Localized: DJ Knucklz

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Photo: Katie Panzer

SLUG Magazine celebrates 22 years at this month’s Localized music showcase! Join the SLUG Mag crew as we celebrate over two decades of Utah subculture on Friday, February 18 at the Urban Lounge! We’ve handpicked a stellar, local line-up just for you!  We’ll see the blues influenced rock of Max Pain and the Groovies,  metal rockers Speitre and the sickest guy in town on the ones and twos, DJ Knucklz. $6 gets you in.

It’s not unusual to find DJ Knucklz behind the tables on any given night of the week. The Salt Lake City based DJ holds residencies in Salt Lake City and in Park City and often plays snowboarding competition after-parties. When he’s not rocking crowds of skiers and snowboarders, he’s often teaching kids in afterschool skateboard and music producing programs. After 13 years of DJing, Knucklz has risen to prominence as one of SLC’s most venerable turntablists and as an internationally recognized producer.

Knucklz grew up breakdancing and skateboarding in Baltimore, but after 20 years on the east coast he decided to travel west to the mountains. He landed in Vail, Colorado. Vail was home for three seasons as he raced mountain bikes and eventually fell in love with snowboarding. Before ending up in Utah, Knucklz spent time on a Hawaiian fishing boat and also living in Tahoe. Knucklz had a brush with pro snowboarding along the way, perfectly setting him up for networking the crowd that loves him best. “I was semi-pro—I wanted to be pro, but I was too lazy to do photo shoots and filming and stuff. I just wanted to ride,” Knucklz says. After time in Tahoe he realized, “The snow was way better [in SLC] and [it’s] cheaper to live [here],” he says. The move to Salt Lake City in the late ‘90s coincided with the start of DJing for Knucklz. Maybe it was the strange new locale or the art of DJing itself, but Knucklz remembers a struggle at first as he tried to master the art of the beatmatch. He steadily improved and his connections have made him a regular party fixture ever since, playing during competitions and after parties in the action sport circles of the Rocky and Wasatch ranges.

A founder of KRCL’s (90.9 FM) longest-running hip hop show, Friday Night Fallout, Knucklz also got into writing, briefly contributing to SLUG a few years back. “I met a lot of artists I’d interview, so I’d have those hookups. So I was like ‘Why don‘t we get these interviews in SLUG?’” Knucklz has taken his knowledge of the music world gained as a radio DJ, writer and producer to younger generations, teaching an after school Garage Band production course at Bryant Junior High as well as skateboarding classes. He used to work with the Youth City Arts program until the programs were cut, which he has a problem with: “Our mayor sucks,” Knucklz says. “He cancelled all the Youth City programming and all the teachers lost their jobs and all the kids lost their programming last summer. He waited ‘til he was in there for a while then he decided to cut the funding.”

Knucklz is well-versed at being multi-faceted, and as club DJ technology has evolved he has embraced it. He’s got advice for the up-and-comers flaccidly fucking their CD-J and MP3 tables in basements, thinking what Knucklz and the cadre of OG DJs in town do is “easy.” Knucklz disagrees: “They don’t have the background that Brisk [One] or [DJ] Juggy or me have. We’ve been doing it for a long time,” he says. When asked where he fits into the SLC DJ mix, as a producer or club DJ, he says, “I get a different crowd [than Juggy or Brisk]. I get more the ski snowboard side of things, and the gangsters and I get along very well. I do a lot of ski and snowboard comp after parties, mainly here and in Colorado.”

As a producer Knucklz has collaborated on Technine snowboard videos and in Absinthe films and has literally been recognized internationally for his work in the video world. “I’ve been able to go to Munich for the Sports Ispo trade show. That was amazing. It was kind of weird—there was this poster I was signing for people. I was blown away. I didn’t know people would know who I was. You live here then you go over there and it’s like, ‘really?’”

To celebrate 22 years of Salt Lake Underground, SLUG Magazine invited Knucklz to play our anniversary party, and he’s coming out with some bangers. “I love playing Baltimore Breaks—it’ll be good for the SLUG party. It’s faster at like 125-135 bpm, with a lot of hip hop lyrics—repetitive—but fun to dance to,” Knucklz says. He’s known for having a wide variety of genres to pull from but all of it will be “nasty, dirty music that makes you shake your ass. I’m not into playing music for people to hold up the wall,” Knucklz says.

As far as getting where he is today, Knucklz gives shout-outs to the resorts that have taken care of him and Neff and Rockwell. “And a shout-out to my girl Anjelica for putting up with me,” Knucklz says. Like other transplants to Small Lake City, he seems to have finally found a home here, and we’re glad to have him around to play killer fucking beats for us.  

When he’s not playing for comps or parties for us, check out Knucklz at the Canyon Inn on Thursdays at the base of Big Cottonwood and the Sidecar in Park City on Saturdays.

Photo: Katie Panzer