with Association PoWa!
Hello DJ Sterf! First, can you introduce yourself to the musical games French community? Moreover, why is DJ Sterf your nickname?
Hey there, thanks for the interview! I'm Sterling C. Franklin, also known as 'DJ Sterf.' I'm 24, and I currently reside around Chicago, Illinois. I'm a full-time Christian minister and full-time student, as well, but I also get out every now and then to play DDR. The nickname 'DJ Sterf' came about this way: My real first name is Sterling, and my sisters used to call me 'Sterfry' as a nickname when I was really young (instead of 'stir fry,' a type of cooking style & food genre). My friend Glen called me 'Sterf' for short starting when I was 8. In high school, another friend Scott wanted me to DJ at a Battle of the Bands event in the area. I figured I'd go by 'DJ Sterf.' Later on, I would also be a Disc Jockey/Host of a radio show on FM radio (the show's name was Resurrection Revolution). I worked in radio for 3 1/2 years, and during that time, I started playing DDR, so I just kept the DJ name. I already had a website and screen name, so I didn't have to change anything, haha.
You are a DDR player very well-known on Internet. We can see your best videos on Youtube and on your website (www.djsterf.net). When did you begin to play DDR? And what do you like in the game?
Usually my videos are of my favorite songs, not necessarily of my best performances. There is some overlap, though. I began playing DDR in late 2003, if I remember correctly. I saw it at a State Fair and thought I would instantly be good at it. I asked somebody what difficulty I should play on, and he said, 'Oh, I play on Standard.' I picked Standard and I failed miserably, just watching all the arrows go up at once, haha. I caught on really quickly, though. Within about three plays, I started trying Heavy. I got the PC version of DDR (which wasn't very good), and I started playing a little there. However, my friend Steven told me that an arcade had the game for a while, and that the game had been out for a long time already. I started going on Tuesday & Thursday mornings during the school semester really early, when nobody else was there. It was quiet, and I got really good really quickly. Within my first few weeks of competitive play, I had several AAAs in the arcade. What do I like about the game? I like just getting out a few times a month, playing a few rounds of songs that I like to play, meeting new players and having conversations with them. I also like adding steps. It allows me to hit the right stuff, but also gives me creative license to make my own modifications on the beat. I like songs that are on-sync. I hate playing off-sync songs that I have to boost up the speed mods and read visually. I like songs such as 'AA,' where the song goes dead on the beat, the beat is unique and catchy, and I can play it by ear since the steps match the music.
How many AAAs do you have?
On 4-panel play, 470. That is, 470 on Heavy/Oni on official DDR arcade cabinets. That should be around 500 pretty quickly if/when I get to play on a SuperNOVA 2. On 6-panel play (Solo mode), I got 34 songs all-perfected before the machine moved elsewhere in the state. I rarely play Double, but I have 21 AAAs on Double currently. I could get that number up pretty quickly on Double, but I don't want to spend too much money investing in Double play. I usually just say '470' since I am a 4-panel player and don't have time to invest in much else right now. I have several hundred more (700 or so?) on home versions that I typically play at friends' houses and at special get-togethers.
What do you do to be so precise? Do you have a secret? I had read on Youtube that you are a perfectionist! Can you tell me more about that?
I try to do all things to God's glory, since I am a Christian (as I am trying to live up to Colossians 3:17 and 3:23). However, I sometimes push myself too hard on things. I'm still very much human, but I do strive for excellence in everything I do. For example, I finished first in my class (Valedictorian) in college twice, both in 2004 and 2005. People who know me well know that I do everything full-force, and I seek to be the best I can be. I'm working on my perfectionism, though, as I am flawed as a human (all have sinned and fall short of God's glory, as in Romans 3:23). I can't live up to something that is impossible for me! Setting up expectations that are too high can definitely be unhealthy. But yeah, I do strive to glorify God in all I do. Getting precise also requires having fun, having a natural sense of rhythm, being disciplined to force yourself not to step too early (panic), and to gain basic pattern reading skills on the game.
Do you have a favourite music? (bpm, stepchart or musical style)?
I generally like songs between 140 and 170 bpm, as they don't seem as if they're made just to be fast-sounding. Some of my consistent favorites on DDR are AA, Memories, V, Witch Doctor, Jam & Marmalade, Maxx Unlimited, Cartoon Heroes, Fantasy (Lockout) and So Deep. I like a lot of the music on Mungyodance 1 & 2. Some of my favorites on there are Boom (Breakfastaz Remix), Nose Bleed, Light Emitting Diode G, Unico, Banana Tango, Second Wind, VG Cats Theme, Sugarkill Breakdown, etc. I don't really dig ITG's musical style as much. Some of Kyle's stuff is really good, but I just don't like the overall style as much. I also tend to like the 'tricky' charts that involve problem-solving. For example, I really like Chaos' stepchart. I also like Tricky Disco's trick chart with all the rolls and mines. I've always liked puzzles as well as computer programming, so some of the tricky charts play to the same part of my mind that I enjoy using.
What is your favourite Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine?
I loved the 4th Solo machine that used to be near where I lived. I thought SuperNOVA was pretty decent, but I really enjoyed going home on breaks and getting out once or twice to play some old school songs from 4th Solo. However, the last time that I went back home to visit, sadly the machine was gone.
When you play, how many times do you stay on the dance machine? Have you spent a lot of money?
It depends on the day. I usually feel bad if I spend more than $5 per outing, which turns out to be about $15 a month on average. There have been days where I played 12 sets and spent $12, but I'll rarely go that long in the hopes of saving money. I have won a fair amount at tournaments and such, so gas money included, it's been well covered by those earnings to-date. I also am very time-conscious. I have an extremely busy schedule, but even on rest days, I don't like spending more than about 2 hours at the arcade in a single outing. So general rule of thumb, I usually play for about 80-90 minutes per outing at the arcade, at most, four times a month. Squeezing time in is often hard. This semester, for example, I've been working about 45 hours a week at church, have 6 graduate-level courses, and still do other things outside of that. Sometimes getting out requires a miracle, haha.
I'm sure you have a DDR pad at home. What kind of pad is it ? And what kind of material do you suggest for a player?
I don't really play much at home, but I do have a home pad for Youth Group events. I bought a pad on eBay with hard foam inserts. Each one so far has cost me $15 including shipping, though I see nowadays that those pads are going through price inflation. It does sacrifice quality. My friend Chris has a Cobalt Flux that I've played on. It's so much more reliable than the pad that I have. The sensors also do not reach all the way out on my pad. However, I have done some crazy things on these cheap pads, so they're not all bad. For a player, I'd weigh the financial cost first and then make a decision as to how much you want to play at home versus how much you want to play at the arcade. I usually just go out to play at the arcade and hang out with people there, so I don't think that it's totally necessary for me to have, say, a Cobalt Flux at home. It's around $350 with everything included for a single pad, and seeing that I'm praying for a wife and large family (hopefully 8 kids or so) in the future, I am watching my budget very closely.
DDR is not the only musical game. I saw you playing on ITG. Which one do you prefer ? And why ?
I like DDR better than ITG. It's what I learned and have played here and there for the past few years. I don't like ITG's musical style that much. I sometimes think, "Man, I really want to play _________ (insert song or stepchart)," and I've never thought that about an ITG song. If I'm on an ITG, I'm usually playing custom Mungyodance songs that are already on there. Also given the lawsuit on Roxor, I sensed that it wouldn't be a wise investment for me to really max out In the Groove. So it's a financial as well as musical decision on my part.
How many Quad Star do you have on ITG ?
Only a few on Expert. Again, I don't really see ITG as a wise investment of my time and money right now. I've played most of the songs three times or less each, but who knows, maybe I'll beef that up in the future.
The problems between Konami and Roxor Games led to the end of ITG. What do you think of this?
I honestly thought when Roxor came out with ITG that they would be sued. While it is an improvement on a game idea, Konami already had the machine design that Roxor was literally invading with their upgrade kits. Even their dedicabs were not much different. I wish that Roxor would have collaborated with Konami initially. Then maybe we would have ITG3 and ITG4 by now. But that's all hindsight. Patents are people's unique ideas, protected by government law. So I'm not surprised to see what has come about, and I think there could have been a better route by which the game was developed. I do hope to see innovations in the future, but I would not bank on it right away!
Do you play other musical games ? Like Para Para, Beatmania or PIU for example?
I've never played Para Para or IIDX. I did play Beatmania about 4 or 5 times while waiting to play DDR. I was not that great, haha. I've played Pump It Up twice. I have a few Full Perfect Combos, but there is no really good PIU machine around me, and I'm not as much a fan of the musical style or timing window setup of the game. I played O2Jam for a little while, and got around 100 songs Full Cool Comboed, though these were mostly mid-range difficulty - nothing too crazy. My computer was not all that great for multiplayer play, either, as my laptop is somewhere around 6 years old!
What do you think about these musical games? Originality, concept, gameplay?
I really liked the
original idea of DDR. Konami had a great idea. I don't like the fact that
the American & European versions of the game have been lame and unavailable
as of late, but that's the company's choice. I liked Roxor's idea of pushing
the game to greater limits, as well. Pump It Up did change the system
up a little bit, and it seems like a more natural dance layout.
I played O2Jam for a while when I had my wisdom teeth removed a while back. I enjoyed that game pretty well. Some music games rock. Some flop. Through all these innovations, I see the creativity which God has given to us as well as the deep appreciation for music that we all seem to have in various ways. It's a way to meet a lot of new people, as well, of all different cultures and languages and backgrounds. Pretty neat stuff.
Something to say to French players?
I always say that the most important part of life is to make sure that your heart is right with God. One day will come when dancing games (or even music games) will either fade out or when our bodies won't be able to handle playing them much more! Life comes at us fast, so I would definitely say that spirituality is important to consider. Even more specifically, I definitely believe that sin is the root problem of man, and that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for the penalty of our sin (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:6-8). He claimed to be the only way to God in the end (John 14:6), so as a friend, minister, and fellow player, I would say that it's definitely worth searching out who Jesus was and claimed He was, as well (or even confessing your own sin and accepting Him as your Savior, which would be the most important consideration of all)! Many of my videos are also short sermons or messages about Jesus, especially on Cross Allegiance (youtube.com/crossallegiance), so you definitely see that Jesus means a lot to me. But yeah, that's the most important thing I can say to anybody on this earth. It's a matter of eternity. :)
Before we end, here are some French fans' questions for you, if you want to answer them...
Al Keupone :
I generally eat a high-protein and high-carbohydrate diet, as I'm very active throughout the day, whether it involves church matters, school matters, sports matters, or what have you. I don't eat a lot of desserts, and I drink a lot of fruit juice. That's about it. Nothing too special, but it does give me something to use when I play DDR.
Do you do other sports?
I ran Track & Field for 7 years (middle-distance and long jump). I also played basketball for 7 seasons. I've always loved those two sports in particular (running and basketball). Other hobbies/sports (some would call these sports, others would call them hobbies) include juggling, bowling, and mini-golf.
Both. I'm a full-time (about 45 hours a week) minister at a church in the area currently, and I've done a lot of ministry in the past. I'm also a full-time seminary (grad) student, studying various areas of Theology and Pastoral ministry. I used to be a TV show host & anchorman for a few Cable TV shows for about 2 years (almost 2 1/4). I used to DJ/host a Radio show for 3 1/2 years. I was a youth minister for several years and in several places. I worked at a Salvation Army for several summers doing Bible teaching and counseling. I also did things such as managed two computer labs, tutored student athletes, and the like. I do a lot of random stuff, haha. Now I'm mostly doing teaching/preaching, evangelism, hospital visitations, and counseling to a wide range of audiences. I also tour around with the whole DDR thing as the 'Dancing Preacher.' I play a song (usually from Mungyodance, as I have Renard's permission to use anything on the game) and then give a little message afterwards relating to Jesus Christ. I finish my M. Div. degree in May of this year. I don't currently have any other offers for pastoral positions around the US, but I'm still definitely praying for the right opening in the right place!
I've always had a musical side. My mom is a classically trained singer (very operatic style). My sisters had a musical group, though they now are living in different states. I put out an album in 2003 (I wrote it all, made some musical beats, and then recorded it on my laptop with some friends). I've also always had an athletic side. I was really good at various sports, and I'm still very blessed with excellent stamina and coordination. I also push myself very hard. I have a high standard set for myself, and I try to set wild goals. I am a dreamer. Many people say that I am foolish for being a dreamer, but how else can you achieve amazing things in life? Especially doing your very best as a service to God and to others is my way of life, and it's been key in getting good at various things in my own life.
Do you have pastimes other than musical games?
At my very core, I love preaching, evangelizing, and counseling. Moving out from there, I love talking to others, making people laugh, writing poetry, and teaching. Even further out, I enjoy programming, translating Scripture, playing Scrabble and Monopoly with friends, making random videos, playing basketball. I also like origami, calligraphy, and various arts. But yeah, most of all, I really love preaching about Jesus. It's an odd pastime, I suppose, but it definitely brings me the most joy.
At the end, we have a little request for you, if you want to; Can you do a little video to say "Hi" to French players? (And a challenge for you: can you say some words in French?)
Sure, but it would have to be done after this weekend. I'm resting after a set of two crazy weeks! I'm putting out video #100 on my YouTube channel soon (youtube.com/djsterf), so I'll throw a little shout-out in the video for you guys! My mom is excellent at French. I learned Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, but not French. What are some good phrases that I should learn (other than Je T'aime)?
Thanks for your kindness and your availability. It's rare to be able to talk with American players. Thank you very much to take time to answer to all the questions we had. We hope to talk to you again.
Yep, no problem. Thanks again for the interview!
Rick and Nanashi!