For Chad Robbins, the saying "Live each day as if it were your last" touches close to home. Better known as DJ Dirty, Robbins spent his early college years battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. As a survivor, he decided to dedicate his life to the things he loved most: art and music.
For more than a decade, this Queen City native has been spinning his heart out — reaching staple status in the nightlife scene beat by beat. His love for music comes honestly, with parents who kept Fleetwood Mac blaring on Saturday mornings. Years later, when friends opened Varga Lounge in downtown, Robbins scored his first residency. Now, with an impressive resume and more than 5,000 records in storage, including a Beatles White Album still wrapped in the original plastic, Robbins continues to mix at notable venues like Suite and Mez.
Creative Loafing: You were young when you were diagnosed with cancer, and surviving played a big role in your career. Can you tell us about that?
Chad Robbins: My first semester of college, I went to the doctor about a lump on my neck, and after some tests, discovered I had Hodgkin's. Three surgeries and months of radiation later, I was cured, but the radiation came with harsh side effects. It took a whole year to get back to normal. After that, I chose graphic design as my major because I loved to draw cartoons. Post college, I worked for a graphic firm and went out clubbing on the weekends. I started designing club flyers on the side. I was meeting DJs in the area, which was great. I had fallen in love, playing around with a turntable set at 16, so after cancer, I decided I was going to live every day to the fullest. I quit the firm and started DJing for a living.
You've been everywhere. From DJing in Panama City every spring break, to Dennis Rodman's "Jocks That Rock" Super Bowl Party at the Caliente Resort in Tampa — do tell.
Maxim magazine found me at Varga when they were doing a tour of the country and asking local DJs to play their parties. Most DJs were only playing one genre; I was playing a mix. Maxim asked me to come on board for the end of the tour, and the next four years, I joined them on the tour in every major city. Dennis Rodman's party was wild. Caliente Resort is a nudist colony. From the booth, I was looking out at a dance floor full of dudes dressed in only Crocs and blazers.
What keeps you in Charlotte?
Family, but also this is just a great city. Traveling really made me appreciate Charlotte. The nightlife scene has revolutionized. From one club to so many you can't name them all. A good nightlife scene is all about atmosphere, Charlotte's is great.
Is your set predetermined?
I work with a lot of word plays and mixes, but it's not predetermined. Reading the crowd is a forgotten art. Some DJs focus solely on the beat; they never look up. I'm addicted to hearing the crowd scream. If I hear screams, I know I've done something right.