Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome to the DJ booth and let me introduce you to DJ Will Eastman of BLISSPOP

Performing with the likes of MOBY, MSTRKRFT, James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem, Cut Copy, Thievery Corporation, Tittsworth, and Nadastrom it’s amazing DJ Will Eastman has time to walk his dog Topper, let alone take the time to be interviewed by DC This Week. But this resident DC DJing phenom has just one response to that, “They have as much talent in their pinky toes as I have in my entire body.”

If you’ve yet to rock it out at one of his events in the District you’ve yet to experience BLISS. Let me explain what this feels like with a few nouns.

  • Bliss – a noun: supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment; the joy of heaven; paradise; a techno dance party.
  • DJ Will Eastman – a noun: founder and resident DJ of BLISSPOP events at the 9:30 Club and Black Cat; a “titan DJ” according to the Washington Post; pure eye candy.

With Part II of Welcome to the DJ Booth Will gave me the low down on how this techno "titan" label came about. But tonight you can see him in action for yourself as the next round of house and techno dance beats reigns down on the 9:30 Club. I suggest you partake in the BLISSPOP line-up which includes Holy Ghost! (DJ set) and Mike Simonetti (Italians Do It Better). Tickets are $15 HERE and sold at the door.

For a double dose of bliss you can dance on couches this Sunday for my birthday as Will and I present LE FREAK at Napoleon. Details HERE.

So welcome to the DJ booth and let me introduce you to Will Eastman.

JF: What are you currently listening to in your car/at home/ on your Ipod?
WE: According to my iPod’s recently played list, Designer Drugs, The Clash, Bag Raiders, N.A.S.A., and Aeroplane

Are there any upcoming albums that you can't wait to hear?
I’m listening to a draft of Outputmessage’s upcoming album and it’s majestic, Junior Boys meets Eurythmics. The final version will be amazing. Also looking forward to new stuff from Dmerit, the Nouveau Riche DJ's, and Nadastrom.

Who would you like to see release another album?
Cut Copy, although I don’t know how they’re going to follow up “In Ghost Colours.”

You are always on the go, a real jet-setting DJ, what do you do in your free time?
Well “jet-setting” is a bit of a stretch. When friends drag me away from the studio or my “desk,” which is actually the dining room table, I like the Hirshhorn Museum and cocktails at The Gibson.

Tell me more about your philanthropic endeavors or extracurricular activities.
I’ve served on the board of Project Create, a local nonprofit that provides free after school arts programs for at-risk children, and DJ’d fundraisers for them. If you can inspire just one kid it’s worth it.

How did you learn to DJ?
Curiosity basically. I watched people DJing and practiced non-stop at home. I remember watching a DJing basics video that was helpful and searching “DJ tips” online. I read every website beginning to end. I’m still learning, picking up new things. If that ever stops, stick a fork in me and turn me over.

What is your heritage?
I’m a ‘70s soul singer trapped in a white dude’s body.

How has technology impacted the equipment and the state of music?
In every conceivable way: there’s maybe not enough space on your blog to answer this question. Everything.

In order to be a successful DJ you have to be in tune to what the people are feeling. How do you stay in touch with what's hot and what's not?
I trust my gut. I don’t really care about what’s hot. I play music that makes me feel a certain way, excited, happy, goose bumps, etc., and it’s hoped I can communicate a narrative to an audience in a way that moves them.

Are there any companies, sponsors and/or labels that you are associated

The folks at have been big supporters of me and Blisspop since they started on blogspot and I’m honored. We work together on events at the 9:30 Club. I don’t maintain any sponsorships as a DJ but a few companies like Filter Media and Scion have supported Blisspop events by helping us bring in headlining artists over the years and we’re grateful for their support.

What is a common misconception about DJing?
A DJ is not a jukebox. You can’t stick a dollar in his ass and hear your song. Trust your DJ. It’s his or her job. If you want to hear “Single Ladies” go to your car and turn on 99.5.

What are your thoughts concerning DJ's and their role in the music business? Do you think that your work supports or subverts most artist?
I would be sad if my work would ever subvert an artist. A lot of bands/record labels/promotions companies/DJs/producers send me music in the hope I’ll play it/put it on a mixtape/put it on my website/tell my friends about it, etc. If my playing their stuff doesn’t help them, doesn’t get people to seek out songs by artists they’ve never heard before, doesn’t move a party then I’m not doing my job.

Who was the first person or artist who you heard growing up which got you hooked on music?
My dad was a stereo and record fan so I listened to a LOT of music growing up. I liked disco because that’s what was popular when I was really young and impressionable. Chic, Queen, Jackson 5 were a few groups I remember hearing very young. However, the first record I bought on my own that was really “mine” was Minor Threat’s “Out of Step.”

What do you think differentiates you from other DJ's?
I think I have more in common with most DJs than dissimilarities, but if I had to pick one thing it would be that I practically grew up doing this. My mom managed several nightclubs so I was always around jukeboxes, radio, musicians, etc. and my parents made sure I had my own record player and records for as long as I can remember. I joined my first band at 15, first promoted a concert at 17, and missed senior prom to play a show. My friends and I threw house parties in high school and spent countless hours putting together mixtapes. By the end of college (college radio, more bands, more parties) I’d already been in the music business 10 years. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What is your favorite piece of music? What are your favorite albums?
Damn, there’s so much. Off the top of my head, The Cars’ “Drive” is about as perfect a song as they come. Favorite album is The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead.”

What was the first DJ competition you entered? How well did you do and what did you learn?
I’ve never been in a DJ competition. I’d probably lose if I entered one. My scratching skills are weak.

What are some of your favorite places to unwind in D.C. and around D.C.?
Breadsoda, The Gibson, ESL, Marvin, Proof, Cork, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Black Cat, Bar Pilar, Saint Ex (week days)

What is your Favorite Global Venue to Spin at?
Spy bar, Sweden, it’s the 18th Street Lounge of Stockholm. World-class.

What is your advice to up-and-coming DJ's?
Do what you love. If you don’t absolutely love Djing, if you wouldn’t do it for free, go do what you would do for free. If you want to get laid there are a much easier ways to accomplish that. Talent helps, but perseverance is essential.

Other than being a DJ what talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could write in a way that resonates with and inspires people. I wasn’t supposed to be a DJ. I was supposed to be a historian, but got the music gene instead of the literature gene.

If DJing never existed where would music be today? What would be

I can’t imagine a world without Grandmaster Flash, and don’t want to.

Which gig/tour will you remember forever?
Spybar, Stockholm, 2006. Swedish Idol was filming its season finale next store. Spy Bar became the after party and before Brian Billion and I knew what was going on, the host, Sweden’s version of Ryan Seacrest, was in the DJ booth MCing over our set with people going craaaazeeee.

Was it difficult to get into the DJing scene? Were you taken seriously?
No one took me serious when I started but it was okay because I didn’t take myself serious either. I was just having fun. It was good to do that for a long time and get comfortable with the equipment, techniques, being in the club, etc. I didn’t buy tables and 6 months later feel I needed to have a profile. I relaxed, had fun, took my time, and DJ’d to a LOT of empty rooms. When club owners realized I didn’t give up easy they gave me a chance.

Yamaha Motif Series or Korg Triton Series? Why?
It’s funny because it wasn’t that long ago, but hardware seems so twentieth century now. I use Ableton Live software with synth plug-ins. It’s way easier, inexpensive and takes up less space than a music production synthesizer.

Wax, CD or MP3/CPU?
Serato with vinyl: it’s as close to DJing with wax as you can get, yet having 10,000 songs at your fingertips.

So what's the deal with your music production?
I just finished a new remix of a band from Athens, GA called The Ruby Isle. It’ll be out in a few weeks, and I’m currently at work on an album of original material. Writing and producing songs is hard. It takes time. That’s why I’m always in the studio when people invite me out for happy hour.

How do you choose the venues you play?
I try to work with people who work hard. I try to work with people who are passionate about what they do. The 9:30 Club is the most efficiently run nightclub in America. Some of the most passionate and deeply principled people I know run The Black Cat. 18th Street Lounge is a global inspiration. Its owners are role models for how to create a comprehensive nightlife experience. I’m extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work with these clubs.

What kind of preparation do you do before playing a set?
Practice, practice, practice. I listen to thousands of songs every month. I listen to and screen out the bad music so you don’t have to. I’m always pulling tracks, researching new music, digging in record stores. People often ask, “What do you do during the day?” For every hour in the club, 5 hours prep, minimum. If you just show up for the big presentation but don’t do the advance preparation how long will you keep your job?

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Anyone who’s heard me drop Phil Collins or Def Leppard at Bliss knows the answer to this question.

What made you decide to be based in the DC Area?
I moved here for grad school at GWU, loved it, and decided to stay. DC is the perfect city. It’s filled with art and lots of nerds like myself. I’ll never leave.

If you could spin for anyone, who would this be and why?
I once DJ’d for the Prince of Ethiopia. If I could choose any place, any gig, 10 times out of 10, it would be a house party with 50 friends.

Describe music in three words.
I. Love. It.

If God reigned down from heaven and granted you any line-up for a future BLISSPOP who would rock the turntables?

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