By now, you'd think that Paul Blair, aka DJ White Shadow, would be happy to do what many of his celebrity DJ/DJ-to-the-celebrities peers do: play predictable music sloppily cued up on Serato when not looking at their iPhones.
But White Shadow hasn't lost sight of why he became a DJ in the first place: music. Growing up in the Detroit area, Shadow was exposed to a variety of musical genres. "I'm happy I don't live there, but I'm glad I grew up there," says Shadow, 32. "I was listening to DJs cutting and scratching and playing live from clubs on the major radio stations, and they would play amazing music."
He recorded the eclectic, electro-tinged radio programs of Detroit legends The Electrifying Mojo and Gary Chandler, boht of whom still influence his style today. But while he was geographically close to his musical idols at the time, Shadow really began learning the ropes at 18, when he lived in Japan for a year for a school program and landed his first residency at a local bar.
When Shadow returned home, he went to college, got serious about DJing and was successful at throwing parties. Early success made him quite ambitious. He set his sights on opening a bar in Chicago, but quickly had his ego checked when he moved here in 2002 and found out how difficult it is to own a nightclub.
Shadow found himself back at square one, taking gigs that barely paid just to get his name out. He caught a break in 2004 with a residency at Spoon and eventually ended up being a co-owner of two clubs, Celebrity and Lakeview Broadcasting Company, although he sold his ownership in both ventures.
The word about Shadow spread and he quickly became in demand as the go-to guy for high-profile events and celebrity parties. He's of the only DJs who has the potential to get people dancing in River North, which he does every Thursday at Manor. He also plays Friday nights at Debonair Social Club, has residencies in four other cities and does musical selecting for J Bar at the James Hotel. Next up, Shadow is coming to iTunes; he's started producing and remixing with John Marcs and Pete Dougherty as Gods of Fashion.
From fascinated youngster to local celebrity, Shadow's making the art of getting people to have a good time his business. We spoke with him on one of his rare breaks.
When you're not DJing, where do you hang out?
The Green Mill.
Favorite Chicago DJ?
It's a three-way tie between Flosstradamus, DJ Jem and Jesse De La Pena.
Thursdays at J Bar with Jesse De La Pena, and not because I'm involved with J Bar; it's intimate and he has a guy play live trumpet with him and it's really cool.
"Disco Nights" by GQ. I don't play it out very often, but it gets me pumped up.
Favorite club of the moment?
Debonair. People are moving around, it's kind of hard to get to the bathroom, drinks aren't too expensive and people are taking shots and going bananas.