Saturday Night Session 002: DJ Ruckus talks about how the evolution of electronic music has influenced pop and releases hard-hitting exclusive mix [Q&A]
Few moments are more sacred than the reprieve Saturday night provides from the daily grind of school and work. Its importance is meant to be emphasized, and thus, a feature dedicated to “doing the night right” was born. Saturday Night Sessions are set around energizing mixes meant to get the party started. New or old, each episode has one cornerstone thing in similarity: they serve as the perfect backdrop for the weekend pregame.
Few DJs get their start playing high-profile celebrity parties as a teenager, and even fewer people use these opportunities as a springboard into a 15-plus-year career as a performer. New York-born Greg Andrews has done just that, and he’s still going strong despite playing more than 200 shows a year at high-profile events and as a resident DJ in clubs around the world.
Andrews, more popularly known as DJ Ruckus, is married to Victoria’s Secret Model Shanina Shaik. The pair make frequent appearances in mainstream tabloids, and Ruckus is known for various hip-hop-leaning originals. While it is often easy to write off someone in the public eye like Ruckus as a figment of the hip-hop and mainstream celebrity world, he sat down with Dancing Astronaut and surprised with his unique insights on the state of electronic music, along with his interesting collection of music influences.
Ruckus is an open-format DJ and sticks to no particular genre when performing. One night, he may play a hip-hop set, while the next he may mix Latin music with electronic drops, keeping his performances fresh and unpredictable. As someone who spends more nights a year playing than not, this is a way Andrews keeps things interesting for not only his fans, but himself. He has a diverse set of influences that speak to his varied show styles, spanning from The Notorious B.I.G and Drake to Mark Ronson and Flux Pavilion.
DJ Ruckus created an exclusive mix for Dancing Astronaut’s Saturday Night Sessions, and after learning about the artists’ affinity for Flux Pavilion, the heavy drops and trap notes start to make a lot more sense. On December 2, his wife Shanina will be walking in The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show after a two-year hiatus from being an “Angel.” The show will also be a big moment for the electronic music industry, as The Chainsmokers will be featured performers during the show. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion show has historically featured multi-platinum artists like Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, and this showcases that electronic musicians now have a seat at this table.
As someone who has watched electronic music’s rise, Andrews speaks about how electronic music has not only come to the forefront of mainstream music culture, but it has also changed the musical formula behind a “pop hit.” He notes that “[electronic music] has also changed the arrangements of pop, like the breakdowns and crescendos in everything from Maroon 5 to Imagine Dragons. The electronic remix of a song is sometimes more popular than the original now, and The Grammys recognize remix submissions. Pop has almost completely done away with live drum sounds. It has also opened up songs to having instrumental portions, along with the lyrical part as the norm in a pop sound.” In the digital age that is the 2000s, it could be considered the natural evolution of pop music to lean more on computer-bred production backdrops, but Andrews could be onto an emerging trend as the industry reverts back to instrumentals in an artificial age.
While performing 200-plus nights a year pushes even the most resilient past their limit, Andrews responds to inquiries about next year saying, “You think 200 is a lot, wait until you see what we do next year. This is me just getting started.” He also mentions there will be more associated with his name than just music and live shows. Whether it is sneaker collaborations, modeling gigs, or Latin, trap, and deep house originals, Andrews alludes that there is a lot more to come for him in 2019. In the meantime, he’s provided the perfect backdrop for those looking to get ready for the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with an eventful Saturday night.
You’ve been DJing since you were a teenager. How has your style shifted throughout that time? Have you gone through different phases?
The game has changed so much, although as I research the evolution I have gone through it is very similar to so many successful DJ and artists. I started out with whatever vinyl I gathered from family members… The Supremes, Bill Cosby Live, and very random soul disco from the ’70 and ’80s. I professionally DJed with hip-hop, R&B, funk, soul, and disco classics on vinyl 2 turntables with not very much microphone use. I always thought of having a “DJ career” as a big deal, and a popular and lucrative profession even though it wasn’t as big as it is now. It seemed massive to me as I was so young, and the scale I was allowed to perform seemed so huge to me.
Growing up in Miami, there was plenty to choose from in the nightlife territory. I moved to LA shortly after that, and witnessed the likes of DJ AM. I slowly watched the electro scene emerge, and then I started to gather a new piece to the puzzle through my travels and exploration of DJ culture from Europe, Asia etc. At a certain time, electronic music controlled pop radio airwaves. This is where we saw the boom in DJ culture. Now it seems to be evolving into all types of music, sort of a pangaea. That is in the commercial top 40 space. As for the underground, it seems to have always remained pretty pure niche and driven by a particular sound.
You play more than 200 shows a year. How do you do it?
The answer is a concoction of ambition, passion for the craft, love for travel, and a balance of health and fitness. Also choosing when to drink and when not to drink throughout the year is important.
What is the most over-the-top place or party you have ever DJed?
I like big shows, but I also love private events. I DJed on a temple in Egypt in the Valley of the Kings, which is a place where they don’t even allow tourist during museum visits.
We heard you recently wed Shanina Shaik. Given you were busy at the time, who DJed your wedding?
Haha, good question. I think that’s on Google. It was Rev Run run, DMC DJ kiss, and DJ Politik.
The electronic music industry has completely changed over the past 10 years, transforming into more of a mainstream phenomenon. What are your thoughts on its evolution as someone who has witnessed this from the artist side?
What a world it’s become. From the No. 1 hit songs, to the huge residency deals in Vegas and Ibiza, to the hundreds of festivals around the world, the business has become huge. Electronic music itself has changed in so many ways. It has also changed the arrangements of pop, like the breakdowns and crescendos in everything from Maroon 5 to Imagine Dragons. The electronic remix of a song is sometimes more popular than the original now, and the Grammys recognize remix submissions. Pop has almost completely done away with live drum sounds. It has also opened up songs to having instrumental portions along with the lyrical part as the norm in a pop sound.
It has ultimately brought much of the world together, which is beautiful to me. Electronic music has gone from not being part of hip hop to now almost all mainstream electronic DJs working with hip-hop artists and playing hip hop fusions in their sets. I believe that’s also a testament to how valuable hip-hop is, as it has maintained its presence throughout the reign of electronic music.
What do you think about The Chainsmokers performing at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?
Chainsmokers are the homies – kudos to them and anyone involved in the evolution of dance music, like Kygo, Snake, Diplo, Major Lazer etc. They all moved the tempo around and opened up some possibilities for the genre to maintain popularity when the trend of big room etc. was dying.
How did you choose your DJ name?
Ruckus was a word I heard in ’90s hip-hop a lot, by the likes of Das Efx, Wu Tang and most importantly to me, Busta Rhymes. I grabbed it and fell in love… it stuck. I got a little nervous when Rawkus records popped up, but I held it down and stood the test of time.
Who are some of your musical influences, both now and growing up?
Notorious B.I.G, Stevie Wonder, Mark Ronson, DJ AM, Marvin Gaye, Jay-Z, Flux Pavilion, Hermitude, Milky Chance, Wizkid, Goldcap, 4B, and Drake.
What is the best and worst thing about your job?
The worst part is never being home, being away from my wife, and the choices an open-format DJ faces – which means keeping up with too many genres and too much music coming out too fast!
The best part is the travel and seeing the world, the wonderful people I know everywhere, and making people happy or being able to change the mood of any gathering with my knowledge of music. At the end of the day, I get to do something I love every day with a bonus of getting paid to do so.
Are there any exciting projects or collaborations we should know about from you coming up?
Unfortunately, I can’t talk about them until they drop. But I assure you I will be starting to fulfill fans with all types of content to be happy about. This is from sneaker collabs and new crystal jewelry to new original music, including Latin, trap, and deep house. I will also have remixes, live mixes, magazine shoots, and model vibes, to more great parties and events and live shows all over the world. You think 200 is a lot, wait until you see what we do next year. This is me just getting started. If I can achieve a goal, I would like to do a celebrity charity boxing match. If I can get into good enough condition, who would y’all like to see me fight?
If you could have picked the theme song for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show this year, what would it have been?
I’d say Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” seems like one of my favorite records. It speaks about the wonderful power of a woman, and it denounces our stereotype that God is anything in any shape or form.
Photo credit: Victoria’s Secret