Chart-topping re-mixer, Just Circuit’s “Dj of the year” nominee, Stephen Massey also known as DJ Grind, took a couple minutes to talk to us before his set at NYC Pride’s Dance on the Pier. The Portland DJ explains what it’s like going from L.A. to New York to pride events around the world and how the recent EDM explosion has changed the gay dance scene. Many consider New York City Pride “the mother of all prides” and a marquee moment in an artist or DJ’s career. DJ Grind describes that humbling experience:
“I am so nervous but I’m also really excited! Yes it’s a defining moment, pride is a special time and a lot of people come to New York as a pilgrimage to the pride event. The Pier Dance is such a special moment for people and to be a small part of creating that memory for them is a really humbling experience but also a great gift and opportunity.”
The NYC Pride headlining DJ talks to us about his own production work he’s planning on featuring later that evening including remixes of Kylie Minogue, Dj Sammy and Demi Lovato:
“I have a brand new mix of Dj Sammy’s Heaven which some people might remember as a classic trance song that I’m bringing back to the dance-floor with a house vibe. I’m gonna play my Billboard #1 Into The blue with kylie Minogue, and I’m playing my brand new official remix for Demi Lovato Really Don’t Care which was just released this week on Hollywood records.”
Grind credits his Latin background as well as his years living in New York City in helping shape his production style. Specifically he credits Peter Rauhofer, Manny Lehman and Junior Vasquez from his days of patronizing a popular nightclub called The Roxy.
“I’m Cuban-American so I grew up listening to Latin music and I think that’s one of the reasons why in a lot of my production work you’ll hear a lot of Latin drum-line. It’s just something that I really like, it’s not necessarily tribal but I would say something like Latin-House. I’ll also say those dj’s back at the Roxy in the early 2000’s; Manny Lehman, Peter Rauhofer all those guys, Junior Vasquez, they’re amazing I learned so much from them.”
“I think it’s great, there are a lot of people who criticize edm, and I embrace it. I think it’s a great influence on the sound that you hearing in gay clubs now. I don’t play EDM or traditional EDM music but there are a lot of artists like Avicci or Calvin Harris whose influence in the gay community actually is really profound. What you’ll hear in a lot of gay dance music these days are these influences of these ‘EDM DJ’s’. There’s also a strong Spanish influence happening now where a lot of these Spanish-House Dj’s are becoming more and more popular so you’ll hear the U.S. circuit [sound] kind of being changed.”
The Full Interview:
Anthony: Hi, this is Anthony Lopez from Nexus Radio and I’m here in NYC at the Hudson Hotel with Stephen Massey who many of you will recognize as the chart topping remixer and producer DJ Grind. How are you?
DJ Grind: I’m good thanks. How are you?
Anthony: Happy Pride
DJ Grind: Same to you! Same to you!
Anthony: You seem to have brought beautiful weather to NY. How’s the weekend going so far?
DJ Grind: Oh my god, it’s amazing. I used to live here. I haven’t been back in awhile so it’s great to be back in NY and what a spectacular weekend.
Anthony: So where is home for you now?
DJ Grind: I actually live in Portland, Oregon. A super small place, but it’s a nice quiet break from all the traveling that I do on the music scene.
Anthony: Great. So in addition to being named DJ of the year two years in a row, you’ve been playing at a lot of events all over the world. What’s been your favorite place so far?
DJ Grind: Oh gosh. My favorite place is hard to say because I have friends that I’ve been able to meet through DJing all over the world and so there’s something special about every party. Certainly being in Sydney for Mardi Gras was a very special moment, but winter party in Miami this year, a white party and of course today’s Pure Dance are going to be highlights.
Anthony: A lot of performers either mark performing or spinning at this event as a marquee moment in this career. How are you feeling about this?
DJ Grind: I am so nervous, but I’m also really excited. Yes, it’s a defining moment and really what it is for me, it’s a special time and a lot of people come to NY as sort of a pilgrimage as the pride event and so the Pure Dance is such a special moment for people and to be a small part of creating that memory for them is a really humbling experience, but also a great gift and a great opportunity so I’m really excited and just feel so fortunate to be able to do what I do and to be able to be here in NY for Pure Dance this year.
Anthony: What can we expect to hear from you today?
DJ Grind: I have a lot of new stuff. I’ve been working real hard on this set and I have a brand new mix of DJ Sammy’s “Heaven”, which for some people, they might remember this. It’s really a classic dance floor trend song that I’m bringing back to the dance floor today with a great house vibe. I’m gonna play my billboard number one “Into the Blue” with Kylie Minogue. It’s one of my favorite tracks that I’ve produced this year. I was really proud of that one and the audience always seems to love it and I’m playing my brand new official remix for Demi Lovato “I “Really Don’t Care”, which was just released this week on Hollywood Records and I’m thrilled to be on that remix package. That plus a lot of other surprises in store for today.
Anthony: So tell me how did you end up remixing Demi Lovato?
DJ Grind: It’s funny because I had heard that song, “I Really Don’t Care”, and I didn’t realize that it was going to turn into a pride anthem, but I knew she was performing it at Pure Dance. I’ve been a big fan of hers for a long time and so I reached out to NYC Pride and asked if they would make the introduction to Demi’s team and they did and within two days, I had the stems and her vocal acapella and I started working on that remix with my production partner, Toya Motta and we submitted it a few days later and the label loved it and decided to go ahead and put it on the first remix package so I’m really thrilled. It’s our first time on Hollywood Records and my first time working with Demi and to meet her today and to see her perform it live will be fantastic.
Anthony: Wonderful! That just goes to show that if you want something, you’ve just got to go out there and ask for it. Are you going to be officially meeting her right before she goes on or do you get to spend a little bit of time with her today?
DJ Grind: I hope so. I think I’m going to be a celebrity stalker and hang out backstage and hope I get a few minutes with her.
Anthony: Let’s go back for a second. Tell me how you started DJing and producing.
DJ Grind: I’ve been a lover of dance music for a long time. I mentioned that I lived in NY back in the early 2000s and found myself at The Roxy every Saturday night and just really fell in love with the sort of energy of the dance floor and the community that music and sort of the dance experience creates. I never thought I would become a DJ and in fact I have a day job, but I was moonlighting as a spin instructor for awhile and just started creating mixes for my classes and one of my students in my class said “hey, you know I own this bar. You should come in and mess around on my DJ deck. You play great music” and one thing led to another and four years later here I am so it’s one of those things that I just sort of fell into, but I have fallen in love with music. I’ve been in music my whole life, but to be able to do this and have this opportunity to be able to travel the world and play as a DJ is something I never expected to be able to do and it’s like I said a real honor and a gift.
Anthony: Your podcast has over 4 million downloads. That’s pretty amazing. How do you feel about that? How did that come along?
DJ Grind: It grew organically. I’ve been doing podcasts for about 4 years and I think my podcast probably had like 50 downloads, but it just kind of went viral and it’s interesting. I don’t think I could be the DJ that I am today a decade ago. I definitely benefit from the information age and everybody on iTunes and podomatic and sound club and my podcast literally went viral and 3-4 years ago when I started doing these, people started downloading them, word of mouth and now I get about 100,000 downloads for a podcast every month and from all over the world. I go into the podomatic settings and see where people are downloading and it’s not just the US and the UK and Australia, which you would expect, but I’m getting downloads in places like Iran and Iraq and Egypt and China and Indonesia and not just ten downloads, but I think the last one I had 2,000 downloads in Indonesia, which is crazy. It’s great to know that my sound is getting out there and what I really love about the podcast is the emails that I receive from all over the world and people who tell me that it’s helped them get through a workout or train for a triathlon or that means a lot to me that I’m able to help people and also reach people with the music and inspire them through the sounds that I create.
Anthony: If you had to cite any big influences in your career, who would they be?
DJ Grind: Well I’m Cuban American so I grew up listening to Latin music and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m one of the production works that I produced you’ll hear kind of a Latin drum line. It’s just something that I really like. It’s not necessarily tribal, but a little more kind of a Latin house. I’d also say that those DJs back at The Roxy in early 2000s, Manny Leaman and Peter Rauhofer Those guys, Julio Vasquez, they’re amazing. I learned so much from them and Manny is now one of my really good friends and it’s fun to sort of just now be on the other side and be able to not only continue to really be inspired and kind of star struck when I meet these DJs, but also to be part of this family and to be able to hang out with him like a sister and just really just enjoy each others company and so just talk music and this amazing life that we’ve been able to lead so it’s been really fun.
Anthony: Obviously EDM, music dance music has exploded all over the world. How do you feel that’s affecting gay dance music?
DJ Grind: You know I think it’s amazing. I think it’s great. There’s a lot of people who criticize EDM and I actually embrace it. It’s a great influence on the sound that you’re hearing in clubs now. I don’t play EDM or traditional EDM music, but there’s a lot of, it’s like Avicii or Calvin Harris whose influence in the gay community actually is really profound and what you’ll hear in gay dance music these days are these influences of these “EDM DJs” and what I think is really, there’s also a really strong Spanish influence happening now where a lot of these sort of Spanish house DJs are becoming more and more popular and so you’re hearing the US circuit sound kind of being changed with a Spanish house sound, which I think is great. Both the Spanish house and EDM music are in a lot of ways very melodic and so what I am really loving right now about the circuit sound here in the US is that it’s becoming more melodic and it’s not just about really hard drums, but about these beautiful synths and bringing back the vocals, which you know I love and so I think EDM and the sort of Spanish house have really influenced us in that direction.
Anthony: Your star seems to be rising and we’re all kind of sitting back watching and what do you want to do next? Where do you want your career to go?
DJ Grind: First of all, thank you very much. That means a lot and I couldn’t be doing this without support from friends and fans across the country and around the world and it really means the world to me to be able to do this. What’s next? I don’t really know to be honest with you. This is not a career goal for me. I just like playing happy music and making people happy and creating an experience on the dance floor. Sure, there are gigs that I would love to play and am excited to go back I hope to Sydney next year. I really loved that Mardi Gras, but I’ve learned in this business if you set too many goals for specific parties that you want to play, it can lead to disappointment so for me, I’m just honored to play anything and I’ll be honest. Getting the Pure Dance was something completely unexpected for me and it wasn’t an event I sought out. I honestly didn’t think I was on the short list for it, but to receive the call from NY Pride asking if I would be interested in doing it, it was one of those moments in life I’ll never forget. I literally fell out of my chair and so six months ago I wouldn’t have said to you Pure Dance would be my goal and here I am so who knows where I’ll be six months from now.
Anthony: Tell us where we can find you.
DJ Grind: Well, you can find me on DJGrind.net, that’s my website and from there you can find links to my Facebook page, Twitter, SoundCloud. I’m also on iTunes. If you search DJ Grind you can find my podcast link there and sign up. You’ll get a free podcast in your in box every single month. In fact, my next podcast is already done and it’s loaded and it will go live tonight at midnight.
For more information on DJ Grind visit www.djgrind.net