DJ Drew G brings ’Dirty Pop’ to LA
Multi-talented DJ Drew G could have easily become a classical musician or an arranger for a big band, instead he chose to mix music and in a short time has become one of the most-sought after talents on the dance music scene.
It could be said that this native New Yorker (born Drew Gilbert Montalvo in 1983) has dance music in his blood - his dad spun music and his mother was a regular at such 1970s clubs as Studio 54 and Paradise Garage. From an early age, Drew G showed great interest in music; by the time he was a teenager he had mastered ten instruments and was playing guitar in various death metal bands. By his 18th birthday, he had already recorded five albums and been involved in the production of a number of others.
Turning his attention to house music, DJ Drew G created a unique mix of disco, hip-hop and rock music at his first New York City gig - Friday nights at Stonewall. Next came residency at Gypsy Tea After-Hours where he showed his skills at mixing high energy circuit sounds. Not long after he accepted an internship at Peter Rauhofer's imprint, Star 69, and within months became the retail marketing rep for the label.
He was soon in demand at New York clubs (G, HK Lounge, GYM Sportsbar and The Eagle) and clubs across the country (Cobalt in Washington, DC, Voyeur in Philadelphia, as well as Mj's & Mickey's in Los Angeles). He was the youngest DJ to play The Black Party (twice) as well as at the Roxy.
He has also established himself in the recording studio where he's in demand creating remixes for such artists as Lady Gaga, Ashanti, Whitney Houston, David Archuletta, Britney Spears, P!nk, Mario Vasquez, Deborah Cox, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, Good Charlotte and Chris Brown.
This weekend he comes to Los Angeles for a pair of dates at MJs and Mickey's. EDGE caught with him earlier this week where he answered questions about his career, his music and what it was like to work with Lady Gaga.
Dirty Pop Party
EDGE: You have two dates coming up in LA -- July 16th and 18th at Mickey’s and a Foam Party at MJ’s on July 17th. Have you played these clubs before?
DJ Drew G: I have. One of my newest residencies is at MJs in LA and when I’m in town I usually play some guest spots at Mickey’s. They’re two great venues. My buddy Chris Tattoo invited me out to play a few years back and I’ve been kicking ass in Silverlake ever since. Chris has me out there 1-2 times a month in the summer for their "Foam Party’s" in association with our "Dirty Pop Party" which we currently have in NYC, NJ and now Washington DC at Cobalt. The "Dirty Pop" sound has really taken off and I’m super proud of it.
EDGE: When you play at a Foam Party, do you do play a different kind of set?
DJ Drew G: At the Foam Party I stick to the fun high energy "Dirty Pop" sound. I use a lot of mashups and remixes produced by myself and my remix partner, Brian Cua.
EDGE: You recently played the Fourth in Ptown. What was that like?
DJ Drew G: One word, amazing. I was really happy to come play the Crown. It had been a dream of mine for many years and when Rick (the owner) called me and asked me to spin, I jumped up and down. That probably will go down as one of my top five moments in my career thus far.
EDGE: In upcoming weeks, you go from Hong Kong to Northampton, MA. Is traveling ever a hassle for you?
DJ Drew G: Not really, I love to travel and meet new people. It’s always exciting to get to see new things and go new places. I feel really lucky in that aspect.
EDGE: I see you play 10 instruments - did an aptitude for playing music come easy when you were young?
DJ Drew G: Yea, my parents initially took interest in me playing an instrument after my father had a stint working for Van Halen. I wanted a guitar and kicked and screamed till I got one and it all went from there.
EDGE: Did you ever think of pursuing a career playing one of those instruments?
DJ Drew G: Totally. I wanted to play guitar in a death metal band. I was infatuated by bands like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor and Soilwork. I know that’s not what the average gay man would name as his favorite groups growing up, but I like to think I’m a bit out of the ordinary compared to most. I still to this day let those bands influence me and love their music.
A perfect fit
EDGE: When did you become interested in spinning music as a career?
DJ Drew G: I was 21 and had just started going out to clubs in the city. I really started to become fascinated with these big room DJs like Peter Rauhofer and Manny Lehman. I would go hear them play at Avalon and the Roxy. They really sparked my interest in dance.
EDGE: You’re a classically-trained musician and arranger, how did you come to pursue in a career in such a different style of music?
DJ Drew G: Once I started, it all seemed to fit. When things fit you know it and as soon as I started playing out, I knew I was onto something different and new -- and I wanted to share that with the world.
EDGE: And you played with rock bands when you were a teenager. Do you see a radical difference in what you played then and what you are doing now?
DJ Drew G: Not so much, a lot of what I wrote in my band I use today. There is a library in my studio with over 1000 songs, both lyrics and music I had written in the latter part of my teens that are just sitting there. I’ll often refer to them for melodies for my dance tracks.
EDGE: What do you like better - doing production remix work or spinning at a club or event?
DJ Drew G: Honestly, I really like both. I enjoy the team aspect of putting together remixes in the studio with Brian Cua, and I also love the thrill of making a crowd roar. Both are very different and very exciting.
EDGE: What was the experience working as a DJ at Obama’s Inauguration?
DJ Drew G: It was very cool. I had met one of his campaign people at a party and they had asked if I’d spin the event literally a few days before. It was a very last minute engagement. To be spinning at one of the many official dances that were part of the Inauguration was truly an honor. Obama briefly popped his head into it as he did all of them and I sadly didn’t get to meet him.
EDGE: What was working with Lady GaGa like?
DJ Drew G: I had a great time working with Lady Gaga on the remix of Paparazzi. I know that we’re both looking forward to working together more in the future.
EDGE: Is it ever difficult to feel a vibe of a crowd at a club?
DJ Drew G: Nope, when I play it’s all about my crowd. Any emotions I’m having get kicked to the curb the second my headphones go on. My job is to understand my crowd, feel them, and give them a ride.
EDGE: What is the achievement you’re most proud of in your career so far?
DJ Drew G: There’s so much going on right now, but I’d say all the official remixes work that we’re getting. It makes me so happy to bring OUR sound to the mass and having huge name DJs playing our tracks.
EDGE: Do you ever have bad nights spinning?
DJ Drew G: As I said before, if you pay attention to your crowd you’ll never have a bad night. If you give them what they want, they will always be happy.
EDGE: You’re also a reporter with Billboard. Do you write about dance music?
DJ Drew G: I’m on the Billboard Dance Panel. Each week I send in a list of my top tracks along with select other djs in the country and those results are all compiled and formed into the Billboard Dance Chart. This comes out each Thursday. It’s really an honor to be able to make such a mark on the industry weekly.
EDGE: What trends do you coming up with dance music?
DJ Drew G: Dirty Pop, Dirty Pop, Dirty Pop. It’s all about vocals you can sing along to right now and I love it. I think this will be the trend for the near future. That traditional circuit sound is dead. It’s really time to get creative with music right now and that’s exactly what we plan on doing.