Anyone who has been to a nightclub, a wedding or even a big party knows that the mood can change in an instant.
“You play the wrong song, you set the wrong mood,” says Anthony Veliz, a Tufts systems specialist who is known in the Boston club scene as DJ CASE. “You have to read the people, and if they don’t like what you’re playing, you have to change it up. That’s what a DJ does, and I guess that’s what I like. I like being in control of that particular moment.”
“I’m not only out to have fun,” Anthony Veliz says of his DJ gigs. “I’m out to work.” Photo: Alonso Nichols
Veliz, who works in the Department of Public and Environmental Safety, performs three to four nights a week at Roxy Red, Rumor and other top nightclubs in Boston as well as at weddings, private parties and bar/bat mitzvahs. His favorite venues are the big clubs with capacities up to 1,200. “The energy you get from that type of crowd is amazing,” he says.
If it sounds like a nonstop party, it isn’t. “I’m not only out to have fun,” says Veliz. “I’m out to work.”
With roughly 75,000 songs on his playlist and a computer program that allows him to manipulate the music and smoothly transition from one song to the next, Veliz is able to switch it up on a dime. From his DJ perch, the crowd is looking at him and he’s always scanning as well, gauging the mood of the room. A Lil Wayne song can get a crowd riled up; a Trey Songz or Drake song can settle them down.
“There haven’t been a lot of fights at the events I’ve done,” he says, which he takes as a sign he’s doing something right.
He’s often asked if he is also a musician. “It depends on your view of what a musician is,” says Veliz. “I don’t play any instruments. But being a DJ, you have to know music—beats per minute, bars.”
DJing in any major city is big business: the music men (and some women) sustain nightclubs, which rely on DJs to pull people in and keep them dancing and drinking.
Veliz, whose stage name, CASE, is an acronym for Cause All my Skills are Essential,
has been honing those skills for 17 years—more than half his life. He and his family emigrated from Chile to Massachusetts when he was 12, and three years later, he bought his first pair of turntables—used. It took him about a year to get the hang of it, working at first with just house music, “which is the easiest, because it all pretty much sounds the same,” and playing at high school parties. He taught himself the art of scratching: moving a vinyl LP back and forth on a turntable to create distinct sounds, which he likes to incorporate into his mixing.
Since the mid-90s, the art of DJing has gone very high-tech. “Back in the day, you had vinyl records that you had to bring along to parties. With the age of MP3s, all your music is pretty much in your computer now,” says Veliz.
That’s where his IT computer skills come in. At Tufts Public Safety, he helps maintain the technology that runs the police dispatch and emergency response systems. The same kind of tech savvy that makes him good at his day job comes into play for his night gigs, although no one would mistake him for a geek.
He points to his right arm, where tattoos of a dragon, a samurai sword, a mask and a tribal motif line it from wrist to shoulder. “You get one, and it doesn’t stop there,” he says. “It began in the Navy, and I always wanted a full sleeve, so I went ahead and got it. When I do eventually go corporate, I’ll have to cover it up.”
Veliz studied computer engineering at Northeastern University and DJed on the weekends for two years before joining the Navy, which paid for the last two years of his college education. He served on a destroyer that sailed to Italy and to the Middle East from 1999 to 2003. “I had my turntables on the ship,” says Veliz. “I didn’t like to put it out that I was a DJ. It was just more for me to keep up with it.”
Although his job at Tufts and his gig as DJ CASE keep him plenty busy, he plans to pursue a master’s in project management at Northeastern, starting this fall. Because his service falls within the time covered by the Post-9/11 GI bill, passed in 2008, the military will pick up the tab. “If you were in the military during 9/11, you’re eligible for extra funds,” says Veliz, “So I’m going to take advantage of it.”
But he has no plans to stop the music.
“I did it through high school, through college, after college, through the military, and I’m still at it,” he says with a smile. “I guess I am a one-man band.”Leslie Macmillan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.