DJ Iceman coming to St George for New Year’s Eve fun
As a teenager, all Dana Rawlins ever wanted was to be a DJ.
At 15, he started sneaking in the back door of the old Disco 40 nightclub on Front Street in Hamilton with another wannabe DJ, Craig “Bubbles” Darrell. More seasoned DJs there, such as DJ Merck, showed them how to do tricks on the turntables.
“My parents never knew,” Mr Rawlins confessed. “I only recently told them. It’s not like I was sneaking out to do something bad. I just wanted to be a DJ.”
Today, Mr Rawlins is DJ Iceman, a seasoned entertainer playing for birthday parties and events such as the recent Santa Parade.
On Saturday, he will DJ for the annual New Year’s Eve Onion Drop in King’s Square, St George, alongside the Wallstreet Band and MC Nadanja Bailey.
Mr Rawlins was thrilled to see the tradition return after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
“I am really looking forward to it and I am ready to go,” Mr Rawlins said.
This will be his first time taking part in the Onion Drop.
“I have done New Year’s Eve parties but not on the square,” he said.
Partygoers can expect “a taste of everything, from old school music to new school and some soca”.
“It will be a mixture of music,” the 59-year-old said.
Mr Rawlins will not have far to go to reach the celebrations. He and his wife, Cornelia, moved to the East End recently after ten years in Warwick.
“My wife is originally from St George,” Mr Rawlins said. “Once people saw we were back they started booking me for parties in St George’s. I have done a couple of parties at the St George’s Cricket Club.”
Some of his earliest gigs were also in the Old Towne, at now long-gone nightclubs such as Chicks, Moonglow and Freddies Pub on the Square.
Over the years he built a following in St George.
“At one point we had people coming from as far away as Somerset,” he said.
But he admitted, his favourite venue was always Disco 40 in Hamilton.
“There were always people there,” he said. “Being central, you had tourists coming in right off the cruise ships.”
He got the moniker “DJ Iceman” years ago when he took part in a DJ competition in New York City.
“It was given to me by one of the DJs I was up against,” Mr Rawlins said. “He said the way I played music was cold and smooth. I was just really focused. We were playing against 35 DJs and I placed fifth. DJ Jazzy Jeff won the competition that year. I can’t remember now what the competition was called.”
DJ Jazzy Jeff, the stage name for Jeffrey Allen Townes, happened to be one of his favourite DJs.
“Growing up, I wanted to be like him,” Mr Rawlins said. “He was on the television show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith.”
Mr Rawlins has seen a lot of changes in the industry over the past four decades. When he started, he was working with vinyl records. Then he transitioned to compact discs. Now he weaves his music magic through a laptop.
“I also have two DJ consoles,” he said. “Normally, I have a mixing board and stuff like that in the middle.”
He said the equipment had evolved. Years ago, he needed huge speakers to make a good sound, plugged into amplifiers. Now, speakers are much more compact and come with amplifiers in the back.
“It takes ten minutes to plug in unless it is a huge event like the one in St George,” he said. “For the Onion Drop we will have someone bring huge speakers for us to plug into.”
The performance landscape has also changed for him. He said many local nightclubs he played at started to shut down in the early 2000s.
“It was very disappointing,” he said. “A lot of DJs had to go solo and put their name out there.”
But the work moved more to private birthday parties and events held in venues such as Warwick Workmen’s Club.
His DJ work is part time. During the day, he runs Decor, a paint contracting business, with his wife.
“The hardest part about being a DJ is pleasing everyone,” Mr Rawlins said. “I try, but there are always songs we just don’t get to play because we run out of time.”
He loves to look out at the crowd and see everyone having a good time.
“I enjoy what I am doing,” he said. “It is amazing to be on stage, watching hundreds of people jump up and down. The crowd does what you tell them to do. If you tell them to wave, they wave.”
He loves it when people come up to him afterwards and tell him they had a great time or say their feet hurt from dancing so much.
“A lot of DJs will say the same thing,” he said.
A mixture of ages often come out to hear him. He is finding that more and more young people love “old school” music and frequently ask for music by artists such as Beres Hammond, a Jamaican reggae singer and frequent visitor to Bermuda, whose career began in the 1970s.
Mr Rawlins said the island was a great place to work as a DJ.
“Bermuda is a party place,” he said. “We love to party Christmas and Boxing Day and May 24.”
Despite years of working with loud music around him, he said his hearing was just fine, thank you.
“People always say when you get older, you will start going deaf,” he said. “But DJs are not facing the speakers; we have headphones and we are behind them.”
He spent this Christmas in Canada with his son Zacchaeus Rawlins’ family. Zacchaeus lives in Canada where he is also a DJ, known as “DJ Hot Topic”.
“When he was younger he used the name, ‘DJ Baby Ice’,” Mr Rawlins said. “But I did not want him to be under my shadow, so we changed his stage name.”
He also has two daughters, Jada and Destiny.
The celebration, organised by the Corporation of St George, will begin at 8.30pm at King’s Square, with the onion drop at midnight.
Parking will be available at the Tiger Bay car park. The festivities are free.