DJ Dossier

DJ Sean Essex Talks Club Freedom, Tiësto, Paul Oakenfold, John Askew, Fei-Fei, and More

Name: Sean Essex


Current club gigs: Giant Wednesdays at 910 Live once or twice a month, and on Fridays at Cream Stereo Lounge and Afterlife in Scottsdale.

How did you get started as a DJ? I got started because electronic music just overcame me. When I first listened to electronic music, coming from a rock 'n' roll background as well as industrial rock and synthesized pop from the '80s, electronica just kinda molded with my personality. I started out in the rave scene and local club scene, just dancing to the music I felt like I wanted to do more. I felt like I wanted to participate in the music, I wanted to be a part of the music. DJing to me is a way of escape, I escape when I put on my headphones. And matching beats for me is an art form.

What's your background in rock? I loved going to rock shows, I was always into old school Ministry, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and U2, stuff like that. I was always enthused with bands that sort of had an electronic sound to them.

Explanation behind your DJ name: Essex comes from an alias for a comic book character named Mister Sinister. I love comic books and sci-fi, so I had to match my DJ name with the stuff that I liked as a kid.

Genres spun: There's a few. I specialize in trance, tech, and house, but mostly trance infused with progressive and techno.

Latest mix:
Tegada by seanESSEX

Other clubs you have spun at in the past: Wow, it's a big list. I've done Empire Ballroom in Vegas; Space Nightclub in Mykonos, Greece; and Circus in Los Angeles, as well as any major club in Arizona. Myst, Axis/Radius, Devil's Martini, Afterlife, Next, Suede, and I was a big part of Club Freedom back in the day. Also Insomnia and Evolution, when they were open. You could pretty much say that I've almost played every major club in town.

Which bygone club do you miss the most? Freedom. It was the best club we had here. I actually just got to speak with Paul Oakenfold when he was in town last week and he said it was the best nightclub we ever had. When it comes to the vibe, when it comes to the sound system, Freedom was the best. It was amazing to DJ in that booth, you we're inside the music.

So you're tight with Paul Oakenfold? No, I got to converse with him. I saw him in Old Town with some buddies and I walked up and spoke with him. I mentioned Freedom to him and he completely responded to me since it was one of his favorite clubs to play at. And I got to take a picture with him. It was nice since he's a legend in this scene.

Do you have any other DJ heroes or role models? Paul Van Dyk is my major influence. I also love Gareth Emery, Armin van Buuren, as well as Christopher Lawrence. Markus Schulz is also pretty major, as I used to talk to him at his record store [Plastic Records] when he lived here.

Best experience as a DJ: About a year ago I got to open for some people I really looked up to and admired, Matt Darey and Christopher Lawrence. Matt Darey is a DJ that I've [followed] since 1998-99, and to able to now be on the same stage as him, to open up for him, and to have him compliment on my music and ask me about the tracks that I played was a huge influence to my life. It made me realize that I had crossed a boundary from being just a local in Arizona to becoming a contender DJ in the circuit.

Craziest shit you've seen in a club: Probably one of the craziest thing I've ever witnessed was when I was at Evolution doing my 4 a.m. after-hours party. It was pitch black, you could barely see anything other than the club lights. And its late at night and you sometimes you stumble into certain areas and you see some unexpected things. Pretty much what happened to me is that and I got to see one pro DJ receiving some "special favors" by a fan behind the booth. And I just walked up into it and was just like, "Woah." It was so unexpected. I just got back from Freedom and I was getting ready to play and was like, "Sorry to interrupt."

What's you mantra when it comes to DJing? DJs are like surfers. They're always looking for and challenging themselves for the next big wave, which I mean is the next big crowd. For a DJ, it's never good enough. You rock 1,000, you want 10,0000. You rock 10,000, you want 100,000. Because the crowd is what the DJ feeds his energy off of. What the DJ gives to the crowd, the crowd gives back. It's a symbiotic relationship. Every DJ I ever met is addicted to crowds.

Worst request you've ever gotten: "Barbie Girl" by Aqua. That just made me want to throw up.

What sites do you use for music? I'm a huge fan and supporter of Beatport, Track It Down, DJ Download, and Nexus.

Which underground artists you're been championing in your sets lately? There's a couple of 'em. Fei Fei have a song called "Daksa," which is almost progressive psy-trance but it has an arena-style feel to it. Ben Nicky is also an up-and-coming artist with a track out called "Tears," infusing hip-hop into trance, which is definitely a new style of music you don't hear very much.

Last album purchased: There's been a few, so probably Kaleidoscope by Tiësto.

Last song downloaded: "Blackout" by John Askew.

Any other projects you're working on: I'm currently working on taking my DJ and production to another level. I'm coming out with my new EP The Carnival Theme in November with three of my own original tracks.

Any gigs you'd like to plug: DJ Andy Moor's gig at 910 Live on November 17; La-La Land on November 19 with me on the main stage; and Illuminatti V this Friday night at Afterlife in Scottsdale.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.