MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Since we're on the subject of changing identities, let's talk music. After all, in the music world from time to time, we see artists who have, you know, like an alter ego. Think Lady Gaga.
MR. ROB SACHS
Or KISS or, like, when David Bowie went all Ziggy Stardust.
Exactly. And as an off-shoot of that, you've got stage names with DJ's.
Yeah, like DJ Spooky, DJ Quik and my favorite, DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Well, in our next story, reporter Lauren Hodges introduces us to a DJ who actually uses his real name when he performs here in D.C. But it's unlikely the folks back home in Mississippi would ever recognize him.
MS. LAUREN HODGES
With every open of the front door to Club Asylum, a burst of rock music spills out onto the city streets, shaking up the typical sidewalk stroll. Inside, among dark crowded booths, sits Denman Anderson, better known as DJ Denman. His punk-like shows are very much like the club itself, providing a break in the typical DJ fare.
MR. "DJ DENMAN" ANDERSON
My DJ-ing, when I'm actually allowed to play what I want to play, matches my personality. It's really rough around the edges, it's really dirty. I'm not ashamed to use a sampler and just drop gunshots.
His play list might not be from a top 40 station, but Denman is the first to tell you that he fought hard for his music niche and doesn't plan to give it up anytime soon.
It's hard because in D.C. the big, I won't even say push, but the big pressure is to play, like, party music. But I'm proud of it and I'm not going to change that.
At first, his music seems intimidating, but once acquainted, has an air of freedom and acceptance. Denman himself has this quality. His slick black hair, leather jacket and upside down crucifixes can't hide his southern charm. He smiles, laughs easily and greets friends with hugs as they pass by his table. Yet you'll need to dig deeper to find those roots because he doesn't have the signature accent to give him away.
I never really did. My mother blames television.
Denman came to D.C. from Clinton, Ms., in 2003, when he was 25 years old. He got a job in a café where they decided to open a music space.
I always decided that I would try my hand at putting on shows. And next thing you know, there I was hosting all the bands I'd always want to see.
Even before leaving Mississippi, Denman had been following the punk scene from afar. Being able to meet the stars face to face only confirmed his love of the genre. Only in D.C., however, did he feel comfortable letting that passion show. In Clinton, Denman says the identity he had to escape was that of an avid church goer. So what was religion like where you grew up?
Stifling. From my experience with many southern Baptists, so there's all -- a lot of caveats and loop holes in that phrasing, hopefully.
Yet he didn't always feel that way. Denman admits there was a part of him that once very badly wanted to fit in. He says that the kids who went to church and followed the rules were popular and well liked in the community.
There was a time when I was kind of trying to be Christian. And I actively chose to go to church because my parents are religious (unintelligible) well, let's go to -- because I was young and the pressure there is, like, go to church, why don't you go church? Why aren't you in church right now? I went for almost two years.
That time in the church allowed him a front seat to what he calls great hierocracy. He says he watched as the most respected kids in the community beat up outsiders, drank and did drugs and teased Denman for not wanting to participate. To this day, Denman will not touch alcohol, despite working within five feet of a bar almost every night.
It would be a cheap out to say that this is all some sort of child like retribution on my part. But it's not. This is genuinely the way I feel. But I will equally say that none of my experiences with the Christian church have ever been positive. And I tried.
He continues to make an effort with his family, however, Denman travels back to Clinton once a year during the holidays. Usually, he says, he waters down his look, but this year he decided not to.
So I'm walking to the Wal-Mart with my father and people just start staring. There's, at one point, a group of kids pointing and making comments to their parents and it continues like that for the rest of my experience in the Wal-Mart.
The discomfort isn't limited to public places. At his parent's house Denman says an air of denial is responsible for keeping the peace.
My parents just sort of pretend that these parts of me don't really exist, with me coming there, that I think we just dealt with it by just, like, this is how I looked every day, but we just didn't talk about it.
Despite the tension, Denman, says his punk identity is permanent. A statement he confirms when he pulls down a jacket sleeve to reveal an upside down crucifix tattoo. He holds his matching necklace up to the ink as a reminder that while some things in life tend to be removable, others simply aren't. I'm Lauren Hodges.
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