July 26, 2011 by DJ Elroy
It’s hard to move forward while you’re looking behind. Sure, I appreciate the music and influence of those who came before, but I’m always looking ahead, searching for the next big thing. Music, after all, is constantly evolving. There’s a time to reminisce, but one of the things that makes music fun is the fact that it’s an ever-changing art. Sometime the “establishment” sounds like they’re playing it safe. Where’s the innovation? They’ve made it to the top, they say. Why change the formula now?
Enter the future. LA-based DJ/producer Darin Epsilon may be the man to save a dying genre. His mixes consistently floor me; the flawless blends, intuitive structure and mind-blowing technical abilities are all a cut above. Did you check out his Structures Mix Competition entry earlier this month? It’s no surprise he’s been chosen as a finalist. And some of the new music he’s released? Top-shelf! Between gigs, recording his Perspectives Radio Show, managing the Perspectives Digital label, and preparing for the release of “Detour On 44” (out now!), I was able to pick his brain a bit about just how he got where he is today…
For the uninitiated: How do you classify your sound? Sell me in a single sentence…
I would say that the music I’m doing is a new combination or hybrid of Progressive and Tech House. Call it proggy tech or techy prog, they’re both similarly related and influencing each other at the moment.
If there were a sentence to sum up my sound, it would be “dreamy and atmospheric with a chugging vibe”.
Sold! But let’s start at the beginning — Your first taste, what got you hooked, and how you’ve evolved:
My first exposure to real electronic music came from college radio. When I was growing up, I lived close to Northwestern University just outside of Chicago. Every week, the local DJs would play the most mind-blowing high-energy house and progressive trance music. Eventually I became so deeply inspired that I no longer wanted to remain passive as a listener. With the help of the internet, I discovered a whole world of music that I wanted to share with other people. EDM was underground and virtually unknown in the area I grew up in, so this was a very fresh and exciting period of my life.
Roughly 7 or 8 years have passed since I bought my first set of turntables. I would definitely say my music selection has become a lot more mellow and groovy, as is the popular style these days. A lot of this had to do with my first exposure to the Global Underground series. That was when progressive house finally clicked for me.
Do you think Progressive House has been hijacked? Go to Beatport today and you’ll find a lot of other stuff under the “progressive” banner now. Most of the old prog players are moving in that melodic tech direction you mentioned…
We could literally have a whole conversation about the impact and influence of Beatport on EDM. I mean, just listen to the stuff that is classified as “Progressive House” these days. It’s embarrassing to think that our music would fit under the same category as David Guetta and Afrojack. What they really need to do is start a new category for mainstream and commercial House music. Look no further than labels like Bedrock, Sudbeat, Hope Recordings, and Perspectives Digital for a real dose of Progressive House.
You’ve worn a bunch of different hats in your career — DJ, Producer, remixer, label boss, web show host, vinyl slinger at a record shop, college radio jock and more; Which has been the most beneficial toward getting where you are now? The most/least fun? The most rewarding?
That would be very difficult to say. These experiences all helped bring me to where I am today, and they more or less happened in a sequential order. I discovered a lot of new music and developed my taste while working in a record shop during high school. This led to my position as a college radio show host that specialized in electronic dance. At the same time, I was working at building a career as a professional DJ. When I realized that DJing was no longer enough, I took it upon myself to learn the art of production. Finally, after spending years releasing music and learning about the business, I opened my own record label. I’ve been totally immersed in the music industry for close to 10 years now.
Does your job ever seem like “work”?
Contrary to what many people believe, there is a LOT of work involved doing what I do. It literally is a full-time job. For example, I spend hours upon hours digging for new music because I strive to be the first one that breaks a new track. It’s too easy to show up to a gig and play [the] Beatport Top 100. There’s also an endless amount of emails and networking involved as a DJ/producer. At the end of the day, work is never really “work” when it’s something you love and would be doing anyway.
I’ve ranted about the “Sales Chart DJ” myself. And another peeve of mine: Opening vs headlining duties! Advice?
I’ve always said that to be a good headliner, you must first be a good opener. Rarely these days will you ever see someone make the jump to headliner straight away. I’ve been a regular opening DJ at Avalon, the top nightclub in LA, for over a year now, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that opening is a lot tougher. Anyone can bang it out and play two hours of their biggest tracks, but you really have to know how music works in order to be a good opener.
My best advice would be to never try and overshadow the headliner because he or she is being flown out to play for a specific reason. There are certain tracks that you just cannot play at 10pm. You would be surprised how many DJs are lost on this concept.
You’re an internationally acclaimed DJ and Producer; you have a huge online following, you’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the scene, and you’ve had your own successes, all while championing the progressive house sound. But some places just haven’t embraced the genre or the progressive movement. Any ideas why prog house doesn’t get much traction in some big pockets of the world?
This is something I, along with many others, are working towards. I think the fundamental problem is that the music we play doesn’t necessarily have mass appeal. Not only that, but it’s extremely deep and introspective music. I couldn’t honestly imagine how my mom or dad would react to some of my sets. A lot of what I play is aimed at the true connoisseurs of dance music, so the general public might not catch on right away. However, I truly believe that I’ve found the most absolutely beautiful and perfect music imaginable and it’s my mission in life to expose as many people to the sound as possible.
Your “Perspectives” show is still going strong after 50+ episodes; how do you keep it fresh? Do you have a formula you stick to while putting together the show?
There’s no trick, really. I listen to my followers very closely and decide which guests they’d want to hear the most. I also recently recorded an interview with Guy J to talk about his latest album on Bedrock. Those kinds of actions that go beyond just playing music always seem to grab people’s attention.
How important is social media to the success as an artist? What’s worked for you? What’s overrated?
These days I would say it’s enormously important. However, keep in mind that all the social media in the world can’t help you if you don’t have a superior product to begin with. The landscape for social media is always changing, so the first step is to make sure you have an extremely efficient and well-organized website.
A few years ago, it was all about having the best Myspace profile; now that website is almost completely irrelevant. I’m starting to notice more and more people signing up for Google+, so [it] will be very interesting to see how far this site goes in the next year. These days, I focus most of my time and energy on SoundCloud, Facebook, and YouTube. At the end of the day, the most important thing for a musician is to be heard. Whichever tools or methods you use to achieve this goal is completely up to you.
On a side note, I have to give a lot of credit to those artists who bother to go the extra mile and direct their own viral videos.
And besides social media, where do you hang out online? Any forums or websites that get a shout out?
Obviously there’s the music, but what else can’t you live without? What do you do to unwind?
Well, I actually consider myself somewhat of a boring person because this is really all I focus my attention on. Asides from that, I love keeping up with what’s going on in the film world because I feel there are many parallels to what I’m doing as a musician.
You mentioned earlier the ‘Global Underground’ series — what’s your favorite GU compilation?
From the ones that I’ve heard, the most influential to me have been Sasha in Ibiza and the Danny Tenaglia compilations. I also enjoyed Paul Oakenfold in New York, but that wasn’t his best work at the time.
When it comes to non-electronic dance music, your guilty pleasure is…
Believe it or not, I used to be a metalhead and attend concerts like Ozzfest. Ahhh, the days of being a pissed-off teenager 😀
If you could change one thing about the scene today, what would it be?
I would definitely educate the average consumer on the harmful effects of pirating music. I’ve seen a lot of struggling musicians, many of whom are unbelievably talented, waste their potential by taking on several day jobs just to make ends meet.
Any up-and-coming progressive house jocks or producers you’ve got your eye on?
Well, I recently had a guy from Berlin named Lanny May remix me on my label Perspectives Digital. I just found out yesterday that he was named one of 14 finalists in the Sasha remix contest, so he gets to be flown to Ibiza for a masterclass with the man himself. He’s someone I would definitely be on the lookout for. His sound is fresh and non-formulaic.
Darin Epsilon – July Top 20
01. Walsh & Coutre vs. Darin Epsilon – Detour On 44 (Original / Dousk / Cid Inc / Lanny May Mixes) – [Perspectives Digital Promo]
02. Martin Roth – Alacati (Original Mix) – [Anjunadeep]
03. Weepee – Overlay (Eelke Kleijn Remix) – [Movement Promo]
04. Soulfire – Echo Effect (Hernan Cattaneo & Soundexile Remix) – [Stripped Promo]
05. Christian Smith – Cabecudas / Fugitive – [Bedrock Promo]
06. Egostereo – Sex Pistols (Hernan Cattaneo & Soundexile Remix) – [MC Groove]
07. Alan Live – Horizon (Original Mix) – [Looq Promo]
08. Jim Rivers – Black Keys (Marco Dassi Remix) – [MC Groove]
09. Juan Deminicis – Four Dimensions EP – [Perspectives Digital Promo]
10. Bionic Rockers – Code 0320 (Marcelo Vasami Remix) – [Promo]
11. Eiad Sayegh & Ollie V – Cured (Original / Audio Junkies / Lank Mixes) – [Indigo Promo]
12. Magitman & Tash – Volt Afterhours (Original Mix) – [Movement Promo]
13. Rodskeez – Urban Reality (Original Mix) – [Sudbeat]
14. Ricky Ryan – Miss Pasadena (Vipul Angirish / Beat Factory Mixes) – [Sick Watona]
15. Solead – Chicaboo (Kassey Voorn Balearic Mix) – [Flow Vinyl Promo]
16. Karaskilla – Chava Vagana (Kasey Taylor Remix) – [Fade Records]
17. Eddie Bitz – Subberman (Lank Remix) – [Mesmeric Promo]
18. Martin Etchegaray – Hunt The Clues (Original / Rikesto / Pacco & Rudy B Mixes) – [Per-Vurt Promo]
19. Kanov & Gosh – Thinkings (Tom Glass Remix) – [Indigo Promo]
20. Scotty A – Aeroplane Tails & Vapour Trails (Original Mix) – [Somebody’s Story Promo]