DJ Rascal is not your average DJ. The Miami-based artist started on the music scene at the ripe age of 15, performing in some of the city's hottest venues, including LIV, Mynt, and Arkadia. He spent his early career spinning with some of the greats - Steve Aoki, Martin Solveig, and Miike Snow. Starting off in a school jazz band, playing piano and bass guitar, he quickly learned that his passion lay in DJing and quickly started booking gigs at clubs at a young age. Now at the age of 23, Rascal has announced that he will be releasing his first EP. Joonbug chats with the young superstar about his upcoming EP, his craziest moments in the club, and what he likes to do when he's not spinning.
What can we expect on your new album and what was the inspiration behind it?
I've been working on it for quite some time now. I decided to work on it because my entire life I've been involved in music, from being in a school band, then graduating to a jazz band in school, and then exploring with DJing once I got into high school; and now that's all I've been doing. Having the opportunity to open up and close for such big DJs in Miami, I would just sit behind them once I finished with my set and watch them play their own original music and the reaction they got - I thought, man, I could do this. The music is good, it's crazy, but it's nothing that I can't do. I know how to play instruments, so I decided to go home at the time and I started practicing again and brushing up on my music notes and how to work with melodies. I've created over 35 songs and out of those I've chosen a good 5-7 songs that I'm finalizing now. I am really, really hard on myself. I compare it to the best of what's out right now and if it's not as good or better, I start over or delete it. In order to be one of the best, you have to compare yourself to the best. I bring people to my studio and show them what I'm working on and listen to their feedback. But so far, with the 5-7 songs I've chosen, everyone has given really positive feedback.
Do you have a title for the album yet?
I had a title but I'm not 100% sure I'm going to use it, so as of right now, no, I don't have a title.
Do you have any favorite tracks off the album?
That's so funny you say that. It's funny because whenever someone comes to listen they'll be like, "Oh I like this song, but this is my favorite song." [But] I'm attached to every song in a different way. Each song has a different meaning behind it, whether it's the reason I started working on it, or the melody. Overall I'm happy with how [the album] is coming out.
You've been DJing since you were 14 years old. Do you think that gives you an advantage in the industry?
I wouldn't say it's an advantage because everyone's different and talented in their own way. Performance-wise, it would give me a little bit more room to get more creative. Instead of just playing two or three songs at the same time, I go out and study different DJs and see what they can do and what I can't do. I'll come back in my studio and sit here for hours and just practice and practice. Just so I can be as good as what's out there - some people might say I'm amazing and some might think I suck. But overall, I've gotten far for being so young, so I just keep working to better myself.
What do you like about the scene in Miami?
I love everything about the Miami scene. It's different from everything, even other parts of Florida. It's totally different because I grew up in bottle service clubs in Miami and I've been successful because I cater to the crowds, but at the same time, I don't lose my edge. I play what they want to hear but I play what I think is good and what I want to hear. So it's not very repetitive - I am always testing new music and sometimes people give me the craziest faces, like "what the f is this kid playing?" but that's my job as a DJ - to put out new music. I get that reaction and sometimes I get the best reaction, when songs that people hate turn into songs people love and then a month later, that song is on the radio. It's just that risk that a DJ is supposed to take. I'm happy to say that I've stuck to it and played music that no one has heard yet.
Would you ever consider leaving Miami?
Yea, I leave Miami once every week. [laughs]
Permanently, I mean?
I'm not sure, because my studio is out here in Miami. I travel a lot and work a lot and there's so much more out there. Who knows? I take everything day by day. If there's a huge opportunity for me out there one day and I feel that it's right, then I might jump on it. Maybe I'll move to Thailand and live in a jungle!
What's it like to work with some of the biggest DJs out there?
It's very nerve-wracking. The first time I ever got a big opportunity was when I opened up for Steve Aoki. It was just weird how it happened - I am the type of person who always just asks questions because the answer is always going to be no if you don't ask. So I was at a club where he was playing and afterwards I asked if I could open up for him. And I just waited and waited, for hours, and then the day of the show they got back to me and said yes, you can open for him and close. I was so excited and so nervous, I kept practicing and practicing. To this day, it's still probably one of the funnest sets I've had because I was so nervous and trying to do my best. And to this day I always get nervous, I always want to do my best. I've been lucky, all these big famous DJs, they are so successful, but at the same time they are so humble and nice that it makes you so comfortable being around them and playing before them.
What do you like to do when you're not DJing?
I sit on a leather chair all day. I sit in front of a computer. This is going to sound boring, but I'm kind of a boring person. I work a lot. During the day when I'm not working I'm either working on my music, eating cookies and drinking water, or when it's basketball season, I'll watch that here in the studio while I work. I'm pretty determined to finish this EP - all my energy is into that right now.
What are some of the craziest things that have happened while you've been DJing at a club?
I watch people fall all the time. I love to people watch. It depends what you consider crazy - I've seen people get into fights. One of the craziest things happened one night last year in March, it was almost like the club caught on fire because of how many bottles were sold. Somebody bought close to 200 Cristal bottles at once. So it was just one big fireball of sparklers, it was crazy and cool to watch. Also, I went to a club with Aoki up in Pampano Beach and he had me and Marshall Barnes get this raft and go into the crowd. So we are in the crowd on the raft and Steve jumps off the balcony and misses and just knees me in the face. It was crazy; we thought we were going to drop him.
What's your drink of choice, besides water of course?
I have two. Goombay Punch is a Bahamian drink that's really good - it's like a soda. And I'm so addicted to Red Bull. People tell me it's bad, but it's just so good. I love it.
Keep up to date on DJ Rascal and his upcoming EP.