By Joseph Hess
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The influence of the Internet on Fagin's expansive musical knowledge cannot be overstated. Ask Fagin where he first discovered Moombahton, baile, or the Portuguese Kuduro, and his answer is always the same — the Internet. It explains how he can talk so easily about DJs and artists when he can't get into clubs and will be restricted to all-ages shows until his 18th birthday in July. "The Internet has made a lot of things really easy," he says with a laugh. "I like doing my research, so I look at what all the other DJs are doing. If they have mixes online, that's how I check them out." Fagin thinks St. Louis DJs are kicking a dead horse when it comes to dubstep but admits he wasn't a fan of the womp-womp genre to begin with. 18andCounting and DJ Cor(e)ography's styles are more his speed; they play around with styles instead of churning out the tired four-on-the-floor electro bangers most DJs rely on nightly.
"Being the same DJ as everyone else with a different name is just tiring. Ultimately people just want to dance, and if they want to dance to dubstep that's fine, but I just like bringing new music to people," says Fagin. "Being from the Midwest, you're not seeing a complete wealth of culture like you would see in Chicago or New York, so my goal is to bring a lot of different sounds and expose people to music outside of the Midwest."
Fagin thinks one thing holding St. Louis back from re-staking its former status as a music mecca is the "St. Louis-known" mentality. Bands gain notoriety and fans in St. Louis, but many never break nationally because they don't tour or get complacent simply because in this town, they're already famous.
"You need your city to support you, then it's easier to branch out, but if you don't, it just becomes, 'Oh, just another So and So show.' That's how you lose fans," Fagin says, likening the microcosmic phenomenon to "being in the friend zone with a girl."
"You have to support the local scene. People get mad if you don't, but you don't have to like bands that are shitty just because they're local."
Fagin is intent on getting an audience beyond St. Louis. He's in the process of planning a mini-tour to New Orleans, Chicago and LA with his manager/BFF. He's looking forward to the summer, which is already filling up with performances and DJ sets.
Fagin is an articulate, wiry kid who views school as a necessary evil. He's maintained a 3.5 GPA throughout high school, and he works on music during his study halls. Fagin looks wistful when he talks about all the time he'd have for music if he wasn't cooped up in class five days a week. "It gets a little hard, especially when it comes to making music," he says. "It's such a time-intensive project, and going to school seven hours a day is a big chunk of that. But honestly, I've been able to work it out, and everything has just come together. That's what's made this year really easy."
He heads to Mizzou next fall to study convergence journalism. He chose Mizzou over DePaul University in Chicago because he wants to be closer to St. Louis. "There are definitely a lot of movements beginning that are really, really, really going to change this town. Even with the acts that are being brought to St. Louis, it's like people are becoming more aware. I think that's really cool, and I absolutely don't want to leave that right now."
He thought about majoring in music business, but, he says, "I don't want to be a jazz musician, I don't want to play in the symphony, and I don't want to teach, so there wasn't really a point." If music doesn't work out, he'll have journalism to fall back on.
College is still a few months off, but Fagin is going to be a big fish in the CoMo pond — he's already played all the major venues in Columbia. He's resigned himself to an inevitable stint as a frat-party DJ because they pay "good money" but says he won't be playing Tool and Ke$ha.
"If you can convince people to like what you're playing and not what they want to hear, I think that's greater than trying to fit to a crowd. If they like me, cool, if they don't, I have St. Louis. I'm not too worried." Fagin pauses. "But I'm excited."
note: There's an unfortunate typo in the third paragraph, the third line should read: "There are few things better for a young electronic artist's career than a Diplo shout-out; *DIPLO* is arguably the top arbiter of taste in the genre..." No offense Jay Fay! He'll get there some day, but is not the arbiter of taste quite yet. Sorry about that!