DJ Tranzit on His Alter Ego, New CD, World Travels, and the Current Oversaturation of EDM
The future 's looking pretty damn bright for Steven Chung, which is probably why he's wearing those Von Zipper shades in the picture above.
Over the next 72 hours alone, the 31-year-old house music maestro (who performs as DJ Tranzit) will open for EDM wunderkind DallasK this evening at Wild Knight, hold a gigantic release party for his latest mix CD tomorrow night at Madison Event Center, and then stage his regular Switch Sundays gig at the Dollhouse. Chung also has an EP coming out on German EDM label Plasmapool Entertainment, some potential gigs around the world might take place in the coming months, and he's going to be teaching a few courses for SCC's renowned DJ program this fall. Whew.
Chung found some time is his busy schedule (which also includes creating a monthly podcast and spinning on 101.5 Jamz) to talk to Up on the Sun about his career, the future of house music, and his feelings about the EDM world.
Name: Steven Chung
AKA: DJ Tranzit
What EDM styles do you specialize in? When I play as Tranzit, its all electro, progressive and house. Under my alter ego [Juheun], it's all techno, tech-house and minimal stuff.
How did you get involved house music? When I was 16, I did the whole house party, [doing the] hanging with your friends thing. I always found myself by the stereo, picking out CDs and playing the next song. This led me to buying a mixer and one of those "DJ in a Box" setups. Did that for a year or so, then just felt the need and desire to move to a bigger city. So I packed my shit, and moved to Chicago from my hometown of Albuquerque. When I got there, everyone was all about house music. Went to my first underground rave party, and its pretty much downhill from there.
Have you changed up your style in recent years? Overall, no. My background has always been turntablism and hip-hop, so my style still remains the same in that aspect. It has changed though in terms of music. What I love about EDM is that it's always evolving. Technology is getting better, people are always pushing the envelope and there aren't that many rules to it. Music I played two years ago, is a little hard to play now just because the music now is a bit heavier and harder [with] harder kicks and basslines. So in that aspect, yes, it has changed a little bit.
Do people ever mistake house for other genres? Yeah, it definitely happens. It's like when EDM first hit the scene everyone called it techno. It's because to some people it's just good music. Most people don't even care what genre it is, just that it makes them get crazy. There are so many genres and subgenres in EDM now, it's hard for me to even know what some of the stuff is.
House music has been around forever. Do you think it will ever die out? I don't think it will ever die out, but it will definitely take a step back. The genre "house" is definitely not as big as it used to be, but electro, progressive, [and] EDM in general is all based on the same backbone and all created on a computer, so in a sense it will always be here.You've performed at venues around the world. Where have your travels taken you in the last year?
This past year was spent mostly in the studio working on my solo stuff. I started a side project under the alter ego "Juheun." Its more minimal/techno stuff, so thats kept me quite busy on top of my usual Tranzit stuff. I picked up gigs earlier this year in Las Cruces, Austin, Las Vegas at Tao Beach, Tucson, and I got a chance to play in Havasu this year for Spring Break with Rockstar Energy Drink for two weeks.
Where are you off to next? My agent is working on locking down some international gigs this year, hopefully making my return to Egypt. And there are talks about touring through India as well. On top of that, I will be touring to promote my new EP for "Str!ke" the later part of the year.
What's new and different about your latest mix CD Crank the Volume? Well, I think the biggest thing on this mix series is trying to capture and translate my live DJ sets into the mix. Usually in my past mixes I focused a lot on starting off a bit slower and then building the mix over the full hour. Instead, I decided to come out of the gates more explosively like my DJ sets have been. Also this is the first mix where I have included an all original solo track "Str!ke" which comes out later this fall on Plasmapool Records out of Germany. You will hear a lot more scratching, beat-juggling, and turntable tricks in the mix like my live performances. So it's a little bit more raw than my usual mixes have been.
Your weekly Switch Sundays recently made its return to Scottsdale. Why did it disappear for a few years? It was just time for a break. We ran Switch for over two years. It was also right at the cusp of the whole EDM thing blowing up here. Plus, I was getting really into producing and wanted to put more time into that for a while.
Why did it return? After a year or so, I was asked to bring the night back at the Dollhouse, and everything lined up again so just decided it was a good time to bring it back. Switch has always been about exposing the great local talent we have here, and I've always been about showcasing these guys at Switch and using it as a platform to show this great talent to people who were open to hear and see it. With so many new DJs emerging, and with the scene blowing up the way it is, I thought it was just perfect timing.
You're opening for DallasK tomorrow at Wild Knight. Are you psyched or stressed about it? I'm stoked!
What's your favorite place to perform? I love DJing at Wild Knight. They have done such a good job of building a good solid EDM crowd. I've always been asked to play harder, even when opening up for headliners, which is always nice. It's usually the opposite, "We need you to tone it down a bit." I've been opening for headliners for over eight years in this town, and I've been taught to slowly build up a room and set up the headliner, but its nice that things are changing now, and the over all landscape is catering to a more heavier sound.
Should DJs go balls to the wall during every set, ever if its an opening gig? People expect it to be raging at the clubs the moment they step in, even if it's 10 p.m. I don't recommend every DJ do this when opening for headliners, there's definitely a fine line to doing it, you cant expect to show up and take that opening slot as your moment to show the world how great you are. It's not about you, it's about the headliner and the over all experience. So DJs gotta remember to play accordingly. I've built a solid reputation in this town over the years and clubs and promoters are a bit more understanding on the way I play and know what to expect so I think I have an easier chance of playing more aggressive sets now.
What else are you up to these days? At the moment [I'm] just focusing on this EP release, and more studio time and developing the alter ego more. I will be heading to Amsterdam Dance Event again this year in October and starting this fall, I will be teaching three DJ classes at Scottsdale Community College.
What's the most important lesson you'll teach future DJs? That it doesn't happen overnight.
Damn, that's a tough one. Okay, if I have to pick one it will have to be "Rolling Stones T-Shirt" by Dada Life.
How much work do you put into your mixes? Well, between my podcast "Disorganized" and my monthly spot on "The House Party" on 101.5 Jamz, it definitely keeps me busy. I don't like to use the same mixes for each show, I usually get a request or two from other podcasts or online shows a month on top of the two I do regularly. So sometimes it feels like all I do is make mixes.
I put a bit more work into my podcast though since I do a custom intro on each episode, giving news, updates, things to [go to], et cetera. Kinda like a mini interview at the start of each show. So I gotta compile all that data, info, shout outs, plugs each month, and then record it all so it definitely takes a bit of effort. Its not just a matter of press record and go.
Do people seem to think that being a DJ is just like that? There's been a huge influx of DJs popping up all over. I get hit up each week by a new DJ asking to listen to their mix. A lot of that stems from the fact that things are just so accessible to people now. You can literally spend $1,000 to buy a laptop, some software, and start to DJ. With the popularity of such websites as Beatport, it's easy for DJs to get their hands on the latest tracks they hear the big DJs playing. Where as before, you had to go crate-digging for those gems, and hound the guy at the record shop to pull tracks as soon as they are released. Those days are definite long gone now.
What's your opinion on EDM's current popularity? Well, all in all I think it's a good thing. With the rise of such artists as Deadmau5, Kaskade, Skrillex, David Guetta, et cetera its definitely put a huge spotlight on what we have been working so hard to expose. It kinda took a lot of us by surprise in how quickly it managed to blow up. I mean it has taken years for the EDM scene to get to where it is, but it wasn't a gradual progression by any means. It kinda happened overnight. One day we are all talking about where the next big underground party is at, and then now we are talking about Vegas and EDC.
So is that a good thing or a bad thing? It's getting a major boost in pop culture with the influx of major record label dollars flooding the industry. With that comes the negative side of the exposure: Artists are getting signed to these labels with high expectations, tight deadlines, and rigorous touring schedules. What we are left with is half-assed material or rushed productions where the meat of the project is no longer the music, but who's name is on it, who's collaborating with who, and how much money its generating.
Are corporate interests ruining EDM in your opinion? Before when it wasn't being fueled by these corporate dollars things seemed a lot simpler, people had time to put emotion and feeling into their productions, and quality music was more prevalent. This is also why I think a lot of artists are starting to go back underground and shy away from the major offers and deals. (This is another reason why I started the alter ego.)
What's your opinion on all the EDM superstars in the game today? A lot of these guys are stuck now though and it's a shame. Once you get to a certain level, especially nowadays, you don't get much chance to be as open with your artistic side and creativity. Guys like Tiësto and David Guetta, are pretty much being run by the labels, no matter how much they say they are underground and how much they are not about the commercial side of things. At the end of the day, it's all about the mighty dollar
It's funny, because I listen to a lot of hip-hop and old school music and when I listen to some of the songs from the early '80s and '90s, it's all about the same thing. About how the industry is changing and how we shouldn't be caught up in the mainstream, etcetera. It's like we are experiencing the exact same thing these hip-hop guys did back then but just with a different genre of music.
Has EDM reached an over-saturation point? It's hard now not to hear a song on the radio that hasn't been produced by an electronic artist, or hear a song that doesn't have some sort of EDM influence in it. I mean, it makes sense. It's 2012, and technology is moving fast. It was only a matter of time before the music caught up.
My opinion on the whole thing is [that] it really doesn't matter if its mainstream, underground, pop, or hip-hop. As long as it makes you happy and takes you back to a time and place. Music is kinda like a bookmark in our brains. No matter how long its been, when u play that certain track, your instantly reminded who, what, when, and why. I'm just happy that its way more socially accepted now.
DJ Tranzit's CD release party takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Madison Event Center. Admission is $10 before 9, $15 afterward. See www.relentlessbeats.com.
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