The Manufactured Superstars are amongst the most in-demand DJs on the club and festival circuit these days, and anyone who has known Bradley Roulier and Shawn Sabo knows that these are dudes who love to throw a great party. As a founding member (Roulier) and original employee (Sabo) of the seminal digital music retailer, Beatport, the two have literally been on the forefront of the digital revolution in EDM. Add to that mix Beta Nightclub—where Roulier is a co-owner—and the Manufactured Superstars have got the right balance of business savvy and relevance in youth culture right now. With radio and club hits including the enormously popular tune, “Take Me Over” featuring Scarlett Quinn, and a string of other singles including “Drunk Text” featuring Lea Luna and the current single with Jeziel Quintela, “Silver Splits The Blue” featuring Christian Burns (released March 13 via Big Beat/Black Hole), it’s a wonder the guys have time to gig. But gig they do, and a glance at their tour calendar shows a never-ending string of club and festival dates across the world. The Manufactured Superstars have made an impact at even the highest levels of pop stardom, and lately mainstream acts like Pitbull and Chris Brown have come to the duo for remixes. We got up close with Shawn Sabo of the Manufactured Superstars for this interview. Here’s what went down…
I don’t even know what ‘commercial’ is nowadays…You can be as weird and as underground or as mainstream as you want to be! People who judge it are idiots, in my opinion.
How far back did you spot the digital revolution happening in music and how did you get Beatport off the ground in response?
Shawn Sabo: Brad and two others had the initial idea, and at that time, I was a local drum-and-bass DJ who played for Brad. They approached me because I had a lot of connections…and the rest is history, as they say. We started out signing labels, and then I became in charge of marketing and VP of seven years of the company. Early on, we saw the evolution of DJs going from playing on [Pioneer] CDJs and Final Scratch to what evolved into Traktor Scratch and Serato Scratch Live. We saw the need for a digital distribution network because vinyl wasn’t the best means for this new performance platform.
The Beatport live DJ sessions on U-Stream have been amazing. Tell us your top 5 sets so far.
Skrillex did one and Steve Aoki did one, and we also love all of the amazing things that have been coming out of the German [Beatport] office.
Please explain both the origin of your name and the decision to roll with astronaut costumes.
We started out as the Digitally Manufactured Superstars, but that name was too long. We always wanted to be focused on fun. The name was fun, and the spacesuits evolved with us playing with Paul Oakenfold at Planet Perfecto in Vegas and at a Skylab party in Denver. People then started wearing their own spacesuits to our shows! [laughs] We’re out of this world, I guess. We’ve also created an entire theme around this, where we have our nerd glasses and everyone at our shows wears them, right down to the cocktail waitresses. We have inflatable blow-up dolls of astronauts that are 27-inches tall and a space theme throughout the club. Everybody loves the space theme, so it’s a good look for all the clubs in terms of branding.
Love the South Park themed avatars on your site. Are Trey Parker and Matt Stone fans?
I don’t know! I hope they are. [laughs] I’ve never seen them at the club when we’re DJing, but we did have Nicole Ritchie come out this past weekend to see us at XS in Vegas, along with the actor Steve Little from the HBO series, Eastbound & Down. We’ve had Paris Hilton who’s also a friend, Chuck Liddell the UFC ® fighter…and NFL stars come to our shows.
It's glossing over the Manufactured Superstars musical sensibility to simply call it "party music." How would you describe it with more nuance?
We play multiple genres: house, tech-house, progressive, some electro, it really comes to us picking the best music that entertains and educates the crowd wherever possible. Nearly 100% of our sets are custom-edited tracks. We’ve been known to play 100 or more tracks within a two-hour set. We do custom edits of all the songs we play.
What would you say to people who call your sound "commercial?"
I’d say…I don’t even know what “commercial” is nowadays! [laughs] It’s all commercial. I’ve heard every DJ from Tiësto to Luciano play what would be considered pop music in the middle of their sets. You can be as weird and as underground or as mainstream as you want to be! People who judge it are idiots, in my opinion.
What have your best moments been so far in finding success?
I really think one of the greatest things is when you finish a song the first time you play it out, and it goes off, it’s a pretty amazing feeling! It’s so humbling when you’re done performing and kids are there and they’re so excited to see you. We go out of our way to take pictures with every single person who wants one, even if we’re standing there for 45 minutes. [The fans] are the ones who are there dancing, there buying tickets, and we try to show them as much love as possible.
If someone wanted to know more about Denver musically beyond Red Rocks, Pretty Lights and Beatport, what would you tell them?
Come to Beta! Beta is Brad’s baby. It’s an amazing club and it’s won “best club” in North America in DJ Mag’s “Top 100 Clubs” poll and arguably has one of best soundsystems in the world, a Funktion One soundsystem. The club was built for DJs, for music lovers, and it is an amazing experience. We have tons of DJs from Wolfgang Gartner to Afrojack come through there to play. We do a great job with the music programming, and you’ll see anything from the world’s top DJs, from Tiësto to Fedde Le Grand to new, up-and-coming stars you’ll be able to catch there. Right now, there’s a local act from Colorado called Savoy who’s been blowing up all over the place.