Go ahead, ask DJ Wanz Dover to play your request.
There is a chance he will blow you off. It is quite presumptuous to ask a professional musician and DJ to play your song, after all.
But more likely, he will surprise you with a deep cut from the artist you want to hear, or he might play a far-out cover of the song you requested. For example, Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra’s cover of Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film.”
“I don’t want to say I’m a jerk about it, but if someone says, ‘Hey, play Michael Jackson,’ then I find a deep cut from a Jackson 5 album from the 1970s that everyone forgot about,” he says. “Someone says, ‘Play Funkadelic,’ because they want to hear one of three Funkadelic songs that are played on the radio, and those are the three that I don’t play.”
Dover, a 25-year veteran of the Dallas music scene, fronts the rock band The Black Dotz. He put out a successful ambient record. And he makes dance music that people enjoy all over the world.
But in our neighborhood, he is the guy sitting at the bar with his laptop on Friday nights at Nova. He recently celebrated nine years as the resident DJ there.
He also holds a residency at the Midnight Rambler Downtown, and he gets DJ gigs all over. But the one at Nova is different. There’s no DJ booth, nothing to separate him from the people he’s playing for.
“It’s more like I’m Norm at Cheers than a DJ at a club,” he says.
He plays whatever he wants, except for dance music.
“My programming is how I feel and who I meet at the bar that night,” he says. “It’s always rooted in funk and soul as a the base. Afropunk, ’60s garage rock, ’60s French yé-yé. When Bowie died, I came in and played Bowie for nine hours.”
He says he feels a duty as a DJ to offer “edutainment,” to give our ears music that is familiar but unknown.
There is a balance of introducing new music and attempting to expand perspectives without speaking down to the audience.
Sometimes he plays four hours of funk songs that are sampled in well-known hip-hop tracks.
“That’s a neat trick,” he says.
One of Dover’s most successful projects as a solo artist was “Music for Hospitals,” an ambient album he composed after he injured himself falling off the stage at a Black Dotz show and had to have emergency surgery. He was in the hospital for 15 days and almost died. When he was released, he composed one track every day for seven days and named the album in tribute to Brian Eno’s 1978 album, “Ambient 1: Music for Airports.”
He put it up online and asked people to pay what they wanted.
“It really connected with people because it came out of a very sincere place,” he says.
Fans often send it to friends who are in the hospital, he says. And he loves that people find it useful and touching. It’s calming, all in major keys, beautiful and understated, but a step back from cheerful.
Even though it turned out to be a surprise hit for him, he made the record for himself.
Dover’s health is fine now, but he still listens to “Music for Hospitals” every night when he goes to sleep.
That’s also turned out to be Dover’s prevailing attitude about music. He doesn’t compose because he thinks he’s going to become an international rock star in his 40s.
“I have the ambition, creatively, but I don’t have the ambition for success. Now I make music for much more selfish reasons,” he says. “It’s really all about expression. I make art because I have to, and I don’t know what else to do because that’s all I’ve ever done.”
If you like Wanz Dover’s music, you are in for a treat this year. He has so much unreleased music that he plans to put out a new release every month in 2020.
“Why not just put it all out?” he says. “That way, I can listen to it all on Spotify if I feel like it.”