Merritt Rieland, aka DJ Automatic, spins old- and new-school hip-hop and radio favorites Fridays (9 pm, $10) and hosts “Twisted Audio Saturdays,” a mix of everything from rock to reggae (9 pm, Saturdays, $10), at Fusion (135 W. Palace Ave., 505-955-0400). For the last six years, he has also DJd on KISS 97.3 FM.
SFR: How did you get your start behind the decks?
MR: I’ve been DJing for about 12 years now. I used to DJ at total B-boy shows and underground shows. I was a die-hard college guy who was all about hip-hop. As I got older I realized it was more about the music than my idea of how things should be, plus I got into radio where you have a set playlist.
You’ve been on the radio in New Mexico for years, but you moved away for a while right?
I was in Houston for two years doing a morning show that was syndicated through KISS, so I was here but I wasn’t here. But I had a baby and I moved back to New Mexico and got married. My wife [Dana Cortez] is actually the morning show host on KISS. We used to do a show together but, now that we’re married, it’s kind of corny.
Do you do most of your DJing in Santa Fe and Albuquerque?
I haven’t actually lived in Santa Fe since I was about 19, but I’m invested in Fusion, so I’m here. I still go to Houston to DJ a lot and other places in Texas, Arizona, stuff like that.
What kind of equipment have you chosen as your instrument?
I still use two turntables and a mixer. I still have all of my vinyl but my back is better off with my computer, so I don’t lug around my vinyl anymore. Plus, with having a computer instead of having 300 records with me, I can have 1,500 songs. What I use is actually the same thing as vinyl, though. It’s time-encoded vinyl; it’s called Serato. The only thing is you can be a little quicker. I can switch the records a little quicker. The manipulation is the same. I can’t DJ on CD players; I can’t scratch; I can’t mix. I have to have that turntable feel.
What would you say to people who think a $10 cover for a DJ is a lot to pay?
It eliminates a certain crowd right away. It’s not like I’m trying to rape people; it’s just that, from past experience in different clubs, if you don’t eliminate a certain element then you’re going to always have problems. From when I first started DJing [at Fusion], we went six months without a fight. To me, that’s really important. I don’t want to be known as the bad club.
How did you get involved with Shadyville DJs?
I had put out some mix tapes and different things, and the record industry is really small, so people knew me from just DJing. They called me up one day and asked if I wanted to be involved. I was pretty honored considering the names that are involved with it; those are world icons when it comes to hip-hop. I also get different music and exclusives and things like that. I’ve gone to Las Vegas for a 50 Cent party and things like that.
How do you find new music?
I get a lot of stuff through different websites, but it’s also about who you know. As far as the labels, I have a lot of long personal relationships with them so they send me stuff. On the web, there are a lot of websites you have to be invited to, but they have great music you just can’t find anywhere else.
How has the Santa Fe scene changed over the years you’ve been here?
It’s changed dramatically. To me, when I first got back, I was depressed. I’ve been back for a year and a couple months, and I left right when the Paramount closed. Now there’s not a place in Santa Fe that does those 500 people nights that used to happen over there. Don’t get me wrong, at Fusion we’re doing 200 to 300 people on Fridays and Saturdays, but we can’t even fit 500 people in there. There are also not a whole lot of young DJs in Santa Fe. I haven’t really found anyone I have confidence in to DJ with me, who wants to make a name for themselves, because I can help them do that.