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Interview with DJ Joe Gauthreaux
Miami Beach, Fl
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
February 13,2008 Bookmark and Share

Each year, with the advent of spring, the world of horse racing turns to the pursuit of the Triple Crown—while those of us fixed on the circuit follow another kind of horse race: Who’s playing the Big Three?  Equestrians have the Derby, the Preakness, and Belmont—while we’ve got Winter Party, Black Party and Pier Dance.  And just as every year brings a favored horse, so does the circuit seem to anoint a deejay cresting with momentum.  And this year, that horse—or rather, deejay—would have to be Joe Gauthreaux.  The announcement that Gauthreaux would be playing the 15th Winter Party scheduled for Sunday, March 2nd was quickly followed by the news that Gauthreaux and Tracy Young had been chosen as the deejays for the 22nd Pride Pier Dance on the last Sunday in June.  (Gamblers, take note: while the Saint-at-Large does not release Black Party deejay choices until after the Presidents’ Day weekend, Gauthreaux appears to be running on the inside track.)

So what’s all this Gauthreaux buzz about?  We sat down to find out. 

EDGE:  First of all, Joe G., congratulations for being selected as the deejay for the 15th Annual Winter Party Beach Party this year.  You’ve gone on record as saying you wanted this gig—ever since you first attended Winter Party back in 1999.  And now you’ve got the 15th anniversary edition.  You must be thrilled

JOE G:  Yeah, I am.  It’s definitely a unique party—and a huge honor to play it.  So yeah, I’m psyched.

EDGE:  In recent years, you’ve played a number of high profile events, what might be called the centerpieces of circuit weekends—such as Cherry’s Main Event, and Folsom Street, for example, and this year, both the Pier Dance and Winter Party’s Beach Party.  What kind of preparation do you undergo before embarking upon one of these highly regarded parties?

JOE G:  Every gig I do, I always spend a considerable amount of time preparing for it.  But because Winter Party is an outdoor beach party, it takes a lot more planning and preparation than usual.  Most of my gigs are nighttime parties, so the music is way different.  Some of the records I play will translate to an outdoor situation, but [others] won’t.  So after I figure all that out, I have to find music [for] the rest of the set.  I don’t want the party to be “revenge of the classics,” but there isn’t exactly an abundance of music being made in 2008 that is tailored to an outdoor daytime event. It can be a challenge to find the right balance.  Also, this year I’ve started producing, so there’s that whole aspect of things—not to mention the Winter Party CD I’m doing for Masterbeat…. This is a full-time job!

EDGE:  For you, most definitely.  As you know, Winter Party was conceived as a political movement organized to fight intolerance—and currently, Winter Party is sponsored by the Task Force whose goals are equality and justice.  Does any of this background have bearing on your role as the deejay at the Beach Party?

JOE G:  Honestly, my role as deejay of the Beach Party is just to entertain as many people as possible through the music I’m playing.  The goal at this event is to raise money, and to keep on raising money, so as long as a majority of the crowd leaves with a good feeling and wanting to come back next year, then I think I would have done my part. But at the end of the day, I’m not exactly curing cancer or anything—I’m just here to spin records.

EDGE:  Modesty becomes you, Joe G.  You were well bred in New Orleans, where you played for seven years—before making the move to New York in 2003.  Both of them are well-known party towns.  Has your own sound as a deejay evolved in the past few years?

JOE G:  I’ve always had a pretty strong opinion about what I like and what I don’t like.  But at the same time, I don’t want to get stuck in a rut, or in a sound that has already passed.  I live in New York, which is a great place to go out and experience new sounds.  Electro is really big here right now.  I’m not really into it and don’t play it, but I guess I’d be lying if I said that some electro elements have not made their way into my work. 

EDGE:  You know, Joe, in both photographs and interviews, you come across as one of the more reflective members of your profession—and you’re known for spending hours researching your musical choices.  Have you always had this intensity of focus?

JOE G:  Actually, I think I’m just shy.  I don’t exactly go crazy in front of the camera; I keep all my clothes on and tend to look a bit serious.  But [that’s because] I am serious—about my job.   It is tons of fun, but at the same time, I want it to last.

EDGE:  One thing we recently heard about you is that you’d gone to the West Coast, on your own expense, to take a class on music production in Los Angeles.

JOE G: Well, I'd been looking for someone for a while who would show me the ropes—because after trying on my own for a few years, I realized that remixing was just way too complicated.  So my manager hooked me up with Peter Barona, who is Manny Lehman's engineer.  I've known him for a while, but not too closely.  So a few months ago I went to LA and he gave me a weeklong intense, one-on-one session.  He's really amazing—both technically and artistically; he showed me a lot.  We really clicked, so we may even work together soon on some projects.

EDGE:  Sounds like a very worthwhile journey—which is a word often heard in describing a Joe Gauthreaux party.  Do you have a special affinity for the word “journey” and how it applies to your playing?

JOE G:  Something about the journey appeals to me; it just does.  It’s always been the way I’ve deejayed.  I start out slow and groovy, and then build up, and then bring it down.  It varies from party to party.  I don’t build up when I go on in a packed room—and I don’t bring it down if I’m opening for someone.  But in a perfect world, I like to take a complete trip when I deejay.  Staying in the same genre and bpm all night seems incredibly boring to me. 

EDGE:  You’re noted for your keen instinct about a crowd’s needs and desires for a particular party—and how your navigational system rarely takes you down the same road twice.  How is that you’re able to suss the vibe with such uncanny precision?

JOE G:  Well, I’m not able to hit the vibe every time; I don’t think any deejay is.  But what I think helps me is that I don’t stick to one genre or mood all night.  I like all kinds of dance music and I try to incorporate a lot of different sounds into my sets.

EDGE:  You’ve mentioned deejays such as Frankie Knuckles, Junior Vasquez and Susan Morabito as mentors—all of whom are members of an earlier generation.  What would you say that they, as a group, taught you about the concept of “musical journey”?

JOE G:  Actually, I don’t really know Frankie or Junior, but I’m good friends with Susan who taught me a lot about being myself and the business in general.  She’s given me a lot of good advice over the years.

EDGE:  Share!

JOE G:  Well, the first time I knew I wanted to be a deejay was at the Halloween New Orleans party in 1994.  It was the first circuit party I ever went to and Susan was spinning.  That night just changed how I viewed music and made me realize how much I wanted to make it my career somehow.

EDGE:  That’s so cool to hear—and something a lot of us can totally relate to, hearing La Morabito like that.  Was there something in particular she was doing that night?

JOE G:  It was the music she was playing.  It was nothing like what I was used to hearing in New Orleans.  New Orleans was in a Euro-techno mode at that time, and she was playing a very Fire Island house/energy set.  It was also the way she put the music together.  It all just worked for me.  It was 1994 so I can’t give you exact songs.  [Laughing]

EDGE:  You don’t need to; we’re right there with you!  Having spent so much time playing around the country recently, have you noticed regional musical differences?  You know, like—let’s say, an East Coast sound and a West Coast sound?

JOE G:  Honestly, I don’t really see that much difference.  But that might be because I’m totally not one of those deejays to put a crowd into a box.  I don’t want them having preconceived notions about me and I give them the same benefit of the doubt.  What I’ve found is that people just want to be entertained—and I think that applies anywhere, whether it be LA, Chicago, Miami or New York.  People just want to relate to the music and have fun.

EDGE:  Amen to that.  In fact, one of your favored quotes is from Dag Hammarskjöld, the former Secretary-General of the UN, who said, "The longest journey is the journey inward...”  What’s that mean to you?

JOE G:  I wish I had some spiritual or psychological answer to give you, but I really don’t.  The words just grabbed me—[maybe because] I think all of us, at one point or another, are trying to find ourselves.

EDGE:  Absolutely.  And sometimes those epiphanies happen on the dance floor—thanks to people such as you.  So, hey, Joe, thanks for taking the time.  And again, congratulations in advance for a momentous 15th Annual Winter Party Beach Party on Sunday the 2nd of March 2008—as well as the Pier Dance in June.  We look forward to many more journeys with you!

Join DJ Joe Gauthreaux and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Miami Beach from February 27 through March 3, 2008 for the Winter Party Festival.  With dance parties, cocktail receptions, fashion shows, picnics and featuring the 15th Annual Winter Party Beach Party, the Winter Party Festival features something for every member of the LGBT community.

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