DJ has vinyl grooves for all your moves


By Natalie Merrill

Sometimes a simple “yes” can change the course of a person’s life in unexpected ways. Though music had always played a significant role in Dallas resident Mark Ridlen’s life, there was an evening in 1984 that created a new path for him when he was asked to DJ at the Starck Club when it opened that year. It was his first professional opportunity to DJ anywhere, and after that initial gig, he continued for five years in that role until the club closed its doors in 1989.

Ridlen is helping produce the Starck Club 40th Anniversary Pre-Party and Reunion, which takes place on May 11 and 12 at the Kessler Theater.
Photos courtesy of Mark Ridlen

“I had always been a music guy and, technically, I was a musician before I was a DJ,” he said. “But this was an exciting opportunity because the club was really big and glitzy, and it was very high-tech for its time. It was modern European and sort of like an ’80s Dallas version of [New York City’s former] Studio 54.”

Fast forward to the late 1990s, and Ridlen began taking on more DJ opportunities as a side business, providing music at friends’ weddings and at other clubs in the area. Before long, he realized that what he had been doing in a part-time capacity could be his primary career.

“I began thinking about how I get along with all demographics, and I love all types of music,” he said. “I love being eclectic, so I thought maybe I could throw it all together and be a DJ full-time.”

He knew that making such a drastic change wasn’t within his comfort zone, but he believed that he could get past that concern and pursue his passion. 

Thus began DJ Deluxe Productions, Ridlen’s DJ business that serves weddings, kids’ parties, corporate events, fashion shows and much more. He’s also seen his fair share of gatherings to which he’s not quite accustomed, including a nudist party (though he was fully clothed) that he did not know was a nudist event until right before it began.

Ridlen was a DJ at the Starck Club when it opened. It was his first professional opportunity to DJ anywhere.

Regardless of the type of party or music requested, though, Ridlen is happy to provide the entertainment.

“I’ve been doing what I can to get out of my comfort zones,” he said. “My own tastes are pretty out there, so nothing is too far out there for me. I think that’s what makes a successful all-around DJ is not being pigeonholed and only playing what you like. Nothing phases me now.”

Ridlen, whose DJ name is DJ Mr. Rid, said one unique aspect of his style is that he has been DJing with vinyl for the past 20 years because, even though technology has created advantages and the ability to be fully digital, he appreciates the idea of being more of a purist and what he refers to as a “real deal” DJ. He also makes sure that he’s able to read the room at each event to ensure that he’s providing the best entertainment possible.

“I pay attention to details and play appropriate music for each crowd,” he said. “I love themes, and I always like to be creative when I’m spinning music.”

And he’s able to use that creativity for a variety of celebrations and gatherings. Ridlen lives in East Dallas and has become involved in local organizations and networking entities. He said he enjoys being able to DJ at various events as a way of giving back to the community he loves so dearly. For a next pursuit in his career, in addition to his current role, he said he hopes to provide music at assisted living homes and as forms of therapy, such as for autistic children and as means to use music to help heal individuals with certain conditions.

One opportunity that is right around the corner and brings Ridlen back to his DJ roots, though, is the Starck Club 40th Anniversary Pre-Party and Reunion. He is helping produce the entire event, which takes place on May 11 and 12 at the Kessler. Ridlen said he hopes the event will help raise awareness of the live music element the club offered back in the ‘80s. The weekend will include a screening of the documentary film of the Starck Club; original art from the club’s main artist, David Hynds; DJs (including Ridlen) from the club’s era playing dance music; and live music from Ridlen’s band, Lithium X-Mas.

“By having my band play there, it ties the anniversary celebration in with past music,” he said. “Both live music as well as DJs playing dance music coincided with each other at the space, and that’s what I feel really strongly about representing as we remember the Starck Club as it was 40 years ago.”