'DJ Matrix' bringing the Illini soundtrack

'DJ Matrix' bringing the Illini soundtrack

CHAMPAIGN — If you see him tonight from his spot in the Orange Krush, don't be afraid to tell the bearded guy with the two turntables, the MacBook and the headphones what song you'd like to hear with your Illini basketball.

It's Keiron Ochoa's job to entertain 15,000-plus fans all season at the newly renovated State Farm Center.

"I want to get more engaged with everyone around me," Ochoa said. "I love when people make requests, because it helps me out, too."

And no request is too off the wall for Ochoa, who goes by the stage name "DJ Matrix."

The 20-somethings, he's learned quickly, frequently request Justin Bieber's "Sorry," which also happens to be a personal favorite of Ochoa's.

At last week's home opener against Notre Dame, an octogenarian asked if he could play KC and the Sunshine Band's "Boogie Shoes."

"I can get whatever anyone needs," Ochoa said.

Except for country. There's not a whole lot of Garth Brooks or Miranda Lambert in the DJ Matrix catalog. "But if someone wants it," he said, "it's not that hard to just go into iTunes and buy it."

You may have heard Ochoa's work before. The computer science major from Harvey debuted at campus sporting events in the fall, when he was prodded by good friend and Illini football player V'Angelo Bentley to serve as Memorial Stadium's in-house DJ on game days. Ochoa — who typically plays a couple nights a week in area venues such as The Highdive, Canopy Club and Soma — wasn't especially comfortable in his new environment at first.

"I'm used to nightclubs and mixers," he said. "This was just a lot different. It's a lot more pressure."

Through one football season and one basketball game, though, he's yet to hear a complaint. Plenty of compliments, though.

"It sounds like a concert," Illinois guard Malcolm Hill said. "It gets people hyped up and fired up before the game for sure."

During pregame warmups for the Notre Dame game, Hill and his teammates could be seen moving to the sounds being piped into the arena by Ochoa.

"A couple of them came to find me after the game and asked if I was the DJ," Ochoa said. "Then they were like 'Man, you had us turnt!' "

Ochoa, whose dad was a DJ, has been doing this since around age 12. At Thornton High in the south Chicago suburbs, he participated in a DJ workshop course the school offered and developed a passion for it right away.

His stage name of DJ Matrix has no meaning, Ochoa confesses. It was the result of a rushed decision after his original idea was lifted by another student at the Thornton workshop.

"I was just going to go with 'DJ K.O.' for my initials and another student thought of it as 'DJ Knockout' and wrote it down when he heard my idea," Ochoa said. "So I didn't know what to pick and I just went with Matrix and it stuck."

Gimme five

Keiron Ochoa, aka DJ Matrix, will be spinning a variety of tunes for up to 15,544 fans when Illinois hosts Yale tonight. Good chance they'll differ from the five songs that top his own personal playlist:

"Tale of Two Cities," by J. Cole

"Sorry," by Justin Bieber

"Need It," by Machel Montano

"Water under the Bridge," by Adele

"Down in the DM," by Yo Gotti