Interview with DJ Stephen Durkin

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Too often in the music business and the dog-eat-dog world of DJ’s, people spend so much time trying to knock each other down. Well, not to blow myself up, but that is something that I never felt the need to do. I think it is important for people to work together, since most of us are in it for the love of music. That’s why I plan on offering profiles of some of my favorite jocks here in this column from time to time. Let’s call it the PhillyGayCalendar DJ Series.

One such DJ that has been making Philadelphia (and beyond) dance for many many years is Stephen Durkin. His sound is pretty unmistakable, and chances are you have danced to his music whether you knew it or not. He has made an indelible mark on the city. I had the chance to catch up with one of the most humble, professional DJs in our fine city just recently. Here are the sordid details:

How many years have you been spinning? How did that start?

I’ve had been DJing professionally for about 15 years. It started as far back as I can remember. As a kid I used to make mixes on my cassette player spending hours contemplating how to get from one song to the other as efficiently as possible.

Have you ever thought about a different career? If so, what was it?

Either a very glamorous West Hollywood Proctologist or a semi professional Rodeo Clown.


F**K YEAH !!

There was a while where it seemed like Hip Hop had taken over popular music. Do you feel like things are swinging back in a more dancey direction?

I think Pop Culture is a slow moving beast. With just once glance at this year’s (excruciatingly) painful MTV’s VMA’s it couldn’t be more apparent.

But yes there are major signs that club music is going back to a more dancey vibe. Evidence of this can be found with the success of songs like Ida Coor – Let Me Think About It, Katie Perry – I Kissed A Girl, David Guetta – Love is Gone, Duffy – Mercy, Lady Gaga – Just Dance, Miley Cyrus – See You Again, Chaka Kahn – Disrespectful to name a few. Not only are these songs completely opposite of Hip Hop, they are by artists who weren’t originally packaged as major label artists (at least not when their song broke), yet they were hugely successful in club and radio this year. So their initial success was solely based on people’s desire to hear them, which means that people are deciding what they like on their own, rather than what Clear Channel tells them they MUST like.

I know you’ve been working on some studio stuff. How is that going?

Its going great….I am currently being tutored in Pro Tools and Propellerhead Reason which are the leading music industry standard DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstations).

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past doing Mashups with great success, but Mashups are very limiting because you have to work with already finished tunes. For me, having spent so much time creating Mashups it was a natural progression to just want to create music from scratch.

I’ve had one remix released internationally last year that I’m very proud of and currently I’m working on a 4 song E.P of all my own original material. The tracks are pretty much done, but I’m shopping vocalists at the moment. One track was written especially for Philly’s own DJ / Photographer Paris (although he doesn’t know it yet) – im really looking forward to getting him to do some campy / bitchy lyrics.

Tell me how summer in Rehoboth was!? How does the vibe differ from Philly?

This summer’s MASS parties in Rehoboth were wonderful, but more work than I have ever experienced in my life. Having played the role of both Promoter and DJ it was a major challenge. The space that MASS is held was a huge old church prior to the renovations, and now it’s a theater, restaurant and a nightclub. The city of Rehoboth was against MASS initially and various city officials were pressuring me about everything. But despite all the initial drama, MASS was the biggest Gay Saturday night party in Rehoboth this summer.

Musically Rehoboth doesn’t differ from Philly all that much. Like Philly, they collectively crave vocals and familiarity, but unlike Philly they aren’t feeling Hip Hop at all. Most of the Rehoboth summer Gay crowd travels from Washington DC or Baltimore MD. The Gay club market in DC & MD never really supported Hip Hop to begin with, except for an occasional dedicated night here or there, so the whole concept of Hip Hop seems foreign to them.

What kind of sound is motivating you these days?

lectro has been motivating me for a couple of years now, but not in a straight up way. I’m more into the essence of it and how it’s changed the overall dance music landscape in the last 2 years. You can hear elements of it in everything these days.

Beyond that, I’m feeling anything that’s NOT anthemic or screaming Diva-ish.

My favorite remixers of the moment are, Cube Guys, Dave Aude, Johhny Vicious, Prok Fitch, Tim Davison, Hardwell, Axwell, DJ TYE, Jody Broeder, & Rauhofer

What do you do when you are not making the world dance?

Looking for music to make the world dance.

I know from personal experience that in order to make money as a DJ, there is sometimes that feeling of being “hired help.” Do you think that most clubbers take the DJ for granted?

es and no…let’s face it, these days most clubbers don’t look to the DJ’s to educate them musically because they have already formed very specific ideas of what they like from the all the media resources available today. So in that respect, to a lot of people, DJs are just some nameless dude who’s supposed to play only the tunes they want to hear and that’s a bit frustrating, but it’s not always the case.

As a DJ I often fantasize about playing for crowds that only want to hear music that I like, but it’s not very realistic, especially in Philly.

Honestly speaking, I’m only really enjoying about 50 percent of the music I feature in clubs because I do have to play the tunes that people want to hear even though I might not like them. But instead of wasting energy resenting the fact that I have to play them, I focus that energy on putting my own personal stamp on things in the process…ya know with post production, mashups, my own remixes or small segments of really hyped up breaks between the hits. It makes playing things I don’t like really fun.

Any DJ can play the hits, and there are plenty of them who do only that. I’ve never been one of those DJs.

Stephen’s Current Top Ten…

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Nervously going over “options” with Joan Rivers’s Plastic Surgeon and being chosen to produce Madonna’s new album.

To hear DJ Stephen Durkin live,
check for his upcoming events HERE.

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