The party hasn't stopped for Southern California house producer and DJ TJR since his hit "Funky Vodka" propelled him to the top of the charts and piqued the interest of Mr. Worldwide, aka Pitbull, last year. Now a certified platinum artist thanks to his production of Pitbull's chart-topping single "Don't Stop the Party," he continues to churn out original bangers like "Ode to Oi," which was a top track at Winter Music Conference Miami this year. He's also starting his first Vegas residency this week at new multi-million dollar club Hakkasan. We recently spoke with TJR fresh off his European tour about his love of golf, analog vs. digital, and his ideal day off. He headlines Ruby Skye this Saturday.
How does one transition from golf major to a DJ? Do you still golf?
Man, I don't know! I hated dance music growing up, then I went to college for golf and my roommate took me to a rave. I got to hear for the first time underground house music that revolved around the groove. I was hooked after that. Yes, I still play golf. I got a lot more serious about golf after college, oddly enough, but since music has become my full-time job, I don't practice like I used to. I live on a golf course now, in fact, but only walk over on my studio breaks to putt or hit a small bucket of balls on the range.
What made you want to also add producing to your repertoire a few years after you started DJing?
Not really sure. I was always sort of into it. I bought a Juno 106 and MPC 2000XL 13 years ago, but just screwed around. Sold that, then a few years later screwed around with Reason, but that didn't stick. I ended up flying out to Minneapolis and spending time with Paul Birken, Midwest techno legend. His enthusiasm with synthesis and analog synths really inspired me. After a few trips at his place I got obsessed with analog gear and acid house. From that point on I wanted to make authentic acid house using a Roland TB303, which I did. My obsession to produce just grew and grew after that.
A few years ago, you made an equipment transition from analog to digital. Are there components you miss?
Yes, the processing units like my Sherman Filterbank 2. Things like Izotope Trash 2 are awesome, but I think too many options can make your brain melt, where things like the Filterbank are only a few knobs, which forces you to focus. Just a slight change can totally affect the sound.
How do you make a "big" track, since many of your tracks are considered big-room house?
Give the track more space. In my definition, making a track big is about the bang not the bounce. Bang is on the 1 (downbeat), where a bounce track is about the upbeat. In other words, don't use hi-hats on the upbeat when making a "big" track. It's all about the big kick drum in my opinion.
You use old school samples in many of your tracks. Do you produce a track and then think "I could use this sample" or vice-versa?
My belief is to make a track memorable, so nine out of 10 times that means adding a vocal sample. I hate make just a "track." It's why I'm slow in the studio. I'd rather take three months to finish a track and find that memorable component. I don't care how A.D.D. everyone is getting, I still think it's quality over quantity.
The current controversy/buzz is that Psy's "Gentleman" bears a resemblance to your original track, "Ode to Oi." What are your comments on that? Flattering or confusing?
I think it's amazing, to be honest. It is very similar, but they changed enough where it wasn't a total rip-off. I'm just flattered that they'd replicate my sound for the follow up to "Gangnam Style." That's some serious pressure I'm sure from the record label, and for them to bank it on the bouncy Melbourne sound is pretty cool in my opinion.
Can you tell us anything about your next single "What's up Suckaz?" You released a very... interesting preview.
No (laughs). Honestly we are getting ready to launch "Ode to Oi" with a vocal to the mainstream audience, so all my projects are on hold at the moment until "Oi" is released. However I've sent it out to a few people, like Laidback Luke, Alvaro, Leon Boiler, Clockwork, and GTA, and they've been supporting it, which makes me happy.
You start your residency at Hakkasan this week. How does it feel to get your first residency at a Vegas club? Is it another "I've made it!" moment?
Sort of. I always think this amazing life will end, so I'm always stressing. But having a residency in Vegas does feel good. It validates the hard work you've put in and the connections you've made with people.
Since you've been touring nonstop, what's your ideal day off look like?
Tons of sleep, breakfast at Swami's cafe in Encinitas, where I reside, then chilling poolside in the Cali sun with my housemate's Jack Russell named Dot.