DJs have played an important role in the atmosphere of Athens and Ohio University for years. To celebrate June as national DJ month, The Post spoke to Aaron Thomas, known to the Athenians as DJ A-Roc. A-Roc not only works in the Athens community, but also for Carnival Cruise Line and as a DJ for weddings.
The Post: How long have you been DJing and what inspired you to become a DJ?
Thomas: I’ve been DJing for over 20 years. I started in high school and moved on when I got to Ohio University. I came to OU in 1997. The first week I was on campus, I put on the icebreaker event on the opening weekend. I got into the DJ career because I had a love for music. I love everything around it. I love the atmosphere. I like to go to all parties without drinking – I’m not a drinker. It gave me the opportunity to go to the best parties without even having to drink a sip of alcohol and have a good time.
TP: What types of events do you usually play for?
T: I’m a wedding DJ. I do a lot of sorority parties and a number of events for OU. I conducted all of the virtual events during the pandemic. I’m on my way to Miami because I work for the carnival seasonally. I usually work for Carnival every winter. I’ll be going away for three to four months and DJing on the cruise ship. Cruises are slowly coming back. They organized a special event down in Miami that I applied to work for this weekend. I have other duties to do with them as well as they switch and restart cruises. I’ve been working on the cruise lines for six years now.
TP: What made you choose to work for a cruise?
T: I just wanted another opportunity. That was the thing about the cruise lines: it offers a different opportunity – something different from Athens. I love Athens, but sometimes it has to be changed a little. That was a break in the norm. But regardless, I set my schedule around Ohio University. I’m going to have homecoming, and I’m not going to leave town until I’m done homecoming. The university doesn’t have me in any employment, so I just take care of them.
TP: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a DJ?
T: It’s not easy. For the most part, you now have so many people who feel like they should be given something. You have to earn it. You can’t say, ‘I just spent all this money on this DJ equipment and I deserve to be open to this event.’ There are a lot of people who think that way and it’s sad. I’m not saying everyone has this mentality, but I meet more people every year who just feel it. It’s hard to get to the bars in town because the bars have to trust you. You have to earn this respect, this trust, this recognition. At the end of the day I tell our young DJs, you are not there to play your favorite music, but to play the music for the people who are there. When you do a concert, people come to see you. If you work in a bar, it is your job to keep the bar busy. You can listen to your own music when you leave the bar. Be patient but remember why you are doing it. You do it for love, you do it for passion. The money will come at some point.
TP: What was your favorite DJing experience?
T: I was allowed to hang up on a private beach for a thousand guests while the cruise ship sat in the background. This is probably one of my most memorable experiences. Carnival owns a private island and they go on a beach day. DJ entertainment will host events on the island for guests for eight hours. You bring your gear off the ship, you set up and the area you line up in is actually a syndicated pirate ship. You hang up in a pirate ship with a view of the beach, the water in front of you, the sand in front of you. Guests have a good time with this huge cruise ship in the background for all the pictures. It is wonderful.