This hot new DJ is largely self-taught and fresh on the scene, but already he’s the star attraction of venues in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. He’s neither bird nor plane, he’s DJ Rocket!
Thotyssey: Howdy Rocket! Happy Pride Month! How is June treating you so far?
Rocket: Hello, hello! My June has been amazing so far. I’m a little restless, but between my own gigs and the true revival of NYC nightlife, it’s looking to be an amazing Summer.
You’ve been tearing up DJ booths all over the city! Have you had a favorite New York nightlife experience yet?
Honestly I’ve had so many incredible experiences in the past month or so, it’s hard to rank them. But last night I DJ’ed at 3 Dollar Bill’s big yard for Dahlia Sin and Kandy Muse’s “Soft Serve,” and it was a night I won’t forget. Not only did I get to show a different side of myself musically, but I also got to watch fantastic numbers from queens like Zavaleta; I honestly ascended. Brooklyn is just an amazing scene, I’m so happy to be part of it.
So where are you from originally, and has music always been a part of your life?
I’m a born and raised New Yorker, actually! I grew up in Washington Heights and live in Queens now (it’s also why I still don’t know how to drive). I’ve always had a very intense passion for music. As a teen, I’d post religiously on a British pop music forum and memorize all of the producers behind my favorite bops. I’ve always been that annoying kid who wrestles control over the aux chord at a house party. Doing what I do now feels like the most logical progression for me.
You seem like a fairly new addition to the scene.
I am indeed! I started pursuing spinning as a hobby right when the pandemic hit. I really missed hearing live mixing, so I ended up playing around with all sorts of weird apps on my phone just to entertain myself. It’s embarrassing, but most of my mixes on Soundcloud are from that time. I never expected it would go too far.
However, two months ago I decided to take it seriously. That’s when I came up with my moniker. It all started with an event that I’d throw at 3 Dollar Bill with my close friend and collaborator Antonio Liranzo called “Rocket No. 9,” and it’s honestly snowballed from there.
That’s cool! So really, anyone with a head for music can use accessible tools to start DJing these days. And then from that point I guess it’s a learning curve, right?
Yes, 100%. I truly believe anyone can become a DJ, and there’s many ways to go about it now. We are really far from the days of vinyl. But in terms of learning the craft, there’s definitely a curve–and it’s also based on how far you want to go with your mixing. I am constantly teaching myself new things, and I don’t believe there’ll ever be a day where I stop and stay to myself, “Ok, I finally got this. There is nothing else to learn.” That’s the beauty of it. I also think that in terms of taking the plunge and making a career out of it also involves a lot more than just learning how to play. You become your own business, and that involves a whole other dimension of skills.
It sure does! Are there any DJs in town that you admire, or who have maybe helped you along the way?
Yes, definitely! There’s P_A_T, who throws the incredible “Fake Nudes” party every Saturday at the Rosemont. His mixes are out of this world, the way he blends different genres from pop, hip hop, alternative and takes the audience on a journey is really something else. DJ 2Face, who is everywhere–Pieces, Playhouse, Hardware and Fire Island–has an encyclopedic knowledge of incredible pop remixes that take songs on the radio and make them light up the dancefloor. Above all else, they are both some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and have been so helpful in giving me advice and helping me reach where I am now.
Of course, there are also iconic DJs like Eli Escobar, Mazurbate and Amber Valentine who I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet, but have stanned ever since I’ve been going out. I can spend hours, honestly. There is no place like NYC in terms of the DJs we produce!
What do you listen to when you’re not in the booth, at home?
It’s quite different to what I play; I tend to like a bit more mellow music. I was actually chilling out to James Blake before talking to you. But I also love having a bedroom rave moment, too. It all depends.
And what are you feeling these days as far as what you’re actually serving the children on the dancefloor?
Not to be clichéd, but music is at an interesting moment right now. With the pandemic putting the world on pause, there’s been a lot of great music we haven’t had the chance to dance to in a club. Meanwhile, artists marched on because they also couldn’t tour. Look at artists like Dua Lipa, and even recently Jessie Ware, who are still putting out new music despite releasing just last year. And then there’s all of the staples that may have gotten old for people pre-pandemic, that people actually genuinely missed hearing out. I think for me, it’s been a balancing out of mixing the old and new, and staying on top of what’s blowing up… especially with TikTok changing up the game in terms of what becomes a hit.
That’s been crazy! Fleetwood Mac and sea shanties!
Yes! My favorite is this song called “Jenny” released in 2011 (I think?) by this obscure artist called Studio Killers. It blew up cuz of TikTok, and Kim Petras jumped on a remix released this year because it was becoming so hot. It was crazy, because I would bump that song all of the time years ago. It’s a great dance track. It almost feels like with technology, music is becoming a bit more democratic. It’s the same as how I was able to learn some of the basic elements of mixing through an iPhone app.
Also, fun fact: years ago, Björk herself DJ’d at the Rosemont using just her iPhone. Truly a pioneer, with seeing how everything is accessible from a technology standpoint.
That was truly a Moment! And you certainly are set for some great moments yourself this month. First thing we should discuss is “Haus of Pride” at 3 Dollar Bill on Wednesday, 6/23! That sees you spinning a dance party with musical performances by Ang Low, Gabriel the Angel and ANDREW plus queens Temple Grande and Syrenn Nara turning it.
Yes, I’m kicking off my Pride week with the “Haus of Pride,” which is going to be an experience: live music, drag and dance. It’s thrown by the incredibly talented Andrew Leonard, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on the amazing party “Dance the Night Away”–he is a gifted curator as well as singer. Anyone who wants a one-stop shop for queer entertainment needs to get a ticket and come see us all.
Then you’ll be back at 3DB the very next day for the Pride installment of the prior mentioned “Rocket No 9!”
Rocket No. 9 is special, as it is Antonio Liranzo’s and my baby! It started as a Covid-safe small party (everyone had to be seated and masks up when going to the bathroom). And with the restrictions lifted, it is now a full-on dance party where everyone can celebrate their Pride. Honestly, we just wanted to throw a party for our friends and their friends that felt safe and inclusive, and also spotlighted up and coming talent.
I’m so proud of how it’s grown. I’m excited to be joined by Luis Fernando and P_A_T next Thursday, so it’s going to be an incredible night of dancing. Also, Antonio and I are going to announce something extra special soon in the next week or so. So I hope everyone stays tuned!
And you recently became the house DJ for The Rosemont’s Thursday weekly “Chaotica,” hosted by the lovely Bermuda! How’s that going?
If you can’t tell, The Rosemont is secretly my favorite spot in nightlife (don’t tell anyone, though). I used to go there so much, my barber would joke that I’m the mayor of Rosemont. So, it’s a dream! Bermuda is incredible, and the crowd always has this energy where they’re honestly down for whatever. I feel like I’m dancing with them whenever I play. But honestly, all of the venues I’ve played so far have been amazing. I feel truly blessed.
Now you’re also part of the uber-popular West Village sister bar set, Pieces and Playhouse!
Yes! I’m on at Playhouse from 5pm to 10pm every Saturday with Izzy Uncut’s amazing show “Shenanigans.” Sundays, I’m at Pieces supporting Peachez and Lexington Banks‘ fantastic show “Caramel Kiss’d” at 9pm, and then spinning the entire night after. You’d be surprised how many people come carry on a Sunday! Truly the city that never sleeps.
Anything else to report?
There’s quite a few things that haven’t been announced just yet! And I always tell people to follow my Instagram, because I will cover shifts and pop up in different places, keeping everyone on their toes!
We’ll keep our eyes open and our toes on the ground! So, lastly: what in the history of music do you think is the most essential Pride anthem?
This question is so unfair! There’s just so many, from Gaga’s “Born This Way” to George Michael’s “Freedom,” “I’m Coming Out,” etc. But, honestly, I think Lil Nas X being so unapologetically queer with “Montero” and making it a huge hit is going to definitely canonize him in the history of LGBTQ music. Also, it never fails to get me lit on the dance floor!
Happy Pride, Rocket!