Grizzlies fans do not have long to wait to experience NBA basketball once again!
As Memphians gear up for another exciting season, I wanted to take a deeper dive into what creates the awesome fan experience at FedExForum. Have you ever recognized the beat of a song as the play action is unfolding? Have you ever laughed at the sound effects? Whether you have taken notice or not, part of what makes the experience of watching a Grizz game at FedEx Forum unique is the vibe. One person responsible for creating that vibe is Justin Baker (@DefectiveAgentC). Justin was kind enough to answer a few questions about the method to his madness.
How did you get the gig going the music for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Once upon a time, I was a rave DJ, spinning drum & bass records around Memphis. From there, I grew up and wound up taking freelance DJ gigs here and there whenever I could. That led to my doing some gigs for the Grizzlies at their block parties and events. When the position for “Click Effects” (the name for what I do – based on the name of the program we use) became available the summer of the NBA lockout, I was on their radar for possible candidates.
So, had you done any work like this before?
I didn’t have any experience with this type of production or professional music work, but I feel like the concept of DJ’ing a party, where you are watching the crowd every moment, trying to keep up with what’s going on but also lead the momentum, definitely carries over into this job.
How do you choose which music to use?
I am always on the lookout for new music. It can be old, new, obscure, local, loud, soft, anything. If it has a unique sound and it could fit a certain scenario, I’ll grab it and stash it for later. Some tunes never make it to the playlist, some cues play once and just don’t make the cut, some only fit a certain scenario that only happens once a season. However, the longer I do this the more in tune I think I am with what makes “The Grizzlies Sound.”
How do you view music as adding to the fan experience?
My view for a Grizz game is that it is like a big action movie. It’s in four acts. The first act introduces the story and the players. The second puts everything into motion. The third starts to shape the game. The fourth is the finale. Throughout the game, you have tense moments, ups -and-downs, moments to breathe, moments to rally, etc. It’s my job to supply the score to that movie.
Have you been able to experience the entertaining during games in other arenas?
I watch more away games than ever, usually just to take mental notes about what other teams do that I like or don’t like.
How does the Memphis Grizzlies game experience differ?
Other teams tend to go by the formula. Everybody plays similar music that people are familiar with, that gets the fans to clap or dance to the song. I like the Grizzlies to be a little grittier and off the beaten path. A friend called us the most “punk rock” team in the league and I take that as a great compliment! We use a lot of local talent that nobody else would or could use. We use a lot of “metal” late in the game when it gets intense, and we use a lot of odd, obscure tracks and songs that nobody would think to use, such as old movie scores, remixes, video game music, etc.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Now that we have the Hustle in town, the Grizzlies’ NBA G League affiliate, it has become a challenge to give both teams a unique sound & sensibility. The first season, I think the Hustle games just sounded like a lesser version of the Grizz, but as time has gone on, I have gotten a finer sense of what the two teams sound like in my head. Grizz is a hip Kung Fu movie, we fight with an angry bear style in our Grindhouse Dojo on Memphis Island, so it’s lots of fight music and intimidation! The Hustle, meanwhile, is more of a funky 70s Blaxploitation movie, very groovy and fun. But knowing where to draw the line between them keeps me on my toes.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I get to hunt and collect odd music, organize it and re-organize it, share it with my Memphis folks, all while watching as much Memphis basketball as possible. It ain’t bad.