Engineer, baseball player and DJ, Kagan Richardson does it all



Mikaela Krim

Originally from Orange County, Kagan Richardson transferred to Villanova from Santa Ana, a junior college in California. He currently studies mechanical engineering, pitches for the Villanova’s baseball team and works as a Transfer Counselor. But on top of all that, Richardson is making waves in another field entirely—as a DJ. He goes by the name DJ Moose Trax, and by choosing the right songs at the right time—almost all of which belong to the pool of music labeled EDM—Richardson has been slowly establishing himself within the Philadelphia area’s nightlife. 

However, song selection barely scratches the surface of his responsibilities as a DJ. “DJ’s get kind of a bad rap sometimes as human iPods,” he says. “That’s not necessarily true. If you just put an iPod up there, you’d have a pause between music. You wouldn’t have control over what’s playing at what time. 

“As a DJ, you try and capture the mood of the crowd and kind of build on that.” It’s an underappreciated art—a fine science. “You don’t want to be playing bangers all night, and you don’t want to be playing just soft music. It’s kind of an ebb and flow. If you have four hours of jumping around, people aren’t going to like that.” 

According to Richardson, learning how to work a crowd is more difficult than many assume. How many times have we mindlessly danced at clubs and bars without realizing that the entire energy of the night is being commandeered by one human being, hidden away behind the cable and chrome of sound equipment in the corner? 

A few years ago, Richardson was but one such member of the uninformed masses. Growing up, he connected with records by groups like Guns & Roses and the Killers. 

“Since I was a kid my dad had always shown me awesome music,” Richardson recalls. “He’s a lawyer so he worked with a bunch of artists when they were putting out their music. He literally has a closet full of CDs from top to bottom. When I was a kid I would go in there and listen to music.” 

He started, as most music junkies do, on Rock & Roll, which evolved into Indie Rock and included Arctic Monkeys, Local Natives and the Black Keys. This hunger for new sounds expanded even further to encompass the electronic genre. 

But for someone who truly loves music, merely listening to tracks in a dorm or a bedroom doesn’t foot the bill. “When I transferred to junior college, my group of friends was all about going to music festivals and raves, [and] they finally persuaded me to go to one with them.” 

Richardson and his friends hit up OMFG in San Diego, where “guys like Hardwell, Nero and Calvin Harris [performed] there. I instantly fell in love with it, and from that day forward I was like OK, I want to do this too.”

 So he bought some equipment, the basic version of which costs “around 200 to 300 dollars.” He was lucky enough to have a good laptop, and “a good job at the time,” enabling him to hit the ground running. 

DJ Moose Trax began making an appearance at area parties, from his friends’ to fraternities. And, to quote Richardson, “it just kinda just grew from there. 

I started a Facebook page and a Soundcloud page and got some club events in CA.” And when he came to Pa., he brought all of that with him. 

Richardson has a weekly gig in the Villanova area, playing Thursday nights at the Grog. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says, “and it’s really how much you want to put into it.” Since a DJ is responsible for the energy on the floor, he has to have a predisposition for musicality and a certain sensitivity to emotional response. “A lot of it is just teaching yourself how to do things, a lot of it is the feel of the DJ.” Yet there are resources for newcomers—Richardson mentions Swedish House Mafia’s famous video on YouTube, in which they detail exactly the method by which their hit track “One (Your Name)” was produced. And, for his part, Richardson followed a different pedagogical path altogether. 

He recounts without a hint of pretention or presumption the mentor to which he owes his track spinning prowess. “The way that I got into it…” Richardson says, “I talked to one of my friends who was already a DJ and he told me this book to read—it’s called ‘How to DJ Right’ [by Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster]. And that book”—he pauses, grinning sheepishly in recollection—“I was a little skeptical of the title because it kinda sounded like ‘The Idiot’s Guide to DJing.’ But I loved the book, it was the best thing that I could’ve ever bought.”

 Before he had even purchased his first piece of equipment, Richardson knew all the tools necessary for his transformation into DJ Moose Trax. “That book taught me how to control a crowd, how to get people out to a venue, how to control music with the equipment that you have,” he imparts passionately. 

Yet a book can only get you so far. As with all pursuits, the best way to learn is to do. And Richardson knows what he’s doing.

In a practice so contingent upon the fluctuating mood of the crowd, having a predetermined and immutable set list would be foolish. Therefore, “whether I’m practicing or DJing in a club, instead of picking songs, I’ll have a pool of songs that I think I might play that night.” 

Richardson lays out his thought process: “When I practice I think, ‘Okay, I want to practice with these songs right now.’ I know that, ‘Oh, I’m going to start with this [one] song’ and everything else…I feel it out from there.”

All of this practice and preparation takes effort. DJ-ing live events is a commitment far greater than attending weekly club meetings or making it to morning practice—both of which renaissance-man Richardson does in addition to his moonlighting gigs. “There’s definitely a lack of sleep,” he concedes. “I mean it’s tough, because engineering is a very heavy course load, and baseball is very demanding.” 

In this case, demanding is an understatement—Villanova’s baseball team practices four to five hours each day, between lifting in the morning and practice in the afternoon. And almost halfway through the regular season, with games every Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the occasional Monday or Tuesday thrown in, Richardson still finds time for music. Like any driven artist, he makes the time. 

“If you see me around campus, you’ll usually see me with a pair of headphones on; I’m almost always listening to music, trying to find new songs. I don’t really know how else to describe it besides that.”

Yet lack of time puts an unfortunate damper on the Californian’s creativity. His real aspirations involve more than manipulating others’ music—they involve making his own. Richardson has a very clear sense of realism. “As a DJ you can only go so far with just DJing; to really make it big like the names everybody knows—Avicii, Calvin Harris, all those guys—you need to produce your own music.” And he’s already started down this path, albeit slowly. 

“Like I said before it takes a lot more time than I have right now to do it at the level that I want to do it but that is [definitely] the next step.” 

Richardson’s dream venue is the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, a veritable cornucopia of EDM movers and shakers. In the short term, DJ Moose Trax is working on expanding his territory on the Main Line and into Philly. His sights are trained onto clubs downtown, which he hopes to be playing by later this year.

Meanwhile, you can catch him on Thursdays at the Grog on Lancaster Avenue. When asked how he garners an audience, Richardson refers to his Facebook. “What I [typically] say is, ‘Come out for a night of funky beats and great drink specials hosted by DJ Moose Trax.’” “Funky beats” can mean a lot of things, but with Richardson you can count on a carefully curated playlist and some great deep house. 

“I’m very much into beats and bass lines,” Richardson says definitively, a declaration which comes as unsurprising from a former cellist who played bass in his high school band. “We were called ‘Other than Amy.’  

“I didn’t come up with the name, I don’t know who Amy is, still, to this day.” But Richardson played bass, “Which is why I’m into deep house so much.”

Four on the floor, up-tempo, anywhere between 120 and 128 BPM; That’s usually where I like to live.” He doesn’t have any one “set song,” since so much relies on the crowd, but after ruminating pensively he admits that “I mean, I love playing Deadmau5.” 

“I’ve had people come behind the DJ booth and dance with me before,” he says, “people dance on the DJ booth, [I’ll] go out on the dance floor; really, [with] DJing you can kinda do anything you want as long as you put on a good time.”

And its clear that a good time is paramount to DJ Moose Trax, whose stage name, if you’ve been wondering, has a backstory only partially explored.

 “When I was at junior college on my baseball team, my nickname was Moose.  All my friends were like, ‘You gotta be DJ Moose!’” 

Like any diligent scholar, Richardson conducted some research and discovered that, like the screen name you wanted so badly in middle school, his alias already existed so he made some alterations and DJ Moose Trax was born. “I get a lot of people [asking] ‘Ooh, is it because of the ice cream?’” he adds, in a playfully cocky addendum. “I’m like no, the ice cream is because of me.” 

And who knows, if Kagan Richardson continues down the road of EDM masters before him, maybe he will one day have his namesake ice cream. He’s got the tools, the knowledge, the drive, and most importantly, the love of the sport. 

It takes confidence to get behind the wheel of the ship, but Richardson boldly grabs hold. “Pretty much every show, I get nervous,” he says. “Then, when I start playing, it goes away.” 

And that’s when the party begins. Wherever DJ Moose Trax is going on that musical journey, let’s hope he’s taking us with him.