There’s Just One DJ Cougar

DJ Cougar has been DJing 35+ years and has been a Karaoke DJ for 18 of those years. He’s played 1,822 shows (not including private events), and yes, he keeps track! Will we ever know the truth behind his DJ name and staple bandana fashion? Wayne Smith, aka DJ Cougar, shares tales of what it takes to be a Karaoke DJ, the most popular and dreaded song requests, and how Karaoke can boost your confidence. 

There’s Just One
DJ Cougar

At last! Tell us where, when, and how Wayne Smith became DJ Cougar? And when did your infamous fashion staple, the bandana, become a tradition?

The name DJ Cougar was bestowed upon me while I was in the Army stationed in Washington, DC. There are many stories behind the origin of the name. My favorite is that I won the lawsuit against John Cougar Mellencamp and got my name back.

The bandana originated in high school and returned in the early/mid-’90s while working in a kitchen in Raleigh, NC. I ended up with what was known as the Budweiser collection, which I referred to as my corporate sponsorship. After moving to Boston in ’96, Harley Davidson replaced Budweiser. The bandanas with my logo finally came in 2008.

There are many people afraid of karaoke. Do you think karaoke helps self-confidence? Do you have any stories of a shy person evolving into a confident, karaoke superstar?

Once you start with karaoke, you’ll either love it or hate it. Most people get hooked after doing a couple of songs with friends and then go solo. It’s an adrenaline rush when the crowd cheers for you. I would say that yes, karaoke does help with self-confidence. I’ve watched a few people through the years go from timid and shy on the mic to belting out songs you wouldn’t imagine them trying. Nobody has risen to “Karaoke Superstar” status, but some have become extremely good. The “Superstars” usually have a musical background (high school, theater, etc.) by the time I meet them. Regardless of singing capabilities, my shows are for everyone to have fun.

Karaoke is perfect for holidays, birthdays, or any special occasion.
Book a karaoke night here.
Photo credit: Old Port Pub Run captured by Chelsea Peterson.

What are the top 3 most requested songs? What are the top 3 most dreaded songs requested?

The most requested songs change over time. Currently, it’s Mr. Brightside – The Killers, What’s Up – 4 Non-Blondes, and Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen. The dreaded 3 for me are anything by a boy band, Piano Man – Billy Joel, and Love Shack – B-52’s.

Do you think people assume being a Karaoke DJ is easy? Take us through a busy night and share just how much skill, work, and patience it takes to be successful in this particular genre of entertainment.

Most people think it’s easy, and they don’t realize how much is involved with running a show. We are averaging 54 songs during a 4-hour show at Flask, which is high speed. Most hosts would lose their minds trying to handle the large rotations. I’ve been doing this for so long that it has become second nature to me, although I do admit to having meltdowns.

Once the show starts, it’s not unusual for people to turn in requests all at once. I try to keep them in order while adding songs to the queue and bringing singers to and from the stage. Add in trying to keep audio levels balanced between music and microphone and lining up bumper music (songs between singers). And of course, having conversations with people to make sure everyone’s happy. 

It’s not unusual for us to have 18-30 singers in rotation (90 – 150-minute wait to sing). Figuring out the rotation and explaining how long the wait is can be overwhelming. If you want to sing early, I always suggest arriving early to shows. I do keep a list of courtesies in front of my songbook (containing 45,000 songs to choose from) to explain how the show runs and how people can help keep it moving, but nobody reads it. 

Has karaoke changed over the years? If so, how?

The popularity of karaoke usually runs in 2-3 year cycles. We’ll have groups of regulars that come out for that period of time and then fade away, but typically a new group is already coming in when that happens. The most significant change in the past decade has been the move from CDs to digital (laptop). I remain old school with the use of paper slips. It saves me from trying to hear names and requests in a lively environment.

Do you envision retiring from karaoke or DJing in general?

I semi-retired in the early ’90s but ended up DJing again regularly by the end of the decade. It would be nice to retire from karaoke (I enjoy DJing too much to leave it behind), but it’s been paying my bills for more than a decade, and I don’t envision retiring anytime soon.

What’s something few people know about you, including friends and family?

The real story behind my DJ name. There are a couple of people who have figured it out, but if I told you, it would no longer be a secret. 🙄

How can people connect with you?

Facebook | | Instagram

Upcoming Events:


Sarah Violette Shares Where Her Lyrics Come From, Maine Music Scene, And Secrets

Sarah Violette, born in Portland, Maine (grew up in Hollis) is a Hip Hop Artist who began writing at age 13 and has been performing since 18. Sarah is not a fan of whoopie pies, or sexism in the music industry, but is a fan of the respectful Maine music scene, and finding that secret spot within that allows her lyrics to flow.
You can catch Sarah at Flask Lounge on Saturday, September 14th. A special event presented by Monday of the Minds, a CommUNITY hip hop showcase.

Is there a place inside your head or a physical location you go, to find inspiration to write lyrics?
Depends on the song! If I’m writing a song that’s aggressive with heavy flow, then I’m focused on the beat and how to get inside it the best way I can. However, if I’m writing an introspective piece, I tend to let my mind wander into a different dimension and write what I see there. My favorite is when I get somewhere in my head, I’ve never been, and my emotions, my words, and the music all align in a transcendental way.

I read a statistic based on the last 6 Grammy Award Ceremonies. “Out of 899 individuals nominated, 90.7% were men, and 9.3% percent were women.”
Do you think gender plays a role in the success of hip hop artists?

I’ve always thought it’s harder for women in the music industry, for sure, not just hip hop. Women have to deal with how they look, how they are perceived and treated. Sexism is still rampant, and I have to say I am grateful that a huge majority of men in Maine’s music scene have always treated me with respect and kindness.

Are there any misconceptions about the hip hop community in Maine or generally you hope to debunk?
Not really! It’s progressed so much in the last ten years, and there’s so much variety. It’s pretty amazing.

What do you enjoy the most about performing? Do you get nervous?
I enjoy so many aspects of performing. I love when everything is still and calm, and it feels like I’m confessing my inner being to a crowd that’s genuinely listening and feeling. I also love when I switch from that to something super upbeat, and everybody is dancing and just having fun. Or when my friend Renée is performing with me and does her weird metal voice to hype up the show and make me laugh. It’s all good for me.

Sara Violette & friend, Renée Coolbrith (Portland vocalist/songwriter) can often be seen performing together.

I do get nervous! After all these years I can get anxious and not be able to eat before a show, especially if I’ve had too much caffeine. Haha.

Tell us a secret! What’s one thing, not even friends or family know about you?
A secret? Hm. I don’t like Whoopie Pies very much. I think they are overrated.

We have an additional secret!
Sarah is dropping new music “World Collide” on September 10th! “Probably the smoothest joint I’ve ever made. 😏”

Where can we see you play next, and how can we connect with you?
Casablanca Cruise in Portland on September 13th, at 6 pm.
Flask Lounge in Portland on September 14th, at 9 pm. $8 Advance Tickets Here
You can connect with me on Instagram! @sarahviolettemusic

Blogs curated by Jessica Lea Nolette.

Deep Dish Interview w/ Chicago’s, DJ Zebo

Live @ Flask Lounge

Voted #65 of TOP 100 DJs in America – National Sun Times 2015 &
Chicago Nightlife Awards – “BEST DJ” 2014

“I play good music.”

What are you most grateful for, today?

To be able to share good music with the people and support myself while doing so. Being a DJ holds serious responsibility, whether the DJ wants to admit it or not. Music has the power to unite, the power to change, and the power to reach people on a personal level. At a club or party, you will find people from all walks of life getting down together. The same people that may not speak to each other in everyday life. I thank the universe for helping me find myself through DJing and using it to connect with others.

How has DJing and electronic music changed in recent years?

For the past decade, it has been the same with the rise and fall of “EDM” and the culture associated with it. When I first started DJing in 98′, I came from the underground rave scene in Chicago and the midwest. Then it was all about the DJ and not so much about the producer. Many producers did DJ also, but there was more opportunity for DJs as you had to have a record collection to play out. CD players weren’t great at the time, so vinyl was the primary format. A DJ spent time, and money to build their collection, and that was a big part of their name and draw.

With the rise of EDM culture in the US, it made events more like concerts as opposed to “rave” style parties. The visual became a significant part of it with better technology in lasers, lights, and now LED walls. With the rise of EDM, it seemed dance music became all about the “build-up & drop.” I’m not knocking it as I do like a good drop, but every style of dance music became all about it, and I feel that took a bit of soul out of dance music. People danced differently as they would get hyped during the build-up, “go ham” when the drop hit and then waited for the next one, whereas electronic music of the 90s and early 2000s had more of a groove and soul to connect with and converse with through dance. I feel like the dancing in the 90s, and early 2000s was something everyone did, whereas, with the EDM culture, it was more like a fist pump, some headbanging and even moshing.

I’m not saying there is NO dancing now as I see a lot of good shuffling, but people do not dance as much. I think the fact that everyone has a recording device and social media can be used to make fun of people for letting go and dancing, may play a small part of it as well. Keep in mind this is all from my experience, my observation.

As a DJ, are you concerned with patrons safety at events?

Yes, and every DJ should be. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, OD, or something terrible like that. A party is about togetherness and connection.

One piece of advice for aspiring DJ’s?

Practice, practice, practice! There is a lot of technology taking the skill out of DJing and relies on algorithms to take on the work that should be part of the “skill” of DJing. Be yourself and be nice to people. Never burn bridges. Use DJing as a way to express yourself honestly. DJs should be different and should play different styles and genres. Make your style about what you like. That personal touch allows patrons to connect with your DJ style.

How has mentorship challenged you, and what’s your most rewarding experience to speak of?

I am able to help students progress farther and faster by teaching them from the mistakes I made and lessons learned. I hope to see my students push DJing farther than me and take the art to a whole new level.

I recently had an Autistic student who found himself through DJing. At the end of the semester, I received a letter from the student’s father thanking me as the student found something that he is good at and can connect with other people through. He had never felt that before, and now he practices every day and uses his craft to make new friends and communicate in ways he cannot do with just words. I’m also able to use my connections to help these students get their foot in the door. The scene here is massive, and there are more and more DJs coming out every day, so it can be tough for people to break into the scene and get gigs.

What’s something not many people know about you, not even your family or friends?

My middle name is actually “Zebo.” Most people don’t know where I got my DJ name from, or they don’t believe me. When I was younger, I was called J Z, as my first name is Jonathon. I tell people now my name is J Z and they think I’m trying to bite off the Rapper, Sean Carter aka Jay-Z. I’m taking my name back from him. I had it first!

Where can people see you next?

FLASK LOUNGE in Portland, Maine on Friday, July 26th.
Any of my various residencies here in Chicago at Sound-Bar, HQ, The Darling, Gold Room, or Underground. The next festival I’m at in Chicago is North Coast in August.

What’s the best way to connect with you?

Social media… My URLs all end with /djzebo

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or SoundCloud.


We are thrilled to have two exceptionally talented DJ’s who are also strong women.

Caitlin Flynn (Dj Corbin) and Gina Marie Hesse (DJ G-Force) have 32 years of DJing experience. Together, they form the duo LADY LIPS, performing at special events and exposing their multi-genre mixing skills and not-so-secret love for pop, throwbacks, hip hop, and classic party jams. Being women AND members of the LGBTQ+ community, Corbin and G-Force share their thoughts on how few women are represented at dance clubs and music festivals due to a male-dominated industry.

How long have you been DJing, and how did you learn?  

Corbin: I taught myself, and I’ve been DJing since 2003.  My passion is Drum & Bass, and I also love playing techno, tech house, and electro.  Over the years, I have branched out and created my company, Atlantic Event Design.  I DJ weddings also.  Maine is a wedding destination state, and there need to be more woman-owned/DJ options.

G-Force: I’ve been DJing for 16 years. My sister’s boyfriend at the time was a NYC, Drum and Bass DJ. He gave her turntables and crates of records in hopes she would learn. I adored this style of music and attended a ton of shows. I wound up commandeering the turntables and records and teaching myself. Now, I am a DJ but also plan, promote, and host events all over New England as GforceBass Productions

Only 10% of performers at music festivals around the world are female, and most promoters, bar and club owners are men; Do you think it’s harder for LGBTQ+ women to succeed in the DJing industry? 

Corbin: Absolutely.  Regardless of LGBTQ+, it’s plain hard just being a woman DJ.  Add in the fact that I don’t fit the bill of “hot blonde” that makes it even harder.  One would hope it’s based on talent, but that’s not necessarily the case.  Recently a FB group was created by Hospital Records called The Women of Drum & Bass – it’s been a positive place to network and share experiences with other women and LGBTQ too.  If we support each other, I think changes can be made.  

G-Force: Being a woman and a DJ is difficult in general. The market is flooded with male DJ’s. More often than not, it is all you see on event and festival lineups. Sometimes when women are advertised, it’s strictly all women events or they are sexually objectified.

My festival, Gaia Rising celebrates everyone and features a mostly female lineup and 50% LGBTQ+. It’s a one day, all night, and into the morning festival celebrating life, love, earth, music, and art. I feel the LGBTQ+ community is represented and appreciated more in the underground music scene than the mainstream DJ and festival scene.

What’s your favorite part of celebrating Pride in Portland, Maine?  

Corbin: Everyone is positive, happy to celebrate, and want to dance dance dance!

G-Force: Pride in Portland is great because it is a diverse community that supports each other. When night falls, the dancing is serious! Portland loves to have a great time!

Pride Party Flask Lounge!

What’s your funniest memory you’ve had as a DJ?  

Corbin: I was playing drum and bass (my fav) at a festival, and while reaching over the turntable to reach my laptop, my boob stopped the record.  I tried to cover it up as a rewind.  😬🤫

G-Force: I was playing my first festival, and right at the peak of my set, the power went out. I may or may not have blown the circuit with my super sweet song. Lol. 🤭

What’s one song no one should ever request and one song everyone should request? 

Corbin: Cotton Eyed Joe, never, ever.  Everyone should request more Missy Elliot… and more drum and bass!!

G-Force: Noone should ever request a slow jam at a disco party. Everyone should request “I wanna dance with somebody” by Whitney Houston. 😀

What’s one thing people can expect from you on Saturday night?   

Corbin: A mix and a blend of decades, genres, and lots of energy!!  

G-Force: A great time full of Hip Hop, Disco, Pop, and Party Jams!!!

♥ Join our PRIDE FB GROUP ♥

Where can people see you play in the future?  

Corbin: You can catch me for Friction at Flask on Friday, July 19th and at Gaia Rising Festival on September 8th by G-Force Productions.  GRF is a festival featuring a diverse and talented woman dominated lineup!!

G-Force: You can catch me at Beat Synthesis in Maine, Hydrotechnics in Upstate NY, Prism at Aura, and Gaia Rising on September 7th in Hartford, Maine.

We are happy to give back to our community. A portion of Flask’s proceeds will be donated to EqualityMaine – an organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Maine since 1984.

To Follow or Book

DJ Corbin – Facebook @CorbinDnBMaine & Instagram @AtlanticEventDesign 

DJ G-Force – Facebook @GForceBass & Instagram @GForceBass1


Marlena Goller aka DJ Tranzilla She-Beast is a 55-year-old transgender woman who started her DJ career in the 80s in Southern California. She was a master at spinning vinyl and perfected beat matching before most people even knew what that meant. She lived in Portland Maine from 1996 to 2003 and was a very well-known performer in drag shows at The Underground in the 90s and early 2000s. She then moved to Vegas to care for her ailing father and has finally moved back to Portland. She will be DJing her first gig in years at Flask Lounge only one week after landing in Maine! Wil Whalen aka dangerwilrobinson, another one for Flask’s retro DJs, took a few minutes to talk with her to give the Flask community a chance to get to know her.

Interview By DangerWilRobinson

You and I go way back. I remember those days well and I have to say it’s so nice having you back in Maine. When Wayne aka DJ Cougar mentioned he was looking for DJs for his Vinyl Night, I immediately thought of you. I’m so glad you accepted the invitation and I’m beyond psyched to come out that night and support you. You and I have talked a lot over the years about our plight and our journeys as LGBTQ people. I have always had the utmost respect for transgender people. I’m a war veteran and I still think it took you more courage to be your authentic self than it did for me to go to the front lines of a war. You’re a hero of mine. Did you ever realize that you were a trailblazer being the first transgender DJ in Southern California?

I don’t know that anyone sees themselves as a trailblazer. I was just being me, as I’ve always been unapologetically. I just liked music, I loved dance music and I wanted to spin the music I liked to dance to. Learning to DJ just seemed like a natural thing for me to do. I also felt like I really understood all the layers in dance music, as you have to in order to be good at beat matching and keeping a flow going. So once I got to know a DJ, I asked him to teach me how to do it. I took to it quite quickly and even went on to teach other DJs who spun at The Underground in the 90s and 2000s.

Your former DJ name was DJ T-Girl, why change it now to DJ Tranzilla She-Beast? Are you at all worried that other transgender people may find it offensive?

Well, as you know, I am not the kind of person who holds back. Like I said, I’m unapologetically me. I don’t lie and I don’t mince words. I came up with Tranzilla when I joined Instagram, as I would have men flirting with me and I wanted them to know I was a transgender woman right up front. As for the name She-Beast, that’s just me, honey. I am loud and proud and, well let’s just say, I’m not the kind of person you want to put on speakerphone. I’m not easily offended and I don’t really care much about who I offend. Why the name I chose as my DJ name would offend anyone else is beyond me. I am a transgender woman who can be a monster at times and I am definitely a beast. The She-Beast part is also a slight nod to a superhero I love – She-Ra Princess of Power.

You’ve always DJ’d in gay clubs, how do you feel about DJing at Flask, which does not identify at as gay?

Gay bars are closing all over the country because in our quest for equality we got what we fought for to some extent. LGBTQ people are welcome in all bars and clubs these days. Especially in a town as progressive and liberal as Portland Maine and places like Los Angeles, NYC and even Vegas. Gay clubs were our haven back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s because it was the only place we could go and be our authentic selves without fearing for our safety. I remember when gay bars hid their entrances in the alley and you took your life into your hands just getting to the entrance. I often say, “I remember when the back door was the front door.” As for Flask, why would I have an issue DJing in a bar owned by a lesbian that has a really awesome LGBTQ clientele? They have gay, lesbian and bisexual DJs and now a transgender DJ. My friends tell me that a lot of people who identify as queer are big fans of the bar. So, when you get down to it, it not only welcomes people who identify as LGBTQ, it basically employs at least one person who represents every letter in our lovely and ever-growing acronym! Name one other non-gay bar that can make that claim. I’m happy to join the roster of some of the most talented and diverse DJs on the planet. Some of these DJs have followings that extend beyond the borders of Maine and even New England. To be added to a roster like this is an honor. And I think it’s spectacular that there is a bar where people from all walks of life can come in and dance and feel safe and welcome. I’ve heard that there are some naysayers who don’t think it’s gay enough or even trans-friendly, but I know for a fact my friends in Maine wouldn’t frequent a bar that discriminated against transgender people. My friends are that loyal. I’ve also heard that some straight people think it’s too gay. And to them, I say find the nearest sports pub and saddle up to bar, grab a pint and watch your game. In a town like Portland where every other building is a bar, there is a bar for everyone. So, if for whatever reason Flask isn’t your cup of tea go somewhere else. However, I doubt I’ll find a bar as trans-friendly as Flask anywhere.

Are you excited to be spinning vinyl again? Some say it’s a lost art.

I don’t think it’s so much of a lost art as I think it was just that vinyl pretty much disappeared for a long time. Record stores were scarce and artists stopped releasing music on vinyl. But that’s changed and vinyl is all the rage again. I’m really happy to see the resurgence in vinyl sales and popularity because it really is some of the best sound quality you can get with music. And I love the sound of the needle when it hits the record. Also, I’m not tech savvy enough to be a digital DJ. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen down the line, but right now I’m happy for the opportunity to spin vinyl again. I promised you I’d teach you how to beat match, in return you can teach me how to spin on a computer. How’s that sound?

I’m game for sure. What can we expect from your DJ set?

I guess you have to come down to Flask and hear it for yourself. But don’t just come down for me. Come down for all the DJs spinning that night. I can’t wait to meet them all and I’m sure I can learn something from them as well.

Well on behalf of myself and the Flask gang, welcome back to Maine and welcome to the team! We’re super excited to have you on board! I hope that you can inspire younger transgender people to come out and enjoy some good music at Flask.

Flyer & Interview By DangerWilRobinson