I've had the great pleasure over the past couple of years to interview DJ's from several different facets of what that job title actually attributes to. Whether its EDM, hip-hop or anything else, they always seem to have a great story behind them and great music to back it up. Steve Porter is a great example of this. Not only is he a world renowned DJ who has worked at some of the biggest festivals in the world (Lollapalooza, Coachella, Ultra) but he has also become huge in the viral world for everyone from Good Morning America to the NFL. The most notable mash-up is the one that he did for the informercial "Slap Chop" (video attached) which has garnered over fourteen million views since inception. I sat down with him yesterday to talk about his success in the arenas and see where is future is taking him. Take a look.
So how old were you when you decided you wanted to become a DJ?
I was 16 years old when I decided I wanted to become a DJ, which was a long time ago. I had friends that were into the rave scene so they gave me rave mixtapes as a result. I was at a boarding school at the time and had a raver friend who came in and wearing the big, baggy jeans to my dorm room and told me to check this mixtape out. I couldn't believe at the time that DJ's were spinning with vinyl, tapes were dying and CD's were growing but then they showed me some rave mixtapes and I was like "I want to do that". I was immediately hooked on the art of DJ'ing and making people dance and the expressive nature of DJ'ing itself was interesting to me. At the same time, the concept of making my own music that I could DJ and play and perform in front of people also compounded my feeling on how the art form would be.
Who would say are some of your musical influences?
I grew up on loving The Beastie Boys, they were huge favorite of mine because I love how sample-centric their music was and how flavorful and different each track was. I kind of graduated into the rave scene from there, I was always into a lot of different things like rock and rap but found my niche with the EDM scene back in the mid-90's. My influences at that time would've been underground DJ's in the EDM circuit so some guys from this side of the pond to guys from the other side. From this side I would say DJ Dan,Scott Henry, Derek Carter and Mark Farina, classic names like that. From the other side of the pond I would say Sasha and Digweed and Paul Van Dyke. I always kind of geared the music that I made and DJ'd around those guys at that time.
How would you describe your sound for me?
My type of sound when I was fully DJ'ing every weekend, living here in New York, is a combination of house, techno and break beat. We kind of branded it as Porter House because there was no way to fully say it was one genre or another. So in 2004 we branded it as that- progessive house, sprinkes of trance & techno to name a few. In the beginning I was very much into trance for a while, this was in the late 90's. I graduated from that to some of the other UK DJ's at the time, then I started to be influenced by your new set of peers.
Who do you usually get comparisons to when people hear your music?
I had my own sound, never really had a lot of comparisons because I went my own way so I wasn't really geared towards one. Had my own parties in Miami and branded my sound with those. Stuff I am doing right now with the media remixes is also kind of a unique situation as well in terms of working with clients, networks and brands to make the sounds that they are going for. The dance floor for me has gone from the club to the marketplace, just with the same creative intuition. I always strived to be unique, take all these ingredients and make them my own.
I read that you did a lot of big festivals. Which one was your favorite and why is that?
I've played a bunch of big festivals, Coachella was pretty amazing. I performed with Perry Farrell in 2010 on a couple of projects and performed on the same stage he was in his EDM act. That was beyond amazing, a massive arena tent and everybody was going crazy. I've also played some good ones in Europe. There is a festival in Croatia called "The Roebuck Festival". The European scene for this kind of music was way big before it became "Coachella-esque" here, and that one in Croatia stands out for me as one of the best. "College Festival" in Scotland is another great example of one that I loved.
How did you go about making the "Slap Chop" video?
Curiosity pretty much. I was at a point where I had been DJ'ing and making music for clubs, and I got to a point where I wanted to start manipulating videos and getting into that. That aspect was a side project for me for about a year, I just started uploading ones on Youtube and have some fun with what I can do with it. It so happened that I was starting to manipulate the video the same way I was doing for club tunes, and I think the other dimesion to video stuff is that there is a marketing element to it. You can make a banging club tune, in this case the video is the vocal element. If that happens to be an infomercial, I try to still keep the integrity of what they are selling in it, remix it and keep it in tact. I still want people to understand what they are doing.
I was tinkering for about a year with the "Slap Chop" thing with no care in the world. Within 24 hours it had over 100,000 views and I was telling all of my friends that this was a little different than the others. It went crazy for the whole year. Vince the "Shamwow" guy emailed me a couple of weeks later saying that he loved it. Mind you, there were a ton of other "Slap Chop" remixes on, so he was skeptical, but he finally sat in front of one that I did. Then he called me and wanted to strike a deal, which wasn't my intention when I made it. He started airing it as a commerical for more than a year. It was something that came from pure experimenting.
Once the video was out and it became huge, I thought what could I do next. I liked sports, then I went ahead and did Press Hop a month and a half later. ESPN and NBA wanted to put it on TV and integrate it with their product. I had a fully flowing DJ career, nonstop bookings every weekend and then this huge thing entered in and took it as a calling. I wanted to see how far I could push it. Both work for the genesis of what I am doing now. A totally unexpected career change.
Of all the mash-ups that you have done, which one has been your favorite and why?
I have the most fun with the ones that are my favorites. The Randy Moss one for ESPN was fun because he has a great personality which leads to great content. If you have a sports personality and naturally outspoken it was almost like they are a performer and didn't even realize it. The project that I did this past summer for Usain Bolt was awesome because he sent me a top ten of what he would like from music. Puma wanted me to put together a spot of him from Jamaica and his time trials, this was before the Olymics. It was surreal. It was a close collaboration with an athlete that we had never done before. Non-sports stuff I love what we do for NBC's show "Community". The fourth mix is coming out this week on the air and should be online next week. Fun show, fun content. It's always for me that the content is the king.
What are your opinions on the EDM Grammy nominations?
I am very skeptical with how the Grammy nomination process works. There were times in the late 90's, early 2000's where it was sort of like you had to get in line to get your nomination. It wasn't about being the best, it was about getting in that line. A bit of a WTF type thing.
I wouldn't be surprised if Calvin Harris won for best recording. I would bet on him. As far as the albums I haven't listened to them so I can't really comment on that but for single wise I would say Calvin. The amount of exposure his tracks have had this year are huge, I am a huge fan. Whenever I go to football stadiums I hear his stuff.
Do you find certain DJ's like Deadmau5 and Skrillex and sell outs or are still authentically trying to be themselves but they were thrown in a certain arena?
The term sell out is a tough one to throw around, everybody is trying to exhaust all the options they have. You can't label somebody who is trying to reach their dreams. If someone really wants to do that, like Taylor Swift, do it.
Personally, it has been a slow build for my career but I have been in control of it. I am aware of my moves. I want to see how far I can push the art form of video with stuff that you see on Good Morning America or the NFL, I want to push the science forward. If you are always thinking about experimenting with your career and seeing where it takes you, it could blow up and take you to where you never expected.
What are your plans for this year?
This year is a lot of television spots, carrying over a lot of work I have been doing for ESPN, as well as spot for "Dallas" on TNT and Good Morning America. I worked a lot last year, lot of stuff came into my company and I fulfilled all the obligations. For this year I would like to better control over my schedule so I can focus more on the sandbox-type projects. That meaning ersonal ones that I want to finish because they are received the best, from the heart. Eventually collaborate and get back to the music scene seeing as I have been off in the media world for a bit. That is the cloth that I am made of. If there is an opportunity that I can work with a pop artist I would be way into that as well.
What is the one facet that defines you as an artist?
What defines me is that quote from Thomas Edison- "Genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration, one percent inspiration". Little bit of input and the rest is hard work.