On the ice, 22-year-old right wing Guillaume Desbiens
is depended on for his scoring touch and physical play thanks to a 6-foot-2, 210 pound frame.
Off the ice, Desbiens also is developing an intimidating presence behind the turntable as a budding DJ.
Desbiens, the Atlanta Thrashers’ fourth-round selection in the 2003 Entry Draft, already has played for the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL and Chicago Wolves of the AHL as pursues his dreams of an NHL career. Last season, he scored three goals and six assists while picking up 118 penalty minutes in 54 games as an AHL rookie. He enjoyed a 33-goal season with Gwinnett in 2005-06. He’s back for a second season with the Wolves, seeking to earn more playing time by being a physical presence on the ice.
“I'm looking forward to winning a championship with the Wolves,” Desbiens said. “(Chicago coach) Kevin Cheveldayoff always makes it very clear at the beginning of the season that that’s the main objective, and I know this year won't be any different.”
It sure sounds like Desbiens is all business, all the time. But the resident of Alma, Quebec, south of Quebec City, has a whole other side that is separate from his intense on-ice demeanor.
Desbiens, you see, not only mixes it up on the ice, he also mixes it up on the turntables, too.
Desbiens accidentally got into “spinning” 18 months ago, when he purchased his first home in Quebec. At the time, he was in need of a roommate, someone trustworthy who could hold down the fort in the winter months while Desbiens spent his time in Chicago.
Desbiens’ best friend knew the perfect person, and soon Vincent Drouin – aka “DJ D-Vice” – moved in, with a mixer and two turntables that fit nicely in the basement of Desbiens’ home. Soon, Desbiens was taking spinning lessons from Drouin, who is a regular spinner at after-hours clubs in Quebec City like the Palladium and the Systeme Aferhour.
These days, Desbiens loves to spin for friends.
“It’s really harder than it actually looks,” Desbiens said. “Every time we had spare time, he would teach me how to spin. From there I started liking it, and now I love it – and always practice in my basement when I have nothing to do.”
As simple as it seems, spinning, or mixing, is a talent that requires a lot of patience and skill – sort of like a good one-timer in hockey.
“Being a DJ is picking the right song at the right moment,” Desbiens says. “After that, you have to mix it with the song that is actually playing before without anybody noticing. The bass on both songs has to be synchronized together, and some songs are faster and some are slower, so you have to mix them together, slowing one down, and speeding up the other one in one fluid motion. You can also add some effects, loop or scratching, depending on what kind of music you are spinning or mixing.”
Desbiens, who sticks with CCM and Easton for hockey equipment, prefers turntables that meet his spinning needs, too. His turntables are made by Technics and his mixer is a Behringer DJX700. Most important, Desbiens makes certain he has the right music.
“I'm not a fan of dance music, which is very different from house music,” he says. “Dance is more like pop music and very repetitive. I like house and electronic music a lot because there is a progression in the song, and you don’t hear the same thing over and over again. As for rap music, I enjoy listening to it in my car and in the bars sometimes, but it stops there.”
Desbiens is a fan of house music spinners like DJ Champion, from Montreal; Tiesto; Paul Oakenfold, Trentemoller; Axwell; James Talk; Laidback Luke, and, the most mainstream of the bunch, France’s Daft Punk.
But Desbiens has a wide variety of favorites. He also likes bands like U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the now-disbanded Audioslave, Pearl Jam, and the Sam Roberts Band, a Montreal staple.
“I really like rock bands such as Sam Roberts
Band,” Desbiens said. “I like how personal they are in their lyrics and how they can reach you through their music without even knowing who you are. But my passion – though, I really enjoy rock music and everything from rap to country – since mixing, I really love house, electronic, and techno music.”
|"Being a DJ is picking the right song at the right moment,” Desbiens says. “After that, you have to mix it with the song that is actually playing before without anybody noticing." -- Guillaume Desbiens
Despite Desbiens’ hectic off-season workout schedule back home in Quebec, he admits he enjoys the club scene. His favorite haunt is Le Maurice Night Club in Québec City.
“It’s a big complex in Old Quebec, a really nice part of the town, and there are two restaurants, a cigar lounge, and two clubs; so there is everything for everyone there,” he said.
But Desbiens limits his clubbing to just once a week, usually a Saturday night when he knows he has the day off from working out Sunday. Though he’d like nothing more than to spin in front of a large crowd, his strict workout routine every morning prohibits any opportunity to mix at clubs, because clubs in Quebec City close at 3 a.m.
Still, Desbiens can be found at the turntables at a friend’s party. He also says if not for being a guest at a friend’s wedding during the summer – for a buddy who plays for the AHL’s Lowell Devils – he would have jumped over the turntables and taken over the entertainment because the DJ was “terrible,” he insists.
“Though I’ve never mixed in front of thousands of people, when I mix at home in front of my friends during parties, it’s always fun to see their reaction – good or bad,” he said. “But my roommate always tells me that it’s such an adrenaline rush to mix in front of thousands of people – kind of like when you step on the ice for a hockey game.”
Desbiens has gotten a chance to sneak in behind the turntables before – a few years ago when his brother was the bartender at a pub called LaBaraka in Levis, Quebec. It’s a memory he laughs about today.
“Some nights there wouldn’t be too many people and he would call me to go and put some music on because the real DJ left earlier, so that was my first experience,” he said. “But my knowledge of the job was really poor back then. With my roommate being a really good DJ, I’ve learned a lot and I’m a lot better than I was a few years ago.
“You always screw up once or twice in front of people, but you hope that the people in the place didn't notice or didn't care too much.”
Since being reassigned to Chicago by the Thrashers, Desbiens is back to business, hoping his grueling workouts and training this summer will be put to good use with the Wolves. During the summer, Desbiens worked out six days a week, doing weightlifting, cardio, and sprints. He also did bike-spinning exercises, which helped him gain speed and quickness.
For now, he will have to put his spinning on hold – except when he takes on DJ duties in the Wolves’ locker room.
“The hardest thing about putting the music in the locker room is that you have to satisfy everybody,” he says. “Some guys are older and like softer music, while the younger guys like hard rock or techno music, and some other guys like country music. You have to mix it up to make everybody happy.”
Though hockey comes first for Desbiens, you can occasionally catch him at Chicago’s finest Irish pubs or dance clubs. Just don’t expect to see him on the dance floor.
“I’m terrible, and I’m not shy to say that I hate it,” he says of dancing. “The best dancer has to be (teammate) Jimmy Sharrow. Plus, he has that look in his eyes when he dances; he knows what I’m talking about. And honorable mention to (teammate) Joey Crabb, (who) isn’t very good, but isn’t scared to rock the dance floor busting old-school moves, either.”