Zev Norotsky On the Launch of New Electronic Dance Music and DJ Magazine “Elektro”

Electronic music has changed nightlife forever, for better…for worse. It has made DJ’s rock stars, strange and remote places destinations, and has filled clubs and stadiums. It’s inspired Woodstockian festivals. It has defined, along with mash up/mixed format, a renaissance in nightlife. When clubs were going through their doldrums just a few years back, it was argued that there had not been a new genre of music to lead us out of the boredom. Mixed format combined other genres and was considered by some to be a sort of wishy-washy sound for the musically-challenged masses. DJs like AM certainly shattered that misconception. Electronic was lumped in as a progression of house and not much new. This has proven to be an inadequate description of the sound that has swept the world. Many DJs I have spoken to speak of how it has united people worldwide, as superstar DJs play for hundreds of thousands, from Asia to South America.

Zev Norotsky formerly of Mirrorball and Get There PR, has joined Harris Publications as president of its H360 Group. They are launching elektro, a new magazine…
"[It’s] geared toward electronic dance music/DJ fans… elektro’s mission is to take you behind the turntables and into the lives of DJs, sharing their passion for the music, giving fans an all-access backstage pass. From Tiesto’s sold-out gig, to David Guetta’s new album and the Swedish House Mafia’s unreleased track, elektro will show you the tools to make the music and the lifestyle they live. Electronic music is now the fastest-growing genre in music. DJs are the new rock stars and are selling out arenas around the world. elektro brings you face- to-face with the fans that attend these events, along with powerful marketing solutions including print, online, and experiential activations at sold-out shows and festivals across the globe."
Tiesto is on the first issue’s cover. It will come out quarterly. I sent Zev a few questions (electronically of course) and got these answers:
 
What is elektro?
elektro is a new platform for electronic dance music enthusiasts to learn about DJ culture and their favorite artists and producers. It’s definitely much more than a magazine as we have also built in a comprehensive digital ecosystem and a large special event calendar for 2012 to round out our presence nationwide. This includes our online hub at www.elektrodaily.com, very active social media engagement, and strategic partnerships with Spotify, future.fm, mixcloud etc. We will also be distributed at all the large festivals including Ultra and Electric Daisy in New York and Las Vegas, etc.
 
You have been a promoter/marketing guy;  is elektro an exit strategy…a way out of nightlife’s day-to-day, er… night-to-night, or a natural progression and a deeper commitment?
I must refer to a quote from Steve Jobs where he said, "You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards." I got my start in nightlife very early working the doors at Limelight and Kit Kat Klub when I was in college, striking out a few times on my own and eventually landing with Eddie Dean at Pacha NYC.  Nightlife is my absolute passion and I like to say that I got my Masters following Eddie around as we launched the Pacha brand in America. That was, by far, the most valuable experience of my life as I learned not only the importance of branding and guidelines, but also how vital nightlife can be to the world of marketing and how strong the connection is between consumers and brands. I have been jumping up and down on corporate board room tables for the last four or five years, begging brand managers to pay attention to what’s going on in electronic dance music (EDM) and people are finally paying attention. It’s an amazing feeling and now I have elektro to make sense of it all. I never could have imagined this starting out but when I look back it all makes perfect sense.
 
Everybody in the world is going electronic..or is it elektronic… as online is more and more the way people want it…why print?
We are very in tune with the digital space. I actually moderated a panel a few weeks back during Social Media Week based on a theory that the explosion of EDM in America is intrinsically tied to social media; that’s why we have created an extensive online presence across every single medium there is for us to share content. We are curating playlists with Spotify, streaming from events with future.fm, YouTube, Instagram, etc., you name it. The honest answer is you need everything to succeed and we take a 360 approach here. The sweet spot for me is how everything connects from the live events, the social media, and the print piece. That gives us maximum leverage as both an editorial property and a marketing vehicle for brands.
 
How did Tiesto become your first cover boy?
This was such a no-brainer for me; he is arguably the most iconic DJ of all time and truly personifies how far dance music has come in America, from the initial burst in late ’90s, to now. I literally made a mock-up of elektro about a year ago with him on the cover to show my partners what I look at every day to remind me how this all started.
 
It’s a quarterly; will there be events to celebrate each issue at various clubs around the world? Will the cover boy be the DJ? Will the distribution of the magazine at these events be a huge part of the marketing strategy?
Absolutely. We are gearing up for a massive launch during Miami Music Week. In addition to a private launch party with Roger Sanchez that we are hosting for the industry on Thursday, March 22 at The Setai, we are going to be distributed in the VIP section at Ultra, are an official media partner of Winter Music Conference, and will be hosting events all week at the National Hotel, Villa221, Mansion, as well as a big in-store event with Guess Jeans on Saturday 3/24. We’re also working on an official launch party in New York on April 14th at Pacha NYC which will be a sort of homecoming for me I guess, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.

Culture Shock: Festival Fashion Gets Branded

With two weekends of Ultra behind us, and Coachella fast approaching, everyone has been coming down with a case of festival fever, and the retailers have taken notice. Like its hip-hop predecessor, the EDM genre has caught the eye of the fashion industry, which has now adopted the trending festival styles into their own fashion campaigns. 

Just take a look at what some notable retail chains have come up with for their spring/summer advertisements. It won’t be long before tie-dyed bandeaus and furry hoods are gracing the editorial pages of Vogue (Ummm not!).

[Check out the full slideshow at VIBE.com]

Robert DeLong is an EDM Artist on the Rise

Seattle-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Robert DeLong has a flare for the alternative. In a good way. The 26 (soon to be 27)-year-old EDM mastermind, dubbed a Young Artist to Watch by MTV, has the music scene in his hands—quite literally. Indeed, among the myriad instruments he manages to maneuver during performances are Wiimotes and Joysticks, rigged like MIDIs and adding edge to his already memorable brand of booty movin’ tunes.

Seriously, though, this whiz kid’s got the chops and multitasks better than the best of us—in front of an audience, no less. He’s a one-man-band who sings, drums, and fiddles with game controllers and keyboards, sometimes going so far as to incorporate guitar, too. His live set is something to behold, a sweaty mid-twenties talent, hair slicked down in an exaggerated comb-over, putting every effort into churning out original numbers while keeping the beat.

“I’m always writing songs,” says DeLong, whose debut album, Just Movement, drops today. Makes sense, since he constantly rocked out in bands back in high school. Now he’s signed to Glassnote, label to the likes of Phoenix and Mumford & Sons.

Recently, DeLong released a video to accompany his catchy track “Global Concepts.” The visual rendition of this f-bomb laden rhythmic ditty features a foggy interior, warehouse-like, smoke somewhat obscuring the agile dancers in the background. Tube lights suspended from above flicker and flash whilst DeLong engages in various aspects of performing, most notably wandering around and gesticulating with Wiimote or drumsticks in hand, or hitting his steel drum to excellent tribal effect as he marches subtly in place. Towards the end, the space is overrun with revelers, morphing into an all-out party you wish you’d been invited to. (The platinum blonde mop you may glimpse amid the shadows belongs to talented dancer James Koroni, the individual responsible for my introduction to and fast fandom of DeLong.)

Another nuance unique to DeLong is his affinity for orange, which he wears with pride in the shape of an “x,” big and bold on a classic black tee, as well as painted with precision on his cheekbone in the shape of a lightening bolt. More on this defining aesthetic to follow.

New Yorkers can catch DeLong in action on February 15 when, as part of a greater tour, he plays The Studio at Webster Hall. Festivalgoers will have several opportunities to indulge as well, from SXSW to Coachella, Ultra to Governors Ball.

Not long ago I sat down with the confident up-and-comer at The Commons Chelsea, one of my favorite neighborhood haunts, where over iced tea we discussed the multi-instrumentalist’s inspiration, interest in hacking HIDs, and what it all means.

What’s it like being dubbed a Young Artist to Watch?
It’s great. I grew up watching MTV, so it’s cool. Wild ride. Exciting. Surreal.

How have people reacted? Any super fans?
Nothing too weird so far. But, it’s definitely getting weirder. After the video came out, all of a sudden friends from high school started reaching out, sending messages. It’s fun to hear from people I haven’t heard from in years. But, it’s just funny.

I bet. Did you always know you were going to go into music?
Near the end of high school I knew I was going to do music. I started out thinking I was going to be in science or something. But, I was better at [music]. I think people knew I was a musician, but I don’t know if people knew I was into electronic music and that I was going to go that route.

What would you be doing if not this?
Since college, all of my jobs have been music related. I taught drum lessons, so that was my thing. If it wasn’t music at all, I guess I’d be going to school.

To become a scientist.
Yeah, I guess. [Laughs]

So, tell me more about this Wiimote rewiring…
You can hack [a] human interface device, anything from Gamepads to Joysticks, and turn it into a MIDI. Basically, the idea is you’re just sending information to a computer and can turn it into whatever you want. It’s the same thing as having a knob, slider, drum pad. It’s all the same if you can hack it and make it work for you. I found out you could do it, it seemed interesting and it’s cheaper than buying a bunch of expensive musical equipment. And it’s fun, people like it.

How many instruments do you have up onstage with you?
Three different electronic things, two computers, game pad, Joystick, Wiimote, six pieces of percussion, drum set, keyboard. Like, 15-20 things. Sometimes I’ll have a guitar. Oh, and two microphones.

Wow. That’s a lot for one guy to keep track of. So, are all your shows like the last time you performed in New York? No pauses between songs, stuff like that?
The show is always continuous and flows together. When I do a longer set, there’s more drumming. I play guitar sometimes, too. It’s high-paced. Jumping around doing a lot of different things.

I’m getting that vibe. You sampled Moby when you last played live in NYC. Have you been a long time fan of his?
When his album Play came out, I was probably, like, 12. That was when I first started experimenting with making electronic music, because it was kind of accessible, mainstream electronic music for the time. It was kind of something I grew up with.

Aww, an audible homage. Thoughts on our fair city?
I love this city, but Manhattan is a little terrifying. And it’s a little colder here. Do prefer the warm. Other than that, it’s beautiful. It’s awesome. Good people.

Who else besides Moby inspired or inspires you?
The songs on the album especially are an amalgamation of a lot of songs over the last four years, so it’s a wide variety of things. I grew up in Seattle, so there’s the whole indie singer-songwriter vibe that I kind of grew up with, like Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, Modest Mouse. I think you can hear that whole Seattle sound in the way I write melodies. As far as things I’m listening to a lot right now, I’m listening to Lucy and Sports. I also grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Talking Heads. Those are some of my constant jams.

Can you tell me what inspired the lyrics behind “Just Movement”?
“Just Movement,” the first track, is sort of the thesis statement for the album. It was written right after college, a time of mental exploring. Just movement: the idea that, if you take this reductionist perspective, everything we do is just atoms moving around. It’s all meaningless. But, once you break it down, where do you go from there? Just movement, the double entendre. Dancing, philosophy. Take it or leave it.

Have you yourself always been into dancing? I’m thinking, too, of “Global Concepts”…
I go out dancing a lot. Do a lot of jumping around on stage. I think that’s an awesome thing. It’s the oldest response to music that human beings had, so it only makes sense to think about that. For a long time I was in the indie scene and no one dances. Everyone looks at their feet.

[Laughs] Shoegaze. How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
It’s actually pretty cool. There’s definitely a burgeoning DIY electronic scene in Los Angeles. L.A.’s big. There’s always something happening. You can always see new music. It’s good stuff.

So, how did the face painting start?
The whole thing was a group of me and my friends called the Tribe of Orphans, a bunch of people who hang out and go to dance events and stuff. It kind of just evolved over time. My girlfriend Heidi face paint[s] at shows.

So she’s your professional face painter. Does she paint in real life?
Besides face painting she does studio painting and stuff, so it’s great.

Why orange?
Initially? That’s the color paint that shows up the best under black light. It glows the brightest.

Has anyone ever said something to you about your “x” symbol? How it very much resembles the “x” symbol of The xx?
Yeah, people have said that before.

Does it piss you off?
It does a little bit. It doesn’t really. I didn’t even know about them, that that was their symbol. The “x” just was kind of an organic development. My girlfriend had painted it on my headphones probably three years ago or something, so it was before that first The xx album came out. It was just kind of a simultaneous [thing]. We both did it. And then they became famous first. It’s just an “x.” It is what it is.

Emblem wars aside, what’s the greatest challenge of all this?
I think the greatest challenge is to not get sick all the time from running around. But, I have a lot of energy and this is what I wanted to do, so it’s all working out. So far. I get to do what I love. I love playing shows. That’s what it’s all about.

Photo by Miles Pettengell