Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Wesley Clay

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Wesley ClayIf you have not figured it out by now, I love dance music. It seems that dance music is all that fills my headphones. It feels good to turn on a jam from David Guetta or Armin van Buuren and just let the music take over. It is common to think that good dance music doesn’t exist here in the states. Europe is known for producing some of the best DJs on the planet and every club on any given night is filled with people dancing. Glow sticks in hand, I have danced in these types of clubs and have seen some of the biggest DJs on the planet play for insanely small crowds. Also with the help of satellite radio and Internet stations like and Pandora Radio I am able to hear these guys anytime I want. But before you buy a plane ticket for Germany or France, take a listen to some of the local guys producing similar sounds. I have not seen a ton of locals DJs perform, but I hope to soon. I saw a DJ (I wish I could remember his name) perform at the official Lady Gaga after party a few weeks ago. He was spinning original stuff and had my attention the entire time. And the man sitting with me today has had my attention since we met. His name is Wesley Clay and his music is just as good as any of those guys I hear on the radio. There is not a ton of his stuff online just yet, but that’s OK. The music that is there is worth a listen. He has a sound that puts him in a class all of his own. It my pleasure to branch into this local Indianapolis market and sit down today with Wesley.

Any reason you don’t have a DJ in front of your name?

No reason really.  I wouldn’t mind if it were appended to my name on a flyer or announced on a  PA system during a show.  It leaves my name open to other avenues within sound and audio engineering.

How long have you been spinning?

I purchased my first pair of turntables right after graduating high school in 1999.  I started on a pair of Numark TTXs and upgraded to Technics SL1200 M3Ds piece by piece within a year later.  Learning the basics was easy, but honing the skill and craft of blending records has taken years. 

Actually, is it still called spinning?

I hear it used often.

Who are some of your favorite DJs?

Josh Wink really impressed me with his Profound Sounds series.  I feel the blends are seamless and the mixes in their entirety contain solid buildups from the beginnings to the ends.  Paul Johnson has given some great live performances.  I also like Diz, Lil’ Louis Vega, and Raoul Belmans.  Some DJs/producers I may not particularly like give great performances as well.

What kind of headphones do you use?

I have a pair of Ultrasone HFI550s.  They came with a ten foot straight cable I sent in to have replaced with a five foot curlyq cable.  I’ve had them for about three years now and only have had the headphone band replaced.  They aren’t as loud as other headphones, but they have a nice rolloff on the high frequencies to prevent ear fatigue.

How do you think social media has changed the way people listen to music?

Social media networks have given the artist instant exposure and the listener instant gratification.  The .mp3 changed how music is sold to the masses. It has also “dummified” the high fidelity sound system.  The majority of people probably listen to Internet music by computer speakers, headphones, or smart phones with a set of tiny earbuds.

Are you house? Trance? Dance? What do you classify yourself as?

I’m a House DJ.  There are many genres within House music that I collect like Minimal, Tech, Tribal, Vocal, Chicago, French,  etc… the more I collect the easier it becomes to mix all these kinds of music together.  I also have a lot of Techno tracks that I’ll sometimes build into during a performance.

How long does it take you to create a track?

Making rhythm/melody parts for a couple bars comes really fast.  Drums can be simple and laid down with relative ease to get things moving.  Song structure takes a bit longer.  When you get into the heart of a track, transpositions and change ups from your rhythms and melodies are a bit harder to come by.  Trying new ideas is essential but time consuming.  Sometimes hours of work can lead to nothing because the result wasn’t what you were going for.

What is a live performance like? Isn’t most of that stuff already recorded?

A live performance within dance music can be a group of electronic components assembled together to create music live using preprogrammed sequences and set lists.  Many people use hardware drum machines and synth modules synchronized together by MIDI to create music on the fly.  Computer software is often used nowadays.  A DJ performance does use music that has already been recorded.  Its usually only two turntables and a mixer and doesn’t really require an elaborate setup.  In the end its up to the artist to determine how they go together throughout the night.  Blending technique and selection in accordance to your audience is an important aspect for a DJ to show that they know the music.

Do you have a job outside of music?

Yes and I don’t like it!

You are from Indianapolis, Indiana. But there are very few clubs that play decent dance music. Where do you go to listen to good music?

I listen to many other local DJs here in town at various weekly events.  I enjoy going to Get Down Thursdays at the Red Room, Juxtapoze Tuesdays at the Melody Inn, Keepin’ It Deep at Blu, G9 Collective/IndyMojo events, and other venues with local DJs.  There are also a lot of online radio sets I try to catch on LFO Radio and Boost FM.  I sometimes do my record shopping at Love Vinyl Records’ online store.

What is the largest crowd you have ever played for?

The radio may count.  I guess I’ll never really know how many people may have been listening.  There have been a few gigs in Chicago that turned out pretty well.

The smallest?

There have been events were only a couple people were present.

What are you drinking on stage?

If I have a chance to take a sip it would most likely be beer or water. 

Do you move around a lot like Armin van Buuren or do you stand still like Paul van Dyk does?

I’m not a statue but I don’t get too crazy.  I prefer standing up straight as to being hunched over.  I think its important to show a sense of confidence and communication with your audience.  This can be achieved easily just by looking up and making eye contact.

Most of your tracks are nonvocal. Have you ever done anything with a lot of vocals?

I try not to take too long of  a vocal sample for a song unless its for remix/mashup purposes mainly for copyright infringement.  I have never put the time into writing lyrics much nor do know of any vocal talent to come sing over tracks, but I do have the equipment to do so.

Who, in your opinion, is the best DJ in Indianapolis right now? (And yes, you can say yourself if you like!)

Things change pretty often, but Top Speed is a great turntables who has years of experience.

Let’s say that I want to become a DJ. Where do I start?

Things have changed pretty drastically since I first started.  Now I would get acquainted to mixing via computer software.  Observing other DJs definitely helps out when you are learning.

Is it hard getting gigs as a DJ?

Things start coming along after you start meeting people.  Its always a good practice to have mix CD’s to give away.  Sometimes positive word of mouth can get you places too.

Do you ever get lonely up there on stage?

There have been times were a DJ booth isolates you from people coming up to say hello.  But for the most part I’m pretty entertained for the while.

A lot of people call dance music boring. They say it is too repetitive. How do you react to that?

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of electronic dance music.  Repetition is a fundamental part of music composition.  Some people are turned off by sequenced drum beats and robotic arpeggios and I can understand how they would feel that way.  Some tracks by themselves, especially Techno, aren’t to deep and don’t have that much substance.  But for the two to three minutes that they are played within a DJ set exact the artist’s intention and solidify the track’s place within electronic music.

How often do you practice this stuff?

I play for a couple hours every couple days.  Many times when I buy new music I’ll practice a little longer.  Its a great stress reliever and it takes my attention off of pressing matters which is a nice escape.

In your mind, are the beats like words to a normal musician?

Rhythm and melody are universal languages and can communicate in any combination yes.

My girlfriend and I are huge fans of dance music. We are always listening to dance music. Do you listen to any other genres of music besides dance?

I like hearing music created using MAX/MSP.  Its a graphical programming environment used by artists like Aphex Twin and Autechre.  I also like a lot of Latin works by Kenny Dope Gonzales.

Why is there not a dance music station in Indianapolis?

I think because of its underground nature.  Much of the broadcasting is probably done online.  If its not a twenty-four hour station, atleast there is Hit The Decks on X103 Sunday nights.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I know I’ll still be buying vinyl.  I’m sure that I’ll make the move to digital software like Serato or Traktor sometime in the future.  I still split my time between production and mixing records pretty evenly and I’ll try to keep it that way.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

I would like to be known for having solid track selection and seamless blends that impress other DJs as well.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

I’d like to have a lot more music available online in the next year.  I recently upgraded software and am still working out kinks within the new workflow and possibilities.   There are still techniques I’m exploring in the studio.  I do have some older tracks posted on Sound Click, and new production posted on Sound Cloud, and a recent DJ mix on Mix Cloud.