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Music |

Interview: Joe Rowe

Friday 25 January 2013
Words Spindle

As it turns out, Ottawa isn’t just the capital of Canada. It’s also been home to a thriving rave community for many years, due in large part to the efforts of Joe Rowe – DJ, promoter, and all around rave superhero.

Joe Rowe has been performing behind the decks for almost a decade, with shows across Canada and around the globe, but as far as he’s concerned that’s no reason to rest on his laurels. Joe’s continued to pour his heart and soul into Ottawa’s rave community, putting his efforts into every avenue he can to build on the scene’s current strength – whether it’s throwing shows, spinning records, or just showing up and supporting the local promoters.

Tell me about yourself and your background:

Well, 2014 will mark 10 years doing the whole DJ thing. I started back in 2004 in St. John’s Newfoundland, with a pair of shitty Numark TT1625 turntables and some records I got while on work term in Ottawa. At the time I was the only DJ in the province of Newfoundland playing Hard Trance, a style that I was introduced to while in Ottawa. I entered an amateur DJ competition at the local afterhours Liquid Ice, and won the competition playing hard trance, against 10 or so house DJs (Side Note: I won the exact same shitty DJ setup I had paid 500 bucks for 2 months prior lol). From there, came a bunch of gigs across the island of Newfoundland. After graduating, I moved to Ottawa and leveraged my experience DJing in Newfoundland into gigs in the nation’s capital. Soon after, I started throwing my own events, booking artists from out of town and making contacts across Canada and the US. The rest is history I suppose, I’ve done about 250 shows in 5 countries to date, and I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

With which companies or organizations (if any) are you affiliated?

I’ve never been one to want to want to stay in the same place for a long time, so I’ve declined many residencies in the past. There have been a ton of short lived affiliations over the years though. The scene is a constantly evolving thing; promotion companies come and go all the time. I’ve been affiliated with DFF, Velvet Afterhours, Zero Trance, Kilogram Productions and Terror Inc. in the past to name a few. I’m currently running Peroxide Productions, my own promo company with which I’ve hosted 6 sold out raves to date. I’m also signed to Great Britain Hardstyle Records, Trance Gold Records & I help out with things over at Overdrive Digital.

Tell me about the music you’re into:

I’m into pretty much anything; take a look at my website over at http://www.djjoerowe.com. Under the mixes section I have free downloads available for promo mixes I’ve done, Hardstyle, Hard Trance, Hard Dance, Techno, Breaks, Tech House, Electro House, House & Trance. I also really like alternative rock, grunge, metal etc. I even played my first Drum & Bass set at a club the other night, I always like to challenge myself and try new things.

How did you get into electronic music?
I grew up in small town Newfoundland, with no exposure to EDM. Even after moving to St. John’s, the capital city, there was still only house music. Nonetheless, I fell in love with the scene there. The people were very friendly, and the parties were wild and went all night. It started out as a passion for the scene as a whole, but I quickly grew to love the music. Especially after going to Ottawa on work term, and discovering darker, harder dance music. I was hooked.

Joe Rowe 2

Where can you usually be found performing?

Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, St. John’s & Slave Lake are the cities and towns that I play in on a regular basis, at venues/events such as The Guvernment, The Opera House, Nocturne, Mavericks, Emotion, Barrymores, Onyx, The Ridge Tap House & Mort to name a few. I’ve done shows in Edmonton, Regina, Quebec City & a bunch of other Canadian cities. I also play in the USA a few times a year, I recently played in Detroit for Hardcore 313, I’ve played in Manhattan & Brooklyn for HardstylerzUSA, I’ve played in the Boston area for Tight Crew, Vermont with DRK Productions, Pittsburgh with Potential Loop & Rochester with Nocturnal Commissions & friends. I’ve even played in the Dominican Republic, Ireland and Italy.

What are your musical influences?

I grew up listening to Tool, Metallica, Nirvana, Bush, Moist, Radiohead, System of a Down, Deftones…I liked hard music, but I also liked melody and rhythm, I never went as far as to get into death metal or industrial. That said, I also love funky electro house, trance, just really good vocalists like Hey Rosetta, breakbeat.. Basically a bit of everything. Even a little bit of dubstep! *gasp*

What motivates you to perform?

I pride myself on being a technically proficient DJ, but I also love to put on a crazy show. I become a different person on stage, I DJ like a madman, get lost in a trance and really let loose. It’s my personal therapy, my form of dance… I love it when people feed off the energy of the music I’m playing and my performance, it’s like a drug.

What differentiates you from other performers?

First off, there are a lot of amazing performers out there, some of which are way better than I am. That said, there are also a lot of DJs out there that sort of just stand there while DJing, you might as well have an iPod playing if the DJ is just going to stand there. You gotta interact with the crowd, get into your own music, yell stupid shit into the microphone and generally help everyone have a great time. I feel like I can take command of a room pretty well, there is nothing better than playing peak hour to a huge room and really rocking out!

How do you see yourself as an artist?

Um… as a Newfie with a possible drinking problem who doesn’t know when to quit… I don’t know man… how do you answer something like that without sounding like some kind of super hipster. lol

How would you rate the strength of the rave community in 2012?

EDM has exploded in North America over the past couple of years. The underground scene has gotten bigger because of it. EDM and partying is no longer seen as this taboo thing, it’s gained mainstream acceptance. Whether this is good or not for the true rave scene, the one where you see Kandy Kids, wear phat pants and listen to Happy Hardcore and Hardstyle I don’t know. People should just go out, have a good time, and leave the drama at home. I’ve thrown 6 raves in Ottawa over the last 3 years, all 6 sold out. So I think the scene, at least in Ottawa, is doing great. We have a lot of new promoters getting involved. It’s great to see.

Joe Rowe 1

Tell me about your promotion company and some of the events you’ve thrown:

I’ve thrown just over 50 events over the years. I do a yearly food and clothing drive for the homeless shelter in Ottawa, I’ve hosted 3 boat cruise raves, all of which sold out, and I hosted DFF for 3 years, Ottawa’s longest running Hard Dance event. I also threw Galaxy, a 400 person party in Ottawa featuring Luna C & Jen Mas, and I’ve done various one off events here and there. I try to book a variety of talent from all over Canada and the US, and I pride myself on quality music, well executed events, and a community minded approach to promotion.

What’s next for you?

Well, someday…. I hope to get to the end of this interview.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m a lazy sack of shit when it comes to producing music. I work my ass off promoting shows, getting bookings, making mixes etc.. but when it comes to production in the studio, I just never make the time for it. I have my release on Great Britain Hardstyle that was signed to a best of compilation, but I haven’t released anything since. I like to think of myself as a late bloomer in this regard. lol I just turned 30, and I hope to have more time to get into the studio and make some more tracks over the next 5 years.

What’s your preference for gear with performing? What about at home?

Technics 1200 Turntables, Pioneer CDJ 1000 or better, Pioneer DJM mixer or equivalent. No laptops please.

No laptops?

I think that beatmatching is not what defines a DJ. The technology can be abused, and we have this huge influx of “DJs” who just use the sync button to mix tracks end to end and that’s it. On the flip side, we have artists like Richie Hawtin, who auto sync, but they are layering 4 – 8 tracks on top of each other, doing really complex cuts, ques etc. That’s taking the art to the next level, and for that reason, I think the advance of technology has overall been a good thing.

What story do you try to tell with your music?

I have to say I don’t really consciously try to tell a story when I’m DJing. I’m trying to play some funky shit to make people dance.

Do you have any heroes? If so, who and why?

Hmmm, my heroes… I guess my heroes would be people that inspire one another, no one person in particular, just caring people who help make the world a better place. It’s the little things, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, helping out at a youth center, being a friend to someone in need… It’s those everyday actions that I feel make someone a hero.

What’s your favorite on-stage memory?

Probably my first show in Manhattan, just the huge stage, the crowd… the fact that I was NYC. It felt like hitting the big time. It’s like, here I am, little ol’ Joe Rowe from Grand Falls – Windsor Newfoundland, about to go on stage and play at a major event in Manhattan featuring DJ Isaac. Very proud of that moment.

Joe Rowe Wolverine

How have you evolved over the years, as an artist? What, if any, were the catalysts of that evolution?

I started DJing back in the days of vinyl. There were not nearly as many DJs as there are now. It was more of a niche thing because it was cost prohibitive to become a DJ, and also because EDM wasn’t this huge thing like it is now. These days anyone with a laptop can be a DJ. That said, I found that my peers were very critical. I was surrounded by tech house and techno DJs who did these very long 4 minute blends and transitions with lots of mixer tricks, and anything less than that was considered amateur. I think that is how I’ve evolved the most over the years, technically. I pride myself on playing well. I’ve evolved to take a more professional approach to performing. I’ve also gotten more confidence on the microphone over the years, and I’ve gotten a lot better at interacting with the crowd. I’ve always enjoyed a broad range of music so I can’t really say I’ve evolved in that regard.

What other interests outside of music do you have?

I love my wife Alexandria, my family, my 2 kittens Professor Chaos & General Disarray, my new Veloster, travel, friends and good times. I love the cottage in the summer.

Of what achievements are you particularly proud?

I’m proud of the shows I’ve thrown, the gigs I’ve played, the track I produced, the mixes I’ve put out… I’m just proud in general of what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud of the way I treat others, I’m proud of my wife, I’m proud of all the good people in the scene helping to make the world a brighter place. There is a full bio on http://www.djjoerowe.com that lists all of my accomplishments for those that are interested.

What makes a song stand out for you?

Emotion. It has to evoke emotion.

Something most people don’t know about you:

I have an unhealthy addiction to vinegar. Ever put vinegar on regular chips to make your own salt and vinegar chips? Best thing ever.

Who have you depended on for support?

My wife, my parents… and all my friends who have came out to support me over the years!

Favorite drink?

Rum & Coke.

You can follow Joe on Facebook or check out his website at DJJoeRowe.com to hear some of his music and find out when he’s performing next.