One of Manhattan’s busiest DJs tells us how he got here, where you can find him, and where he’s going… it’s your Detroit daddy Eugene Edo!
Thotyssey: Eugene, hello! OMG, we’re already in the second week of August, how has this summer been treating you?
DJ Eugene Edo: Hello Jim and fellow Thotysseys! Can you believe it’s already this far into summer? I can’t. It’s really been a whirlwind for me this year. I thought I was going to be doing a lot more relaxing than I have, but alas… my beach body and tan will have to wait. I’ve been very lucky to work more than I planned this summer, with a short trip to Atlantic City (which had a couple promotional business stops, but mostly leisure) and one very special gig in the Fire Island Pines–which was amazing, and a little bit of a game changer for me. All in all, I would say summer is going pretty well.
What was the game-changing gig?
That sounds wonderful! For someone who DJs as much during the week and in as many places as you do, your brain must just be in constant music / mixing mode.
OMG–you know it. I have fallen asleep and dreamt of wave forms, missing mics, drag shows I was running late for. And I have a reoccurring dream of someone handing me a mic and showing me a door… and when they open the door there is a stadium of people waiting for the MC, and it’s me. Even when I’m sleeping, it feels like I’m at work.
You must just sit in total silence on your downtime.
You hit the nail on the head. On my day off I do 2 things: I sleep and order food.
How long have you been DJing now?
I’ve been a DJ in NYC for 11 years. These past couple years have been good ones for me, and I’m excited about what’s in store.
Where are you from originally, and what was the first music that really got you going?
Originally I’m from the Motor City–so definitely the Motown sound and the amazing funk, soul, R&B and related genres always move me. I’ve moved through a lot of genres of musical love through the years. High school was classic rock, then punk, the new wave… ugh, I’m dating myself, lol! But I’ve always loved music that pushes boundaries. I moved to LA when I was 17, and the West Coast music styles–techno, house and rave–coincided with the drugs I was trying, and scenes I was running in. Loved it.
Sounds like heaven! What brought you to NYC, and to DJing?
My party lifestyle eventually crashed down all around me in San Francisco. I had to leave. I had dreamed of living in NYC for years, and I thought, “nothing holding me back now.” So I headed here, actually, to pursue a fine arts career as a spray paint artist. Supporting myself by working in bars and clubs, I got a real sense of the kind of music that can shape a night and move people–the kind of music that tells a story, and takes people on a journey somewhere. I became more and more obsessed with the the music, the night, the crowd, and people dancing. I’ve been an avid collector of music my whole life, and I realized I could bring something of my own to this scene. And so it began.
What was your very first gig?
And the rest is history! If it was up to you, and you were given a night where you could play whatever you wanted, and everyone would automatically be living for it… what would that night sound like?
It would definitely be a high energy dance party, with a mix of house, electronic, dance, party pop and circuit sounds. Like, dance party fun meets sophistication on the dance floor.
Are you annoyed by song requests, or do you try to work them in?
Both, actually. It’s a middle road–I like talking to people about music, and so when someone comes to me with an intelligent request or asks for a song that I then discover, it’s great! If I’m still trying to figure out a dance floor, and people come to me with similar requests, then It gives me a cue to what direction I can go in. Every once in a while, someone will really challenge me with a request… and I do love a challenge. So all of that is fine, and I don’t mind that at all.
But when people need to come and interrupt me over and over to play stuff that’s clearly outside of my current program–or stuff that I’m obviously going to play anyways–it gets annoying, and makes me think they don’t have friends to talk to. Or maybe they are not at the right venue for what they are looking for.
In any case, I do try to keep everyone happy in as much as I can. It is my job after all, but I never make any promises I’m not sure I can keep. When there is a DJ playing in NYC, you have to bear in mind they are a DJ here for a reason… and it’s not because they can “iPod” better than the next guy. It’s because they have a signature style; they can read a room and have a certain degree of artistry in presenting their music. People have lost sight of that in the Music On Demand era, and we need to get back to giving DJs credit for creating something special with the music they play. I mean, we are DJs at a club, not a wedding. I feel like we need to bring a little more class back to nightlife in some cases.
Well said! So, being a DJ can mean having a crazy life. Lots of people think it’s just a 24 Hour Party, but it’s job and the weird reality surrounding it can be so consuming.
OMG, yes. There are days when I am so tired, or there is something going on in my personal life, or I just am over things in general, and still have to show up like “BEST PARTY EVER!” There is an element of acting in there too, sometimes. Then there are other times when I’m so about all of it that I get home and can’t sleep until 8am. It is a crazy life, and I love being a player… but I’m glad I don’t drink, because then I would be a mess.
There are more sober DJs in this town then one would think! I guess we’re all better off for that!
Sundays are great, because it’s all about hanging out, dancing, and making new friends (wink wink). Not a lot of shows, just a few pop up numbers by Nick Gaga that integrate with the people dancing. People dance, cruise, and drink all night, and there is always a lot of tourist trade from the hotels there. We try to keep it dimly lit and fun. I spin video and dance music, and David spins a cool mix of top 40 and pop that night [when he’s there]. We get a lot of Latino guys that night, too. It’s sexy.
And you sometimes spin there on Fridays or Saturdays as well. The Ritz recently had a huge audio upgrade, and now it employs top guest DJs from the world over, and functions almost like a mini-club more than a bar.
The Ritz has been making quite a few changes lately, and it’s great. The new sound system is amazing, new lights, and of course the new programming. The big guest DJs play on Fridays and Saturdays when both floors are open, and it’s very interesting to see how it’s influencing musical appeal in Hell’s Kitchen. People are becoming more open-minded to experiencing different things on the dance floor.
Playing alongside of the guest DJs is great, too. It’s almost like a DJ battle on the weekends. You have DJs with two distinct styles on two different floors, and to be a part of that dynamic is very cool. I’ve had the pleasure of working with people like Hex Hextor, Tony Moran and Joe Gauthreaux because of the Ritz’s new programming. It’s terrific. It keeps us all upping our game and reaching higher and for more.
We’ll come back to the Ritz in a bit, and I’ll also get back to where you are on the Sundays you’re not there. But now we must discuss Marquee Mondays at Chelsea’s Rebar, with you in the booth. That’s hosted by Sherry Pie and Danny Marandola, who theme each week’s highly interactive program around a different movie musical or Broadway show. I can’t believe the amount of work that’s put into curating these shows!
Marquee Mondays truly is Sherry Pie’s baby, and she and Danny put so much into creating it. The stage, the story, the numbers, and everything we do follow a storyline and / or the theme, and it really plays well. We like to joke and say “if you like Broadway, but hate the huge crowds, than Marquee Mondays is for you!” LOL. Although, we have been a pretty busy Monday night thing, going for almost a year now. I open the night with a kooky mix of Broadway videos, comedy, movie clips, storytelling music videos, drag videos, etc. starting at 8pm. And then about 9pm-ish, the show begins.
Sherry is a great host. It’s like hanging out with a celebrity all night. She’s funny, she sings, and gets everyone involved in the experience. Danny is a great counterpart to her–she’s wild and crazy, and Danny is kind of the sexy, college friend and anchor that keeps everything going while she’s out being a wild woman. There’s something nice about having a male and “female” host combo. We play games, get guys to take of their shirts and do sing-alongs. It’s like going to a costumed bachelorette party for gays at someone’s giant apartment, with three big screens, that serves booze on a Monday. It is inspiring indeed. Everything that goes into that night–which is a lot–people really feel and appreciate.
It’s so much fun! I have to say, I was slightly skeptical when the night started–partly because I’d never been to a singing competition night myself. But it turns out that in NYC, people LOVE singing competitions… and the people that show up for “You Tried It” are really good. It’s very friendly, and Jan is such a fun host and a great singer, too. It’s a relatively early thing, and definitely a PG-13 type thing you can bring your friends, family or people you work with to, and feel good about. I spin before the show and after–and while most people head home early, we have busted out a few dance parties after. Also not well-known about Therapy is, they have REALLY good food.
That’s true! And from an early night to a very late affair, you’re back at the Ritz on Wednesdays for TURNt, a drag show where the party really kicks around midnight. Maddelynn Hatter hosts and performs with a large cast of queens, including Sherry Pie, Egypt, Jasmine Kennedie, Black Widow and Jasmine Rice. It attracts a very late night crowd, and I’ve often seen other Hell’s Kitchen queens coming in to watch after they’ve ended their own shows. A few RuPaul’s Drag Race girls have come from TURNt (Aja and Miz Cracker), and several queens from the show pop in to do guest spots, along with other famous queens from across the world.
TURNt Wednesdays blows my mind all the time. The party is off the chain. People show up and they are ready to dance, and they are ready for some sickening drag. I don’t know if they have to work the next day or what the story is… but that party tends to snowball all night long, and I use that word very loosely. We close with a crowd still dancing.
The drag blows my mind. The night before the Drag Race finale of Season 10, we had Kameron Michaels and Eureka O’Hara at TURNt, which was like Pride all over again. We had Aja and the return of Cracker for out first SuperTURNt, and it was not only breathtaking but packed to the ceilings. Working with Cracker was so much fun. I’m so happy for her success.
Maddelynn’s drag is amazing, and she makes all this happen. I am so grateful to her for tapping me to be a part of the TURNt family. The girls Sherry Pie, Egypt, Jasmine Kennedie, Black Widow, Jasmine Rice and guests we have regularly at TURNt are phenomenal. The dancing, singing, gymnastics and looks these girls turn each week is Next Drag Superstar level stuff for sure.
Thursdays, you’re dropping the beats at yet another Hell’s Kitchen venue… the small, cute, kinda sexy Barrage.
I have been DJ ing there for 9 years. It’s a fun, chill, place with a lot of sexy locals, and definitely hot bartenders. It’s nice for me to have a chill night once a week. The vibe there is relaxed and social==and I can get really creative with my music and videos, which I really like too. There is no show, no dance floor. Just good music and good times.
On weekends you bounce around and alternate between venues like the constant gogo boy party that is Fairytail Lounge, while other times you’re back at the Ritz. But this and next Saturday, you’ll actually be DJing the final two editions of Scotty Em’s Boys Night Out at Atlas Social Club–a lomg-running, low key party there–as Scotty prepares to leave nightlife! You’ve done that party before. Is this bittersweet for you?
Yes, a little bittersweet. I’m sorry to see Scotty go, but I’m also happy that he’s found his stride and trying this new path. He’s a lot of fun, and he will be missed for sure… but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him. That’s just my humble opinion. I’m interested to see what happens on Saturday nights at Atlas next. It’s an interesting venue with a lot to offer. Maybe more video dance parties? Hmmmm let’s see…
And finally, back to Sunday. When you’re not at the Ritz, you’re one of the rotating DJs for the “Bad Bitch Review” at Rebar, another weekly drag show starring Maddelynn, Egypt rotating with Black Widow, and the lovely Zeta Jones, who’s amazing!
“Bad Bitch Review” is great. Zeta is an AMAZING performer and gorgeous drag queen, and she is hilarious. If you ever get the chance to hang out with her, she will have you in stitches. I believe “Bad Bitch Review” is the only drag showcase at Rebar right now. And it’s also an early thing, so people can either go home at a reasonable time or make that last grab for some Sunday Funday weekend action. It goes from 8pm-2am. I also like this night because I can be a little more creative with the music. I’ve been adding more techno, house and circuity-type sounds in there lately, which is a cool compliment to the drag numbers.
Both Egypt and Black Widow are amazing dancers and performers in their own rite, and I love working with them both. I think that’s what’s cool for me about “Bad Bitch Review” in general. It’s kind of a creative laboratory to experiment with some new things in, both for the girls to try out some new things and even for me, musically. Maddelynn is our host and creator of the night, so you know it’s going to be a good time.
Whew! As if all this wasn’t enough, what else is is going on with you?
I would love for people to follow my Mixcloud page, if they want to hear more of my music.
Do it, thots! Lastly, my traditional final question for DJs: What’s your advice to a new or potential DJ who’s trying to be successful in New York?
Learn to connect with your people, whoever your people may be at that time. Learn to spot the signs when people aren’t really engaged with what you are doing, and change your program accordingly. There is nothing worse than being in a space where the music is confusing, not appropriate for the mood, too loud, or you can tell the DJ is phoning it in. People that own bars and clubs are ultimately looking for DJ’s that engage people, and keep them in their spot all night.
Thank you, Eugene!