Red Wing DJ performs two to four times per week throughout the stateWhoever said practice makes perfect was right — at least in disc jockey John Underwood’s case.
By: Stacy Bengs, The Republican Eagle
Whoever said practice makes perfect was right — at least in disc jockey John Underwood’s case.
Performing under the name DJ Epistêmê (eh-pis-TEE-mee) Underwood has taken his eclectic music library from the notes to the turntable, working as a solo DJ and with Minneapolis-based hip-hop group Option Two as well as collective ensemble Rapfam.
The 2000 Red Wing High School graduate college-hopped until he landed at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he started to take a real shot at pursuing a music career.
“It didn’t work to form bands with friends,” Underwood recalls. “So I asked myself, ‘How can I do music and not work for anyone?’ Because no one knows how hard I am willing to work to get where I want to be.”
In the summer of 2009, Underwood tuned his attention to disc jockeying and purchased a turntable. Already owning a mixer — which combines multiple pieces of music into a stereo track — he was equipped with the gear and then came the practice.
“I watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos and read numerous blogs to learn everything I could,” Underwood said “I practiced as much as possible.”
Jump to March 2010 and Underwood found himself responding to a Craigslist ad for a Minneapolis hip-hop group looking for a DJ.
“We talked and I drove down for the first of what would become an awesome relationship with 3 killer MCs - JMerce, Ambrose and Streif.”
Since that meeting Underwood has joined the trio known as Option two and has been performing two to four times per week throughout the state.
The following summer Option Two performed in Mid West Music Fest in Winona — a homegrown music festival founded by Red Wing native Sam Brown.
“I’ve played a ton of shows with Option Two at our home spot Honey in North East Minneapolis,” Underwood said. “Usually at the end of the night we would have an hour until the venue closed … we would just close the night with freestyle sessions. Through these sessions and mixtape releases a freestyle format hip-hop collective Rapfam has evolved.”
Underwood performed as a solo electro artist and also with Option Two at this year’s Mid West Music Fest in Winona and recently at the Harbor Bar in Hager City.
“It was a personal goal to be able to bring my hip-hop group near my hometown so family and friends that can’t make it to the Twin Cities for shows were able to see a bit of what it is I am so blessed to be able to work so hard for,” he said.
From festivals to shows, clubs or raves, Underwood has made over 200 appearances as DJ Epistêmê sporting a bow tie and turntable cufflinks. Aside from his name — which comes from root word for epistemology meaning the theory of knowledge, Underwood’s favorite class in college – the look is just as key as the beat.
“The bow tie not only steps up my game, but it also provides as a subconscious tag for someone watching me on stage,” he added. “It’s probably been my biggest marketing aspect of my career.”
When not spinning beats, Underwood books shows and produces music. A portion of his proceeds of the shows he books helps fund Minnesota-based nonprofits that get women and children out of sex trafficking.
“I feel very blessed for the opportunities I have and try to give what I can through that,” he said.
His music also can be heard streaming on an electronic dance music Internet radio show every Sunday at 10 p.m. on www.subassassins.org.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to spin in Europe as I have dual citizenship and would be able to see my family in England,” Underwood added.
DJ Epistêmê’s next planned performance will be at the Homegrown Music Fest in Duluth May 5.
“Coming into spring and summer I am really looking forward to the next level of my music career,” Underwood adds, “It really has been a huge blessing that has blown my mind.”
For a complete list of shows check out Underwood’s profiles on Facebook at www.facebook. com/DJEpisteme or Twitter at www.twitter.com/ DJEpisteme.