Luke Romero on The Psychology of Club Nights, Star Wars Jokes, The Plight of Newbie DJs, and His Gig at This Weekend's Identity Festival

Luke Romero performs at the old Cream Stereo Lounge.
Luke Romero performs at the old Cream Stereo Lounge.

Luke Romero probably has been hard to get ahold of over past few days, likely due to the fact that he's prepping for one the biggest gigs of his embryonic DJ career this coming weekend.

A little over 48 hours from now, the 23-year-old will take over the Relentless Beats side stage at the Identity Festival during the nationwide summertime EDM tour's stop at Ashley Furniture Homestore Pavilion on Sunday afternoon. Romero and a handful of other DJs (including PastriesWithTeeth, Alpha1 and Blakeland, and Brett Ortiz) won the opportunity to perform at the event at last weekend's Hometown Heroes battle.

And just like when he impressed the judges during the recent DJ battle, Romero plans to wowing the crowd at Identity Festival with his potent electro-house mixes. He recently discussed his plans for the set with us earlier this week, as well as the difficulties that newbie DJs have with breaking into the club scene, and why he's gotten used to dumb Star Wars-related jokes because of his name.

Name: Luke Dalton Romero

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Preferred genres? I specialize in taking melodies and vocals of popular progressive and electro-house tracks and fusing them with more underground tech-house, minimal and tribal sounds with lots of drums. I've definitely got a thing for drums, something about the fusion of organic and synthetic sounds fascinates me.

What clubs have you performed at? My first booking was an opening set at Club Red in Tempe. Since then I have played several events at the Madison Event Center, District 8, Cream Stereo Lounge, Monarch Theater, and I recently opened for Porter Robinson's Language Tour at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.

Craziest shit you've seen at a gig: I was playing a set at a big pool party in Tempe. In the middle of my set, on the heavy drop of the track "Atom" by Nari and Milani, a fight breaks out and there's this guy swinging around two broken bottles. It was pretty terrible, but we managed to bring back the vibe once the dust settled.

Is your gig at the Identity Festival the biggest of your career thus far? Absolutely. I remember when it was first announced that the festival was coming to Phoenix and I couldn't believe that we were going to be host to such a massive lineup.

What are you doing to prepare for the gig? Are you worried? I'm not worried, at least not yet. I'm just going to do the same thing I've always done from the very beginning: Spend hours and hours in the studio each week preparing. Most of what I do in a live set is based on building up the energy of the crowd by reading the vibe and harmonic track progression. For Identity Fest, I am definitely going to be stepping up and unleashing everything I've got, including several new and original bootlegs and mashups that no one has heard yet.

Any hopes that some of the headliners will happen to pass by the side stage during your set? That would be awesome. It's a crazy feeling when you know a headliner is watching your set, it puts a lot of pressure on you, in a positive way.

Do you have a mantra when it comes to DJing? Let the music speak.  

How do you craft an effective set? With dance music it's really important to ease into a set and build up the energy gradually. A piece of advice that my friend gave me when I first started mixing is that "great lovers make the best DJ's." It's really easy to get ahead of yourself and lose the crowd in a set if you don't take your time and guide them to the point you're trying to reach.

How do you do that? I like to make my own intro edits and mashups to start my set off in a way that grabs the crowds interest and holds it while I spend my set building up energy and anticipation - until the peak of my set consisting of two or three tracks that completely make the crowd go mad.

How long have you been DJing? I first got into DJing a little over two and a half years ago. Before that I played music my whole life. I first wanted to buy turntables when I was probably 13 years old.

Do you think there's a certain prejudice against newbie DJs getting into the scene? It's a really difficult time right now to enter into the fray of DJs and try to make a name for yourself. I think that in order to be successful and earn respect, first you need to have respect and understanding for the music and its roots. I think that out of all these new DJ and producers that have emerged, only a fraction will remain once they've had to run the gauntlet of the industry. [Those] that remain will be the ones who have a genuine passion and love for the culture and music.

What's been the hardest thing to learn? The EDM industry is so competitive. You have to learn to get past your own ego and that's not an easy thing to do as a DJ/Producer. It took me a long time to learn how to focus my critical nature on my own work in a positive way. It's kind of like using "the force."

Speaking of which, have you gotten tired of all the "Luke, I am your father" jokes? I think I've just accepted my fate with all of the Star Wars references.

What's your favorite track of the moment? And why? I think my favorite track that I've been playing in my sets the past couple of months is Dubvision - "All By Myself" (Tujamo remix). The track has a heavy hitting and bouncy drop with a super catchy drum rhythm. When you hear the song live you can't help but move to it. I have a brand new bootleg with this track that I played at the [Hometown Heroes] contest on Saturday and might make an appearance in my set on Sunday as well

What other artists have been working their way into your mixes lately? There are several up-and-coming producers who are essential to my DJ sets. Deniz Koyu, Jordy Dazz, Tujamo, Dannic and Joey Suki are all on fire right now and are some of the secret weapons in my CD case.

You studied psychology at ASU. Did any of it help prep you for a DJ career? I think my degree helps with networking and working with different people. But more importantly I have a strong intuition when it comes to people and group behavior that I think helps me when I'm on a stage mixing. I don't just look at it as mixing tracks together and playing songs that I like. I really look at it on a psychological level and consider how the elements of a song will affect the people in the crowd and the dance floor as a whole. It might be more about chemistry than psychology.

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