Sac State student DJ Heartworm spins his way to the top

Kaitlin Sansenbach

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When Matt Novak, 25, isn’t working on homework for the master’s program in sociology at Sacramento State, he is creating new flows and rhythms from popular songs as the disk jockey, DJ Heartworm.

Novak DJs in the local bar scene, and is involved in marketing for new clubs opening in the heart of Midtown.

Q: “Where did “Heartworm” come from?”

A: “It’s actually a really funny and embarrassing story. I went to a bar one day to get a beer with a friend and eventually went home with the worst heartburn. But when I was at home, my old friend was demanding I went out. After I told him about the heartburn pains, he started making fun of me. So after about five minutes of teasing, I took some medicine and went out. Then when we were out my friends started calling me “Heartworm”, and it unfortunately stuck. I am starting to get used to it, but it definitely would not have been my first choice.”

Q: “How did you break into the Sacramento DJ scene?”

A: “Well, this industry is extremely hard to break into, especially for the ‘new guys.’ A lot of the times the experienced DJs can see the beginners as possible competition, and can be stand-offish. That’s why in the beginning I chose to market myself when I was playing at house parties and tailgates before football games.”

Q: “How did you market yourself?”

A: “I started off by producing t-shirts, stickers, hats and sunglasses. My friends started wearing them so frequently that Heartworm music started getting recognized.”

Because of Novak’s marketing efforts, he was integrated to the Midtown music scene from a local DJ named Nate Davit.

“I always saw his name tagged in social media posts for parties where he was playing music, but what really caught my attention was his branding through shirts and sunglasses,” Davit said.

Davit met Novak to discuss Novak’s potential future in the Midtown scene.

Q: “Did you think the meeting was going to be the beginning of your career as a paid DJ?”

A: “I was really surprised Nate even contacted me in the first place. I worked hard in projecting my brand, but it was surreal when it was starting to pay off. Davit told me about his involvement in marketing Social nightclub and Barwest, and told me how impressed he was by my branding. That’s when my goal to become a DJ started to turn into a reality.”

Music’s technological side first sparked Novak’s interest in the eighth grade. He played bass guitar in music class. He said the experience led him to teach himself how to DJ.

“Matt unfortunately couldn’t play instruments very well when he was younger,” his mother Monique Novak said. “But he was always intrigued with the technological aspect of music.”

Q: “What advice stuck out to you the most when you started your career?”

A: “It was what Nate told me at our first meeting. We were talking technicalities, and then (he) asked me if I was serious about becoming a DJ. I said yes, of course, and then Davit asked if I was ready to become a professional alcoholic. I started laughing, not realizing the truth in his words. Davit warned me, but I took it with a grain of salt. DJing can be pretty hard on your liver after three or four days of playing at clubs, because you get free drinks.”

Q: “What has been the craziest situation you’ve had while DJing?”

A: “The craziest thing to ever happen so far in my career was opening for Warren G. I have been listening to him and Snoop Dog since I was a little kid and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d meet him, let alone play music for him. It’s definitely been one of the most memorable experiences thus far.”

Q: “Do you see DJing as more of a hobby or career?”

A: “Well, no one wants to see the old forty-year-old DJing. So I like the marketing aspect of the job I have now. Plus, I would really like to get involved in some type of non-profit organization that overlooks depression. After my good friend Bob Bisla passed, it really hit me hard that it might be something I want to get involved in, and I can use my masters with that as well. But until graduation, I will continue DJing because I love going to my job, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.”