Spinning music keeping clothes on DJ's back

A latecomer to DJing, Mark Ulep, aka DJ Kram, didn't start until he had graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering.

"I didn't want to take on the challenge of DJing while going to school. Once I graduated, I figured I needed a hobby to keep me going," Ulep says. "After work, after dinner, after house chores were done, I'd practice a little bit."

He learned how to scratch from watching a tutorial DVD. A DJ moniker came next: Kram, his first name spelled backward. Then his DJ friends started inviting him to house parties. Sometimes he filled in for them during their bathroom breaks.

After getting laid off twice from home builders, he landed his own client, the Puma store in Fashion Show mall. After a four-hour set, he received a pair of shoes, a shirt and a jacket. Pretty soon, he had a solid wardrobe of shirts, jackets and sneakers, so he took a DJing gig at another clothing store, Metro Park. He rounded out his wardrobe while honing his skills.

DJing was a natural extension of his personality, Ulep says. He's a Green Valley High School graduate who lettered in choir, and he used to spend hours listening to CDs in music stores. His first CD was by Boyz II Men.

Over the past 12 years, he's worked the occasional gig, but Ulep recently began treating DJing as a part-time career. Even though he's working full time now for a medical records company, Ulep wants a backup plan, just in case.

A few weeks ago, Ulep landed a recurring gig at the 4949 Lounge in Santa Fe Station. From 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays he spins "the classics" from the '80s and '90s.

"I'm pretty much a product of the 1990s," Ulep says.