Yiannis Elia was a budding D.C. remixer four years ago when he got a call from Junior Vasquez. “‘Listen to them, they’re screaming, the whole Twilo is turned upside down,'” Yiannis remembers Junior shouting into the phone, calling as he was from the DJ booth at New York’s Twilo nightclub. Junior was playing Yiannis’ first remix, of Deborah Cox’s “It’s Over Now,” which he had only received a few hours before.
It all sounds a bit like a fairy tale, but it’s true. And that’s not even half the tale. It really starts once upon a time:
“It was a weird situation, but the first time I spun I was 14 at a club,” Yiannis says in accented English, learned in part through his teenage collection of English pop records. Barely even a teen, he impressed a packed Greek club — where there was no minimum age limit — as an impromptu DJ, subbing for the regular Saturday night DJ who cancelled at the last minute. He was invited back to spin regularly.
Another 14 years later, he’s still at it. Yiannis (who goes professionally just by his first name, pronounced YON-eece) moved to Washington six years ago to study graphic design. But he got hooked on designing a career in the clubs. He started spinning in D.C. gay circles at Zei Club’s short-lived Friday night Tantrum party. Nowadays he spins once a month at both Apex and Velvet.
He’s making a name for himself nationally as well, by spinning regularly at clubs in Florida, helping to compile Billboard magazine’s dance music charts as a select Billboard Reporting DJ, and creating remixes.
Â After playing Yiannis’ first remix, Junior Vasquez later tapped him to remix “Believer” by Ke’. Junior included Yiannis’ Outstanding Remix on his 2002 Earth (Tommy Boy) compilation.
“I try not to play [‘Believer’] as much anymore, but I get more requests for that song than any other.” It’s no wonder: the track is all energy, perfectly encapsulating how Yiannis describes his sound – “tribal, anthem, diva vocal.”
And the crowd dances happily ever after.
DJ Yiannis will spin next Friday, April 16, at Apex, 1415 22nd Street NW. Cover is $8. Visit www.apex-dc.com or call 202-296-0505.