DJ Agent Orange: “‘Crowd control’ the right way”

Agent Orange and Marceline 2019
When we met during ADE 2019, we immediately talked about his first gig. DJ Agent Orange's first significant gig took place in Kansas City. "It was a thing to mix with three decks."

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When we met during ADE 2019, we immediately talked about his first gig. A year later, I called him in his hometown New York, and the American Ara Krikorian, a.k.a. techno producer DJ Agent Orange, shared his memories with me. His first significant gig took place in the city where I lived for over a year: Kansas City. "At that time, it was a thing to mix with three decks."

“My father is of Armenian descent, and my mother is Romanian. When communism emerged, they moved to the United States. Most Armenians who emigrated at that time headed west towards California. However, my parents decided to stay in New York. That’s where I was born.”

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Armenian Music

“Like many children, I used to make mixtapes. I did it with my father’s Armenian music, but I only used the fast tracks. I wanted that energy and beat even then.” (laughs) “We played those mixtapes during road trips, when we had to sit in the car for four or five hours or on the way to a skiing holiday.”

DJ Crew

“When I was about twelve, in 1988, I spent three months with my aunt in Los Angeles during the summer vacation. In California, many backyard parties and pool parties were held. I was fascinated by a DJ crew that was present at many of those parties. They played freestyle Latin and had an electro sound. They remixed songs from the radio, creating extended versions. That concept blew me away!”

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Sold Skateboard

“Back in New York, I figured out how to remix and quickly became completely addicted to it. I had told my brother about the DJ crew, and he introduced me to a few of his friends from New Jersey. These guys were playing at sweet sixteen birthday parties, and I wanted to do that too! Although my other passion was skateboarding, I chose to sell one of my boards and buy two turntables with the money. They were, of course, two cheap ones. I had never heard of the pitch and didn’t know I would need it.” (laughs)

Checking Vinyl

“Unfortunately, those guys didn’t live nearby, so I couldn’t go to their place after school to practice. However, when they were in the city, I would immediately dive into their record bags to check their vinyl. Eventually, they let me freewheel a bit at a sweet sixteen party.”

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Perfect Beatmatching

“Still, I consider my first real unofficial gig the birthday party of my brother. When he turned eighteen or nineteen, his then-girlfriend threw a party and asked if I wanted to DJ. I was over the moon. At the same time, I wanted to perform. I wanted to beatmatch perfectly and do ‘crowd control’ the right way. By that, I mean that I always aim for weird versions of samples that can surprise the audience. I’ve been doing that to this day. Such a surprise is the ultimate moment for me.”

Eight to Eighty

“Around that time, I was still too young to go out. So, I had no idea about underground clubbing. What I did do was listen to the nighttime broadcasts of the clubs. So, I already knew that people drink during such an event and loosen up as the evening progresses. This, of course, also applied to my brother’s birthday. It was a party where people aged eight to eighty were walking around. So, it was my job to play the right thing at the right moment.”

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Nice Earnings

“After that birthday, things started rolling. Together with my brother, I played at numerous birthdays and weddings. We earned a decent amount, sometimes a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars per gig. Mind you, I was only fourteen or fifteen. I was still in high school! I also played in so-called ‘guido clubs’, think Jersey Shore.”

Wide Pants

“At school, I increasingly noticed people who were dressed differently in wide pants and unique outfits. I was curious and approached them to ask what style went with it. They turned out to be ravers. They enthusiastically told me about the parties they attended and the drugs that went along with it. However, I wasn’t into drugs at that moment. Mind you, I was already drinking a solid beer.” (laughs)

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Deep Hole

“After high school, I fell into a deep hole. All my friends went to study all over the country, and I stayed at Queens College in New York. There, I had started a psychology study that I never finished. I found it boring and almost fell into depression.”

NASA Party

“Fortunately, two rave friends were still in town, and with them, I went to a NASA party in 1995. I didn’t know what I was experiencing! It started with us ending up in a long line in front of an anonymous building with a door. There was no sign or other indication that it was a party. I was used to everyone dressing up before going out, but the people in this line seemed to have just walked away from the skateboard park. They were all so friendly, so relaxed, and so cool.”

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Open-Air Parties

“Once inside, I heard drum & bass for the first time. It blew my mind! I think DJ DB was playing. I was really shocked, but in a good way. The sound system in this underground club was fantastic, next level! The subwoofers! I had never heard anything like it. I then stood in clubs every weekend. Because my two friends didn’t always feel like going with me, I made contact with other club-goers. That’s how I ended up with a DJ crew that gave open-air parties for two or three hundred people, also under viaducts and such, but usually legal. From 1995 to 2000, I was allowed to do a set with them from time to time. From 1997, I was mainly into techno, and in 1999, I started producing myself.”


“During that time, I also worked at the well-known record store Satellite in New York. I worked my way up from the night shift to assistant techno buyer. Through that job, I went to a Carl Cox performance in Miami in 2000. On the dance floor, I met a few guys from Kansas City. When they heard my name, they said, ‘OMG, are you Agent Orange? We want to book you!'”

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Off to Kansas City

“So here we come to the first gig for which I was not only paid but also flown in by the organization. I was off to Kansas City. It was also a big outdoor party here, I think in the parking lot of a downtown pub. I think there were about 350 people. Here too, you mainly saw typical ravers with wide pants.”

European Techno

“In those days, it was ‘a thing’ to mix with three decks. So, I had practiced for hours at home to get this perfectly right. It worked. I was quite satisfied afterward. A downside was that at one point during my set, the electricity went out for ten minutes. Yikes. However, in those ten minutes, I had a super enjoyable conversation with a few guys on the dance floor. At that time, I often played European techno, including tracks from Marco Bailey and Tom Hades.”

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“I was on the lineup before Chris Liberator. The other DJs were local talents. After the gig, I hung out with Chris for a bit, and we went to eat. The conversation we had then marked the beginning of my journey into vegetarianism. At that moment, I didn’t think it would be possible: to stop eating meat. However, I haven’t been doing that for a long time now, and my wife is trying to convince me to go vegan, but I love my egg too much.” (laughs) “After Kansas City and through my work for Satellite, I gradually got more gigs and was playing somewhere every weekend. I’ve been to many places in the United States and DJed in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

Craziest Shit

“My sources of inspiration are definitely Todd Terry and Louie Vega. Before the millennium, I went with a few friends to the New Year’s Eve party Celebrations in Montreal, Canada. There, we saw John Aquaviva, Jeff Mills, and Richie Hawtin. Especially Jeff Mills got to me. The craziest shit I’ve ever heard! Fantastic!”

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Mental and Musical

“What I’ve learned by now is that as a DJ, you always have to be prepared for everything, both mentally and musically. A tip I want to give aspiring talent is: always work harder than the next guy and be willing to sweat in the booth! Otherwise, you’re not doing it right. Another important piece of advice is to oversee the business side of your career. I was always 100% focused on gigs and my music and sometimes lost sight of the business side. Now, everything is going well, but I could have started with it earlier.”

“Normally, my wife DJ Becka and I come to the Netherlands this month for the Amsterdam Dance Event. It’s sad that it can’t happen this year. Our family lives there! Fortunately, I’m not sitting still. Next month, an EP called ‘Business Techno & Tapas‘ will be released on the Elevate label by Pig & Dan. Besides, I’m starting my own YouTube channel, Orange Rewind, next week.”

This interview with Agent Orange was originally published in October 2020 on This Is Our House.

Who is DJ Agent Orange?

DJ Agent Orange has lived a more colourful life than most in the electronic music world. A veteran of over two decades of service, he’s spent that time perfecting intricate soundscapes, playing gigs around the world and has had steady studio output, the likes of which have seen him turn out remixing for Carl Cox and many releases on Toolroom, 1605, Deeperfect, Nervous, Terminal M and much more. A DJ, a live act, a producer and Gotham Grooves label owner, it’s also fair to say that DJ Agent Orange isn’t a man who takes half measures with his dedication to techno and house music.

DJ Agent Orange has brought his unique energetic, captivating sound to dance floors across the planet. His passion for blending cutting edge techno, tech-house and house beats, with groovy, soulful, deep, dark and even ethnic vibes, has led him to perform at places like the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, the Zoo Project in Ibiza to countless clubs and parties on the global circuit. Dj Agent Orange’s dedication to writing music and carving his own niche as a world-class producer supported by industry giants: Carl Cox, Adam Beyer, Joseph Capriati, UMEK, Stefano Noferini, John Acquaviva and even 50 Cent.

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