We’re pretty used to seeing DJ Roueche on our beach. After all, he’s been DJing for the AVP for 18 seasons. But did you know he’s also the official DJ for the Los Angeles Laker? And that he hosted a volleyball podcast with Kevin Barnett called The Net Live? Or that he’s a part of a music group called The Suicide Doors?
DJ Roueche is layered. Not only professionally, but relationally. He gives off the vibe of someone who needs to be impressed to like you. Don’t get me wrong – he’s really friendly and social. But he’s a tough egg to crack.
It’s likely because he’s intrinsically cool and intelligent – he’s an expert volleyball analyst (with 17 years of watching beach and 10 years on a volleyball podcast), extremely eloquent (he casually used the word ‘braggadocious’), and basically knows every song ever recorded (and has opinions on them). He makes smart bets with Mark, wise suggestions to Producer Kelly, and never needs advice or input about his job. He’s just an impressive guy who has earned respect.
DJ Roueche has been the official AVP DJ since 2003, when a former coworker recommended him. He was familiar with the AVP; he’d been to some events and even knew a few players. He understood the vibe, which helped in his audition. The process was simple – how would he change his playlist and energy from city to city. As a traveling Pro Tour catering to a variety of fan bases, the AVP DJ has to be malleable and intuitive.
That intuition is what makes DJ Roueche so good. He instinctively feels the crowd and knows how to adjust based on time of day, who’s playing, and how the match is going. “If you want to compare it to basketball,” he says, “each match is essentially equal to a basketball game. Not timewise, but in how you build up to the first serve, if it goes three, and riding the energy of the match. And then starting fresh again for the next match.”
The AVP is his longest-running job and his longest workday. Starting at 8 am and going until sunset is unique to the AVP and taxing; in one day, he’ll play more than 300 different songs over his 8-10 hours on-site. “I’ve gotten way better than I was in my first tournament,” he says.
As he’s improved and established himself, the volleyball world has fallen in line. “I know the fans and players a lot more,” he says. “I think I have the trust of both and also ownership. If I take a chance on something or come up with an idea, people respect and listen to me. Whether it works out or not.”
Now that he’s been at this since 2003, DJ Roueche’s biggest challenge is no longer the actual task. It’s avoiding monotony. “The challenge now is to not be complacent,” he says. “Which is where my wife comes in – she won’t hold back. She keeps me on my toes. And I don’t want to get bored, because if I am then I know others are. So I’m always trying to refresh the music, do things differently, not play the same song for the hype moment every time.”
When DJ Roueche isn’t on our beach, he’s most likely in Staples Center. He’s been the Laker’s DJ since 2017, securing the job after 12 years as the Clippers Music Director. I had to ask him about the Lakers Championship win this year. In a normal year, DJ Roueche would have been there, celebrated with the fans, and seen the win in person (assuming the games ended at Staples). But of course, this year he watched it from the couch like the rest of us.
“It was definitely mixed emotions,” he admits. “I was so excited for the players; I know how difficult it was in the bubble. Sounds weird when you’re making millions of dollars playing a sport. But dealing with the pandemic, being away from your family, and all the social injustices they had to deal with and talk about, it puts a strain on them. So I couldn’t be happier for the players.
“Obviously I would have loved to be there,” he continues. “But I’ve been doing this so long, I know it’s not about me. So I had come to peace with not being there. I was bummed for the fans, not being able to celebrate in person. But that will happen eventually. It’s one of those things that will sink in that much more when we can celebrate as Laker Nation.”
DJ Roueche plays many gigs from Pac-12 events to corporate clients to the Rio Olympics to Fuds. But the AVP and the Lakers are the lion’s share of his work, and the most prestigious. “If I tell people I’m the Lakers DJ,” he says, “they just look at me differently. Even if they’ve never heard me play music in their life, they just look at me differently.”
Regardless of the prestige, DJ Roueche isn’t afraid to make changes at Staples Center. He was brought in the season after Kobe retired, presumably to start the new Lakers Era off differently. He’s the first DJ to play in the stands with the fans. “If the crowd can see where the music is coming from, they can connect with it more. Whether they’re aware that they’re connecting more or not. I just wanted to add more to the atmosphere. I feel a different energy being that close to them.”
Another way he’s connected with fans is through his social media accounts during Quarantine. Every Wednesday, he livestreams a DJ set from the comfort of his home. “Why Not Wednesdays started to keep myself sane,” he says. “Whether people tuned in or not wasn’t my goal. It was just to practice DJing, play music I don’t normally play, and keep myself entertained when I couldn’t leave the house. And it turned into a thing.”
With a monumental and historic election this year, DJ Roueche wanted to make an impact with his Wednesday hobby. So he partnered with Mix4Change – a nonprofit that encourages people to register to vote, vote early, and have their voices heard. DJ Roueche connected them with DJs all over the country. “It started with just a handful, and now they have over 250 DJs participating,” he says.
Mix4Change DJs incorporate links and resources for their fans and followers to get activated while livestreaming sets. It’s a nonpartisan and super cool way for DJ Roueche to make a difference and perform a civic duty.
DJ Roueche also rekindled an old flame in a new way via his podcast Beat Talks. He and Kevin Barnett hosted The Net Live from 2010 to early 2020. Though they wrapped it up, the lessons DJ Roueche learned continue to deliver. “Being on The Net Live for ten years,” he says, “that gave me the confidence I could carry a podcast on my own. So I started the Beat Talks where I chat with other DJs from the sports world about how they got their jobs and how they approach DJing for their sports. I also had my old cohost Kevin Barnett on my pod right after the last AVP event this summer to talk about working events without fans.”
And I mentioned before that he’s a part of a music group called The Suicide Doors. But I didn’t mention that they produced one of my favorite songs ever – Happy Days. Without fail, when he plays it, the DJ Booth all stops their work and dances. It’s my requested Stadium Court song.
See? Multifaceted, multitalented dude. Check him out on Wednesdays at 4pm PST and subscribe to Beat Talks. Also – he loves an open-faced PB&J, heavy on the PB. So when gifting food is acceptable again… now you know.