If you’re like me, you enjoy traveling at light speed across the dance floor while the DJ unleashes a series of stabs and kicks from his sonic arsenal. DJ Renegade, the Pied Piper of House Music, will command your every movement on the dance floor with his amazing syncopated rhythms. Recently we caught up to the man on the wheels of steel and he brought us up to speed on his sounds, his label and his future endeavors.
AS: Peace brother, how are things?
DJR: Peace to you also! Things are good I just finished remixing Kimberley Locke for Randy Jackson and I am currently remixing Kaci Battaglia ft Ludacris “Body Shots” for Curb Records so I am finally moving up in the remix world!
AS: What was it like growing up in New Jersey?
DJR: Good and bad… It was good that we had great dance radio with KTU and local clubs to go to, it wasn’t so good that the NJ cops think that being out past midnight was reason enough to deserve giving out a traffic ticket! That kinda stuff kills the club scene in NJ when it happens.
AS: You started DJing back in ‘86. What drew you into becoming a DJ?
DJR: When we were kids, we loved David Lee Roth. He had all the hot chicks, nice cars, and ca$h and I remember thinking that I want a job like that! I bought my gear piece by piece by working in the worst retail and food jobs imaginable and started cranking out mixed tapes where I made a killing for awhile…. After that I decided I wanted a record label someday and started from there…
AS: Just like any other craft, people have to work their way up the ranks. How difficult was it for you to rise through the ranks?
DJR: Well I refused to play anywhere BUT Limelight when I started my dream of having the top NYC DJ spot which I twice held in “regular” clubs with Limelight and Tunnel and currently hold in “adult” clubs with Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club so I starved myself and just held out for what I wanted. That’s what made it the most difficult because when I say starved, I mean literally starved. I would buy records over food. I have pictures where you can see my ribs at one point. Thank god that it did all pay off and I have my house and 2 kids to thank for that hard work and risk taking. It also helped that I stayed 99% drug free (I was dosed the other 1%). The people that were “cool” and heavily into the drug scene at the time are currently not doing very much whereas I still have a solid career. I did have a lot of help from my Ex DJ partner DJ Corbett who I would go DJ college parties with and those parties helped pay for things like food and electricity at the time. My dad also helped out in the beginning and gave me a little package $$ to help get me started.
AS: You DJ’ed in various clubs, but the one club that stands out is NYC’s infamous Tunnel Nightclub. That club was one of the premier places to be during the nineties era. Let’s relive a moment of your time spent as a DJ rocking on the ones and twos.
DJR: Yeah that was by far one of the best DJ’ing experiences I ever had…I remember Vin Diesel working there with me, Richie Rich who later started Heatherette being the MC, and we had a great light guy named Tweety. Once the crowd was ready to party, the partied like no other! I was living the original GTL lifestyle back then for sure…The girls were very competitive, sexy, bisexual, ready for whatever it was very intense to say the least…You could say everything I wanted when I made that career choice at 16 years of age came true there lol…..I used to stop the record to a dead silence and stand there with my arms crossed, refusing to play another record until the crowd was screaming their F’ing heads off, then kick in with the HARDEST record I could dig up that week which drove them into pure madness!
AS: Life can be funny. When things are going your way it can suddenly fall apart leaving you to pick up the pieces. The Tunnel Night Club was raided and closed down leaving you to regroup. Take us back to the very moment you heard the news
DJR: I remember going to the local store like I did every morning to grab the paper and seeing on the front page of the newspaper “Police Shut Down the Notorious Tunnel Nightclub” or something or other and just thinking “Wow I guess I have no job now”. Having a kid and adult responsibilities it was one of the worst feelings you could imagine. Luckily I had a team of promoters that moved me right over to Exit2 where I kept spinning for a bit before deciding to take a break to grow. During this time I learned how to produce and remix music and here I am back for round 3!
AS: It’s apparent that you’ve bounced back and landed on your feet since your departure from The Tunnel. Where are you currently spinning?
DJR: I have a residency Tues-Thurs at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in NYC which is an incredible venue. I call it “Scores on Steroids” because of the 10,000 sq feet of party space. I don’t really “mix” here but I help to program what is played and the scenery isn’t so bad either! I actually met my son’s mother here DJ’ing so I get more than a check at the end of the week if you know what I mean (job perks!). JK I actually have a good GF now so don’t enjoy the fringe benefits anymore… I do travelling gigs on the weekends which I love!
AS: Not only did you work at The Tunnel, you also worked at the Limelight Night Club. While at the club you and a partner came together and formed “Progressive House”. What was the concept and vision behind Progressive House?
DJR: It started with my DJ partner at the time, DJ Corbett. He had a vision of House Music that sorta sounded like Techno but wasn’t Techno and started crafting it out. Every now and then I would chime in my ideas, but he really started all of that and since the club was so influential at the time, other DJ’s had to follow suit. I had my own ideas and when we played out together live, the two ideas became one sick ass DJ set. We are in the process of putting together some Limelight reunion gigs with CEG so be on the lookout!
AS: You opened up your own company “NYC Mixed CD’s”. Was this a lifelong dream come true?
DJR: Well I like most DJs at the time were selling mixed CD’s which was a great source of income but also was depriving labels, artists, writers out of some of their due money. While yes it helps promote the track, people were buying the mixed CD’s instead of the legal product. As I grew into a remixer\producer I realized that this was wrong. I approached Columbia Records with the idea to do a full blown DJ mixed CD concept, but they didn’t believe in the idea. I had the first legal mixed CD that utilized mainstream forms of advertising (Radio, In store promos, etc). Unfortunately, the budget was cut on the project and then Louie DeVito did the same thing with a bigger budget and a few more commercial tracks whereas I had ALL underground tracks on mine and made the real $$ when it was there to make but either way, it was nice to see those artists, labels, writers, etc finally make some decent money. Ultra Records is probably the most successful at taking this idea and doing something good with it for the long run although they went way more commercial with it then I originally did or would have.
AS: Technology has changed the way we create, distribute, and promote music. One thing that hasn’t fully changed is the DJ’s use of turntables. There’s nothing like a fresh pair of Technics 1200! Although there are alternatives to mixing it seems like nothing will replace the turntable and the record. Do you agree with this statement?
DJR: No. Sorry I used to think like that but I am just as comfortable with my Pioneer DVJ-1000s as I am with my old Technic 1200s PLUS I don’t have to worry about a needle wearing out half-way through my DJ set or something. Do I love spinning on 1200s? Absolutely but prefer a good DVJ or CDJ any day.
AS: The mixtape game itself has evolved over the years. There are more MC’s creating their own visions through mixtapes, where as in the past it was more popular for the DJ to release a mixtape. In your opinion, who inspired the concept of the MC involving his whole project through the mixtape circuit, and do you think the market is over flooded with mixtapes?
DJR: That’s more of a Hip-Hop thing. I love Hip-Hop, but as a house music DJ, I don’t pay much attention to the mixtape game. I do feel it’s extremely flooded though and sort of annoying. Sometimes there will be a great mixtape track that I like that is unavailable as a single so I end up playing it off the mixtape and then try to mix out of it before the DJ does on the mixtape. I wouldn’t do this in a regular club but at Hustler, no one knows the difference since we mix out every 3:15 of a song anyways (the duration of a private dance).
AS: If you could change the mixtape market, what would you change?
DJR: I guess tell the artist “NO MORE THAN 2 A YEAR PLEASE!” For mixtape DJs “Stop yelling over every song every 3 seconds. STOP! It’s annoying!”
AS: DJing introduced the art of emceeing and as time went on, the popularity of emceeing took off. Some would say that the popularity of emceeing overshadows the art of DJing. Sometimes people praise one of Hip-Hop’s pivotal elements, Emceeing, without mentioning its core elements, the art of DJing, Graffiti, and Breaking. What is your opinion on those who deny the other 3 core elements their proper shine?
DJR: I grew up around the time when Hip-Hop was developing but the scene is different now. It’s nice when it’s a package however I do feel the MC is the most important element by far in Hip-Hop along with the Producers. In House music, it’s the producers, remixers, artist’s and DJ’s. I don’t know how relevant a graffiti artist is at this stage of the game except for doing CD covers but it does make an event more lively when a good one does his thing live in front of a crowd. The breakdancers are entertaining as well when they are good. Again I am a house music DJ so I am just going off what I see going on with the social sites. I used to love watching the circle dancers at Tunnel when they were breakdancing and going off so like I said, when they are good at what they do, it definitely does add to the vibe of the party.
AS: I know you’re no stranger to the turntable combat, so let’s have a little fun. Let’s say you are in a DJ battle with N.Y.C’s, Funk Flex. He has ripped his set, amped up the crowd and currently has the crowd on his side. It’s time for you to step on stage and rock the house. This is for all the marbles! What mixes, scratches, and tricks do you use to sway the crowd?
DJR: That exact scenario actually happened to me at Expo nightclub. I followed Flex one night. I came on and started scratching a bass drum but when I let the track play, it was a sick house track. The crowd went nuts and the party was off the hook. I miss Expo it was such a great club. Me, Flex, Rizzo, Merrit, and Lord G were the residents. Great party! I’m not a battle DJ, that’s a craft in its own but I can scratch and stuff. I prefer to do battle with my 6-12 hour DJ sets, keeping the crowd as hype as possible for that amount of time by my music choices and DJ things that I do (I’ll never tell all of my secrets)!
AS: Where can future fans go to listen to your material?
DJR: www.soundcloud.com/djrenegade will have all of the latest releases all the time!
AS: Is there anything you want to share that wasn’t said in this interview?
DJR: I would like to just say thanks to all the promoters, club owners, and club goers who appreciate what I do and continue to support me to this day. Also, thanks to Sal @ CEG, and the crew at Big Management as well as Mike Rizzo for being a long time supporter and helping to keep me going in the right direction as well as Charlie Casanova (the promoter not the DJ)! And my last FYI, NYC Mixed CDs is currently inactive so check out my latest project, NYC Traxx Records. Last year we put out new releases from Safire, Dee Robert, and Evelyn Demille (Evelyn Escalera of the Cover Girls).