SEATTLE — It's been the center of Seattle since 1962. And this man has been making its soundtrack since 1996.
"I'm James Whetzel and basically I'm the DJ for the International Fountain."
Every morning at 10 a.m., the International Fountain at the Seattle Center wakes up — with music mixed by Whetzel.
"I observe kids, I observe people interacting with the water, and I just try to create an inviting atmosphere for people to interact with the fountain,” Whetzel said.
The fountain was built for the ’62 World's Fair, and was designed to reflect the era’s excitement about space exploration.
Even though the original spikey-rocky design wasn't very user friendly, it's always been a gathering place for both play and sharing collective grief.
"It was probably from Kurt Cobain, his memorial being here, it kind of became a place for memorials," Whetzel said.
He wasn't there when that happened in 1994, but on 9/11 people again made it into a memorial. And Whetzel was there then, he made a mix to help them mourn.
But mostly the music reflects the fountain's fun side.
“It's an inviting place, it's nice to hang out at, and you know, just relax at and play with the water, you know.”
After decades with the Fountain, Whetzel knows its secrets. Like the underground passageway to its control room.
“It's a big boomy room where all the pumps are going...and they change the music there physically," he said.
He took our crew beneath the iconic fountain to see the mashup of vintage and modern equipment keeping the water flowing. This may be his last time there. Because after a quarter century the Fountain DJ is retiring.
"He is the best kept secret of the Seattle Center,” said Chelsea Riddick-Most, director of programs and events. "And we're going to have a hard time trying to find someone who can fit into his shoes."
For now his tunes still play when the water sprays. You can find Whetzel's fountain music on Mixcloud also.
And the fountain that's cool enough to have its own dj continues to be Seattle's biggest summer sprinkler...and best underground music mix.
"It's been a pleasure to kind of like do my job for the people of Seattle,” Whetzel said.