Category: Editorial

Today I lost my hero

August 5, 2013 was the day I lost my Grandpa Harlan. Growing up, I always looked up to my grandfather as a mythical human being. He grew up in the Great Depression and lost his father very early on in his life. Yet against all odds, my grandpa fought back everything he had going against him and led one of the most epic lives I’ve ever heard of. And we are all fortunate that he was able to write his own auto-biography before he passed. Life’s really hard for most people and one harsh truth I’ve learned is that everyone has their issues. Yet it’s the people like my grandpa who stand up in hard times that make this world a better place.

Remember when you were assigned little essays in elementary school to write about a hero? While many of the other kids often picked athletes or human rights activists as their heroes, I always wrote about my grandpa. I can recall at least three of these papers and one as recently as my application for the University of Texas.

For the longest time, I looked at my grandpa as my hero purely based on all of the professions and hobbies he had throughout his lifetime. He was in the Navy; he was a boxer; he had one of the most beautiful singing voices I’d ever heard; he was a lawyer (and a very accomplished one at that); he was a liberal and always looked out for those less fortunate than him; he was a Sheriff; he was the most well-read person I’d ever met; and the list goes on and on and on.

I also had a very special bond with my grandpa because of the many interests we had in common. We both loved sports (playing and watching), Shakespeare and traveling among many others. We also both loved to talk a ton. Whenever I planned to call my grandpa, I always made sure I had at least an hour to talk. Sometimes I felt like “Oh man, now I have to talk to my grandpa for an hour,” but as soon as we began chatting, there was nothing I’d rather do. He always took a great interest in my life and had wisdom to offer during every single call. I heard countless stories about how much of a hardass my grandpa was and some of the crazy things he put my mom through as kid, but he was always the sweetest man to me. He was my biggest fan.

My grandpa always told us that no matter what you do in life, never be bored. And I’ve tried my hardest to live up to that. It wasn’t easy moving to California without my parents and my sister, but my grandpa thought it was the coolest thing that I decided to live my life out here. He wanted me to try new things and live my life to the fullest, so I hope I’m doing him proud.

One of the things I always admired about my grandpa was his workout routine. Later in his life, he lived with only one lung, a fucked up heart and a hunched over back, yet still woke up at 4 a.m. every morning to go for a run until he no longer could. It broke his heart when he became too physically unfit to work out and I know he took a big shot to his ego when that time came. But he tried for as long as he could, and that’s why I’ve decided to start running in his memory.

Whether it was going for a run, being fashionable or seeing the world, it was most important to my grandpa to be passionate. That’s a big thing I’ve taken away from him and a major reason I keep up with this blog. Electronic dance music is one of my many passions, as well as writing, so I have taken it upon myself to share my passion with whoever cares to read.

Another thing that we shared was that we were both very deep, emotional people. And I can’t help but be devastated that my grandpa will never have the chance to meet my future wife or children.

If there is anything I’ve taken away from my grandpa, it’s that if you want to do something then do it, and if you do it then make sure you always gain knowledge and make yourself a more well-rounded person in the process. I think that’s something that I have always done and hope my efforts are appreciated by others.

If I may pass on some wisdom that I learned from him, it’s to always appreciate people, whether it be for their skills or even just their odd uniqueness. I meet some weird people in Los Angeles, but I always give them a chance. I think getting to know different types of people is important and believe that each encounter provides me with more perspective on life. My grandpa was the same way.

I know this is completely unrelated to EDM, but I think this blog is the best way for me to express my feelings in this time of mourning. If you bothered to read this, then hopefully you understand how great of a man my grandpa was, but also understand me and what I’m made of.

I was lucky enough to have him in my life for 23 years and am even luckier to still have two grandparents and a step-grandparent still alive. I hope all of you have as great of memories of your grandparents as I do and have learned just as much.

I just want to say I love you grandpa and you’ll always be my hero.

It’s that time of year again when all of your favorite DJs continually harass you to vote for them in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs Poll. I believe this is my fourth year voting and wow have my picks changed over time.

I know there are a lot of haters out there who think this poll is meaningless and now skewed towards the American perspective, but I think there is a lot to take away from this poll. I find it very interesting to see genre trends from year to year, as well as big jumps in DJs’ fame in just 365 days.

I am particularly interested to see how the genres pan out this year. In the 2012 poll, Hardstyle DJs took a huge step into the limelight with double digit DJs representing their genre just in the Top 50. Of course leading the way was bald-headed Dutch producer Headhunterz at No. 10. I am hoping to see Trap break the top 30 this year with the likes of Baauer and RL Grime, but admittedly think that is a HUGE stretch.

The DJ Mag Top 100 DJs Poll is also a fascinating case study in terms of a popularity contest. Anyone who was paying attention to EDM in 2011 knew Hardwell was going places. The guy was releasing amazing track after amazing track, while the previous year Avicii toured the shit out of America and produced fewer songs and made an even more astronomical jump. Nevertheless, they both made giant leaps into the top 10 and still stand as two of the biggest DJs in the world. In 2011, Avicii went from No. 39 to No. 6. While in 2012, Hardwell jumped from No. 24 to No. 6.

I’ll also be curious to see where Daft Punk ends up this year after producing an album for the first time since 2007. For as long as I can remember, Daft Punk always made the Top 50 even though they hadn’t toured or made music in half a decade.

So as goes many things in my life, I have a formula for voting for my Top 5. I’ve been using this method for the last three years and am a fan of voting for people for various reasons rather than just straight up who the top DJs in the world are.

Also, remember that the title of “Top DJ” is an insane marketing tool that DJs can leverage to pull in more money for their performances. That’s why they hound you to vote for them. Because everything is a business when it comes down to it.

If I had to predict who I think will be the Top 5 this year, I would say:

  1. Armin Van Buuren
  2. Tiesto
  3. Hardwell
  4. Above & Beyond
  5. Headhunterz

But anyway, back to my formula. So DJ Mag takes fans’ votes and weights them in order with 1 having the most weight and 5 having the least. Because of this, I devised a way, in my opinion, to give credit where credit is due. Here it is:

  1. Which DJ(s) had the biggest impact on EDM this year? I took this away from a friend of mine after I voted in my first poll. I think when picking your top DJ it is important to think of them as an entity who had an impact on EDM in general. Do they own a label? Have they made other artist’s careers? Are they leading the way in a genre? How many songs did they produce this year? All things which I consider in my No. 1 DJ.
  2. Which DJ(s) had the best productions this year? A very important question and one that I said earlier think led to Hardwell’s monster jump from 2011 to 2012. This has to do with both quality and quantity, which include Originals, Remixes and Mashups.
  3. Emerging Star: This is pretty self-explanatory, but I save this spot for a DJ that I think has made huge strides in a year and has strongly impacted their genre for the better. Avicii in 2011, Hardwell in 2012.
  4. Favorite DJ not picked yet: Every year I know that some of my favorite DJs will not break the Top 5, let alone the Top 30, but I always make a plug for someone that I think deserves more recognition at No. 4.
  5. Best live set this year: I like to save my last slot for the best live DJ performance I saw in a given year. Swedish House Mafia took the cake with this one at EDC Vegas 2011 (still the best live DJ set ever IMO), and the category has stuck with me since.
  6. Bonus:  This year DJ Mag decided to add a bonus pick for the best DJ of the last 20 years. I don’t think most people voting have the wherewithal to make a pick (myself included), but I tried to pick the DJ(s) who had the biggest impact on EDM and what it has become today. I was also very biased with this one.

So now to my picks!

  1. Above & Beyond – My favorite DJs (yadi yadi yada)… Above & Beyond have a HUGE impact on not just the world of Trance, but EDM as a whole. Their label Ajunabeats and sub-label Anjunadeep have a tremendous impact on EDM in general and have launched the careers of so many DJs year in and year out. I am biased, but I really can’t believe these guys have not broken the Top 5 since 2010. This is their year! The same could be said for Armin, but I don’t really like Armin.
  2. Myon & Shane 54 – They made so many sick tracks this year and in my opinion are the kings of mashups. It’s just stupid that they are so low on this list every year.
  3. Baauer – The guy is almost singlehandedly clearing the way for Trap. Harlem Shake is an EDM phenomenon like no other and the guy has some serious talent. I saw him live twice this year and could not have had more fun. I don’t know if a Trap Dj will make the Top 100, but I’m putting my money on Baauer if so. I HIGHLY doubt this will happen.
  4. Shogun – Orange County-native Trance producer Shogun is easily in my Top 5 favorites. I will be writing a post about him this week, so I won’t get into too much detail here. I hope he makes the Top 50!
  5. Markus Schulz – EDC Vegas + this guy + the sunrise = best set I saw this year. Wow. Go see him if you ever get a chance. He also does nine-hour long sets, which is just insane and a true testament to his commitment to his art.
  6. Above & Beyond – They have made the best 138 BPM Trance, the best 134 BPM Trance and are all around my favorite DJs. Also, Trance > all other EDM genres. I think Armin will win though.

I’d love to hear what people think of my method and others’ Top 5 this year. Leave a comment or write me on Facebook!

I’m Back

EDC VegasIt’s been nearly 16 months since my last blog post, and man has a lot happened to me and my taste in music since. Music has sort of taken a back seat over the last year to some of my other passions – I fell for girl, fell for a few too many video games, graduated from college, went to Europe, moved to LA… and the list goes on. But after attending EDC Vegas this past weekend, I realized that music was and always will be my first passion (or at least until I find the next girl).

What really made me want to start blogging again was a conversation, or more appropriately, a lecture I dictated to five people on a bus back from Vegas. For almost two-straight hours, fellow ravers who also attended EDC listened to me rant and discuss various genres, sub-genres and my overall taste in EDM. They hung on my every word and would not stop asking questions. I loved answering all of them and I sort of forgot what it felt like to share my passion for music with others. I don’t DJ anymore and currently have little to no avenues for sharing my taste in music other than the occasional YouTube video on Facebook.

I really like being a tastemaker and few things make me feel better than sharing what is important to me with others. If I can turn someone onto a new genre of music or a new artist that then becomes as big of a part of their life as mine, then that makes me incredibly happy. And so goes the reasons for continuing with this blog.

I don’t keep up with new music to the extent that I used to. I formerly could listen to a DJs podcast and already have downloaded every song featured on it. Instead, I plan to share playlists (like I used to) of songs that share a common theme, genre or maybe just something I’m vibing on and think people need to give a listen.

I always appreciate feedback on both my writing style and taste in music, so feel free to comment or hit me up on social media if we are connected.

So yeah, I’m back. Let’s see how long this lasts…

Editorial: Trance > House

I have to come out and say it. After seeing Above & Beyond on Thursday night, I am over House music. Although I was still drunk, I nearly posted a one sentence disclaimer after the show: “Fuck house, ❤ Trance.” But there it is.

I’ll continue to mix it at parties and probably download just as much of it, but it simply does not compare to Trance.

House is far simpler to compose than Trance, and I am undecided on which is tougher to mix because I have heard mixed opinions on the matter. Trance has more of a complex structure within the song. Trance tracks need chords and melody, and often feature piano solos.

As you may recall from my Above & Beyond post, I described Trance as an emotional journey. This still holds true, but on a completely superficial level, Trance is also way more fun to see live. The buildups are longer, the drops are bigger and the all-around experience is far more, well, of an experience.

House music is incredibly repetitive, and while the genre has branched off into several subgenres as of late, House songs come and go, losing their impact after just a short while.

Trance is exactly what the word means; it takes you to another place. The words used to describe house include fun, lively, upbeat, or groovy, while Trance is often described as emotional, dramatic, enticing, or beautiful.

One friend describes Trance as “(bringing him) to another state of consciousness while completely sober.” That’s pretty sweet…

I also can’t forget to mention #trancefamily.

I’ve been incredibly turned off by all back-and-forth debating about which House songs are better, or if a House track is even good. You’ve all been guilty of this. One guy even decided to comment on a post I made about how contradictory and wrong I was about Avicii. That just completely goes against the spirit of EDM.

Next time you don’t like a House song you’re listening to, instead of saying it’s bad, why not suggest an alternative song. Or if you are speaking about a DJ, instead of saying they are bad, just say you don’t listen to them, or it’s not your thing.

This never happens amongst Trance fans, or at least I have yet to witness it. Trance is something that brings us together and provides a common ground. Whenever I run into another Trance fan, we share an obvious unspoken bond concerning our love of the music.

I know a lot of my readers are just getting into EDM, and I realize House and Dubstep are much easier bridges to travel, but give Trance a shot!