BY CLINTON PAWLICK
As people file into CenturyLink Field, heads bounce and hips move to a subtle sway. It’s a reflexive, natural response to the music coming through the sound system.
It’s so slight you might not notice. But Toby Campbell does.
He is DV One, the DJ for the Seahawks, and it is his job to pump up the players, coaches, and some 68,000 fans at each Seattle Seahawks’ home game.
DV One works from under a canopy at the 31-yard line, sifting through thousands of songs and playing portions of them in one continuous 45-minute flow that gets the people going. He plays live only during pregame, but the sound booth uses his edits throughout the balance of the game. DV One is both an artist and engineer, who separates the music into its constituent parts and rearranges it into something greater. He can wheel it back, fade it down, or echo it out.
It takes skill to make something look easy. NFL players talk about how the game slows down as they gain experience. They can read formations, anticipate plays and perform at an elite level. Adaptability is key.
DV knows this all too well. Just among the Seahawks players and coaches, there is a span of at least three generations, and he must appeal to them all. We have a head coach in his early 60s, many assistants in their 40s, and players mostly in their 20’s. What one person likes might fall flat for another.
DV tells me how one coach approached him during a set. “Let’s throw on that Bruce Springsteen,” he said. “We need to get these guys pumped.”
Recalling the moment, DV smiles. Eighties music might not have the motivational edginess, he thought. That’s not gonna work.
But he needs to reach everyone. DV has to find a balance. The songs DV chooses must bridge the differences, be familiar (at least at a subconscious level), and, perhaps most important, they must be clean. There’s a responsibility in being part of a championship team. Success begs scrutiny, and DV wants to play a set that motivates the team without alienating anyone. His own re-mix is so safe, he says, you can play it in front of your grandma.
A song on his right and another on his left, he manipulates the music with the help of Scratch Live, a vinyl emulation software. The records on his turntables don’t hold the songs. Those are on his laptop. By connecting a mixer to the computer, DV can feed MP3s to the vinyl on the turntable. He uses the vinyl as a control, but the technology simplifies everything.
“You can bring literally 20,000 songs with you in your backpack,” DV says.
Some songs get played a lot. This year’s crowd favorite, the one that makes them know they are at a football game, is “Turn Down for What.” You’d know it in a second with its imperative beat. But DV plays a broad spectrum.
“Pete Carroll likes funk and soul,” says DV One. Funkadelic, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and the Commodores. I play a lot of that. I play a lot of Michael Jackson, too. Russell (Wilson) loves Michael Jackson.”
There was even an ESPN special, says DV, when he was playing Michael Jackson and Wilson was on the field. With his headphones on, DV couldn’t hear what the Seahawks’ quarterback was saying. Later, when DV saw the tape, he heard Russell reaching out.
“I see you, Toby. Thanks for playing that Michael.”
Who has the best taste in music? “Pete Carroll,” responds DV, “but he’s older, so it’s no fair.”
Carroll has a musical ear and a broad appreciation of genres. He also has the advantage of having grown up as different musical styles were formed.
The players, he says, are young, and they are still developing their musical tastes, so he won’t fault them for liking mostly popular songs.
His inspiration is the music and the energy it carries. There’s beauty in reaching someone at an emotional level. And it feels good to put his creativity out there and have it recognized and valued.
DV describes one game. He had finished his set and was in the tunnel preparing to leave. The players were poised to re-enter the stadium during introductions, and Carroll was there. He held a determined look, but before running back onto the field and the welcoming din of the 12th Man, Carroll turned and saw DV One.
The head coach smiled, paused to shake his hand, and thanked him for his contribution.
“That’s special,” says DV. “I give something to the team, and, in turn, they give it to the whole city.”
Clinton Pawlick and his wife, Jen, live in North Seattle. They love the Seahawks, good friends, Washington reds, and their two cats, Malcolm and Ink Pot Pie.
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