Its about 18 months since a friend of mine played me some tracks from Kavinsky, Com Truise and Highway Superstar and likened my half-hearted recordings of “my idea” of modern synthpop to this style he called “Retrowave”. Immediately I was hooked and I started getting serious, collating my last 10 years of productions, finishing them and getting them mastered and ready for release. I had a bit of success with my first foray, an album entitled “Nebulastica”. Like a space-acid induced inter-dimensional journey to save humanity, it was pretty well received. But it wasn’t until “Fresh New Idea” that this whole synthwave thing stuck, and being prolific, I rolled the releases out.
Throughout this emergence of my synthpop alter ego, there was always a contingent of other producers, writers and reviewers, DJ’s and promotors who gave their time and endless passion to build the genre and keep the scene alive. One such man, is New York’s very own DJ Spaz, and he joins me for a deep dive into the world of an international DJ. From spinning for parties and events in the goth/industrial underground world of New York City and New Jersey, to hosting web radio broadcasts, Spaz has done it all, and has he got some stories to tell.
DJ Spaz, thanks for joining us, it s great pleasure to chat with you, and I hear you’re getting ready for a trip to Japan, what’s that all about?
Thank you JJ Christie & Echosynthetic for having me! Truly honored and thankful to speak with you all. Yes, I am getting ready for a 2 and a half week vacation with my wife Nicole to the Land Of The Rising Sun in July! It’s a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a child. I truly love the culture as well as it’s people.
I am especially looking forward to reuniting with my best friend/brother, Hirozumi. It’s been 10 years since I have seen him and it’s very long overdue. I am also looking forward to reuniting with my brothers DJ ZEP, Shingo, Takariki, hopefully Yutaka & Seiji. My Japanese brothers, whether they know it or not, have been my biggest inspiration to better my life when times were very dark in NYC, especially Hirozumi.
On my 40th birthday in Japan, I will be spinning live in person at Ryu Guw alongside Hirozumi! He’ll be playing his Taiko Drums while I spin. I am also extremely happy that I’ll be spinning with DJ ZEP!! God, it’s been 5 years since I’ve spun in person at a venue. Before all of that, I will be touring Kyoto,Osaka, Hiroshima & much more. Then I will spend the last 5 days in Tokyo. This trip is both a dream come true and truly emotional for me.
I have my wife Nicole to thank for all of this. She has always wanted to go back to visit as well. Long before I met her, she also was an exchange student for an exchange program and studied in Kyoto & Osaka. This means a lot for both of us truly.
So you’ve done the rounds of the clubs and party scene around NY/NJ, what are the positive’s and negatives of being a DJ in those scenes
It’s a rather complex thing to explain. Each scene has both a lot of positives and negatives. I’ll do my best to explain from my experiences.
NYC is where I was born and where I grew up. When I started going out to clubs, I was 17 years old when I set foot in my first goth/industrial club. I felt like I belonged and it became my escape from my neighborhood. The dance floor was my life long before I became a DJ.
Positives: With NY, The positives was that there were more parties to check out. You also got to meet people that came to dance or drink or smoke pot, then there were those that did much harder drugs. I do not endorse drug use at all. To each their own. I left Mary Jane when I left the scene in 2013. Haven’t spoken to her since lol! But the people I grew up with on the dance floors since 1995 are the ones I miss and consider the positives in my opinion as well the current DJ’s that are still keeping it real and truly keeping things positive.
Negatives: The fear of being vulnerable as a patron and a DJ. A false sense of security regarding a real friendship or a relationship when you’re surrounded by those that you think you can trust but all they want is what you have. As a DJ, I believe in being neutral with everyone, never wanting to takes sides because I truly wanted to spin great music and maintain friendships, acquaintances as well as working relationships but I had to keep myself guarded because when you’re well known, you have to watch everything you do and what you say. So yes, Fear & Trust.
More than anything, I have always loved NJ. Newark,NJ’s QXT’s has always been a home away from home. I am truly thankful to QXT’s for having me there as a guest DJ and a patron. I had the best times of my life there, made lots of friends there, got into some shenanigans as well! But my overall experiences there was always golden.
Positives: The scene is still going strong there and truly happy that they are incorporating Synthwave music there. Needs more Synthwave lol! NJ has a very rich history of providing quality parties at QXT’s. The people are great for the most part. Lots of great memories there. NJ has truly looked out for me when I needed shelter. I will forever be grateful through good and bad. I met some of the coolest people and cemented some serious long term friendships as well. So many to name but they know who they are.
Negatives: I would say the crazy drivers lol! Each state has their fair share of crazy drivers lol! Only thing I can think of is the local residents where QXT’s located at, there would be fights from the bar next door and the cops were almost always around. Sometimes they would pick on the crowd and things had to be squared away but that was back then. On a rare occasion, you’ll have the one guy that stood out being a creep and doing something to get thrown out. Having to travel back to NY using public transportation after 2am wasn’t always pleasant due to the NJ natives lol! Word to the wise, never face paint and take public transportation, best if you had some protection lol! I survived, obviously, but do as I say, don’t do what I did lol!
So you must have picked up some wonderful stories, any you dare to share with our readers?
I can definitely share a real graphic story about me from 1997, warning, parental advisory. Back in ol’ Spazzie’s day, I used to wear face paint, Doc Martens and spiked gauntlets and wore all black clothing of course lol!
On a Saturday night, I was en route to the legendary NYC night club, The Bank, and along the way, I stopped off at the Pyramid and I saw a group of people I knew and they were celebrating someones birthday. So we all had lots of mixed drinks and I was really drunk lol! The DJ started playing some Ministry and we all started slam dancing.
At some point, one of the guys rammed his head onto the bridge of my nose and broke it! I was drunk and didn’t feel anything and just keep going. Once the dust settled, they told me my nose was broken, I was drunk and shrugged it off and said I’ll be fine. Then I left and went to The Bank.
When I got there, my old friend Zach saw me and said, “what the f*ck happened to your nose”, I told him “I’m fine man, don’t worry”, he said “No, I will fix your nose man”. I said, “you’re not going to kill me right?” He said, “no man! I’ll straighten it out for you, i’ll even buy you a beer to numb the pain!”
So……I agreed and went to the balcony of the club. He got some ice and paper towels and a bottle of Heineken. He sat me down and said, I’m going to snap your nose back in place, trust me, I’ve had my nose broken before, I am going to count to 3, When I say 3, I will snap it back in place…..Ready…….3!!!!!! I Felt My Nose Snap Back!!!!….. He then shoved the beer in my mouth and made me an ice pack with the paper towels. Took the pain way for the night, drunk still at that point.
When I woke up the next day, my mother asked me” What happened to your face:, I said no worries, my friend Zach fixed it for me. My mother said YEAH RIGHT! I’m taking you to the hospital lol! So, I went to the hospital, thankfully, I had free medical coverage.
I go in and the doctor saw my face. The doctor asked me what happened, I told him what happened, he walked over to his colleagues and they laughed and giggled. Asked again what happened, I told them, they laughed, I laughed with them realizing what I had done. So they scheduled my surgery and got it fixed. Lesson to be learned, don’t do what I did, it’s reckless and dangerous! (giggling).
Now there comes a time when you work in this industry (as I fully know) that you want to take a step back and withdraw a bit from the nightlife, and settle down a bit. But I know that you haven’t retired at all, just changed focus and got more into the web radio world. Run us through some of the developments in your emerging story
No matter how hard I have tried to tell myself, I want to retire, it’s hard, music is a big part of my life and upbringing. Yeah, it’ll burn you out when you’re spinning the same genre over and over again, hence why I love more than once genre of music. Even when I was in the nightlife, I spun for the love of music, never to score with girls or look cool or do better than the last or next DJ, I genuinely loved the music and wanted to share the music with bar & club patrons. I also loved spinning with countless quality DJ’s. I Love Music. But I am very picky with music lol!
I started learning about web radio programming by doing sets and playlists for WFKU.org in 2008. Little by little, I started doing more sets for the web radio station but it was in fragments because I was doing more bar/club gigs at the same time. When I left the nightlife in 2013, I was focused on sorting out my life with my wife, long before we were engaged.
As I got my life and head squared out, I got the itch to spin music again and reached out to WFKU. That’s when I created Outscape. I wanted to spin Synthpop & introduce Synthwave from that point on. Then a disagreement with WFKU over sharing my show with a random witchhouse radio show resulted in me leaving WFKU.
With support from Marko Maric, I took Outscape over to Radio Pure Gently. I was truly happy with the move. As time went on, I started getting tired of 4 hours of music non stop as well as having a faulty laptop and a faulty desktop as well so things started to get shaky. At some point, I stopped doing anything Synthwave related and just did pre recorded sets for Radio Pure Gently and new programming as well.
Then I moved to Texas in 2015 and things got even more shaky because I was in a new state with a new job and a constantly shifting work schedule so doing Outscape turned out to be more of an issue than fun. So I put it off and decided to bring it back whenever the time was right. As time went on, my job promoted me to a Supervisor position and work consumed my life and was also working on getting a new place to live in Texas, thankfully, I am much closer to work now.
Now things with your shows have been a bit of a roller coaster over the last couple of years, first there was Outscape (inspired by Synthpop and Synthwave), then we had Synthetic Sundays, and now back to Outscape, but this time streamed live via Mixlr. So ive found it hard to keep up with all the changes, hahaha; so tell me, what’s been going on?
Roller coaster it truly has been. So sometime around 2016/2017, Recall FM was in it’s infancy and I reached out to the previous person in charge and got an offer to bring Outscape back on the air. So I gave it a shot and brought it back. It started out from monthly to weekly and it was hard to do weekly because of my work schedule, even pre recording it was a hassle.
So at some point, I backed out of doing it weekly and it got a little stressful, then when I got back to doing it weekly, the previous person in charge suddenly couldn’t upload anymore shows because he was in the process of moving to a new place. I asked if I could get access to upload the show on the website but was given the run around. After about 3 weeks, I did one last program for up to 7 hours on mixlr and stopped doing Outscape shortly after.
Not too long after, Synthetix Sundays announced that they were no longer doing anymore programming. I reached out to all parties involved and told them I would happy to step up and keep it going. All of the SS crew basically didn’t want to do anything and I took it from there. I planned on doing something completely different instead of bringing Outscape back because Recall FM dropped the ball on me, I also refuse to work with someone that steals art from other artists and paints himself in a negative image.
I reached out to a couple of DJ’s and was set on doing something monthly but by the time it was close to getting it off the ground, one copped out due to personal matters at home. It was also during the time that Radio Pure Gently became Reveal. Eventually, Reveal reached out to me and wanted to bring back Synthwave Sunday and make it a 12 hour all day program plus the live program by me. I accepted it and ran with the ball, just being a team player.
As time went on, there was an internal issue which resulted in a fractured friendship. Some things were said out of context and in the end, I was truly hurt because the people involved are people I truly cared about. When you’ve worked with great DJ’s and you call them friend/family, it’s tough to see things fall apart regardless of what the issues were. I still kept on as a worker bee because that’s what I do.
I had a great time doing Synthwave Sunday with Reveal through live365. I even enjoyed talking with record labels about creating playlists to add for every Sunday before the live program, a chance to showcase music by artists from record labels that provide quality Synthwave music. I also enjoyed talking with every Synthwave music maker I can get a hold of and had a great time with it.
Then………… there was this one record label I truly regretted showcasing, especially because I was a fan of the owner’s past music project. As a DJ, I steer clear of any internal matters with labels, I keep my nose out of it. Next thing I know, because his artists didn’t listen to the interview, he cuts them off his label and puts my show in a negative light!
One thing to lose a friend but another to have some wack job make it even worse for me? Just awful…. Then the label has the nerve to tell me what they did and then other Synthwave artists mentioned what happened without telling me anything…….it was terrible. I don’t force people to listen to my show, it’s there for you to check out but if you have to force your artists to listen to your interview, especially when people have lives, that’s truly low and unacceptable. Last thing I needed was the negative press.
I continued to do Synthwave Sunday nonetheless, but eventually, Reveal decided that it was best to step away and focus on pre recorded sets on Mixcloud instead of live365 and I stopped doing Synthwave Sunday and thought long and hard about bringing back Outscape, which I am by my own choice. I chose to launch it on Twitch at first but that got expensive so I am bringing it back to Mixlr instead.
This time around, I want to do Outscape my way. No ads, no talk in between songs, yes, I’ll still do pre recorded interviews and 80’s commercials because I love to chat and play classic 80’s ads but I will focus more on the music than my voice so there will be no more talking in between songs from me. Outscape is coming back as a monthly. No weekly programs lol! So sorry for the roller coaster.
So you’ve obviously got a huge amount of passion for the synthwave, industrial, EBM, synthpop genres. Who are some of the special discoveries that you’ve made in your time working in the industry?
I spun with lots of great DJ’s. There are so many to list but I can say this truthfully, DJ’s Templar, Subvert, JMP Williams, Father Jeff & David J Haskins all gave me a run for my money but I had the best times spinning with those guys. When it comes to the women, a huge amount of love and thankfulness goes out to Negrarose, Jackpot & Hi Fi Hillary.
When I was with WFKU, I used to do a web radio program called Critical Damage. I used to interview Lead Singers of bands. The ones that stood out the most for me were Patrik Mata of Kommunity FK, Jim Coleman of Cop Shoot Cop & Eric Eldredge of Interface.
When I was a resident DJ for Dark Water at Otto’s Shrunken Head, I enjoyed spinning with the likes of DJ’s Cage 23, Thermanuke, The Huby Brothers, Cyclonus, Jose, Paradox, Erik Aengel & Matt V Christ.
Lastly, The Glass Ghost!! Since March 30th of 2017, I teamed up with him and embarked on an endless journey of music making and greatly thankful to work on our first EP ever since we have banded together as GHOSTECH! We have been working really hard on our first EP and when our EP is mastered and ready to share with the world, get ready!!!! It’s not going to be a smooth outrun ride, it’s going to get really spooky (wink).
Now the big question. Is pineapple on pizza a necessity or a crime?
LMAO!!! I have to be honest, I am still trying to understand the concept of pineapple on pizza. To each their own, me, I prefer pepperoni, bacon or beef on my pizza. I don’t think I could do pineapple on pizza lol! I can’t say if it’s a crime or not. If that’s what you’re into, that’s fine. I won’t judge you but I don’t do pineapple on pizza lol!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add, or any shoutouts, thanks etc to people.
As a matter of fact, I do. I will do this in sections.
I never stopped thinking about my family and long time friends in NYC. Know that I will always be truly thankful for each and every DJ I got the chance to spin with and the friends I got to share the dance floors with. To the Red Party, thank you for having me as a patron whenever I ever made it there. To Underworld, thank you for spinning with me and letting me dance on your dance floor. To Otto’s Shrunken Head, thank you for giving me the chance to shine every week since 2008 until 2012, I will always be thankful to you.
To MC Too Tall, thank you for giving me the chance to showcase my talent with you on stage, I got to meet some really cool rappers during that time and got to perform at some cool places. To DJ Archangel, thank you for giving me the chance to spin freestyle music every time I spun with you. To DJ Ian Ford, thank you for giving me the best memories, I know I was a rugrat back then but when you spun, I danced happily. DJ Auton, thank you for having me spin for Berlin NYC. I had some good times!
To my family, I love you all.
Thank you very much for having me spin at QXT’s as a guest DJ. Thank you for letting me dance on your dance floors. Thank you for giving me shelter when the trip back to NYC was turbulent. There’s so many to list but to all of those people I got to share some meals with and crashed on couches at, thank you very much. You are all sorely missed.
To the Synthwave scene at large:
Continue to make great music. Continue to perform live. Continue to progress. I will do my best to stay the course! I have had the best times talking with every artist I have encountered. If you have any concerns, please reach out to me instead of going postal (wink). I will work with you.
Huge amount of thanks to Synthetix FM (Rick Shithouse &Marko Maric), Reveal, Recall FM for having me back on board, the new ownership is awesome! To every Female Synthwave artist, keep doing what you’re doing and never stop! To every record label, Thank you very much! To EVERY Synthwave Artist, Never Stop Doing What You Love! Love you all!!!
To The Glass Ghost: When GHOSTECH arrives, the ride is going to be awesome!!! Thank you for bringing me along this scary ride (wink).
To my in laws: Love you guys very much! To my loving wife Nicole: I love you very much!
DJ Spaz, Thanks for joining us for this very interesting and informative chat, as always its been a blast to talk to you and good luck in Japan, I hope you and Nicole have a wonderful time, and I’ll be awaiting my token bottle of sake when you get back mate.
LOL! Thank you JJ Christie & Echosynthetic! This was awesome! Thank you times infinite! lol!
I will do my best to keep you and everyone posted when I land in Japan in July. Much Love!!
So it appears that DJ Spaz us going to be on the decks again soon, with sets lined up whilst away in Japan, and on his birthday of all times. This could not be better news for IDM, Industrial and Synthpop fans in that area. Don’t forget, you can catch the rebirth of the wonderful stew of sounds with a taste of old and new on Outscape, coming live over your bandwidth, every week through Mixlr. Just follow the show here, http://mixlr.com/outscape–2/ . It will return on Feb.24th at 12pm Texas time.