What is your musical background and when did the life of DJ Wonder begin?
I first took a DJ class at Del Tech Community College when I was 10 years old. That was the first time I ever really messed with turntables or records. All the class wanted to do was scratch - the teacher wanted to give lessons on setting up equipment and hooking up speakers - we were 10 dawg! My first real public performances were at Sussex Central High School basketball games - I DJ'ed before the game and at halftime.
I had always made "beats" by looping songs on pause-tapes - but my first real music production took place at Hofstra Universty. My friend Corey had a MPC2000xl - and I would go over to his room every day to learn how to use it and make beats. My first song was with my other friend Jamal called "Be Strong" with Martin Luther King Jr. sound bytes and all that - CRUNCHY!
Who were your biggest influences and why? What type of music was being played in your household growing up?
My parents weren't/still aren't into music, so i didn't have a very musical household. I think I found an 8-track from Three Dog Night or something but that's about it. My dad has listened to talk radio as far back as I can remember and my mom likes country if she has to listen to something. I'm not sure where I got my taste in music from, but I'm pretty sure MTV had something to do with it. My biggest influence in DJing was probably Funkmaster Flex. He was the biggest name you would hear about and then he would do MTV Spring Breaks and New Year's Eve parties. In Delaware it was hard to hear DJ's from other cities, but kids would have tapes their relatives had sent them. For production my hero is definitely DJ Premier, nobody has drums like that man, and that's what it's all about.
How would you define your style of music? What makes you different?
I think from the stuff I play to the stuff I produce - it all has to be different from what most people are doing and it usually all comes back to some element of hip-hop. If I'm djing a house music party - the stuff i play will have some kind of bounce to it. If I'm making a future-bass weirdo track, it will probably have a sample in it. I think this industry comes full circle and I started with hip-hop and will probably end with it.
When do you feel you first started to move the needle?
The first time I spoke on the air at Hot97 was kind of a big moment for me. I had been meeting all my childhood heroes and now I was working on the station that I had heard so much about growing up. After that, i think people starting following mixtapes i was doing and when I moved over to Sirius XM I was able to bring those fans with me and really interact with them. Hearing "That's Not It" - a song i produced for Jasmine Solano on the radio was a big deal for me as well. For live shows - it was playing at the Paid Dues Festival - that crowd was nuts.
Briefly describe the current music scene in New York and how has it changed if any since you guys first stepped on the scene? Who else do you feel is also moving the needle out of NYC?
I moved to NYC because I felt it was the center of the music industry. While that's still the case - with the youtube and mixtape generation, you don't have to be here anymore - you can stay in your hometown and still blow up. If I was a kid going to college now to be in the middle of "hip-hop" where the hell would I go to school - Atlanta? I'm happy I was here to see it pop off and jump the shark. Don't get me wrong there's still talent here, but it's not like it was. All the kids want to sound like they're from somewhere else, not embracing their environment. Hip-hop music isn't even the same anymore - it's not some counter-culture movement that's new and exciting - it's hair metal. I like a lot of the electronic scenes that are popping up here and more dance-oriented stuff. Trouble And Bass throw some dope parties, Roxy Cottontail, Venus X. Artist-wise - the A$AP movement is cool. Joey BadAss has a nice retro vibe. Azealia Banks. My favorite new producers from NY - Baauer, RL Grime, Codes, Harry Fraud, Nightslasher, Safari Drums. They're putting in work. I'm excited for what my partner dB and i are doing in AnimalStatuS. I'm just looking for NYC to be the backdrop I saw in a Digable Planets video or something - might never find it again...
What moves you?
I like energy and bounce to music. Whether it's some down-south sounding stuff or some Drum and Bass track - it's gotta have the nod-factor. If any singer would come out sounding like Anita Baker - that would move me. If any broad approached me who looks like Vanity circa 1985, that would move me too.
What type of things do you guys do to keep the crowd moving and engaged?
I like to dress up in kwazy outfits shoot people with a cake gun. Not really. honestly, i like to keep the songs moving - usually 1-2 verses max. I throw in samples and classic stuff - I like mixing electronic stuff with current hip-hop. The key to selecting tracks is one hit record in between 2 lesser-known records. Music buffs and other DJs will respect what you do and girls won't get bored enough to stop dancing. You know it's really all about girls dancing.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions prior to a performance or in production?
I don't really eat anything before i play because i think i psyche myself into some mind-controlled version of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I will go to the AnimalStatus headquarters (Dallas BBQ) though and drink some Texas-sized Long Islands. With production stuff - I just make sure all my samples and drum stuff are together. I'm usually watching some 80's movie in the background - that keeps me in the zone. I also keep a Billboard magazine with A-Trak, Diplo and Skrillex on the cover in plain view at all times so I can constantly ask myself what I'm doing wrong in life.
What are your current obsessions?
I'm obsessed with putting A1 sauce on everything. I eat chicken salad or a salad with chicken in it pretty much every day of my life. I watch VH1 Classic every morning and make sure i have every song that i liked in my childhood and might not have in my collection. I've also been watching every episode of MTV's 120 Minutes - old and new. Besides that I've been role-playing as Bobby Budnick from Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts. I'm looking for Dina.
What thoughts run in your mind 5 minutes before a show?
I hope I don't have to take a dumpski on stage.
What can fans learn from you and what have you learned from them?
I think the main thing you can learn from me is the slow and steady method to success. Just know your role, do good work and you'll eventually get what you want. I think I've learned a lot from my fans - i take their advice every day on what and what not to play. that influences the kind of music I make.
How has myspace or social networks impacted your career? What is your fondest memory about myspace? Any interesting stories?
It all started on Myspace for most of the people who are really doing it right now. I got mad gigs off there, met some freaks, I'm eternally grateful haha.
What does it take to get yourself recognized? What advice would you have for up and coming artists that are attempting to follow your footsteps?
DONT DO IT. just kidding. I wish I was coming up now - there's so much opportunity. Start posting mixes, videos, tracks - everything. Learn every aspect of the industry, from music production programs to photo shop to web design. You can be your own manager, publicist, all that... When you approach people - don't be a reacher, offer to work for free and take in as much as you can. It's a young man's game but don't burn yourself out too early - if you get everything you want you have nothing to work toward and then what?
Have you guys gotten any words of wisdom or admiration from other bands/artists/dj that has stuck with you?
"Scram, F*ck Boy!" - every older DJ i opened for.
What does the future look like for DJ Wonder? What is the farthest you want the needle to move for yourself?
I have a lot of production stuff coming out this year - first one is the "Trap Check" E.P. - about to come out this summer. Also getting back to record another AnimalStatuS project and am excited to go on tour. Also continuing to do the Shade45 Morning show - "Sway In The Morning" on Sirius XM. Sway is great host and he's given me a lot of opportunities to shine on the show. My mix is every Mon-Fri 9:30Am E.S.T. I started doing this mess to get babes - anybody that tells you different is kidding themselves. But I think i've realized that I really like creating music and then seeing a reaction to it. it's a great feeling. Ultimately i want to be the nicest radio and club DJ I can be. I want to make music I can be proud of later in life. I want to live a year in the Chateau Marmont. Then maybe get my life together haha.
How would you define music in your own words? And what type of impact does music have on your life? What feeling does it give you?
It really is my life. No matter what I'm doing or what memories I have - it's all connected to some song. The music I heard in Middle School probably shaped my life and every time I hear a song from back then it will always transport me to that time. i can only hope to give that experience to someone else with stuff that I create.