A couple weeks back, I made the spirited journey from Brooklyn to the distant land of Astoria, Queens (my old neighborhood) to interview NYC-based EDM production guru dBerrie (Dave Berrie) and see him perform live. dBerrie began his career as a top 40 DJ but quickly became interested in electronic music and began mixing it into his sets. He initially got into production working with his friend C.I.D. on a track and spent several years teaching himself by watching YouTube videos and reading DJ interviews. His big break came when Fedde Le Grand dropped his remix of Gotye "Somebody That I Used To Know" at Ultra Miami. Since then, he's had a slew of original releases on Ultra Records, Flamingo and Fly Eye, and has also remixed the likes of Gotye, Ellie Goulding and Imagine Dragons. He's also played a wide array of international festivals including Road To Ultra (Korea), Planetlove WKD Festival (Ireland), Umagination (Croatia) and has headlined Dayglow throughout the U.S. To my surprise, I learned during the interview that dBerrie also spins tech house under the name David Berrie, and will be doing so live at Output in NYC on Saturday, July 5th.
As I made my way to the venue to meet dBerrie, I walked past one of my favorite restaurants, Arepas Cafe, which at this time of night was dim. I turned the corner and all of a sudden high up above me was a sign indicating the name of my intended destination: Melrose Ballroom. The streets of Astoria were quiet, but upon entering the club, I was immersed in a sleek new venue with a banging sound system and a huge paneled HD screen. I arrived on the tail end of Grand & Warren’s set, a DJ duo that consistently brings high energy to any crowd they perform for.
When dBerrie arrived, he found me on the VIP balcony watching Project 46, the duo that recently collaborated with Laidback Luke on “Collide.” We hit the green room, did the interview, and pounded some shots of Patrón. Here’s what we talked about:
How do you feel about playing at Melrose Ballroom tonight? Is this your first time playing here?
Yeah, I don’t get to play in Queens often. But I’m from New York, so playing for the fans out here, it always feels like home. I got a lot friends that are from around here that are coming out tonight too.
What was the cause or impetus that got you into DJ’ing when you were 15?
My friends back in high school. I started out making CDs for my friends first, when Napster came out. I would just make CDs and sell them. Eventually, they got so popular, I got in trouble at school, but I wanted to keep doing it, and I wanted to actually mix the songs, so that’s how I got into DJ’ing. I started freshman year of high school, then threw parties at my house. I gave a promo CD to a club, Dorsia, and the guy liked it and put me on. Then I went to college and did college parties.
When you first started DJ’ing, you played mostly top 40, right? How was the transition from top 40 to electronic music? Did you start working electronic music into your top 40 sets?
For sure, whenever an open format set would come around, I would put way more into it and people would see it. I’d always lean more towards electronic music when I played open format, like when I played Tao in Vegas. The kicker was when I got signed to Ultra Records, and I decided before that I really wanted to produce, and the only way to make that transition is to have the music behind it. Once I got signed to Ultra, this song called ‘Take A Minute,’ if you look it up it’s the worst song ever, it’s the most poppy, terrible, fabricated song. It was under the name Kidsell, I actually never told anyone about this, but it’s hilarious. Yeah, Kidsell, I thought it was like ‘sell out,’ I was like ‘fuck it, I’ll put it under Kidsell.’ It’s called ‘Take A Minute,’ and I actually produced it with my friend C.I.D., who’s killing it right now, he just put out a release on Size Records. He was the producer and the studio guy, I was just the DJ coming in, and I wanted to work on something, and he was working in the studio, made this terrible song, got sent to Ultra Records, and that was the basis for me to start, and the next three years, I basically just locked myself in my studio and went through YouTube videos and read magazine interviews and spent all this time just learning how to produce, and slowly but surely, three years down the line, got support from Fedde. Fedde really introduced me to a lot of other exposure, he played one of my tracks at Ultra Miami.
I’ve talked to a lot of local DJs that have said DJ’ing has changed so much in the last five or ten years. Ten years ago, DJs just had to play music, now you have to be a promoter and a DJ. Have you ever had a gig where the promoting was all on you?
I think all gigs right now are about numbers. You’re not actually the promoter, you’re not saying ‘oh, I’ll bring 60 people,’ but it’s all numbers, when it comes to Facebook, social media, people book you on numbers. People are becoming breakthrough artists I feel like more on social media than they are on their music nowadays, so yeah, everyone is their own promoter, and you are essentially a promoter, it’s about how many numbers you’re bringing in. What clubs care about at the end of the day, it’s a business, so yeah there’s a musical aspect, of course, they’re going to need to make their money, so that’s what they’re looking at.
In terms of when you were starting out, when you were playing at your first few clubs, what was your biggest challenge, when you had to promote and get booked?
Yeah, maybe tips to get booked, I would say there are some DJs that are really into their music. You’re either a president or a dictator. You’ve got to amend your style to be marketable, it’s a business too. When I was first getting booked or first getting jobs, maybe it wasn’t because I liked the music I was playing, but as you get more exposure, you can start doing the things that you want. So maybe I don’t like doing a remix for Katy Perry or something, but these are all stepping stones to take, to eventually get the appeal and the exposure to do what you want, so whatever sacrifices you have to make to get through the door, if I made a crappy ‘Take A Minute’ record to get on Ultra, then now I’m doing something I like, and doing other records I like. So you’ve got to take it to one place, and you can veer off.
So what are the craziest venues you’ve been played in the NYC area besides Pacha and Webster Hall?
Santos Party House was crazy. There’s a good, raw vibe in there. In Jersey, HQ Beach Club in Atlantic City gets pretty turned up. To be honest, of the sketchy places in Jersey, Surf Club is crazy. Clubs like Surf Club in middle Jersey, like sketchy Jersey areas, are the craziest and those are the most fun usually, too.
What’s been the most challenging track that you’ve produced, out of your original tracks, not remixes?
The ones that are the most challenging are the ones that are usually not the best, and you just put them out. The ones that are the easiest are the most successful, because they come faster and everything flows. And also remixes come easier to me than originals. With originals, there’s no limit. With a remix, you have an idea, it’s very straightforward, you can work around that. With an original, you might want to do it this way, you might want to do it that way. Also, finding that one vocal sample, which I put in my originals a lot, you always want to make it unique and fun, something that’s cool. So all the originals I’d say are the hardest tracks, ‘Zenith’ and all those.
How do you feel about being an electro/progressive producer in New York? Do you feel like you have all the resources you need here?
I think New York, specifically, versus a city like LA, the resources in LA are a little more prevalent for EDM specifically, like as far as singers, songwriters and producers in general, it’s what it’s become. The US in general for EDM has become a lot more dominant than Europe. I think Europe is a breeding ground for it, because maybe the lifestyle, but this is more of like a concert ground and more people are into it now on the U.S. side. But I think New York is great, there’s a lot of people that work off each other. I do think it has the resources, it's a huge city, it's fucking New York. I think versus everything else though, it's also a little bit more underground than I would say LA. The history of the New York sound has been drums versus melodies and the EDM sound. But, there's something for everyone here.
Do you have any releases coming up that you want to talk about?
Yeah, I just finished up a collab with Dzeko & Torres, my friends from Toronto. It's a really dope track and I'm going to play it tonight, test it out for the first time. It sounds really good, I'm happy with that. I have a remix with Bingo Players that I'm going to put out for free this week, for 'Knock You Out.' And I'm working on a collab with C.I.D. and I finished this one track called 'Amp' that I previewed like a month ago, that's just an original track that I'm also going to play tonight.
Check out dBerrie's latest release "Switch," available now on Fly Eye records: