It's 2 a.m. on a Saturday night at Flux nightclub, downtown, and the dance floor is packed. Trippy electronic rhythms fill the place, and the crowd is loving the colorful mix of trance, jungle and acid jazz beats.
DJ Blak Cherri is former nurse Lynn Staley
Above it all in a clear DJ booth overlooking the dance floor is a confident-looking woman juggling stacks of records — mixing and breaking, holding and recombining. She's African-American and goes by the name DJ Blak Cherri. Serious dancers insist she is one of the best around.
Her real name is Lynn Staley, and she used to be a nurse. The Over-the-Rhine resident gave up her day job about five years ago to spin records in clubs mostly because she loves electronic music.
“Listening to this music really gives me a high,” she said one recent evening at Kaldi's before heading for work.
“I love the repetitious beats. And I love the vocals. I especially love bass and funk.”
Ms. Staley realized she could make a living from this one Saturday night in 1995 when the owners of Copa, a now-defunct bar with a small dance floor, gave her a chance in the disc jockey booth.
“I was so scared, and I remember my hand was literally shaking while putting the needle on the record,” she says. “But the crowd started having a really good time and I was put at ease.”
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As her record collection grew, she found work at the Warehouse, DV8, Vertigo, Club Gotham, Annie's and more, up to six nights a week. She also worked a lot of private parties and was part of a rave crew for a couple of years.
“I've basically worked at every major dance place in this city,” she said.
“That's the way the DJ community is. Clubs are always looking for something different, and I love it because I consider every new place a challenge.”
For now, she divides her time among Bar Humbug in Covington; Flux and Hamburger Mary's downtown; and Venus in Over-the-Rhine. She is starting to throw her own parties by renting a space, sending out invitations and charging a cover.
“I don't like limiting myself,” she said.
“In fact, I'll play for just about anyone that approaches me. I'll do anything from top 40 to variations on top 40 to deep house. The only thing I can't do is hip-hop, although I'd like to learn how to scratch.”
Ultimately, she'd like to take her act national. She is talking to Columbus bar owners about some guest DJ appearances and has traveled to Chicago to scout the scene there.
“I want to get on a plane and deejay in Portland or Toronto or New York City,” she said.
“And after I've made all my money deejaying, I want to exclusively produce music. I want people like Janet Jackson and Madonna to come to me to remix their songs.”