has been on the scene for a few years now, and has quickly become one of the most recognizable names in the Gay Circuit Scene. He was already a DJ/Producer on the rise when he won the Matinee Las Vegas DJ Contest a few years back, and today he is at the top of his game. His uplifting, anthemic sound has been heard from White Party Bangkok, to Winter Party’s Muscle Beach, the the grand daddy of them all- the Iconic White Party Palm Springs Tea Dance!
If you’ve been on a dance floor in the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly sung along to some of his masterfully crafted productions with his musical partner Toy Armada. He’s remixed some of the biggest artists in dance/pop music, and recently he’s set his sights on original productions. His most recent effort, “One Night In Heaven” with Toy Armada and legendary dance dive, Inaya Day, peaked at #5 on the Billboard Dance charts!
I recently caught up with DJ Grind, and had the chance to ask this talented, sexy, and all-around nice guy about his life as one of the top DJs in the world right now.
1. What inspired you to start DJing; How long have you been DJing?
Back in 2008, I started a dance music blog for my friends called “The Daily Grind”, featuring a new track every day. A couple years into it, a friend of mine who happens to own one of the most popular bars in San Francisco suggested that I mess around on the DJ decks after-hours. Before I knew it, The Daily Grind morphed into DJ GRIND, and I was playing regular events at his bar, The Lookout, and other venues in San Francisco.
Becoming a DJ has unleashed a real creative energy inside of me that’s been untapped for most of my life. Until I started DJ-ing, I don’t think I appreciated that I had an artistic point of view. So, it’s been truly life changing to follow this journey of self-discovery.
2. What do you love most about Dance music?
I fell in love with dance music when I was coming out in NYC in the early 2000’s. I was on the dance floor when Junior Vasquez, Manny Lehman, Victor Calderone and Peter Rauhofer reigned over The Roxy. Those guys gave me an appreciation not only for the music, but for the art of taking a dance floor on a journey. I’ve been addicted ever since.
3. When you play a set, Do you have set goals, a specific set list, or do you play what comes to mind?
I always try to bring an uplifting, joyful energy to every set, even if the beats are harder and darker. When I prepare for a set, I try to think about the feelings and the experiences I’d want to have on the dance floor – in that space and at that moment – and then put together a musical journey that helps take an audience to that place.
4. How did you meet your production partner, Toy Armada, and how did you guys start working with each other?
I first discovered Toy on Soundcloud when I was teaching spin classes in San Francisco and looking for new music to power my classes. Toy’s big, uplifting tracks really resonated with me and my spin students, so I sent him an email and we quickly became friends. A couple of years later, after I’d started DJ-ing, I reached out to Toy with an idea to work together on a remix project for “Feel the Love,” a big summer anthem from American Idol alumni Kimberley Locke. That track hit #1 in the UK, and we decided that it was a good sign that we should continue working together! Toy has taught me everything I know about production, and we’ve developed a sound together that represents both of us — big drums, uplifting melodies, and joyful dance anthems. It’s been an incredible journey, and I couldn’t imagine a better colleague and partner in this industry. He’s a musical genius and one of the most genuine, kind-hearted, and joyful people I know. He’s more than my musical partner; he’s become like a brother to me.
5. A lot of music in the scene these days, seems to have darker, harder sound. Much of your stuff seems to have a more uplifting feel. Was that the direction you were going for is it just what comes?
My primary goal as a DJ and producer is to bring joy to the dance floor. That’s my signature sound. For me, it’s about celebrating life thru music.
6. What do you attribute the your success too? What would you say are the main components?
I’ve been so fortunate to have loyal friends and supporters around the world who’ve downloaded my podcasts, attended my events and supported me along the way. Like any artist or entertainer, there’s a real vulnerability associated with putting yourself out there — month after month, gig after gig. Let’s face it – it’s scary. But, at the same time, it’s incredibly rewarding when you’re able connect with others and share your passion through music. I couldn’t do any of this without the people who’ve connected with my music and encouraged me to keep going.
7. Inaya Day has been part of some of the biggest dance tracks in the scene for more than a decade. What was the biggest reason you and Toy Armada wanted to work with her on “One Night In Heaven”. And what was the best part of working with her?
Inaya is celebrating her 20th anniversary in dance music this year, and her voice is one of the most iconic in the industry. Toy Armada and I had the great opportunity to work with her last year when Joe Gauthreaux invited us to remix their single, “You Are My Family.”
Late last year, my grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia, and I turned to music as a way to cope during a very difficult time. My grandmother was my best friend, and I wanted to create something special for her during those difficult days of chemo. I reached out to Inaya with an idea to cover M People’s iconic dance track, “One Night in Heaven.” Never in a million years did I think she’d agree to it! Three weeks later, we were in the studio recording together.
Just before my grandmother passed away, she was able to listen to Inaya’s vocals, and she was so proud. This track is a tribute to her. And, although I’ve lost my grandmother, I’ve gained an incredible friend in Inaya. She’s truly become part of my family.
8. What is your favorite part about DJing?
There’s something very special about the gay dance floor. Even though LGBT people have made tremendous progress toward mainstream acceptance, there’s still no place more free and liberating than a dance floor — surrounded by friends, experiencing music, and enjoying a sense of shared community. It’s where so many of us feel most at home.
I also love getting emails from people who’ve been inspired by my podcasts or live sets. My monthly podcasts on iTunes have been downloaded more than 6 million times over the past 5 years. I love hearing from people all over the world who say my music has helped them train for a triathlon, or lose weight, or get through with a rough period in their lives. It’s enormously humbling and gratifying to know that you can touch people like that through music.
9. What is your least favorite part about DJing?
Mobile phones on the dance floor and faulty equipment.
10. Who are your inspirations?
I worship at the Haus of Minogue. Seriously, Kylie is my girl. I’m in awe of her sense of self and her authenticity. She knows who she is. She exudes nothing but love. I’ve seen her work crowds around the world into a frenzy of joy. There’s just something about her, and the way she presents herself – so authentically – that’s incredibly inspiring.
Musically, I’m inspired by some of the great European tech house and techno producers – Mark Knight, The Cube Guys, Etienne Ozbourne, Filterheadz, Hoxton Whores, Kid Massive – and I love the euphoric melodies of trance and progressive house.
11. What advice would you give to any beginning DJs?
Be true to yourself. Find your own voice and your own unique sound, then run with it. Audiences will believe in you when you believe in yourself andpresent yourself authentically.
12. If you could improve one thing about our Gay/Dance community, What would it be?
I think there’s an opportunity to grow our gay dance community by building camaraderie and positivity among DJs, events and promoters. Healthy competition is good, of course, but we also must be mindful that unnecessary drama and negativity pushes clubgoers away from our scene. With so many nightlife options – and the distractions of social media – guys today don’t need the dance floor to escape. So, we’ve got to up our game to create events and environments that bring people together. When we come together as a community, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.
DJ GRIND Podcasts:
And finally…. here’s the iTunes download links for “One Night in Heaven”:
Original Mix: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-night-in-heaven-ft.-inaya/id1092341616
Remix EP1: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-night-in-heaven-ft.-inaya/id1097237803
Remix EP2: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-night-in-heaven-ft.-inaya/id1113551159
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