A veteran of the booth, Long Island-born DJ Theo has become one of New York’s most popular nightlife personalities throughout the years. Getting his start at local radio stations and Hamptons parties, Theo now has his own Sirius/XM radio show titled “All Love from NY” and maintains a firm grip on the Long Island club scene.
It was only a matter of time before the hometown star would team up with legendary NYC label Nervous Records. With his highly successful Summer Clubbing series just reaching its fourth volume, Theo has another new compilation on Nervous for electronic heads everywhere. School of House just released last week, and with its eclectic range of mixes featuring artists such as Norman Doray and Dirty Grey, it’s sure to fuel college parties for semesters to come.
We had a chance to speak with the amicable Long Islander about his musical beginnings and where his spinning abilities have taken him. A lover of all types of music who has ignited parties in Boston and Ibiza alike, Theo speaks like a weathered pro of the scene, while retaining a youthful passion and hunger that constantly carries him to new opportunities.
How’d you get your start DJing?
I always was into music, ever since I was really young. I used to bring a radio to school. I went to school in Long Island and got my DJ license. Then I got on the radio. I would practice in booths with vinyl. I didn’t know turntables. They weren’t cheap back then, it was like $400 for a turntable. I was always into music and liked playing for people without realizing it. It took a turn with a lot of Euro-alternative stuff, which there’s not too much of in the Long Island scene. I was more into the Cure, New Order, stuff like that. It was dance music in a way. I started getting into more vinyl. And I was into hip-hop. Mixed format started; Everybody was kinda into everything.
What’s the Long Island DJ scene like?
There always seems to be a lot of clubs. There were a lot of dressed up guys in jackets playing house then. It was alternative clubs playing modern music, rock and dance, there were hip-hop clubs. There was a definite separation. It seemed like we were more open minded. Growing up in Long Island, we were fortunate. Growing in a suburb of a major city, there’s always a major radio station, and alternative stations, and hip-hop. I was always in earshot of mixed radio, but back in the day I had Hot 97 there was LIR and alternative stuff. I always found myself taping these mix shows and the DJs on these shows to hear new music. In Long Island it was great to hear brand new stuff from Europe and all these new groups, you got to hear Red Alert and all these guys. It was very exciting as a music fan to hear guys playing stuff live, and I got to be very infatuated with that.
What was your first DJ gig like?
I did a place in the Hamptons for a long time. The owners didn’t hire me for house and dance, they hired me for sing-alongs and alt-rock fans. It was funny, cause you had to play this “baby, hands up!” sing along nonsense to please them. And I’m young, I’m 20, I just want a job. I tried tricking them into dealing with what I like and slowly started playing house. I was trying to get them into it and at least put what they want around it. This place now has amazing DJs from around the world. When we first started that party it was playing silly sing-along music. To see where it is today is kinda funny. Those early days of playing clubs, it was funny what you had to play. I got yelled at for hip-hop and Nine Inch Nails back in the day. When I played Cypress Hill, the owner came up and wanted to kill me! You weren’t allowed to play anything with rap. The owners were very old school. As I got older and more into it, you get to control the music. When you’re a resident, you control the night; no guest spot, no nonsense. Me and a lot of DJs… you learn how to play the hits, and then you play what you want to hear. You control your crowd. I think it helped me as DJ a lot growing up in these environments.
How did your compilation with Nervous Records come about?
I put out a compilation on another label. I was doing well in my area on the Hamptons and that label kinda went to funk. And being where I was, someone on the label approached me and saw I had a hold on the area. No matter where you’re from, you have to have your pulse on your backyard. They liked that I had this Hamptons party and that I was on the radio. It was a nice easy fit.
What do you have in the works right now?
A ton of tracks. You get stagnant sometimes, where you wanna team up with guys and build up a family. So I have a couple groups of guys I’ve been working with, we have some records coming out. I’m putting this tour together with the holidays coming up. I’m doing a ton of production and trying to get records done and not just instrumentals. I want to use singers. It’s nice to separate it; vocals with this guy, instrumental with this guy.
Any notable collaborations?
I worked with my labelmate Superchumbo (Tom Stephan). We started doing parties in the city. It was nice working with other Nervous guys, being that Tom’s in the UK, we talked about our Summer Clubbing idea. It came to fruition and landed in the top 5 on the dance charts. It’s a camaraderie kind of thing. It was nice to be on the same page and put it out on the label.
What are some artists you’d like to work with in the future?
I would say that a lot of the singers that are out there now, house or trance. A lot of people, you might be inspired by a record and just them being around. The ones I’ve been inspired by, I’ve been trying to get in touch with them. Things in the music business are so tough, there aren’t a lot of opportunities where you can offer that to a singer. That’s the goal right now. Trying to get to a lot of artists that inspired me. No one I can talk about yet.
How did your Sirius Radio Show come to be?
It’s great. I was with BPM, and Sirius and BPM merged. I started doing a show on Sirius/XM. It was nice to switch to Electric Area. It’s a little more open. They were nice enough to let me name my show (“All Love from New York”). They let me support guys who can’t get gigs when we wanna do a party somewhere. It was cool to tailor it all in over the last year. It’s such a huge company. It’s amazing that they let you push what you’re doing, and at the same time providing your shows and energy. That’s been cool for the last year, just branding that the show and company.
How does spinning in New York compare to other places in the world?
New York, with any crowd they’re tough. We grew up tough, the weathers tough, a lot of competition. There are some great times to be had and some tough times, because everyone’s a critic. When you’re away in Ibiza or Canada, there seems to be a more booming metropolis kind of feeling. Everyone’s excited to go out and excited to be in the scene. Sometimes it’s a dichotomy, because you’re in two different worlds. Everyone’s excited when everything’s on all cylinders here (New York) and you’re outside or at Pacha. It’s just as good. If you can succeed here, its definitely rewarding. At the same time it’s very hard. Sometimes around the world, they’re really hungry and they want to go out. And it’s not like “Who’s in the city?” like in New York where there can be three other parties going on.
What are some of your favorite venues to perform at?
I do like spinning out by the water. I like Hamptons for the outside vibe. The long days, 8-9 hour sets, just controlling the day. Being up in Canada, it seems like the energy is great. If you can ever go to Ibiza, it’s the epicenter of the world of clubbing. You see the best of everything. It’s tough out there, but here’s the thing about the dance world; there are guys that are hip-hop heads or rock heads, and if you go into it with an open mind, a lot of people will open their mind.
What are you listening to?
The Foster The People album… (pauses) what else did I just pick up? You get so into the music. Your job every week is to get records and find new music, and a lot of labels supply you with music. You have to listen to that stuff and give them answers. 10 labels send you stuff, imagine how long it is to listen to 3 records from one label. Then you have to buy new music, so you search Beatport. And on top of that, you’re making music. You want to catch up on what’s new, but you gotta do your job. Sometimes your ears just go blank and you wanna listen to something totally different just to clear your ears out.
What does the future look like for Theo?
I’m trying to push the album (School of House) more out of the area. My schedule is nationally set. I’m at Glo until May, I know my area and what I’m doing. I’m just trying to organize that, trying to get as much music as I can before all the concerts. Miami in the spring. Trying to get to Amsterdam next year. Just trying to get music done.