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How A Deaf DJ Turns To Tech To Make His Music

Robbie Wilde sees and feels music instead of hearing it.

PSFK Labs
PSFK Labs on April 28, 2013. @psfk

As part of our Creative Technology series with iQ by Intel, PSFK is interviewing unique artists to gain insights about how they use technology to enhance creativity and push the boundaries of their art.

Robbie Wilde is a deaf DJ. He has been working on his craft for nearly 10 years, and mostly plays ‘open format’ which is an eclectic, difficult combination of different genres. He lost hearing at the age of 7 due to ear infections and is completely deaf in his right ear, while 80% deaf in his left. Now the Starkey Hearing Foundation sponsors a hearing aid in his left ear, and he communicates mostly through reading lips. PSFK spoke with him about his love of music, how he remained resolute despite his disability, and how he uses technology to stand out of the crowd.

When did you love of music begin? How did you surmount the huge odds against you?

Music has always been in my life, starting with my father’s love of the beat. Going to sleep, waking up, music always there at home. Even after losing my hearing, I was always trying to hear everything…it wasn’t easy!

My parents really inspired me. They taught me to always give 110%, and gave me my start in DJing by offering my dad’s restaurant to host a party for my 18th birthday party. It was packed! It attracted enough local attention that I began playing around town, so I kept mixing and trying new techniques.

How do you interact with the music you can’t hear?

Well, there’s all the music in my head from my childhood, before I lost my hearing. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of tunes from ‘95 and older in my sets. But when it comes to new music, I feel the bass frequencies that come out of the subwoofers. The bigger the bass, the better for me!

I actually have a partnership with SubPac, a backpack-like device that sends out just bass frequencies into your back without all the other noise. You can really get a perfect feel for a song with it, all my hearing buddies love to use it. It’s like headphones for the deaf community, and when hearing people use it without headphones they get to experience music as I do all the time.

serato dj

When mixing and performing, I use a program called Serrato (pictured above) because the waveforms, the images of the sound, are colored. This allows me to separate the vocals, which I cannot hear, from the bass and instrumental parts. These visuals substitute my hearing, and I don’t use it as a shortcut – I use it to be more creative. Technology definitely helps me get more advanced with my techniques, but I don’t ever use it as a ‘cheat,’ to substitute a real DJing method.

To find about what drives DJ Robbie Wilde’s passion for music and creativity, continue reading here at iQ by Intel.

With the help of iQ by Intel, PSFK.com is exploring how technology impacts our lives. iQ by Intel connects readers to the trends and discussions that are moving our planet forward. To read more inspiring stories about how technology is unleashing the world’s human potential to create a better future visit iQ by Intel.

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