DJ Ned Roy

Ned Roy is an accomplished professional DJ (disc jockey), residing in Vancouver only as of mid-Covid 2020, but originally from the Pacific nation of New Zealand. Ned’s mother is Indigenous Samoan and his father is from Timmins, Ontario.

Ned is a passionate DJ, both in his own work and in encouraging other aspiring DJs. He has been spinning vinyl records for over 20 years, since he was a teen in school. Before discovering DJing, Ned was already an avid music collector. The only good-quality medium that was really available to him at the time was vinyl record albums. “This was before MP3s, before anything digital; there was no phones, no laptops, no CD players, no USBs, no format.” But many music aficionados, including Ned, believe there is no substitute for the rich, warm sound of music played from vinyl: “records, vinyl disc, wax, we call it.”

He discovered the art of DJing at a school dance, where he and his friends first saw DJ Captain Starlight. “He had a jacket full of stars on it, and he had a hat like Merlin [the magician] ….This DJ was terrible! I mean he would play 10 crappy type of songs, songs that you don’t like; he’ll play one song that you liked, so we’re down on the dance floor doing our thing, and then 10 [more terrible] songs.”

Ned’s school friend said to him, “If he’s getting paid to be a terrible DJ, imagine if you were good how much you’d get paid if you were actually good!” And so began his lifelong career as a DJ.

Prior to that, Ned had brought his records to parties here and there, and already had a reputation for playing interesting new music. “My dad at the time was working for the airlines, so we used to get 90% off our airfare. I’d fly to America and Hawaii, which was the closest [place] where all the new music was, and I’d go and grab all the new music and come back before the latest music [made it to New Zealand]. Way before. Sometimes it never even came out. So, I had a massive collection before I was even a DJ.”

Because New Zealand is such a remote island (Ned calls it “Almost at the bottom of Earth”), music — as well as fashions, technologies, and other trends — took longer to make its way there in the pre-internet age. Ned’s ability to procure cutting-edge music made him a popular 2DJ.

This experience living in an isolated community provides Ned with insights for others who live in remote places, such as reservations in Northern Canada. “Talking to people way out…. I mean far away from bigger and busier cities, it might be freezing and cold, and you don’t have the wifi connection….or you’re disconnected to the world where you need to be connected to.”

To these people who have an interest, an art, or a passion they want to share, Ned advises: “All you’ve got to remember is just don’t quit. Just wait until you can get connected or you can get access to people and schools and where you need to go. Just wait until you can, and away you go!… You have to be patient. Don’t listen to everyone else. Lock in what you want to do and when the green light is on, you’ll be so pumped up, ready to roll!”

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Illustration by Shaikara David

Ned also advises young people not to take negative criticism too much to heart. When he would place poorly at a DJ competition, Ned refused to let it discourage him. “It gave me more fuel and gave me more energy to get better and better and better.”

Today, DJ Ned Roy is ready and willing to support and advise any young Indigenous people interested in DJing, if they reach out to him. He sees it as a way to explore the world: “All the DJ tools, all the things that have been invented to be a DJ that can go all around the planet, all around your country, wherever you want to go, all the inventions are made possible for someone to be able to do that. So you don’t have to just DJ in your little neighbourhood or on the roof on the Reserve or in your little community. You can take it anywhere you want to go. You can travel to different countries. I mean, this situation [COVID-19] is going to pass. It’ll go. We just have to be patient.”

Special thanks to Jessica Dee Humphreys for authoring this blog post.

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