'Let's Talk' with DJ Soul Sister: crate-digging, not taking requests, why vinyl rules – NOLA.com

DJ Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber, performs during the 15th edition of her annual birthday jam at Tipitina’s on Nov. 5, 2021.
DJ Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber, performs during the 15th edition of her annual birthday jam at Tipitina’s on Nov. 5, 2021.
DJ Soul Sister behind the turntables circa 2017.
At the 2023 WWOZ Groove Gala, Bob “Rare on the Air” Murret, left, and Melissa “DJ Soul Sister” Weber. 
DJ Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber, performs during the 15th edition of her annual birthday jam at Tipitina’s on Nov. 5, 2021.
For more than 25 years, DJ Soul Sister has hosted the Saturday night “Soul Power” show on community radio station WWOZ 90.7 FM, spinning rare groove funk, R&B, soul and disco culled from her vast collection of vinyl records.
As a performing deejay, she has shared stages with many of her musical heroes and presided over countless late-night dance parties at venues around town. Her 17th annual birthday jam at Tipitina’s on Sept. 16 includes a performance by Washington, D.C., go-go music legends E.U. featuring Sugar Bear.
The following interview, edited for clarity and length, is excerpted from this week’s episode of “Let’s Talk with Keith Spera” on WLAE-TV.

You only play vinyl records on the air and at your gigs. Why are you such a vinyl snob?
You know what? I am not a vinyl snob. I love vinyl, I collect it. It’s almost like a sickness. I can’t stop buying it. Where will it go? Do I have more room in my house for it? I don’t know — I’ll figure it out once it gets there.
I have over 10,000 pieces. LPs and 12-inch singles — those are my favorites. I do have 45s as well. I love collecting records. But I’m not a vinyl snob. I’m a music snob. I love music.
I tell other deejays who utilize the technology of deejaying with laptops and other electronic devices that it’s more about loving music and knowing music than it is about how you share it.
But for me, it’s about the wax. That’s what I love.
DJ Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber, performs during the 15th edition of her annual birthday jam at Tipitina’s on Nov. 5, 2021.
What is it about vinyl?
There are a few ways I can answer that. I have been collecting records since I was very little, about 6 years old. By the time I started deejaying in college, I had amassed a few hundred. I just kept going, because I love the hunt. I love the thrill of what we call “crate-digging.”
That’s a different type of record shopping. With record shopping, you go to the record store, you thumb through the bins, you take the records you like to the counter, and that’s a positive experience.
Crate-digging is a whole ‘nother thing. You might wind up in someone’s garage, you might have to climb in someone’s strange attic and things might crawl on you, weird garage sales that are hot and questionable — you name it, I have done it for the thrill of finding rare records that you can’t get anywhere else.
As far as playing them … yeah, I love the sound. I love liner notes. And for me, mixing — blending and beat-matching two records together so that you can’t tell where one song ends and the other begins — is a skill. I love doing that live. I describe it like riding a roller coaster. It’s so much fun for me.
Blending songs digitally is not the same as dropping the needle. You prefer the old-school method, from when hip-hop originated, using turntables and vinyl.
To do it that way, you have to do it by ear. There’s no trick, there’s no app, there’s nothing syncing it for you automatically. You either know how to do it or you don’t, and you train-wreck and you sound horrible.
You’ve got to focus, which is one of the reasons you don’t like when people come up and make requests.
I don’t take requests for two reasons. One, I am focused. I cannot stop what I’m doing to have a conversation. That’s like going to see your favorite band, the lead guitarist is in the middle of a solo and you tap them on the shoulder: “Hey, can you …. ”
The other part of why I don’t take requests is, I call myself a deejay artist. I share the music that I love and want to share. Growing up in New Orleans in the late ‘70s and ’80s, what my father exposed me to was live music culture. When you go to see a band, you go to see them share their art, their music.
DJ Soul Sister behind the turntables circa 2017.
When I started deejaying, that was in my mind: “Of course I’m going to only play what I want to play. That’s how bands do it, so why not?”
I never had someone say, “You have to play requests.” When I started doing more, other deejays would say, “Oh, you don’t take requests?” I’d go, “Why would I do a thing like that?”
I started out only being hyper-focused on the music I wanted to share. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Do you allow anyone else to carry your vinyl?
When I’m loading in and loading out (at gigs), I have very heavy components — my records, my mixer and the two turntables in very heavy cases. So I do allow the staff of the venue to help with the records.
Now my turntables? Those are my babies. So only I am allowed to carry those. Because if something happens, they’re very expensive, they’re very fragile, and it’s not like I can go to Target and replace them.
What turntables do you use?
They’re Technics 1200s. To deejays or old-school vinyl heads or turntable aficionados, Technics 1200s are the gold standard. They’ve been around for a long time and they last forever.
That’s the magic — if you have a pair of Technics, they’re so durable. I do have a backup pair, but the ones that I use, I’ve literally been using for 20 years.
At the 2023 WWOZ Groove Gala, Bob “Rare on the Air” Murret, left, and Melissa “DJ Soul Sister” Weber. 
Being a crate-digger is like being a musical archaeologist. Do you look for specific things or do you just hope something catches your eye?
Anybody who is into this crate-digging hunt mentality, we never have a list per se of what we’re looking for. You go and you look and if something looks interesting, or you look on the liner notes and there are musicians or producers who you know about … you’ve just got to feel it.
For example, I love to collect soulful gospel music of the ‘70s and ‘80s. There’s all kinds of gospel music. I always look at the band. If there’s electric bass, timbales, conga drums, a horn section, then this is probably rockin’. I’m going to buy it sight unseen and see what it’s like.
Usually it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s the game. You don’t always get what you expect.
What’s the record that’s the Holy Grail for you?
Oh my gosh. I come across a lot of cool things. Not everything is necessarily high-priced in dollar value — it might be something that’s really cool to me. Here’s an example of both: a record that sounded amazing but also was worth a lot of money.
Many years ago at the Symphony Book Fair at the UNO Lakefront Arena, I was making my rounds through all the boxes. There was nothing there — just records that you see over and over again in the dollar bin or the thrift store.
Then, I think it was in the middle of some Neil Diamond records, there’s this record with a Black man with an Afro (on the cover), smiling. It was mint condition, $1.
It was “Introducing Roger” on Troutman Bros. Records. It was from 1976, four years before Roger Troutman started a group called Zapp.  I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is teenage Roger Troutman, for a dollar! I’m buying this!”
I put it on my record player at home, and it was an amazing record. And then I did some research and people were selling the record online for like $10,000.
Do you still have it?
I sold it. I feel guilty, because I wish I still had it. One day I’m going to have to get that record back. But I’m not paying $10,000 for it (laughs).
“Let’s Talk with Keith Spera” is a partnership between WLAE and The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com. It airs Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., with repeats on Sundays at 9:30 p.m., on WLAE-TV in New Orleans (Channel 32, COX Ch. 14 and 1014, Spectrum Ch. 11 and 711 and AT&T and DISH Ch. 32). It is also available on the WLAE YouTube channel.
Email Keith Spera at kspera@theadvocate.com.
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