nando1, Who Fights to Keep the Party Poppin'

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

photos courtesy of the artist

"I would like to thank all the DJs in the world that have inspired and supported me. You guys keep me on the right path of being a part of an art and culture that gives me purpose and identity doing this. I AM THE DJ."

--DJ Nando1

Who: Fernando Aya is a member of the Kratez Crew DJ collective here in Houston. You may remember his last name as two of his family members have also been profiled on the Rocks Off 100/200 (DJ iLL-Set and Noon). He spins as DJ Nando1, and describes himself as "a creative individual and music loving vinyl purist and turntablist at heart". He considers the turntable to be a musical instrument, and strives to be a preserver of the DJ culture.

"I first fell in love with music as a child" he continues. "I grew up in a large Cuban/Colombian family, and every family gathering was a dance party. I used to watch my father play old vinyl cumbia, salsa, and all other types of latin records on our single vinyl record player and blend in music with cassettes on mixer from Radioshack. Since then, music has always been part of our lives".

"As a teen, my sister DJ ill-Set and I would always attend or throw house parties with friends" he remembers. "That later lead to us attending warehouse parties, clubs, and raves. My life experiences and the love of music has led me to develop my urban versatile style. I would say my biggest influence was DJ Jazzy Jeff."

Home Base: Nando was born in The Heights and grew up on the North West side of town. He is a proud member of the Kratez Crew, as well as his cousin Noon's band The Population. "Both entities have provided me great opportunities to push myself and my art" he says. "My base also comes from the relationships and friendships I've made in the underground Houston music scene."

Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Because I'm broke, that's one reason" he laughs. "In reality, most of my family lives here and I have my crew here, and I hold a lot of love for my city. I been working with many local artists and have many upcoming projects and events here in Houston."


War Story: We'll allow Nando to take over from here:

It was at this boat party on Lake Travis in the Summer of 2009. I was DJing with my best friend Micheal Eclectic. We took the gig at the last minute because the original DJ was unable to attend. Once we arrived to Lake Travis, we immediately sensed the skepticism from the crowd. We then find out that the generator wasn't working, and then one of the speakers goes out. We rig the fuse with a sandwich tie and somehow got the speaker worked. But then, more technical problems began with one of the channels of the mixer making a loud nasty buzz. No back-up mixer and we were hours away from home. I noticed that if you pushed down on the back of the RCA input that the line would stop buzzing in the mixer. So I took one for the team and decided to sit in front of the DJ booth holding down on channel 2 just to keep the live mix going. Other boats full of people would dock and join us and it got crazy! I felt like a superstar and the mix was on point. Any other DJ would have probably given up due to all the obstacles, but I fought to keep the party poppin.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "I'm pretty sick of venues putting everything on the DJ" answers Nando. "Very few seem to provide equipment or promotional support. As a DJ, its my job to entertain your crowd and keep them there drinking, dancing and happy. But at the end of the night somehow it becomes the DJs fault the bar tab wasn't high enough or the door didn't profit what they were expecting."

"I'm also tired of low balling good DJs and not paying what they are worth. So a little more respect and accountability on behalf of the promoter and the venue would go a long way".


Five Desert Island Discs:

  • A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders
  • Michael Jackson, Off The Wall
  • Phil Collins, No Jacket Required
  • James Brown, Papa Don't Take No Mess
  • Armand Van Helden, You Don't Even Know Me

Best Show Ever: "Hands down it has to be a show I did with my band The Population and my Kratez Crew brothers in 2012" remembers Nando. "The Pharcyde came to Fitzgerald's and we got the chance to open for them. My crew was booked to DJ and my band was booked to play, so on that night it was all one big happy family... literally! My cousin Noon called on my cousin Andres Aya and my uncle AJ to play live instruments on the showcase. We ended up playing to a sold out house and everyone in the crowd went crazy during our set."

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.

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The proliferation of laptop djs has cheapened the profession. It's to the point where venues think any kid with a computer is a dj, so they pay them a pittance, making it harder for the talent to make a little scratch from playing.

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