Local DJ Ron Reeser on Teaching Music Production and Being Part of Ultra Records
From piano to xylophone, Bay Area-based house DJ Ron Reeser has dabbled in music since he was seven years old. As a teenager, he frequented clubs like DV8 and the Sound Factory, and was inspired to start his own musical career upon seeing the captivating power that kick-drums and melodic progressions had over an audience. Combining his knowledge of both classical and electronic instruments, he began builiding his reputation with original tracks such as "Promises" and "Big Noize." In 2009, Reeser signed with the Ultra Records family, home to artists like Kaskade and David Guetta. We recently spoke with Reeser about big-room DJing, Ultra Records, and his upcoming releases. He headlines Life SF's 7-year anniversary this Saturday at Temple.
What do you think of the influx of big-room house DJs since you've started your career?
The scene is definitely at an all-time high compared to what it was a decade ago. There's so much more marketing and support behind the music that it's everywhere now: mainstream radio, commercials, movies, reality shows, etc. It's great exposure for the artists, but I think with anything that's hot people tend to gravitate towards what's trendy. With everything going digital a few years ago, it's much easier for people to access music nowadays. With software applications like Traktor, Serato, and Ableton, a laptop and a sync button, anyone can be a DJ.
Unfortunately, the downside is that many DJs today lack the knowledge that can only come from years of experience: learning and understanding music flow, mixing in-key, and how to read a crowd. Not to mention the element of music production and the important role it plays in making a DJ that much more successful.
How have you seen the house scene change since you started DJing?
I've been in the scene for over a decade and watched it grow as big as it has. From underground warehouse events and Technics 1200 turntables becoming obsolete to the digital age. Seeing the music grow and become fully mainstream on primetime radio and now the Grammys even acknowledging dance music as its own category. It's a huge step in the right direction that only helps continue to expose the artists and music to the masses.
What was the first record you ever bought?
I don't remember the exact first record I've ever bought, but I think it was music along the lines of Kraftwerk, Herbie Hancock, Ollie & Jerry, New Order, and Duran Duran. One of my favorite records that has always stood out to me back then and I still play out till this day is Robin S' Show Me Love. It's one of those club records that never gets old, and with all the current remakes and remixes out, it's become a timeless classic.
As part of the Ultra family, who on the label inspires you the most?
I'm really drawn to producers that incorporate more of a musical element in their productions. I know progressive house and EDM can be really heavy or monotonous at times unless your end goal is to do something with more of a dance/pop vibe with crossover appeal. Guys like Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Fedde Le Grand seem to walk that fine line -- still cater to the masses while keeping it edgy.
You'll also be launching your iPhone app this week. What's going to be useful about the app?
I'm really excited to launch my app finally. It's been a work in progress for quite some time. A mobile app is the best way to stay engaged with your fans, keep them apprised of events, music, and breaking news right in the palm of their hand. Market Me Media and I really wanted to make this app a unique, value-added, streamlined, intuitive experience, versus just mimicking that of my existing web properties. Now users can engage with other like-minded fans, listen to some of my music, and even discover something new.
Tell us a bit about how you got on local 99.7's GHR (Ghetto House Radio).
I've always been involved in radio one way or another, as a guest DJ/host for previous house music mixshows in San Francisco such as Radioactive on Z95.7 and Solmatic Sessions on Wild 94.9.
Along the way I met host and founder Josser and show producer Nick G of GHR on 99.7 NOW FM. In June 2010, GHR started a dance music mixshow dedicated to EDM, which grew rapidly and is now syndicated on 25 stations across the U.S. The show features industry heavyweights such as Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Dada Life, R3hab, and Chuckie, to name a few. I began doing guests spots that eventually turned into a monthly residency.
You'll also be teaching music production down in L.A. over the summer at Garnish School of Sound. What's a common misconception people get when they want to start learning?
The most common questions I'm asked are, 'Where and how do I go about getting started?' and 'Will I get what I need out of the courses available and is it cost effective?' It can be overwhelming for someone just getting their feet wet. Over the years there have been more and more platforms and schools you can attend for music production, music business, or pursuing an education in the industry and arts. Even YouTube has been a great resource to utilize in the creative process.
What are you still learning about as a producer and DJ?
I'm constantly improving on my engineering and production techniques. I always try experimenting with new ways to approach the songwriting process. I feel technology changes so fast that it's key to stay on top of the current trends, plug-ins, VST and soft synths available. I've even taken on a few collaborations as of late just to keep my creative palette fresh. It's always interesting and cool to see what another producer's approach is to a song is.
With all the success you've encountered, what has kept you based in San Francisco?
I've toured in numerous cities over the years for shows, but San Francisco is where my heart is. It's home, and where a big part of my network is based. It's not so much the success that has kept me here as it is just being home, close to family and friends. Not only does San Francisco welcome the music with open arms, I couldn't go longer than a week or two without eating at Koh Samui and the Monkey, in SoMa. They have the best Thai iced tea and yellow chicken curry.
What are you most excited about for your upcoming projects?
New projects on the horizon such as my latest remix release for Richard Vission and Luciana titled "Primitive" on Vicious Records. A few original releases featuring Myah and Lahox titled "Anywhere" on CR2, and another original release on Bad Boy Bill's label Menage Music titled "We Rock" alongside Jonas Tempel and David Garcia.