On The Record: DJ Jon CCC
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
With three nights a week on the turntables at Manifest, DJ Jon CCC is probably the one who gets the most people dancing in Chinatown on a weekly basis.
Add in the fact he holds down a full-time job and all the responsibilities that come with raising a newborn daughter, and John Cabarteja is just as busy away from the music.
For years, Cabarteja has put his personal stamp on Honolulu nightlife despite never venturing too far into mainstream territory. His steady, never flashy presence among local DJs has always put him in a position to flex his abilities as an underrated commodity with proven skills.
Through countless late-night DJ adventures, extra work shifts and diaper changes, Cabarteja will be the first to admit switching gears so much leads to a life of organized chaos and sleep deprivation. No one ever said the balancing act of a full-time job and fatherhood would be easy, yet he has made it work to his advantage with lots of sacrifice.
The detail-oriented music nerd likes to pick out the “sweet spots” of every song and uses those moments as building blocks to aid his signature, flavor-filled moments that take his sets — and crowds — to another level.
“What most people don’t understand is that DJing requires a lot of thought,” he said. “There’s a whole science to it. I feel that being aware of what you’re playing at the time as well as how best to play it is crucial.”
In order for the vinyl-lover to ensure his sets showcase his originality, presentation is everything. As demanding as his day-to-day schedule may be, he sets aside at least an hour every day to music research and planning.
“It’s almost always fun,” he said. “I still get excited about the process. I’m always on the hunt for new music, thinking up sets, rearranging sets, making edits, and stuff like that, so all that prep work doesn’t really feel like work to me.”
The landscape of partying in Chinatown has experienced a bit of change recently with clubs closing and ownership changes. Despite the area’s minor facelift, spots like Bar 35 and Manifest still thrive.
“I cut my teeth in Chinatown a long time ago, back when Fresh (Cafe) was still … Indigo,” Cabarteja said. “For me, it still feels the same. It’s all been a big blur of fun.”
While fatherhood consumes most of his free time, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Family definitely comes before anything,” he said. “As far as balancing a DJ schedule, a full-time job, and a good night’s rest, well, that’s a whole other thing.
“I am a more focused DJ. I’ve grown to be a lot more patient. Nothing really bothers me anymore. I think I’m learning way more from my daughter (right now), than she is from me.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.