By Christina Cavazos
Karson Gonzales, better known as “Karson with a K,” remembers the day he passed by a skating rink on his way to junior high school and decided to ask if they needed a DJ.
“I knew nothing about ‘DJing,’ except for the messing around I had done with my dad’s stereo while he was at work,” Gonzales said.
The owner of the rink told him to talk to the head DJ, who took Gonzales under his wing and taught him how to run skating sessions. Shortly thereafter, Gonzales had his first trial run as a DJ.
“I remember coming in for my shift and Tyler [the head DJ] handed me a full handwritten script on everything I needed to say and a list of games I needed to host. I immediately felt relieved. Tyler gave me my first real opportunity. He truly wanted to see me succeed, and I will forever be thankful to him for this,” Gonzales said. “Needless to say, I smashed it on my first try and I knew I had found my lifelong calling.”
Gonzales, 40, has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and is now one of the leading entertainers in Colorado Springs.
He grew from working at DJ companies to broadcasting on the radio. He got his on-air start on 98.9 Magic FM and landed his first “dream job as a full-time DJ” on air at 96.1 The Beat. He’s even won Colorado Broadcaster’s Association awards for Best Feature, Best Afternoon Show and Entertainer of the Year over the years.
“I have so many great memories. These were one of the best times in my life,” Gonzales said.
His radio career ended in 2011 as another opportunity skyrocketed. Today, Gonzales owns All-Star DJs, a full-service entertainment and audio-visual company that specializes in weddings, corporate events and virtual entertainment.
Gonzales spoke with the Business Journal about his career, entertaining during the COVID-19 pandemic and what the future holds.
What do you most enjoy about being a DJ?
I think I have the best job in the world. I get paid to party! At least that’s what it looks like on the outside. I love music and I don’t dance, or at least I feel embarrassed when I do dance. I respect those who get on my dance floors and dance all night long. I get these goosebumps when I hear [crowds] sing to the song or scream to certain things when I DJ. The joy I get knowing I put on a great show is why I do this for a living. It doesn’t matter if there are five people at the party or 5,000. I’m going to put 100 percent into the show and act like it was my last time DJing.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
To make everyone happy. It’s hard to do but I try and find ways to be the one person they can rely on and trust to handle their stress on top of mine at their event to ensure it’s a success. We all wish we had a friend who told us everything was going to be OK, and not to worry because they’ve got it. They think to themselves ‘I hope he’s got it.’ When the event is over, it was more than what they expected and they understood the importance of having a good DJ with experience and knowledge.
Over the years, how many events would you say you have DJ’d?
I always like to make a joke to people who hire me that this is my first gig or wedding. Sometimes that gets a good chuckle and I get a crazy look from them like, “Oh no, our DJ may suck.” I assure them it’s a joke and they feel relieved right away, but I clearly have been there once and know that feeling of pressure when you’re the guy that makes or breaks an event. So far, I have done over 1,700 weddings and well over 5,000 events in my career.
Tell us a little about All-Star DJs.
All-Star DJs is a full-service entertainment/audio visual company specializing in wedding DJs, corporate events, and we’re leaders in virtual entertainment. DJs are not distinguished by the type of equipment they use or the number of songs in their libraries. Generally speaking, all professional DJs will have similar sound systems, lighting packages and wireless mics. What sets us apart and far above the other DJ services is our entertainment abilities, our polished performances, organization and our music programming.
Programming the music for events is not just playing songs from an iPod. It’s reacting to guests and reading the dance floor, which drives the songs we play to keep guests having fun and dancing. Our DJs have spent thousands of hours practicing and performing so everyone will have an amazing, memorable event. We have perfected our craft over the last 25 years. We have eliminated the guesswork, which ultimately results with our clients relaxing and enjoying their event.
Our customers are the most important part of our business and your special event is our priority. Everyone on our team is great at what they do and goes through a two-year training process to become an official All-Star DJ. We all put 100 percent into every gig. We rely more on the quality of our work instead of quantity.
What is your favorite music to play when you DJ?
I remember my dad telling me about his music days. You know, the ‘good ol’ days’ when music was the best, us kids don’t know what good music is. I’m like, yeah old people music! People always ask me what my favorite genre of music is. I love to play an open format and find songs you’ve never heard before that get you grooving, or a hit song before it became a hit on the radio, or just maybe a song you already know. If I have to show my age and pick what I like the best, I would tell you the best decade of music was the ’90s and early 2000s.
During the COVID pandemic, you offered a virtual game night with song clips to provide people with entertainment. Tell us more about that idea.
Yes, DJ Bingo! I had this idea for a long time and when I saw it at a DJ conference, I had to try it out. What started with a few friends became a thing to get us through the stay-at-home phase, ended being very popular. We normally play Sundays at 6 p.m. for our Virtual Game Night.
You log into Zoom and you use a second device to get a digital bingo card from me. I play random songs and you match them up on your bingo card. Don’t worry if you don’t know many songs. It will flash the song, title and artist. I started giving away Starbucks gift cards to each round’s winner on the first few games. Then my friends started sending me money to help with the cost of those gifts, and as much as I appreciated that, we ended up giving away more cash and prizes.
However, I had to put it this game on hold due to the pandemic. … I do plan to launch a newer version of this game plus some other virtual games I will play online. Be on the lookout for details by going to my personal website, karsonwithak.com.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to continue my journey as a DJ and share my expertise with new and upcoming DJs who may need that same chance that I got, but don’t know where to start.
I love what I do. Since COVID-19, anything can happen, right? I have lost a lot of events this year due to the pandemic that has hit the entertainment industry pretty hard, and currently we are in survival mode. On the same level, I have embraced the change and found out I’m really good at virtual events. I invested my time to try something new and so many other opportunities continue to open up for me on the virtual world. So much as happened in these past couple of years, some good, some bad. I can’t imagine how much more I can grow the next 20-plus years, and I’m excited for the future.