veteran dj of the nyc nightlife scene, bobby blaze
Music is the great unifier. It transcends the politics and the differences. It underscores something my mother used to say ...or was it the Dalai Lama? "What is different about us is not as important as what is the same." The music is human continuity.
Bobby Blaze came up through the ranks starting well before he should have. He should have been playing with Nintendo but instead was sneaking in and playing at mega clubs. He has followed his dream for the past 18 years and his path to glory has taken him to exotic lands. He was a staple during the infamous glory days of Limelight, Tunnel and Expo in NYC. More recently he has had residencies at Greenhoue, Catch, Kiss and Fly, Gansevoort Hotel, Tenjune and STK. His travels have taken his NYC edge to Ibiza, Israel, Paris and Toronto. His latest remixes include Lady Gaga's - "Edge of Glory”, U2's - "Magnificent" and this year’s club topping remix of "Find Me There" featuring Megan Vice. Although his signature is pumping house and electro beats he pulls from all genres.
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): Your first DJ gig was at limelight opening for DJ Keoki. You were underage and I hear sneaking out of your house and skipping school. When did you know this was the life you wanted and how did you get where you are?
Bobby Blaze: Well skipping school and sneaking out of my house were definitely not on my lists of plans growing up! Michael Jackson always inspired me, his combination of his dancing skills and music were definitely always on my radar. I had no idea music was the life I was going to pursue. I was a curious freshman in high school ready to explore! I bought turntables at the age of 14 after working for my father one summer. He owned a discount clothing shop in the Fulton Street (Brooklyn) area. I was surrounded by Rastafarians, Hip Hop heads and to top it off Spike Lee was filming "Crooklyn".
Across the street was an electronic store. I will never forget the day I walked over and looked in the window. It was like I saw a face saying hello to me. Two turntables and a mixer cradled together by a huge coffin on top of two 15 inch speaker boxed cubes...I swear it said "MARRY ME" and two months later I took her home. At that time, DJing was a lot different, it wasn’t a common hobby as it is today. I found myself gearing towards House music as my main forte. At 16, a friend of mine handed a mix tape I made to the party monster himself Michael Alig. I guess he enjoyed it. There were only a select few in the city that were able to DJ on a big stage, let alone at the Limelight. From there I was able to DJ and open up numerous times for DJ Keoki at the Wednesday party called Disco 2000. It was such a big night in the city that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity, even though it was a school night. It led to meeting new people and I became hungry to grab more gigs. I was hooked!
NCC: Speaking of where you are I notice you have an Australian phone number.. What’s it like down under?
Blaze: I’m blessed to have a beautiful Partner and Daughter from here. Sydney is by far one of the best places to live. It’s like combining NY, California and Miami in one. You have the most amazing oceans like Miami, the laid back coolness of California and it’s a passionately driven city like NY. The food and weather is great too! A key note is, their not driven by the bottle service, which I personally think killed the night life in America. They go ready to dance and respect the DJ’s skill! There is a great house and indie dance music scene in Sydney and Melbourne, where I’ve also spun.
NCC: How does classic rock and old school tracks figure into your set?
Blaze: Without classical music like Beethoven or Bach, we wouldn’t even have that sharp string sound that’s so popular in all music. If you listen to classic rock: The Who, Doors, Beatles, Phish, new wave to punk, you will hear sounds that have been sampled in thousands and thousands of tracks. I will say my music is extremely influenced by new wave, classic house and disco. They have always been able to fit in my sets perfect because you’ll always have that classic groovy bassline along with a powerful repetitive vocal, great for looping into my current library.
NCC: Talk to me about working with top DJ's. Do you listen and exchange ideas? Where do you get your music from?
Blaze: Touring the world I have been able to DJ with Todd Terry, DMC, DJ AM, Daft Punk, Patrick M, Freddy Le Grand, Dimitry from Paris, Roger Sanchez, Steve Lawler and many more. They have been experiences that I will always remember. The scene has changed in NY but I find myself surrounded by some seriously talented DJ friends. We are a group of local New Yorkers that travel but always know where our roots began. Serobe, Vikas, Dove, Uri Dalal, Keiren Taylor, Kris Graham and Serge Devant, just to name a few. We exchange thoughts, experiences and music.
NCC: Tell me about the Mood Development Series.
Blaze: The last couple years in NY, I have witnessed a major change in the House scene. I’ve seen more and more clubs play these mash ups and tracks that I personally think, sound like pots and pans.
The “Mood Development Series” is dedicated to the pioneers of house production along with the DJ’s, the people and fans that love great original or remixed HOUSE tracks. I wanted to create a great mood/vibe for the listeners and give them sounds they don’t hear often. There is no modern day auto BPM syncing or premade playlists. This is strictly a series where I combine my beat matching skills with the freedom of choosing track after track in a freestyle manor. The bassline’s, synth sounds and vocals should take you for a nice eclectic house ride.
NCC: What equipment do you use?
Blaze: I am currently using USB flash drives. I skipped right over the computer thing and went from CD’s to USD memory. It’s shocking how just about 10 years ago I was schlepping milk crates of records to now being able to fit all my music in one pocket. Using flash drives on a CDJ turntable allows me to still feel like I’m controlling the mix from start to finish. From choosing the track in my library to pitching the beat per minute to properly mixing it in. It’s what I’m used to and if I’m going to upgrade with technology I may as well feel like I’m in total control, as I was when I was spinning Vinyl.
NCC: As you travel what genres seem to work best in which cities? (i.e. is hip hop bigger in some places)
Blaze: I generally stick with playing house music. I don’t think it’s the city or country, I think it’s the crowd. If you’re a house music DJ and you’re stuck in a room with people that aren’t feeling it, don’t put your head down and continue what your preference is. Have a few strings up your sleeve… have a wide range of music ready to go just in case. Even if you’re going to play house beats all night you probably want to throw in a Guns n’ Roses or a Beastie Boy track somewhere. It definitely wakes them up.
NCC: Tell me about your producing and remixing career?
Blaze: My producing career started about 3 years ago. I took a course at SAE Sydney with Damian Goundrie as my instructor. Since then I’ve remixed tracks by U2, Yazoo and one of my all-time favorites, Giorgio Moroder. I’ve had the pleasure to co-produce a track with Lindsay Luv and my ongoing partner Damian Major were we’ve remixed Lady Gaga, We Stole the Kids and Boney M’s classic “Daddy Cool”. I am now currently working with artists like Matthew Schultz and Cara Quici.
NCC: Anything to add?
Blaze: I have seen so much in my life when it comes to the entertainment world, and I have to say…. Don’t be tempted by short-term gratification. Especially in nightlife, take your time, don’t make stupid decisions and do it right….But make sure you do it!