28 Oct NIGHTLAB: Drop The Needle [Exclusive Interview]
By: Andrew Lazar
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself? How did you get into music? What has your journey been like so far?
I had always been involved in music in one way or another for years. I was a drummer and it was through a friend of mine, the legendary San Francisco DJ BB Hayes, that I was introduced to House music. Watching his work flawlessly transitioning from one track to another and watching how he dictated the mood of the dance floor was amazing. Soon after I jumped in, borrowed a set of plastic decks, and started to learn. I was horrible at first. It took me forever to learn how to beat match and distinguish one sound from the other. After I got it, it was on! I practiced four hours or more a day. It was the best. My roommate J-Rock was right there pushing me every day and we played for hours.
As I got deeper into the scene, I started playing and managing other artists. At this time, Electro was just being developed and San Francisco was the leading deep house city in the world. The number of talented DJs that came out of San Francisco was amazing and I was there playing along side all of them.
I somehow talked my cousin into letting me play in a side room of the Velvet Lounge. This was the club he owned. This is where I honed my skills and started to catch the eyes of some of San Francisco and Las Vegas’s biggest promoters. If it wasn’t for a chance meeting with Botown from Botown Productions, i’d never of started playing in Vegas. One thing led to another and I played everywhere in Las Vegas until I worked my way to a residency at Empire Ballroom. Empire use to be number one.
I loved the ballroom but after five years the club closed and I took time off. This was a BAD MOVE because it was like I bent over to tie my shoe and the whole music world ran right by me. After A year off, I had to get back to work. It was almost as if I had to start over . Since I was starting over I did a rebrand and instead of going out as DJ Marcus, I’d try a cooler name; NIGHTLAB.
Don’t laugh. I though it sounded good and that it’d look good on the flyer. Haha. Anyway, I started playing again and putting out music I wanted to hear. I leaned a lot from some of my closest friends who helped guide me and music engineers Von Ukuf and Mark Lewis to help guide me. The next step was to reach out to my friends Mark Lewis, Roger Sanchez, the EC Twins, and Donald Glaude for support and advice. They are the BEST. Last year when I was with Mark Lewis and Paul Oakenfold, Mark started playing some NIGHTLAB tracks and next thing I knew, NIGHTLAB had a track on Paul Oakenfold’s podcast Planet Perfecto #166. That was really exciting for me.
When I DJ, I don’t wanna be considered a local DJ so I try and pick a variety of venues. You get no respect when you are a local DJ and most promoters use you as a door matt. My plan is to be valued and build a following through my music. As much as I love to pop bottles, it’s the music that’s import. If I do my job right, the music will live and breath and the rest will follow. As I DJ Steiger/Kennedy music, I focus on entertaining the masses while creating a driving energy that moves you on the dance floor! Steiger/Kennedy music weaves together driving bass lines, tribal beats, techno, big room, EDM grind, with smooth vocals and sensual rhythms into an orgy of sound, style, and sexiness, creating devastatingly delicious raw energy and rock star excitement!
As an artist in the music industry, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of downfalls or situations that may have set you back. What keeps you grounded? What has been your biggest motivation to keep going and never give up on your dream? Can you maybe give us an example of one of your past experiences?
I have plenty! My motivation is simple. I have a deep love and passion for the music. Its a relentless drive to never give up. Sounds easy but its not. I have failed more time than I can count. Success is defined by everyone differently. I can honestly tell you for as much joy you get out of music the road is paved with disappointment and heartache. Ask any DJ about the price most pay. Some loose their girlfriend of wife because their out at a club and there insecurities come out. Everything from A to Z happens. People you though were your friends until you realize they were just phonies. These are lessons I’ve learned the hard way and I’m not the only one.
I’ll tell you this. Once you understand and learn to maneuver the night life landscape, there’s nothing better than being able to deal with the business end of things. You can then just hit the decks and move the crowd. It all really depends what you want out of this journey. There are plenty of local DJs that are perfectly happy having a guest list and bottle service and a few girl hanging around. As for myself, I want to be on the global stage where my music makes a lasting impression and brings joy to others. For me, failing is defined as not achieving small goals I set out for like getting a particular gig, or getting rejected by an agency or record label.
Your production style is incredibly unique. Are there any techniques or tips you could give to aspiring producers?
Whatever it is that you feel musically brings yourself out in the music let it flow. There are no limits.
How do you maintain the classic elements for your style with the ever changing demand and trends in the EDM world? How have you been able to grow and evolve?
I ‘d like to think i’m always evolving with music. I never want to just maintain. I want to push and discover. It’s all about adding new elements, new twists, and making the music sound like it has classic elements. That’s the trick.
Do you go into a tracks production with a specific creative vision and direction or do you just put out what you feel?
When its time to create I have a good idea what I’m looking for yet, I always consult my closest friend and music engineer Von Ukuf. We’ll talk about whats going on in the industry, what direction music is heading, what other artists are doing and it helps to reassures me what direction not to go in. I do my best to make original music therefore, were always bouncing ideas off each other. Regardless of what kind of track it is (Tech House, House Electro or Melbourne) it all depends on how I’m feeling, what the purpose of the track is, and what audience I have in mind. Honestly I love to make music I can groove to. I’m selfish like that. I ask myself, ” Is this track something i’d play in my sets? Would my friends play it or listen to it? Would it move the dance Floor?”
Any new music coming up you can tell us about?
There are two huge tracks coming. First, there is a follow up to “Back 2 The Old School” out on System Recordings called “Going Crazy.” It’s a Tech House track that was created with Carl Cox in mind. A close friend of mine, Mark Lewis, heard what I was working on and after listening to the track, he felt it was something that Carl would really like. We passed it his way just waiting to hear back. Fingers crossed.
Second, is a remix/bootleg of Roger Sanchez “Drop The Needle” which will be a free download I want EVERYONE to play. You’ll love this story. I’m friends with Roger Sanchez and i’m sure you’re aware Roger just released his new track “Drop The Needle.” As you know, its hard to get ahold of people when there touring around the world. Nevertheless, I had been trying to get ahold of him for a couple weeks but that was a no-go so, to get Rogers attention, I decided to make a new version of his track “Drop The Needle.” He releases the track and three days later the NIGHTLAB’s version was done! Yes, just to get his attention. It’s funny but it worked. We connected and Roger liked the track but felt it got a bit too “Future House” for him. He thought it was a really strong track in the Future House style and that it could be big. He said, “If you want you could even get a solid vocal and keep it as an original. I think it will do well for you! Well done!”
Do you feel you are constantly having to reinvent the wheel with your music?
YES. Every time I go into the studio I try and push myself in order to drive the music. It’s easy to mimic what other artist are producing and just tweak it here or there to give it some originality but who cares? I try and produce music that i’m not quite hearing anywhere else. The goal it to produce music that fills that gap in peoples souls and moves them. It gets them to start tapping there feet and bobbing there heads. I can’t describe it. You can only feel it and you know when its right.
What do you believe are some important values to have while trying to make it in this type of industry?
Integrity, fortitude, and courage in the face of adversity.
What is some good advice you can give an up and coming or emerging DJ?
Believe in your self and what your doing. If music and DJ’ing is your true passion, don’t let anyone EVER tell you that you can’t achieve your goals. Protect your dreams. Become a master of your craft. Learn from the best. 90% of the time while its thankless work. JUST. KEEP. GRINDING. Keep a small circle of friends and talented like minded people around you that share your interest and Common goals. Most importantly, however is that they have your best interest at heart. Play it from your heart. In order to stand out from the rest, you have to take your crowd on a musical journey. Don’t be afraid to fail. Your audience will find you.