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Co Founder of Spark DJ Shares His Story Behind the Spark

Music is in my blood. As a middle school kid drumming on my desk to lead member of the Notre Dame Drumline, music is the beat that has shaped my life.

In high school I followed the beat to music production, working with programs like FL Studio (Fruity Loops) and Reason before software such as Ableton and Pro Tools were even a thing. Under the name “DJ Junae” (I think my MySpace is still active), I made hip hop instrumentals for my friends to rap with as well as original tracks influenced by local southern breakbeat DJs such as DJ Greddy, Slim Tim, DJ Loopy, DJ Babyboi, and DJ Nooks.

Around this time I was completely immersed in music production and a friend asked me to DJ their birthday party. (Because of my stage name they thought I could actually spin live.) I agreed to the gig and brought my boom box, my dad’s home sound system, and some borrowed turntables to the party and dove right into playing the songs I had been producing. They hated it. (Apparently everyone doesn’t love new school breakbeats.) So the song requests came rolling in and I became a human jukebox. Gradually, however, I started to anticipate what songs the crowd wanted and when to play them. I began to build off the energy of the crowd and something happened…the party popped! The dance floor was electric! I became a DJ that night and the beat kept going.

I headed to Notre Dame to study engineering and economics. The campus nightclub, Legends, had a resident DJ who was about to graduate. DJ Cartiac needed a back fill and I needed to make some cash to pay for school. With some input from DJ Cartiac, I changed my stage name to DJ 3J and took over DJing at Legends. I grew a following and eventually had residencies at three different nightclubs, multiple private events every weekend, and gigs opening for artists such as Big Sean, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, Girl Talk, DJ Whoo Kid, and Fatman Scoop.

The beat picked up and I was soon receiving more requests than I had time for. I started wondering if there was a way to offer my DJ services without physically being there. For one event, I offered a four hour, pre-recorded mix and a set of speakers at a discounted price. They loved the mix. The only complaint was that they could not get song requests in, so I began to develop an autonomous DJ system that could mix music like a live DJ and take song request. I called it Dancefloor Datamen. But as graduation drew near, my free time dwindled, and with it, the Dancefloor Datamen project.

I moved to Minneapolis after graduating and began corporate life as a Data Analyst for the Target corporation, but I couldn’t shake the beat in the back of my head. I still wanted to DJ, so I checked Craigslist to see if there were any available gigs. A posting for a residency at The Loop in Rochester caught my eye. It was posted by DJ Gavin Boss (John), a local Rochester DJ with his own staffing company. I started DJing with John and we soon grew to be close friends.

Life fell back into rhythm and I dusted off my Dancefloor Datamen project and began working on it again with renewed passion and perspective. John saw me tinkering with it one day and after explaining it to him, his eyes widened and said “The name sucks but this idea is huge. How can I help?” A few months later we were dancing to a new beat, Spark DJ.

James Jones
Co Founder, Spark DJ

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