When offered the assignment of interviewing Johnny Cash, I had a moment of insane excitement as I imagined asking questions about "A Boy Named Sue" and Sun Records. But then I remembered the Man in Black had been dead for over a decade.
The Johnny Cash with whom I would be talking is a DJ with a Friday-night residency at Wall Lounge.
“I do get that a lot,” the living Johnny Cash says over the telephone, recalling repeated instances of mistaken identity. “I always get Johnny Cash requests when they see my name, so I’ve got some 'Ring of Fire' remixes ready. But I had the name before I was DJing. Friends called me that, so I use it for DJing and producing.”
By coincidence, I actually knew Johnny Cash before he shared the name of a country legend. Back in our formative years on Key Biscayne, he was known as John Cook. He went off to Full Sail University for music production, and he studied mixing and mastering. He spent time producing and engineering for other artists like Tomkat and Sporty Jit, and he has spent the past decade DJing around town. So it’s not too often anymore that people show up expecting to hear “I Walk the Line."
“I’m well known enough that people know what they’re going to hear,” the DJ says. "They know I’m into old-school and new-school hip-hop. I like to play Dre and Snoop Dogg, ‘90’s R&B, and Trick Daddy’s 'Take It to da House,' which is a great Miami song. I try to get in all the hits from the past that young people might know.” So no, DJ Johnny Cash is not the son of a sharecropper. And he never plays guitar. Instead, some of the DJs he admires and tries to emulate include Miami’s own three-time DMC world champ, Craze, and the late DJ AM who Johnny Cash says could “play a lot of genres that would make people dance while at the same time being technical.”
On top of DJing, Johnny Cash has found a new passion, video mixing, which he incorporates into his Friday-night residency too.
“It’s basically mixing and scratching music videos. Instead of manipulating an MP3 file, it’s an MP4, so the video and audio are tied together. So when the two songs mix, so do the images of two videos. I mix in shots of graffiti and city shots with music videos.”
Just don’t hold your breath expecting to see footage from Johnny Cash at San Quentin.
DJ Johnny Cash. As part of Wall Miami Friday. 11 p.m. Every Friday, at Wall Lounge, 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-938-3131; wallmiami.com. No cover. Email RSVP@wallmiami.com for VIP access. Ages 21 and up.
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