Todd Daggett is the ultimate multitasker. By day he’s a marine biology major and aspiring scientist who repairs computers at his part-time job, and by night, he’s DJ Deformaty, spinning sets that have literally brought audiences to tears. Deformaty was selected as one of the winners of the Beyond Wonderland Discovery Project with his electro/break-beat remix of previous Discovery Project winner James Egbert’s track “Back to New.”
“The James Egbert remix I did it starts out as electro-house, then it goes into breaks, then it goes back into electro house, and I think that’s probably what people’s favorite part about that song is it just changes,” Deformaty explains. “And a lot of people don’t realize what just happened, it went into breaks. And they’re just like, ‘what happened?’”
The Portland-based DJ originally found out about the competition through a friend. “I made a post on Facebook, and I said, you know what…I’m going to be playing EDC someday, Deformaty said. “I guess one of my friends wanted me to put my money where my mouth is, and sent me the link for the competition, and I was like, ‘yeah!’ I’ll do that.’”
Insomniac sat down to interview Deformaty after his explosive set at Beyond Wonderland that literally had the whole Wide Awake Art Car shaking. “I’d start jumping up and down, and everyone else would jump up and down and launch me up in the air a little bit, and I’m like ‘oh [crap]!’” he explained.
Read below to learn what life-changing experience charted his course towards becoming a DJ, where he sees the future going, and what the Discovery Project means for him.
Q: How did you think your set went?
D: Well, except for hitting the Cue button when I wasn’t supposed to and stopping the track, it went really well…when something like that happens you just have to move on and hope no one remembers, and usually they don’t.
Q: Were you nervous at all?
D: No, but when I get up there I get really pumped up and start feeling lightheaded…and jumping around.
Q: The energy was really great on that stage!
D: Yeah it felt really awesome. It’s probably one of the better sets I’ve played so far, and I’ve played a lot of them.
Q: You said you’ve been DJ-ing for awhile
D: Yeah 13 years
Q: So how did you get started?
D: I was a troubled youth, just doing my own shit and not listening to anybody. And I went to my first rave in Portland, and I knew nothing about it. I had a John Digweed CD that I had burnt from the internet, and I was totally amazed. And so my friends convinced me to go to a party once and I went there…and it changed my life forever.
Q: How did it do that?
D: I was looking for something to make meaning out of my life. I had no direction and no role models and suddenly, this music was incredible and the energy was incredible…and it was that moment I decided, that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
Q: People have been ‘overwhelmed to tears’ during your sets. Can you describe how that felt?
D: The first time I saw it happen I was playing at “Where Life Begins” (festival). It was 2010, I think…and I noticed this girl sitting right in front of the stage and she was just bawling her eyes out and [had] tears rolling down her face. I thought maybe someone broke up with her or whatever, [maybe she was] being dramatic, but after I got off stage she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said ‘Oh my God, it was almost too much, and you made me cry, and thank you so much.’ The sweat was just pouring off of her. That was a really big motivator for me to keep going. I think every artist, when they’re starting out…it’s really tough, and you want to stop all the time. It’s really frustrating, and you just got to find reasons to keep going….If my friend hadn’t told me about this competition [Discovery Project] I wouldn’t have bothered to enter. I almost didn’t bother to enter anyways.
Q: So that’s how you found out, through your friend?
D: [Yeah] I kind of sat on it for awhile and I go to school and stuff, so it takes time. I get one day a week to work on stuff. I have a math final as soon as I get back into town, doing a little studying while I’m here.
Q: So where does your DJ life fit into that?
D: Music, you only get one shot. If you stop for any reason, for any amount of time, you lose your momentum. You can never ever build that momentum back up. School you can always drop out and come back in and drop out and come back in…It’s probably going to come to the point where I’m going to have to take a break.
Q: And now is the age to pursue music, when you’re young.
D: It is, and electronic music is exploding, and it’s really the place to be right now.
Q: What did you feel like when you won the Discovery Project?
D: I was really excited, but I was also really stressed out because I knew I had a final, and I have a job too.
Q: Where do you work at?
D: I do computer repair and assembly at a computer repair shop in Portland. It’s mostly part-time, it’s really flexible, my boss is really cool, but something’s got to give at some point. Obviously I wasn’t going to turn this down, so I kind of moved everything over to make room for it, and then just went for it; we’ll see how it turns out.
Q: So what are your goals for the future?
D: I played for Insomniac now, that was a big goal of mine….One of the things that excited me was that Insomniac said something about winning the competition you get considered for artist management so I kind of got my fingers crossed about that. There’s a couple of people that are offering me management that I don’t think I’m going to go for because they don’t seem to know what they’re doing….I started out with techno, tech house, trance, psy trance, and a little drum and bass. And then I got hooked on breaks, and I just hadn’t stopped, and so now I’m doing breaks, electro house, kind of hybrid blending….And honestly they work so well together that I think I can probably brand myself with both and do pretty well.
Q: It’s definitely an idea to pursue.
D: You just kind of have to test everything out,…Basically I just write what I want to listen to, I write what I like to hear and so that I know at least I’m always happy with my own work.
Q: Not just doing it for popularity.
D: Exactly! I don’t want to make cookie-cutter breaks, cookie-cutter electro-house. I want to do stuff that’s original and unique and that people are going to hear and not forget, and so far, so good…. One thing I pride myself on is I play only my own stuff, I don’t play anyone else’s stuff. I really appreciate people who do that, because a DJ has always played other people’s music, it’s been like that forever, that’s how DJ-ing started. When someone plays all their own stuff, I think it just makes them a cut above, it’s just unique.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
D: I definitely want to thank Insomniac for giving me this opportunity.
By Anum Khan