Fidget. Dutch. Tech. House. To the untrained ear, the genres of electro dance music (EDM) might sound like a potpourri of random nouns and verbs. Note progressions and beat variations subtly distinguish the sub-categories housed under the EDM umbrella. Recent performances by Deadmaus and Skillrex indicate dance music is rapidly gaining traction in Madison.
Meet DJ Red Spexxx, DJ Clav? and Night Milk, two student DJs and one duo, local names who make some of Madison’s wildest electro dance parties possible.
DJ Red Spexxx
Aka: Zach Cherny
Gear: MIDI controller
Plays: Zeta Beta Tau, house parties
It’s fitting a Justice song first sparked D.J. Red Spexxx’s love of electronic music, because the title of her song is Zach Cherny’s ultimate goal: to get party goers to “D.A.N.C.E.”
“I want people, when they are listening to my music, to dance, have a fun time, enjoy themselves,” Cherny said.
To learn the craft of DJing, Cherny downloaded Essential Mixes from BBC Radio 1. He reads blogs by Cookers and Fools Gold to continue his study EDM and keep up with the scene.
“With being a DJ you need to know what’s hot right now and what people are listening to,” Cherny said. “You learn how to blend all this music from all these musicians into something that will sound good to people.”
Cherny mixes a range of genres including hip-hop but prefers to spin EDM.
“The music that’s coming out right now is very influenced by electronic music. You have David Guetta, Afrojack, Tiesto producing music for hip hop artists,” Cherny said. “There’s definitely a growing ear for electronic music.”
DJ Red Spexxx likens the music he creates to a bag of Frito-Lay Munchies, because incorporates a variety of genres into his mixes. Cherny may play a mix of Avicii, Skillrex, Major Lazer and Steve Aoki at a given house party while also incorporating hits from the past decades like Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”
Though Cherny creates his mixes on the spot, he practices and prepares for a few hours each day.
“There is some etiquette that people should have at parties when it comes to DJs,” Cherny said. “DJs, for at least what I do, come with a lot of preparation for their gig, and they’re not going to want to hear a request for a song.”
Over the past year Cherny has cultivated the skills necessary to create danceable mixes.
“There’s skills and transitioning techniques that you learn to just make the sound that much better, like a sound collogue,” Cherny said.
Cherny ends each set with a version of Daft Punk’s “One More Time,” no doubt leaving dancers clamoring for just that.
Follow DJ Red Spexxx on Twitter @realzachcherny, or contact him at. firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to him mix Thursday, April 7 from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Orpheum Theatre as he opens for artists playing the Hip Hop Festival Supporting Israeli Fire Victims.
Members: Pat Mayer and Max Rupp
Gear: VCI-100 and VCI-300 MIDI controllers, Nuark X6 Digital Scratch Mixer
Plays: House parties, fraternities
EDM fans have the UW housing system to thank for the DJ duo known around Madison as Night Milk. Sophomores Pat Mayer and Max Rupp met last year after being paired together through random roommate assignment.
Skim milk remains Mayer and Rupp’s dairy beverage of choice and also served as the inspiration for their DJ duo name.
“We were just hanging out at our dorm, and one of us was drinking milk. And the other one was like, ‘Oh, you drinkin’ some night milk.’ It kind of just stuck,” Mayer said.
Mayer and Rupp spin a mix of pop remixes, dub step, tech, Dutch and fidget house often incorporating artists like DJ Chuckie, Afrojack and older material from the Italian producer Crookers.
Mayer likens creating a mix to writing a paper; a hook that’s familiar will capture listeners’ attention allowing the DJ(s) to proceed into more obscure musical territory. Often Night Milk will hint at a song and drop it out to create tension, the electro version of the bait and switch technique, Rupp said.
”I don’t let the kick drop out as much as a lot of other electro artists do. It’s s subtle difference, but I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and the consensus is if there’s no kick drum and no beat, just a build with no bass, people end up standing there and don’t know what to do,” Mayer said.
Night Milk has no problem balancing their desire to energize dancers and maintain artistic freedom.
“Our set right now is a good middle ground between the electro that we love and the remixes of pop songs that we know everyone likes,” Mayer said.
Humor plays an integral role in the mixes Night Milk spins and the EDM industry in general, according to Mayer. Using a negative comment as the backbone of a synth build in a song represents one way an electro artist incorporated humor, Rupp said.
Each member of Night Milk will play two songs before switching. Often they play at the same time as one mixes in and the other mixes out.
“Usually there’s one person playing the main song, and the other person maybe playing a beat that matches up well with it, or working something else in there creatively,” Mayer said.
This provides a unique benefit for dancers.
“You can just expand on all the things that you can do once you get a dynamic going,” Rupp said.
As they continue to mix Mayer and Rupp hope to connect with an 18 plus venue where they can host a monthly dance party. Individually, Mayer plans to continue producing mixes, and Rupp plans to incorporate his turntablism into Night Milk’s sound. In short, Night Milk hopes to become the Wu-Tang Clan of modern electro, Mayer said.
“Where we spin, people seem to enjoy it and dance. The more places we go I feel like the more we can get this music out,” Rupp said.
Contact Night Milk at email@example.com or search PatrickAwesome on Facebook.
Aka: Jake Clavette
Gear: Hercules DJ Consule Rmx
Plays: Kollege Klub on Wednesday nights
From the accent aigu that crowns the last letter of DJ Clav?’s name or the electronic music duo that first inspired him to explore the genre, Clavette embraces a French vibe.
Daft Punk’s 2007 album Alive introduced Clavette to the music he now mixes.
“I can trace it back to this one moment. I was a junior in high school, and we came back from this party,” Clavette said. “We were all just sitting there and listening to it. My mom’s calling me. It’s 3 a.m. in the morning. She’s like, ‘Jake, where are you?’ I was like, ‘Oh, I swear I’ll be home soon. Just hold on, I want to listen to this.’”
Clavette learned to DJ by watching YouTube videos; then, his fraternity brother suggested he play the KK.
“I was a little skeptical at first. I only wanted to open up for people and just play straight dance music,” Clavette said. “The first time I did it I had a blast. Now it’s turned into a regular thing. A lot of my friends will come. It gets pretty nuts, and I have a good time.”
DJ Clav? regularly incorporates electro artists including Avicii, Wolfgang Gardner and Porter Robinson, but pop remixes also help to introduce dancers to the electro music he loves.
“Just from my experience playing at the KK, I’ll play a Britney Spears remix or a Rihanna remix. Without the vocals, I don’t think people would get it at all. They’d just be like, “Woah, I’ve never heard this before.’ But now, when they hear something familiar I feel like it jolts them,” Clavette said. “When you hear something familiar with something new, it gets you curious.”
Clavette relies on a basic formula to spur the crowd to dance when he plays.
“A DJ’s job is to try to feed off the crowd,” Clavette said. “I’ll start off just playing rap or hip-hop, tracks that I like. I’ll play Phoenix or something. I’ll play that until maybe 11:45. Then I’ll start playing some more bar songs like Billy Joel just to get people feeling good and happy. Around 12-12:30 is when I really start playing dance songs and pop songs that are similar to dance songs.”
Clavette recently launched the EDM blog Sound of My Shoes (SOMS). It features daily posts discussing current artists and hosts ample tracks to provide deep insight into the genre.
Connect with DJ Clav? on http://soundofmyshoes.com/ or listen to him spin the KK on Wednesday nights.
UW students DJ Red Spexxx, Night Milk, and DJ Clav? help to fuel the electro scene in Madison. Interestingly enough, Cherny, Clavette and Mayer all attended Homestead High School in Mequon, Wis. They have since branched out, but their passion for EDM connects them musically, a genre that features mesmerizing synth lines and beats that drop with atomic power. As opportunities to hear electro music continue to grow locally and nationally, remember this: Don’t forget the glow sticks.