While some of us have problems keeping a couple events straight on our calendars, New Jersey-based DJ Prime’s schedule would boggle one’s mind. Just as effortlessly he mixes tracks from his arsenal, Prime manages to balance his time between radio shows, concerts, DJing for Giants home games and releasing single after single. He has shared the stage with artists from Run DMC to Kanye West, and even at the Bamboozle festivals, Prime is no stranger to taking center stage and showing he’s proven himself worthy of the title “DJ.”
Having been a DJ for over 15 years, Prime knows his place is in the DJ booth and unlike so many artists in the digital age who seem to spend more time in front of the booth than behind, he keeps his live shows just that—live. It’s no secret his viewpoint on the EDM world today, but there’s still a lot of support he’s ready to give back.
Prime took some time to answer a few questions to get better acquainted with his history of work. And while he didn’t sound too happy with the influx of Christmas songs that hit soon after Thanksgiving, the New Year and holiday season are looking to be most welcomed.
Do you have New Year’s Eve plans? I know that’s a big night for DJs.
Yes, I will be at Empire Casino in Yonkers, NY, and working on a late night set in Manhattan as well. It probably will not be announced due to contractual stuff.
I wanted to start with asking for a quick history of how you got into music and what drove you to become an artist.
Well, I began selling mixtapes in the US-1 Flea Market in New Brunswick. I was an athlete all during my school years so I didn't have time to take up any music classes. I loved music, but just couldn't play any instruments. So DJing was the next best thing to express my musical interests.
Just like The Aquarian, you’re based out of New Jersey. What was the dance music scene like when you first started?
Jersey has always been a big melting pot of people and music. It’s a huge variety and hybrids of different music and culture infused together. Dance music has always been a big part of the nightclub landscape—some years bigger than others—but I will say right now it’s the biggest I have ever seen it. It’s always evolving, though. Kids that were into My Chemical Romance or Taking Back Sunday are now into EDM festivals.
How do you feel the New Jersey dance music scene has evolved and how can you compare that to big cities like New York?
NYC and NJ nightlife is nothing in comparison. When you go out in NJ, you never know really what you’re going to get music-wise at 90 percent of the venues. Clubs do not have a real identity anymore. They are trying to appeal to many groups of people in one night by playing pop, hip-hop, EDM, etc.
NYC has enough people and venues to be specific to a certain vibe or music genre or culture. 10 years ago, NJ had those venues, but now you can go to a major club in NJ and also hear the same songs played at Applebee’s with a DJ in the back corner.
With EDM becoming mainstream over the past few years and with a big resurgence of dubstep music, I always like to ask where you, as an artist, feel you fall in the dance music genre spectrum.
Well, dubstep is pretty much a dying breed of music at this point. Electro and progressive I would say is the most popular of the EDM music, while music like trap and tech house is moving up the ladder also.
As for me, I make what I feel that given day. I don’t limit or restrict myself from anything. I have released pop records/progressive tunes/trap songs with a Jewish white rapper and even have a remix of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” coming out on Radikal Records.
What stands out to me is that you do not pre-program your shows and you have turntables. I’m correct, yes?
Yes, you’re correct that I use turntables when possible. Sometimes it’s not possible due to sound vibration and DJ booth set-up.
As for pre-programmed shows, that's just a damn shame. I am a DJ first and a producer second. I became a producer because it’s the natural progression in the business. Producers become DJs because they are forced to. They make a huge song and now they need to make money by touring and playing. Making $300K a show to play a pre-made set? Fans should know better and not accept that.
Part of loving what I do is taking people on a trip music-wise. Bring them up and bring them down. DJing should be like building a roller coaster. It can’t go up the whole time and it can’t go down the whole time. You need to throw in some spins and loops to keep it interesting.
I point that out because I know some DJs, not just bands, pre-plan their setlists for shows. Is it at all possible to explain how your mind chooses what songs make your show and how things flow together?
Organization and knowing your music is key to that. A band, I get that they have a setlist. They have five guys who need to be on the same page. I fight with myself on what to play next! I always have some subliminal ideas on what the next two, three, four tracks are, but honestly, I just ride by the seat of my pants most of the time. I think it works—most of the time.
Has the true art of being a DJ become lost, especially with newer EDM artists pre-programming their shows?
Totally. As I mentioned, fans should be hip to who isn’t DJing live and who is, and the landscape is becoming clear. Lots of DJs like myself are showing the major difference in really DJing and actually, you know, make a mistake and catch it is commendable. I just don’t get people wanting to spend $75 to hear the same mix that the guy put up on XM Radio last week.
The list of artists you’ve toured with is star-studded. Is there anyone you have your sights on to DJ for?
You know, I was a hip-hop DJ for many, many years. Now I am finally becoming—or trying—to be an artist. I ran into some buddies also from NJ who have been grinding it out for years and years and finally getting some proper credit. A group of guys called Cash Cash have been super supportive of me and my work—most that isn’t even out yet. I think it would be awesome to go out on the road with the guys at some point.
I have been on the road supporting hip-hop artists and they just want to worry about themselves. I want to grow as an artist and be surrounded by other like-minded people!
Last month, you released Big Room Bass, which is quite infectious. Is there an album on your to-do list or do you like to stick to singles?
Big Room Bass was a massive release for me going number one on [Hype Machine] and definitely making noise around the globe. "Let’s Get Wasted" is my second single and comes out Dec. 6. I have a compilation album coming out most likely in March as well as a few more singles: "Start A F#cking Riot," "Sunlight," "Last Chance" and "Tutti Frutti," to name a few.
And not only do you DJ on several radio stations, but one of those is NYC’s own KTU. How do you find the time to do so much?
Time...yeah, I don’t have much of that! I have been on the radio for a while now so my work cycle is pretty quick. I don’t need much prep and it’s definitely on cruise control.
Radio is a blessing and a curse, honestly. It helps with exposure to millions, but it also labels you as a specific type of DJ. This is something I deal with on the daily. It’s a good/bad problem, you know? I need an AKA (laughs)!
DJ Prime’s latest release, Big Room Bass, is available now. See him Dec. 31 at Empire Casino in Yonkers, NY. For more information, go to djprime.com.