Wichita is home to a vibrant and bustling music scene. While outsiders may not recognize our city as a tight-knit, collegial music community full of passion and drive—insiders know a different story. Live music can be heard flowing from the doors of several bars and businesses on most nights, ensuring we always have a considerable range of options on where to go (sometimes too many!). But, Wichita wouldn’t have a blossoming music community without the people dedicated to making their vision of our city into reality. James Bobetsky, or DJ Carbon, as most people know him, is one of those people.
So, who is DJ Carbon? You may have seen him around at Riverfest, Rock Island Live or Industry Old Town; or you may know him as the guy with the mustache—but there’s more behind that mustache than meets the eye. Carbon lives by the 3 D’s: Dad, DJ, Dayjob. A single father of two, he spends most of his waking moments with his children. His mini DJ Carbon, Levi, is twelve years old and has taken an interest in music and wants to try his hand at DJing.
Brooklyn, his daughter, got up on stage at this year’s Riverfest in front of thousands of people alongside Jenny Wood. A smile never left her face. “Some of the opportunities I’ve been able to have make a direct impact on them. Indirectly, I feel like pursuing my passion shows them that there is a way to do what you love with success,” Carbon says. His kids are the inspiration behind his drive.
Carbon, who has always been a music junkie and a Hip-Hop Head, naturally fell into DJing at a young age. “I had a cousin who was a DJ and that was the beginning of it all. I would sit and watch in the DJ booth when I was too young to even be in the club. I took notes and fell in love with the ability to control a crowd through music,” he said. Eventually, he got his own decks, locked himself away in his room with his records and taught himself everything he needed to know about turntablism. He gained inspiration from Pink Floyd, Prince, Marvin Gaye, Run DMC, and his all-time favorite group even to this day, A Tribe Called Quest. Drawn to anything with soul, funk and a less-than-polished sound, those classics are what inevitably shaped his musical tastes.
When Carbon began his DJ career in the early 2000’s, he was always using vinyl. “It cost $12 for each song—$6 per 12” single, and you had to have doubles for proper mixing,” he said. Quickly growing tired of tailoring to Wichita’s cookie-cutter tastes (at the time), and not wanting to invest in “flash in the pan” pop songs, he eventually said, “To hell with it, I’m going to do me.” And today, he does just that.
With his two Technic 1200 turntables, a Rane57MK2 mixer, and Serato DJ software, he creates mixes that will have you groovin’ all night. “98% of my shows are freestyle. I really am not a fan of planned sets. My opinion is that the DJs job is to read and respond. Every audience is different. Every night is different,” he says. His job is to come up with creative mixes and keep the audience engaged and moving, all at the same time. “Mixing in songs is most often done by speeding up or slowing down the song so the BPM (beats per minute) match, and then playing the beats together—fading from one song to the next without the beat stopping or changing. Then you get clever. You scratch and you come up with clever word play between songs.” There’s a technical and creative aspect to DJing, and a vast knowledge of music is a must. This means that pressing play on Spotify or iTunes doesn’t count (sorry, aspiring iTunes DJs).
Carbon also has a full-time day job to provide a sense of stability for his children. Along with DJing four times a week, we aren’t sure how he fits everything into his schedule, but we’d say he’s killing it when it comes to the 3 D’s.
Our community is Carbon’s other driving force. “The talent in this town is insane. It’s amazing how many people just genuinely love to be a part of the scene and continue to build it. There are great venues with great people and promotions,” he says. Whenever he needs support, has a new idea or creative outlet; people in our city have always stepped up to the plate. Musicians in Wichita, and their supporters, have created a community based on a culture of generous cross-promotion and collaboration. They are active supporters of others’ work, whether by attending shows, playing on and producing each others’ records or welcoming new local bands to share stages.
The music community is a top priority in our city, and it shows. “I really think that the Wichita market may be a bit spoiled with how often great nights are available to them as far as music and entertainment goes. I think everyone is doing all of the right things,” he says. Speaking of great nights in music and entertainment in Wichita, Carbon has shared the stage with some incredible hip-hop artists over the last few years, including Grandmaster Flash, Naughty By Nature, Slum Village, and Mobb Deep, to name a few. Shout out to Naymlis and Wichita Riverfest for working tirelessly to bring these phenomenal acts to Wichita.
When Carbon isn’t opening for well known hip-hop artists, he is collaborating with local artists and gaining motivation and encouragement from them. “There are so many supremely talented folks in Wichita that I have been lucky enough to share a stage with. I still don’t really believe it,” Carbon says. “I’ve been getting down with Rudy Love Jr. a lot lately, as he has joined me on Wednesday nights to add some live keys to the mix at Industry Old Town. Just an impromptu jam of DJ vs. live keys. It’s been a blast.” He hasn’t been able to put down Rudy Love Jr.’s new album, The Framework, since he copped it; picking up inspiration to do a remix of the entire record in the future.
The endless opportunities in our community are what inspire Carbon to keep hustling. “I think the next step would be to get into some original production, but I really don’t have time for that at the moment. My original output has taken a back seat as of late with the day job, but I’m working on getting that balance back.”
DJ Carbon and his mustache have been an active part in Wichita’s music community for a long time. While he is only one piece to the puzzle, Wichita’s music scene has made great strides thanks to those that have sacrificed their time, sleep and perhaps even sanity at certain points. Our city’s music and arts community will only continue to grow with your support. You can check out DJ Carbon every Wednesday night at Industry Old Town. For other live music, check our event page on 360wichita.com or our weekly live music calendar.