A veteran DJ of New York’s bars and clubs, this Colorado native made his debut over a decade ago. He has since proven himself over time to be a favorite collaborator of the scene’s top party producers, venue owners and drag queens. A previous winner and frequent nominee for Best DJ at the GLAMs, he’s of course nominated once again this year. Thotyssey rocks out with DJ Scotty Rox!
Thotyssey: Scotty, hello! Thanks so much for talking to us. I think the last time I saw you, you were kinda running the show for the Miss Project Achieve / Columbia Research Unit Pageant at Therapy a few months ago. You’re involved with Project Achieve “in real life,” correct?
Scotty Rox: Yes I sure am! Project Achieve is my day job. They’re helping mold the future of HIV prevention through biomedical and behavioral research studies. There’s some amazing work and people I get to surround myself with every day!
Congratulations on your latest GLAM nomination for Best DJ! You’ve already won it a few times, but you were Susan Lucci of the category for a stretch, right?
I was the Susan Lucci for years, lol. But I’ve had the honor of winning Best DJ in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015! 4 years in a row following the legendary Johnny Dynell!
And you were the Scarecrow in that opening Wizard of Oz skit at the 2015 GLAMS! I will always remember that number!
That was so much fun that year. When I moved here in 2000, I went to school for musical theatre. So performing is a second nature to me, and I had such an awesome time on stage with a good friend Bob The Drag Queen, and of course all the rest of our original Look Queen family. We worked hard on that performance!
Peppermint’s co-hosting the GLAMs with Thorgy in January. Pepp, of course, used to host “Do The Right Thing,” the Ritz’s Thursday night party that you’ve been DJing for a bit now. Now that she’s a Drag Race superstar, are you two able to keep in touch?
I speak with Peppermint all the time. She’s been near and dear to my heart since my beginnings. She’s someone I confide in. She’s still a big part of “Do The Right Thing” as she created that party years and years ago with Cazwell. I’m blessed to be the DJ now for several years. It’s one of my FAV gigs. And Pepp comes back every so often, but Morgan Royel is a superstar and such a pleasure to work with every week as Pepp’s fill-in!
By now you must have seen a lot of the queens you’ve worked with move on to Drag Race fame. I imagine that on one hand you’re very happy for them, but then again it’s also kinda sad that they leave the city and become a little less accessible, isn’t it?
Hmmm… I guess it’s sad ‘cause NYC holds some of the most talented drag queens who are dynamite to work with, and when they leave it’s a bummer. But when they become national queens under Ru, I have to say I’m more proud of them. Especially the ones who put the mileage in, and have been working these NYC streets for 15+ years.
And now you also spin a happy hour there at the Ritz on Saturdays. Do you tend to recognize the same people coming back to your nights each week, or is it usually always different people?
I am blessed with a great following. I mean, I’ve been DJing NYC for 16 years now. I do see a lot of the same faces who support me, but I also meet a lot of new faces as the newer generations of nightlife patrons and talent evolve – and I get older, LMAO!
Let’s get to your original story. I see you’re a Colorado native… were you, like, super-outdoorsy?
Oh yeah. There’s no other way of living there. I miss certain things about living that life, but the city fuels my soul. I go home every year, and it’s the best way I know how to ground myself and get back in touch with ME, because NYC can suck the life outta you.
Tell us about how you got into DJing.
Oh wow. I guess it was when I was working at Soho House. I was in between acting gigs, and worked as a bartender there. One night my manger needed a DJ, and knew I was a music fanatic. She took me off the bar and payed for me to cab to my home and back to get my music. This was back before computers. I started DJing with CDs! And I went back and DJ’ed, and just had such a blast.
Ironically, that night one of the heads of Ed Hardy NYC was there and heard me, and hired me as the official NYC Ed Hardy DJ. And the rest was history. The gigs just kept coming!
My first ever NYC nightlife gig was at Posh. I started there, really, but I think Splash Bar and John Blair were what really put me on the maps as a DJ. I followed God’s path, and am humbled / grateful for my journey.
In the decade or so since you started DJing, what is the biggest thing that has changed about the business?
Sadly… the authenticity of nightlife for me. It’s become a bit routine: same music, same people performing the same numbers. I guess I just miss the old days of Roxy, Limelight, Greenhouse, Splash… when the club kids would come out and things were just not so mainstream.
Also, as a DJ I miss being appreciated music-wise. Nowadays, people will hand you their iPhones to play a song for them. The days of going to hear a DJ play a mix you can’t hear on your cell, or Spotify… those days are over! It’s definitely not the same. But I was blessed to be a part of the authentic nightlife era.
So you’re not a request-taking DJ?
I do take requests, and it’s all about the approach. We are human beings, not a jukebox. So people need to respect the DJs. I mean, we control most of the energy of any party through music.
So as someone who has more than proved himself to be a capable and reliable person in the industry, does it annoy you when you see DJs getting gigs now who basically have nothing interesting to offer besides a six pack and a top 40 iTunes playlist?
HAHAHA. I’m gonna keep my mouth sealed on this one. Like I said… it’s become less authentic and inspiring, if that answers the question!
Is there music you’d rather be playing other than what you generally put out at your gigs?
I play for my crowds. I find now that nightlife is more a “bar” scene now. I play a lot of radio pop stuff. I’d prefer to play, like, 90s house, disco house, freestyle or hip hop. It seems those days are over. People will leave your dance floor unless you’re at the right venue / party – like a Ladyfag party, or Horse Meat Disco, or even Le Bain.
You’ve been sober now for I guess about 7 years, congratulations! That’s an incredible accomplishment. There are a growing number of people in the biz who are able to do that, but it still seems like such a challenge to me. Drugs and booze are just in your face everywhere. Is it still a challenge for you?
Everyday is a challenge. And I’m actually not all the way sober. I cut certain substances out of my life for long periods of time. I’ve never “counted days.” I cut out some things that held be back… but I’ve always enjoyed Mary J!
It must be a challenge in general to just have a personal life, with all the gigging you do. Is there every any downtime?
I guess so, yeah. I feel like being an artist in NYC is always a hustle and a bustle. But yes, I do find time for myself, more now then ever. I used to DJ, like, 9 gigs a week working doubles with no days off, and I just can’t do that anymore. I’m good with 4-5 gigs and focusing on self-love more. Scotty Rox is what I do, NOT who I am.
So let’s do a rundown of where we can find you every night. We’ve already mentioned you’re at the Ritz Thursday nights and happy hour Saturdays. Fridays, you’re likely DJing at either Atlas Social Club with hostess Zeta Jones in Hell’s Kitchen…
…or Alibi in Harlem. Atlas is cute; I haven’t been to Alibi yet, what’s it like there?
Harlem is up and coming. It’s cool. Just a different scene then Chelsea or HK. It’s actually more inspiring to see different faces, and not be forced to play bubble gum pop music. Also, the crowds tend to be more my age and not 20s, lol!
You’ve been DJing the drag brunch these last three Saturdays at La Carbonara with Honey Davenport (before heading down for the Ritz happy hour), and you two return to La Carbonara for the first three weeks in December. Isn’t working brunch a little painful when you become so used to crazy nightlife hours?
Nah. I mean it can be, and I have my days where I have to be at my day job at 10am after getting home at 5am. But I manage, ‘cause I’m happy where I am right now and I can’t let nightlife run my life. Brunch I do first three Saturdays with Honey Davenport, and the last Saturday of each month with my girl Logan Hardcore. Amazing talents, both of them.
And last Sunday, a brand new weekly drag revue debuted at Rebar that you’re the house DJ for! It’s the “Bad Bitch Review” with showrunner Maddelynn Hatter and a cast that also includes Zeta, Ritzy Bitz, Lagoona Bloo and Jolina Jasmine. That’s a lot of talent! This show kinda came out of nowhere, how long have you all been plotting this?
I guess for a few months. I’m so super-excited about this show! Maddelynn is an awesome queen and dedicates her all. We just wanted to create something new and fresh, and a revue that showcases the talent we have here in NYC. Also Rebar is awesome to work for. We kicked off last week, and will be there every Sunday from 11-3 following the legendary Formika and his Showtunes Sundays, which is right before us! Come check us out! We have a blast.
Well, Queen at industry is very choreographed and planned out. TURNt is fierce… but this is a little more of a spontaneous drag show. Think of it as, like, a modern day Saliva (which Thorgy and Azraea used to host at the Ritz on Tuesdays). We wanna create a platform for our local talents and serve a good revue show full of drags. I feel like #BadBitchReview is less commercialized and overdone, and more authentic and original.
HA. It can be hard, believe me. I’ve had a weakness for my gogo boys most my career, and DEF had a lot of fun with them. But I’m a professional. I’m hired to DJ, not to be getting my rocks off, lol!
Thanks for talking to us today, Scotty! So in closing: what’s the best piece of advice you can give to a new DJ trying to break into the scene today?
Stay true to yourself, and don’t lose yourself in this crazy world we call nightlife. Always make time for you outside the gigs, and keep your family close. Also, be careful who you trust!