Electronic music is regarded by American pop culture the same way that U.S. sports fans regard soccer: It has growing mainstream popularity, but hasn’t yet reached the same exalted status as rock and roll and football. While overshadowed domestically, electronic music and soccer have noticeably more of a following abroad. This, in part, explains why for now the name of Bellefontaine, Ohio, native DJ Brooklyn Earick has more recognition to people in the Cayman Islands and Tokyo, where he holds DJ residencies (a term that basically means he DJs at venues there on a regular basis), than to Central Ohioans. But 28-year-old Brooklyn, who now lives in Brooklyn, New York (“That gets confusing for people,” he says), has a fan base in Ohio that’s bigger than ever.
After all, it was in Columbus at the spry young age of 15 that he got his start, DJ-ing first at dingy warehouse parties. After graduating from The Ohio State University, he moved to Houston, then Park City, Utah. He lived the mundane life of a pharmaceutical salesman, and later a doctor recruiter, by day, and the exhilarating life of a DJ on the weekends. It took only a few years for Earick to turn the tables and make spinning turntables his full-time job with his big break coming at the Sundance Film Festival. Sought out by established record producer Chris Young after DJ-ing one of the Sundance parties, Earick dropped his day job altogether and moved to New York City to pursue music.
C Magazine was lucky enough to catch Earick when he was back in his home state recently (and that’s no easy task since he’s literally crisscrossing the world three-quarters of the year). After getting to know this energetic and intelligent artist during our Q&A and photoshoot, we won’t be surprised when the name DJ Brooklyn Earick starts appearing everywhere. Check out our exclusive interview and photoshoot with the emerging global DJ—who, no matter what exotic locale his job takes him to next, had his Ohio residency before anywhere else.
Q & A » » » » » »
What’s your real name?
Brooklyn Louis Earick.
How did you get that name?
I’ve been telling myself for years that I was going to make up something cool to go with it, but I’m not from Brooklyn, I’m from Ohio—Bellefontaine. No crazy story behind it, just Brooklyn.
Did it have some subconscious effect on your drive to be a DJ with a name like Earick? That’s a sweet DJ name.
That’s funny, I’m actually adopted. My stepdad adopted me when I was in the fifth grade, and I took his last name. Everyone always thinks it’s pronounced “Eric,” but its “Eer-ic.”
What was it like growing up in Bellefontaine?
Growing up in Bellefontaine was great. I absolutely loved it. It’s a great, small little town. Some of my best friends are people I went to high school with. We all try to stay in touch pretty well, and I have a lot of good relationships with people there, and I still have family in the area.
Were you and Louie Vito friends?
Yeah, he’s a few years younger than me, but I know the Vito family really well. I lived out in Utah for a couple of years and he lived down there in Sandy, so I got to see him quite a bit when I was living out there.
Was Mad River the place to be like it is now?
Absolutely. That’s obviously where I grew up, the giant hill of Mad River Mountain. It’s kind of funny—when snowboarding first started to get big, we might have only had a halfpipe and one little jump out there, but especially with Louie’s success, it definitely has a great snowboarding park out there now.
Where’s home now?
I’m in Brooklyn, New York. That gets confusing for people.
How long have you lived there?
I’ve been in Brooklyn since the end of October. I live in Park Slope, and I love it.
How did you end up playing abroad? What was your big break?
Living out in Utah, actually. Starting off around here way back in the day when I was 15, I got my first set of turntables. I DJ-ed the underground rave scene in Columbus and Dayton because the electronic scene was pretty much all underground. You weren’t really hearing it in the clubs and the bars and even in the mainstream influence of songs that you hear today. I was at a lot of these kind of gangster, warehouse parties that my mom didn’t know I was sneaking off to. Back then, that’s when I fell in love with the music. So then I went to college at OSU and started DJ-ing at parties and at some bars, and then I moved out to Houston, Texas, for about a year and did some bigger stuff in clubs down there. Then I moved out to Park City, Utah, and when I moved out there, I really started getting into it as far as thinking about taking it to that next level and having some fun. I started producing my own music, and then I got a lucky break to DJ a couple of parties at the Sundance Film Festival out there in Park City, and I met a guy named Chris Young who is an amazing producer and remixer in New York. He came up to me after my show at Sundance and asked if I produced music. Three days later he flew me out to New York. And that’s when I was like alright—get rid of the nine to five. I had just started my clothing company as well, so that is when everything changed for me.
What’s your clothing company?
It’s called BoardKarma. It’s snow, skate and surf. I’ve always been into the Buddhist culture, and actually the inititals for it, “BK,” are what a lot of my friends from Bellefontaine call me. So, I wanted something to play off of that, and the karma vibe, and that whole action sports world is felt through each sport. We took the website down and have been keeping it more grungy where we’re only in local shops and certain spots. We’re in a local shop in Utah and we’re in an old-school skate shop here in Columbus. It’s not making me rich, but it’s making money. I got a pretty good investor to get it going, so that made it a little easier as far as having a budget to work with.
If you had to describe BoardKarma in three words, what would they be?
Easy vibe streetwear. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with the line or anything, but it’s just kind of laid-back T-shirts and bandanas.
In how many countries do you hold DJ residency?
Right now, I’m all over the U.S., the Cayman Islands and Tokyo, Japan.
How long do you spend in each of those countries a year?
It kind of depends what I have going on. The last time I went to Japan I was in and out. I was there for like 30 hours. But then I just came here from Cayman Islands. I had a few days to spare, so I went down there for five days and DJ-ed.
Who pays for those trips?
Each club or promoter pays for all that. The club in Cayman can’t necessarily pay me what other clubs pay me, but they get sponsors that will pay me X amount of money plus my plane ticket and food and drinks, and I’ll be like, “OK, well throw a few extra days so I can put my feet up.” It works out.
Which do you think appeal more to fans—brooding sound trances, or multi-genre dance collections?
Nowadays, you have to be able to genre-hop a little bit. Anyone who’s doing it real big, you know, one sound, even if it’s genre hopping just within electronic music, you’ll see guys that are known as house DJs or dubstep DJs, they’re still not playing one genre all night. They’re coming in playing anything from 110 BPMs to 160. It keeps it alive and it keeps it mixing up. You know you have that wide variety and that good energy, and if you can kind of piece that all together smoothly, I think that’s definitely the key.
Who are your influences?
Paul van Dyk was one of the first that got me into electronic music. I’ve always been a big fan of him. Everyone nowadays is a fan of deadmau5, as well. And then with the new dubstep blowing up everywhere, I find myself, even if I’m producing a house song, I find myself using some techniques like that grungy, dubstep warehouse sound that’s making its way everywhere. Brittney Spears’ new song has a dubstep breakdown in it. I mean, people want to hear it.
One of the neat things about your music is that there are different elements that attract different people. Please explain the varied appreciation for your work and style.
I think it has to do a lot with the enjoyment for what I’m doing. Especially with my residency in the Cayman Islands, I’m really one of the first house DJs who’s not a local that they’ve been bringing in, and it’s been crazy, the reception down there. But I think people come into that first show not really knowing what to expect. I have such a love for it, and when I’m up there I’m rocking out, I love what I’m doing. And if it sounds good, no matter if it’s country music, or electro or dubstep or whatever, and if you’re engaging the audience as well—you’re not just up there pressing play and you’re going to go stand on the side of the stage for a little bit and then come back over.
Would you agree that you are a post-modern hybrid?
Yeah, I would say so. Regardless of what music industry you’re in, you have to listen to everything these days. I don’t like country music too much—I like a lot of stuff—but I’ll find myself listening to everything. You never know where you’re going to hear an idea for a sample or a sound, or, “Man, this little guitar part that was in this terrible country song, I could sample that over the synth.” I think especially in the electronic music world, a lot of it is so new and still evolving that people just want to have a good time. Electronic music as a whole is still just booming. You hear about the rap industry and even rock and roll can be tough getting a start or booking shows, whereas electronic music has no shortage of people wanting to book a good, well-rounded DJ that can throw down a lot of these genres.
What kind of evolution do you think your music is going to have to go through to give it any kind of longevity?
It’s definitely going to have to keep evolving. I think I’m kind of in the middle of it right now. When I first started, I was all about house music, house music. When I wanted to make a track, I’d go in 128 BPMs and start playing with samples, and that was what I did. And now, with the new dubstep revolution, it’s given life to the old drum and bass and stuff like that. I’m not just going up there and standing by myself on stage and playing a bunch of tracks that I like—you gotta’ be willing to throw down and do well with what people want to hear.
What’s your favorite venue you’ve never played?
I guess club-wise—it’s coming up, I’m going to be there late this summer—but Pacha in New York. The Pacha name is famous worldwide.
What’s your favorite venue you’ve played?
Escape in Amsterdam, I just played there. It was just insane. It’s crazy how big the electronic music is everywhere. I always relate it to soccer: Soccer is massive everywhere else in the world, and it’s just starting to gain a little steam here in the U.S. It’s kind of the same with electronic music. It’s gaining steam here, you’re not going to hear too much of it on the radio, but it’s getting there. And deadmau5 just did the VMAs. That’s pretty crazy to have an electronic artist at the VMAs.
How many fans have you played for?
Probably just happened at Cayman Islands. We didn’t really know what to expect for New Year’s, we thought it would be the biggest show of the year. And then I was just down there on Friday for a full moon party and had about 4,500 people show up right there on the beach. I never would have expected that kind of a turnout.
So you are on the road a lot. How many days a year?
Three-quarters of this year will definitely be spent on the road.
What two colors should never be worn together?
Pink and brown. That just popped in my head because I’ve been seeing it all over the place. I’m probably no one to say two colors don’t match because I wear some goofy stuff.
While playing in front of a sea of people dancing on a beach overlooking the ocean, how much of your soul flows into the music?
It’s the ultimate high, ultimate rush, especially in that kind of setting. That’s what’s been so cool about this residency in the Cayman Islands. You can’t ask for much more than to be posted up on the beach in front of a few thousand people. Down there, they’re singing my tracks and they know them. Especially when I DJ live, I don’t really use turntables anymore. I bring studio equipment, drum machines and all that kind of stuff to the stage, so I’m always live mixing. I never play the same set twice because it’s always on the fly. I can add in drums, add in a synth pattern and kind of loop it in. That’s kind of the perfect situation when you see people jamming out and you throw something on and you’re lost in the moment.
In between your gigs, are you a hermit?
When I know I’m not going to be travelling or DJ-ing for a few days, it’s not like I want to rush back out to a club and rock out, so I’ll sit in front of the computer and make music for a couple of days.
Do you feel more at home in the studio or in concert?
I love the live performance aspect, especially bringing the studio to the stage kind of deal. There’s no bigger rush than being in front of people. Once a track starts to come together in the studio, it’s good, but there’s a lot of BS in the middle where it’s editing drum patterns and trying to find a groove where it gets tedious.
What are the four main ingredients in your musical soup kitchen?
The first ingredient is my beats. I don’t like to sample other people’s drums so it’s tedious, but each time I get a fresh new drum that I’m using. And then from there, I’ve always felt that what hooked me originally on electronic music was the euphoric sounding, big synthesizer where you just want to throw up the rock and roll fingers, close your eyes and jam out, so I’m always playing with big synths right away and those big chords. It’s almost like I’m building the meat of my song immediately, and then I kind of work backwards and build an intro and an outro. And then that’s the point where I’ll go back and listen to some other genres of music and pull something, whether it’s a lyric, or a guitar part, or a bass part and bring that back in, and you can see the other kinds of elements from other music develop.
One guy carrying an entire show with nothing more than turntables seems difficult to me. Is it?
It definitely takes a certain amount of talent to carry an entire night like that. I look at it as the entire night is one big track. You want it to all blend together like everything is one big song, one big story. A lot of it depends on where you’re at. If you’re in a booth that’s kind of stuck in a corner, then you’ve gotta play music that people want to hear and want to dance to.
What is your philosophy going into a studio?
Open-minded. It’s real easy to go in and do something exactly like you did a couple of days before, even when you’re trying to listen to other stuff and draw inspiration from it.
Have you always been able to musically represent complex emotions?
Definitely not, and that’s frustrating. When I was first starting to produce, and especially with the way production equipment is with electronic music, I’ll get a program that’s just blowing my mind, and it’s awesome, and then six days later they’ll have this crazy update and all this new stuff you have to learn. But you have to do that to stay on top. You hear people making these new sounds all the time and you can’t just sit around wondering how they’re doing it. You have to figure it out. You’ve gotta’ stay on the game. When I first started producing, I’d have something in my head that I wanted to do, and if you don’t know the right knobs to turn, what to do to get this sound—it takes a lot to be able to learn and put a track like that together. It can be frustrating when you don’t necessarily know how to get to the point where you’re going.
You are walking down row. What did you just eat, and what are your last words?
I love so many different kinds of food, that’s tough. I’d probably go with “brinner”: breakfast for dinner. I’d have them bring in some bacon, pancakes and eggs all day. That’s the Bellfontaine, small town boy coming out in me. I could get fancy and go with filet mignon, but I’ll stick to brinner. And my last words on death row—I’d keep it simple, “Peace out,” I guess.
I’m a bit of a cookie monster. I can’t turn down a sweet to save my life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?
Five years, definitely still doing what I’m doing. A lot of these big guys, if you’re still able to travel, and do what you love, and play for these big clubs and big events, definitely still doing that. And definitely getting in more and more on the business aspect of it. When you get to a certain point, it’s customary to start your own label and bring up other people and look for new talent—because I don’t plan on being 60, still standing in front of people in the Cayman Islands rocking out, dropping tracks from 2010, “Remember this one from 30 years ago? This track was awesome back then.”
Best two-piece band of all time?
I gotta show Ohio love: Black Keys, right?
Music is most enjoyable when___?
When it is performed live well
Music fails the listeners when___?
It is performed live terribly. There’s nothing worse than loving a band and going to a concert and just going, “Oh, man, these guys are awful. Studio band.”
Columbus needs ___ more than it is prepared to admit?
Columbus needs more electronic music venues, in the worst way. A lot of places are coming around, but still. More suitable venues with just crazy amounts of light shows and awesome sound.
What were your last two jobs before music paid the bills?
I did recruiting for doctors internationally. I recruited positions to work in Australia and New Zealand. They have a big shortage over there. And before that I did pharmaceutical sales. It was one of those things where when I got to that position I was like, “This is going to be awesome. It’s pharmaceutical sales, I’m going to make good money and blah, blah, blah,” and then it’s just the most crooked industry.
Fondest childhood memory?
I’d say playing youth soccer back in Bellfontaine. That was a blast. There’s nothing better than waking up and playing a four game tournament on the weekend in the middle of b-town.
When did you land your first music gig?
At 15, in Columbus, in a shady warehouse.
What was your first car?
1987 Toyota Camry, blue, and I put duct tape racing stripes down it. And it had a bumper sticker that said, “This is not an abandoned car.”
What was your longest set?
The first time I went down to the Cayman Islands, I played an eight-hour set. The opening DJ didn’t show so I just played every track I had.
Best concert you ever saw in Ohio?
Incubus and 311 at the Brewery District Pavilion.
Who would you go three rounds with in your industry?
David Guetta. He’s a bit of a prick. Plus he won the grammy over Morgan Page. Morgan’s my homeboy.
Three songs that should never be heard on a jukebox, EVER!
“Achy Breaky Heart,” definitely. I’d throw barstools for that. Anything Brittney Spears.
The person you’d least like to be stranded on a deserted island with?
Probably someone like Michael Moore, that guy rubs me the wrong way.
You’re swept up by an F4 tornado and dropped in a little village with munchkins and a yellow brick road. For what do you ask the wizard?
A radio and a solid beer, I guess. I’d ask for an ice-cold Columbus Brewing Company pale ale.
What inspires you?
Innovation. New stuff, man. I love hearing something, especially in my industry, where it’s like, “How did they do that? How did that guy make that sound?”
The most annoying thing about your business is?
Unfulfilled promises. Every time I’m anywhere, without fail, when I’m done, people come up: “Great show, man. Hey, if you ever need a gig in L.A., bro, I know everyone out there.”
What’s your drink of choice?
I’m a green tea man.
What was the most important resolution you ever made?
With what I do, just sticking away from the BS end of the nightlife scene as far as all the drugs and stuff.
The one book all Americans should read before they die?
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Even if you’re not Buddhist or down with Buddhism, it’s got a lot of good stuff.