Local Musician and DJ, Isaac Szymanczyk, spoke with CEO/Founder of Pepp Now, Radha Joy and provided background and advice regarding hearing conservation.
Musician, Isaac Szymanczyk, who goes by DJ Orion, is one of my first Musician Heroes! We both went to South Eugene High school in the late 80’s and early 90's and it was there he and a handful of friends created Boogie Patrol Express, a funk band. We recently, reacquainted at a summer concert in the park, and I asked if I could interview him about being a musician and the importance of hearing health.
Radha Joy: How long have you been playing music?
DJ Orion: Playing music since I was 8. Performing with earplugs since about age 16-17.
Radha Joy: Do you mostly play instruments, DJ or both?
DJ Orion: Mostly DJ for the last 2 years during pandemic. Mostly live instruments before that. Now a blend about ⅔ DJ and ⅓ live.
Radha Joy: What bands and venues do you play? All locally or some in other cities/states?
DJ Orion: Currently DJing at mostly hyper-local venues in SE Portland like wine shops, patios and parks where I can play outdoors. I am playing or rehearsing with 4 bands right now: a rock jam-band, an original pop-funk band, a Django-swing band, and a downtempo lo-fi chill duo. Those venues range from outdoor street fairs to indoor pubs and clubs. No large band gigs for the last couple years.
Radha Joy: What do you perceive as the loudest instruments?
DJ Orion: Drums are hard to play softly, and they encourage all other amplified instruments to turn up, especially guitars. Electric guitars have the greatest potential for excessive volume and painful noise. Bass and keyboard are also capable of excessive amplitude and painful frequencies, but they don’t seem to do it as much as electric guitars.
Radha Joy: What do you think the intensity or decibel levels of most venues and bands you play in are?
DJ Orion: No idea — anywhere from 75 db to 120 dB?
Radha Joy: Do other musicians in the industry use hearing protection?
DJ Orion: You bet. The pros do. The semi-pros and amateurs mostly do not. Most of the full-time “pro” musicians I have known or know who tour in big clubs and venues invest in pro plugs and/or use in-ear monitors with sound isolation qualities. I.e, people like Jans Ingber, the Daddies, Asher Fulero, Moorea Masa, Steve Swatkins, etc..
Radha Joy: Have you looked into IEM - In the ear monitors? Do you have one?
DJ Orion: No, I have not because I don’t usually have a loud enough exposure and I don’t usually need precise in-ear monitoring for my performances. But many of the professional electronic musicians and producers I follow do use them, and I would certainly look into it when I get to that level. An example is Rodriguez Jr., and you can see him using in-ear monitors in this live outdoor performance video: https://youtu.be/TNr7OszGnVw?t=204
Radha Joy: What hearing protection or PepPlugs do you use? Do you have custom plugs?
DJ Orion: I carry a set of EarPeace Music plugs with me on my keychain, and always have it heading into a concert. My own shows I don’t usually wear them, but I am careful with my DJ headphones and speaker monitors so I’m not taxing my ears. https://www.earpeace.com
I don’t have custom plugs. I adjust the inserts in the Earpeace monitors. I also use disposable ear protection plugs when necessary, and we keep a handful in our car and in bags at festivals.
Radha Joy: Do you get annual hearing tests?
DJ Orion: No
Radha: Do you use hearing protection or PepPlugs for other noisy activities (boating, industry, loud recreation, landscaping, concerts etc…)
DJ Orion: Yes, as described above. Also wear over-ear hearing protection (air traffic style) when using power tools like saws, lawn mowers, pressure washers, etc.
Orion stated, “I am very into hearing protection. I have always carried and worn earplugs when performing since I was 16, knowing I wanted to save my ears. I still carry and wear them, and I’m a fan of it.” He recalls, “I got my hearing tested at the U of O Linguistics and hearing lab in college. They told me my high frequency acuteness was sharper than most people, and I should protect it, so I have.”
Radha Joy: Do you have any ideas about how to best promote hearing conservation to musicians and artist engage in high decibel leveled music and sounds?
Basic education about hearing shared in infographic ads targeted at local musicians and DJs on Instagram or Facebook
Getting out to shows of all those types with earplugs for sale and signing up people up for tests. Wear a Tshirt or sign that says “Love music? Ask me about hearing protection”
Setting up partnerships with local DJ crews running raves, or local dance clubs and live music that may or may not offer earplugs: 45 East, Revolution Hall, Mississippi Studios, Roseland, etc.
Then show up and have a table in the back or at the door with info, samples, signups.
Thank you DJ Isaac Orion -- For your time, interest and information! Pepp On!