DJ Dave Mata, 30, is a key player in Logan Square’s music culture, spinning records every Sunday night at the Owl and cohosting, with Odd Obsession Movies‘ Brian Chankin, a third-world movies-and-music event at the Whistler on the last Saturday of every month. He also coordinates the popular Soul Summit dance party, which takes place on the third Friday of every month at Double Door, and organizes other DJ nights centered on reggae, world music, and underground hip-hop. —Ben Sachs
I’ve been collecting records since middle school. I started playing records in small venues around 2006. Soul music is really interesting as far as the DJ scene goes; it’s pretty divided. One of our goals was to bring together different types of DJs as well as some relevant contemporary acts. We wanted to run the gamut, from northern soul to funky breaks to Motown, and do something different than a typical 60s soul-club kind of party. We just had this month’s Soul Summit a couple nights ago [November 16]. The Menahan Street Band played, and Charles Bradley did a surprise performance, which was pretty spectacular. And we’ve got some crazy stuff booked for this next year that we haven’t even told people about yet.
I feel a great deal of responsibility as a DJ in this town. It’s almost like I’m giving people an education when they come to see me. I’ve been able to carve a niche for myself where I’m playing music that most people haven’t heard, whether it’s rare soul, reggae, or even a lot of the underground hip-hop I’m into. I don’t think people can hear that stuff at a lot of other places; that’s why I take pride in playing it when I go out. Music doesn’t necessarily have to have a message, but I’d like to think that the stuff I play has some sort of cultural significance.
I taught the music program at a charter middle school for three years. It was really cool; they let me write the curriculum. I got pretty hippie-dippie with it, but I think the kids were all about it. We would listen to different genres of music; I’d teach them about what records are. I was trying to get the kids into the habit of taking a break and enjoying different cultural things. And music is a great window to all different kinds of culture; it has a uniting factor. As far as education goes, it’s good for kids to think about music from other places. It gets them thinking about why different people make different kinds of music—and how history and geography play a role in that.
I had to stop this year. They changed up the funding for their arts programs. I’d gotten the job because I had experience working with children and in the music industry, but I’m not a certified teacher. And in order for the school to retain funding for their arts programs, they needed to have certified teachers in the positions. I was like, “Well, I can’t necessarily go back to school at this point, with all I have on my plate with my musical career, which is my actual endgame anyway.” But I miss the job.