When asked why he gave up a 15-year computer science career to become a full-time DJ, Columbia Heights resident David Merrill has a simple answer: “Because I could.”
Merrill started spinning in college but soon his day job took over.
“When you’re working 60 to 70 hours a week, which is normal for that field, you don’t have the energy to be out spinning ‘til 4 in the morning,” he says. “I always wanted to do it and I was just finally at a point where I could.”
Listen for Merrill tonight at the “Boys on Fire” party from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the Warehouse Loft (411 New York Ave., N.E.) where he’ll open for DJ Paulo. Though he’s attended Cherry each year for about 10 years, this is Merrill’s first time spinning and only his second circuit party. He also has monthly gigs at Code (first Saturday of each month at Green Lantern), Triple X (every third Friday at the Crucible) and a radio show called Club Queer. On Saturday night, he’ll be at Cobalt’s Raw event.
“I have very eclectic tastes,” he says. “The only hard-and-fast rule is if it makes me want to shake my ass, I’ll play it.”
He says tonight’s set will have elements of tribal, progressive and “acid house” grooves. He’ll spin about three hours. Go to cherryfund.org for details on all Cherry events. See page 33 for more information.
“Cherry is all about the music, all about the dancing,” he says. “You’re gonna see some amazing décor and there will be lots of hot guys half naked and that’s great, but like all great parties, it’s really about the music first and foremost. It’ll be some of the greatest music you ever hear in your life. DJ Paulo is amazing. It’s such an honor to open for him.”
Merrill grew up in Alexandria and has also lived in North Carolina and Florida at various times for school and career. He worked for years in Tampa doing computer work. He’s been back in Washington for about 10 years.
Though mum about his personal life, Merrill lives in Columbia Heights and enjoys dinner-and-a-movie evenings at home to relax. (Blade photos by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I never really “came out” officially. My mother eavesdropped on a phone call from my boyfriend, who called on Christmas Eve to wish me a Merry Christmas, and she outed me to the rest of the family. My father threw me out of the house that very night. I was 15. Since I had nothing to lose, I have ever since then been completely out.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I have so many, but I would have to say Harvey Milk really stands out. So much of what we have accomplished is due to his leadership and the influence that he, and his assassination, had on the gay rights movement.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
That’s a hard one, and I know I might offend some current club owners but I have to say Tracks. But the lousiest nightclub can be heaven if a great DJ is playing. I don’t need lights and fog and lasers. Sure, they’re cool, but it’s all about the music for me.
Describe your dream wedding.
All of my family and friends on the roof of the Hay-Adams Hotel, across the street from the White House.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about all civil rights issues. Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter their gender, orientation, religion, race or any other characteristic they might have.
What historical outcome would you change?
I’m going to say the constitutional compromise that left slavery not only legal, but officially enshrined in our Constitution. Slavery is America’s “original sin” and I have to wonder what America would be like today if we had started out without that millstone around our neck.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The first time I saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I was about 12 or 13 years old so for me at that age it was incredibly subversive and I’ve loved subversive art and theater ever since.
On what do you insist?
I insist on always doing my absolute best. There will always be someone who can run faster, or make more money, or whatever, but as long as I always work hard and do my very best, I can look in the mirror and be proud of myself.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I posted a quote from Dan Savage: “Hostile parents can’t make their gay kids straight, but they can make them dead.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Wrong Turns That Turn Out Right”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Drop it in the Gatoraid at a nearby locker room? OK, I wouldn’t really do that, but it’s a nice fantasy. I sure wouldn’t take it myself. I am very happy with who I am, thank you very much.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I don’t really know if there is a G-d in the Judeo-Christian sense, but I do believe that there is such a thing as sacred, and I try to find it in everyone.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I would just like to thank them for all the good work that they do, and encourage them to keep the faith, because our cause is just and we will prevail.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I would do anything for my family.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I think the stereotype that we all cut hair or design interiors is ridiculous. Sure, lots of us are fabulous at those things, but lots more of us aren’t.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Angels in America.” I love the part where Hannah responds to Blanche DuBois — “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”; “Well that’s a stupid thing to do.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Talking about the weather.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
A great DJ can create a mood, really connect with a crowd of dancers, and take them on a musical and emotional journey. And when you’ve done that, when you have the crowd in the palm of your hand, you know it. You feel it. And THAT is the “prize” I work so hard to achieve. I live for that feeling. It’s why I’m a DJ.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
At 18 I was on the street, off and on, living in empty lots. If I had known that things would eventually work out for me, it would have saved me so much fear and worry about the future. Life for me has just gotten better and better. At 18 the future looked really bleak.
I love Washington! There are so many things to do, places to go, museums to visit and great restaurants. You could never do it all.