August 22, 2014

Jersey Jock Gets With the Program

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Plainsboro, N.J.—Since he was a three-year-old, diving off his parent’s living room couch while watching MTV and the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right (to Party),” Mike Bacon has known he’s possessed the key ingredient to any DJ’s arsenal: a rabid, if not unhealthy, love for music.

“I would not only play tapes and make pause-button mixes like every other budding DJ, but I also had a pretend radio show,” says the 30-year-old Bacon (aka DJ Iron Mike), “and I’d have my buddies call me and make requests, and I’d record them and mix it into my pretend show.”

But it wasn’t until March 8, 1997—Mike remembers the exact day—when Iron Mike began to map out a future that included music. “I had a buddy over my house, and I was doing mixes with two Sony boom boxes, and I’d blend them together, and my buddy thought it was just awesome. I knew then that the sound was inferior, and I needed proper equipment to take it to the next level.”

Other signs soon surfaced. In his hometown, teenagers would gather at monthly firehouse dances. The first night he went, Bacon noticed the dancefloor was lagging. “The DJ there was a little bit older, late 20s, maybe 30, and he wasn’t quite getting the crowd involved,” he says. “I asked him if I could look at his book, he had a bunch of Promo Only CDs. I suggested he play an Outkast song, ‘ATLiens,’ and Mary J Blige’s ‘Everything,’ a club mix. He played them and the crowd got into it, and he gave me this approving look. Then he said, ‘Bring your music next month.’

“So I came the next time with my box of CDs and a notepad, and I’d write down the numbers of the tracks to play. I was programming for him. But he said, ‘I don’t want to play these songs—I want you to.’ I said OK, and it was my first time playing the Denon CD player, the split-second response time on the play button just blew me away. We had a good party that night, and we built that party up from 50 people to where 1,500 people were showing up every month. Ironically, because there were so many kids at the house, doing what kids do, we were breaking the fire code. Of all places, we were breaking the fire code at the firehouse—those parties were great.”

Iron Mike continued working with that DJ for a while, but they drifted apart. “He always told me weddings were where this business was at,” he recalls. “But my head was into college parties. That was the game plan, and I played at every college in New Jersey.”

Of course, at the time, Bacon’s college “game plan” didn’t include making a lot of money. But time has a way of changing such things. “I didn’t get into this for the money,” he admits, “but by 2003, it got to the point where DJing was all I wanted to do to make money.”

That’s when Bacon started taking seriously the idea of doing weddings. He began scouring flea markets to get records, and would stockpile Sinatra and Tony Bennett records, funk and disco—wedding material. “I was always into hip hop and R&B,” he says, “and what I learned along the way is you don’t have to stick to a genre.”

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