Interview with DJ Roger
Inspired by world melodies, ethnic sounds, cross genre electronica and artists who dedicate their life to recording and producing music that touches the soul and moves the body is what inspired DJ Roger. As a music collector, Roger considers himself a messenger for those who create music. Roger is also a member of Jazz Houze, an electronic/live act that combines electronic music with live instrumentation that includes Saxophone, South Indian Tabla, Spanish Cajon & piano.
We at Kingdome had the pleasure to get to know DJ Roger and what gave him the passion to become a DJ.
- How did it all begin?
The first thing I can say I have truly loved is music and since I was 9 or 10 I knew that this is what moves me so in one way or another I kept music very close. I was a drummer in a couple of bands when I was in school and university. Also I have been a music collector since I could remember. First with cassettes , then CDs , but my love for electronic music came at a time when music was moving to the digital age so I also collected tracks until one day about 3 or 4 years ago I was a with a friend who showed me some djing basics and from then on I made it my hobby to mix the music I had and with time I got the courage to play publicly so I did and after a while a started a 4 piece band called Jazz Houze which combines electronic music with live music instruments and musicians As a DJ though, you can call me a late bloomer as I started mixing at the age 30.
- Where did the name come from?
Well Roger is my real name and for some reason I didn’t find the need to use an alias.
- What gave you that initial push to become a DJ?
As a music collector, I found great pleasure in sharing the beautiful music I heard with others, to a great extent I wanted to share the emotions or thoughts that the music gave me with others. Therefore, the only push I’ve really had is a love for sharing music that others didn’t know.
- What genre would you describe your tracks?
I’m regularly accused of not having a certain style or that I don’t stick to a sound. In my own defense, my response has been that there is so much beautiful music produced across electronic genres and it becomes monotonous to play only one sound therefore I describe my music as cross-genre electronica which can vary from deep house, tech, down tempo, jazz house, deep tech and what I like to call borderline techno.
- Who is your biggest inspiration? Who do you have a lot of respect for?
I am inspired by many but some of the names that have consistently been on my radar are Stimming and Henrik Schwarz and that is because their music has always been a beautiful merge between organic music and electronic music, therefore the soul of a musician is always represented in the tracks they produce. I also have a lot of respect for the young producers especially here in the Middle East and also around the world for continuously breaking the convention and presenting new sounds. This is what I believe electronic music is all about “The unheard new sound.”
- What subgenre you think doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Middle Eastern alternative music gets so little support and not enough appreciation because there isn’t an industry that supports it. Therefore, musicians here in our region don’t have the same reach and struggle to get their sound out, but this also means that artists in our region have to be so special to break out and we have seen it happen with some artists like Soap Kills in Beirut in the 90s and now Mashrou Laila who are also from Beirut.
- What was the first event you ever played at?
Back in University I was a drummer in a band so my first ever public performance was during a University Festival. I must admit it was such a nerve wrecking experience because the base drum was not stable, so every time I kicked the drums would move forward and every few seconds I had to pull it back and I must tell you it is very difficult to pull the drums without messing the songs I was performing, but for some weird reason the only one who noticed this was me and the lesson learned is: most people don’t notice what you experience and thus there is no need to put so much pressure on myself but rather to prepare, do my best and be prepared to deal with the unexpected .
- When you play is it a pre planned set or live?
Well it’s a combination, I always make a selection that I feel is good for that night or that set but I choose enough tracks to give me flexibility to adapt to the vibe or response I get from the crowd I play for.
- Which other countries have you played?
I played in Bahrain, Dubai and Beirut.
- What single night out has been the most memorable for you as a DJ?
I remember I once played an after hours sunrise set, but as you would expect at that time the only people left would be your friends and the hard core music lovers. I remember how I enjoyed playing for that small crowd that was only there for the music and nothing else. The night ended with a series of high fives and a breakfast with friends and those last few strangers.
- What is the best event you’ve played at?
I guess you will get a bit of an unconventional answer here. There was this one time I was playing at a beach event which had quiet a few families and kids, among those kids was my 2 year old daughter who was dancing in the sand and for some reason I felt very happy that my music was appreciated by both adults and kids, also that my daughter was happy dancing in front of me .
- Funniest thing that ever happened at an event?
This lady once kept asking me to change the music and play Arabic instead. After repeating that request and of course me declining (as she was in the wrong place and night for Arabic music) she literally kneeled down and started begging. Of course everyone including myself were giving her weird looks, until she probably found out that the she was the only one with such expectations.
- What do you love about the scene?
There is this amazing beauty about the electronic music scene. When this culture started in the 60s , the secret clubs that hosted DJ events were the only places where people of different backgrounds and social status shared the same passion and love for the music. This culture remains the same today, a place of tolerance and acceptance and that is what I love the most about this culture and of course the music that actually expresses such values.
- What is something that bugs you about the DJ scene?
The role of the DJ has always been to present to clubbers a musical journey they have never experienced before, but like every scene on many occasions it takes a mainstream route which makes it predictable and at many times even boring.
- If you could eternally be stuck on one year’s music scene, which year would it be and why?
2003 because that was the year I explored electronic music for the first time and that year was so exciting because it took me into many new musical experiences and that has always been a source of satisfaction for a collector.
- What was the first record you brought?
That was Nirvana’s Nevermind (I had my head banging days)
- What is one track that got popular that you can’t stand?
It’s a choice I make not to diss any music or musicians (at least publicly). Unfortunately there is a lot of soulless music produced by soulless industries and I hate to see such music topping charts and making a lot of people rich while some of the best musicians die in poverty. One thing for sure though is that there will always be talented minds that will produce beautiful music and similarly eager ears to receive such music. I personally would rather waste what’s left of my hearing on good music and I have faith in musicians and in the development of music.
- What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it?
The Unicorn by Stimming as it is a perfect example of the integration of very unique organic live music with very unique and innovative electronic techniques.
- Out of all the tunes you have, which one “never fails”?
I’m not so sure how to answer this, as a collector I’m always driven by new collections and new tracks and I always find the biggest thrill in playing something new that breaks through and I have to say every set has such tracks.
- What is your favorite tune of all time?
- Are you able to share any of your secret tricks with me?
Sure, keep your sound fresh with new music because new music triggers new ideas, new thoughts and new emotions.
- (Perhaps a little bit deeper of a question) What is your opinion regarding the difference between old school DJing where everything was restricted to vinyl and modern DJing where most tracks are never put on any physical medium before or after release?
The entire music industry has been turned upside down with the transition from print to digital and the biggest loser in this transition is unfortunately the quality of sound. Having said that, the digital era has made it possible for music to travel faster and wider which made it possible for this culture to spread to every corner of the world. So we can either look at the glass as half empty or half full.
This also reminds me of a Q&A held with the legendary Derrick May in Bahrain. When he was asked that same exact question he said “Even my grandma can now be a DJ” and for some reason my first impulse was to say loudly “well we sure do hope she’s got good taste in music”. I think every age has its technology and its true that new technology makes entry to barriers lower than they used to but technology has done the same to almost everything. At the end of the day, yes for sure anyone can now claim to be a DJ but good musicians and good DJs will always find ways to stand out regardless of their tools, so I would say lets evaluate the final outcome based on impact on the listeners and not based on the tools used to present it alone.
- (Follow up) Do you think this has hurt exclusivity of having a certain sound? A DJ’s ability to have a “unique” style? Is having your own style separate from all the other DJs out there even important in modern DJing?
On the contrary, the availability of new tools , instruments and technologies has made it so much more possible to present new sounds. I remember a couple of years ago I came across the top 10 club acts and 7 of them were cross genre collaborations (example DJ, with live instruments, with synthesizers, with musicians, vocalists, etc). Also, digital formats have made it possible for artists to create music without even being in the same country. One can even say technology is actually shifting from the one man DJ show to often a richer hybrid band style electronic music. The possibilities are endless now in live electronic performances and that diversity and all those new possibilities are rather exciting.
- When all the partying is over how do you like to chill out?
When I was younger there was no such thing as chilling after a party , it used to be the after party but let’s say now I like to just sit around friends or even go and get some sleep to wake up fresh for a daddy day out with my family.
- What do you do outside the dance music scene?
Well the dance music scene is an element of my life that came late and for me it constitutes a source of personal pleasure rather than a source of living. Therefore, it is something I don’t do on a daily basis. My day to day life revolves very much around my full time job which is filled with lots of responsibilities and at the same time fortunately much of it is involves music, culture and of course I have my family which now revolves around my beautiful 2 year old daughter.
- Where do you think the scene is headed? One year from now? Five years from now?
Emm tough one, I just came back from a vacation and I went to some places that are famous for their nightlife (Beirut, Barcelona, and Ibiza) and I have to say much of the music I came across was below expectations but one thing that I have seen over the years is that this is the way of the world. Venues want to make money, so they get artists who can play the music that brings in that money and many times at the expense of good music. Also, if you go back in the history of the clubbing culture you will see that different cities were famous at certain periods because of the innovative sounds they presented but then that fame moved on to other places. So I would say that this culture/scene is in constant change and this change is sometimes to the better and sometimes for worse but I personally look forward to 1 year and 5 years from now because this means new music , new sounds, new artists and new experiences and that’s what it has always been about.
- What is one mistake you see a lot of up and coming DJ’s making?/What advice would you give them?
Copying! Again I refer here to the best advise I’ve ever heard from Derrick May who said if you want to stand out then shut yourself out and don’t listen to what’s out there because what’s out there will drag you into copying. So the best advice for anyone in music and arts is find your own inspiration and find your own art because this is what will make you different.
Thank you so much and was pleasure having you.