interview by Emily Tan
Few DJs have the technical skills to do what two-time Club World Award winning DJ Roonie G. does, live. Where most DJs concern themselves solely with audio, Roonie G. spins audio and video content. He is referred to as a DJ, a Video-DJ and a DVDJ. In truth, Roonie is an artist. An artist that weaves the boundaries of the audio and visual worlds, pulling from varied musical genres to create a live performance that rocks thousands of people. When the Batman “Dark Knight” film (co-starring Heath Ledger) was released, Roonie edited the movie’s trailer with Ice T’s rap, “Colors” (sampling the lyric, “I am a knight”), with AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” so that the end result appears as if The Joker is rapping. The effect can only be appreciated when experienced live, in a club setting, surrounded by oversized projection screens and video monitors. Roonie spends days and weeks editing seconds and minutes worth of video clips, and he mixes in separate audio sources on-the-fly as he’s deejaying. It requires an extreme amount of concentration and music knowledge to perform the way Roonie does, and it’s in a club that his skills as an award-winning turntablist shine.
Ronnie maintains DJ residencies at state-of-the-art venues including: JET at The Mirage (Las Vegas), Mixx at The Borgata (Atlantic City), Opera (Atlanta), Estate (Boston), Masquerade at Harrah’s (New Orleans), John Barleycorn (Chicago), and the recently added Amnesia (Detroit). Roonie worked with the engineers at Pioneer Pro DJ to help develop what is today the CDJ-1000, and he helped pave the way for the Pioneer DVJ-1000 DVD turntable.
Raves.com & DJFix.com grabbed Roonie G. for a few precious moments between flights to talk about his craft. Here’s how it went.
You’ve won the Club World Award two times for “Best Resident VJ” and you’re up for a third win at WMC 2009. What’s the significance of this award for you?
DJ Roonie G: It’s a confirmation of my achievements. It’s important because I’m really earning respect from my peers in the industry. It’s an honor to be a presence in the nightclub world and know that I’m making a difference. It feels real good.
We hear you’re on the bill in 2009 with Snoop Dogg for an official pre-Super Bowl party called ‘Bud Bowl,’ which is sponsored by Budweiser. How’d that gig come about?
Roonie G: Last year, I performed at a few key pre-Superbowl parties. I opened for Wyclef Jean, Diddy and Kid Rock at three separate events. It was pretty kick ass! [laughs] So yeah, I guess they want me to rock it again.
You ranked an impressive #10th-place in DJ Times’ annual America’s Best DJ poll this year and #3 in the world in DJ Magazine’s “Top 100 VJs” poll. How important are polls to you?
Roonie G: It’s always nice to be recognized. I stay focused on the music and the production and they speak for themselves. I’ve always loved every aspect of music, I’ve been so spread out as a DJ… loving all genres from hip-hop to electronica, live performance to studio production. It’s a lot to tackle, and I’m just glad it’s all paying-off. In the last couple of years, all of my diversified talent has come together and created this ultra form of deejaying and entertainment. Performing with video helps me tell my story and connect with the audience. The video is not just a novelty anymore; it’s a part of the art. I’m finally being recognized from all levels.
What percentage of your videos have been re-worked especially for your live shows?
Roonie G: Eighty-five percent of my content is edited, re-edited, then remixed live. I combine audiovisual content with footage from movies or pop culture, or even home videos, and sometimes we re-shoot videos from scratch. I make the videos pulsate to the music. Accumulating custom videos over the last few years gives me enough content so that my show can be two-and-a-half to four-hours, yet be improvised to change according to the crowd.
Name a few visuals artists who’ve had a big impact on you.
Roonie G: Visuals artists are like movie directors, and I like Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron and other directors like them. There are a lot of different artists who’ve influenced me, like Bruce Lee, Stan Lee, Jet Li. One of my biggest influences from a producer standpoint is Rick Rubin. Then there are deejays like Q-Bert and Jazzy Jeff whom I admire immensely. I also admire what Vello Virkhaus does, but what he does is totally different from what I do. From the visuals aspect of it, I’m inspired by cinematography of all these fantastic film directors. My guys in the Video Assassins – 2nd Nature and DVDJ Unique, as well as the European video DJ crews, Eclectic Method and Addicted TV – are also a constant source of inspiration.
Can you describe a few signature Roonie G. trademark mixes that always get a strong crowd reaction?
Roonie G: Let’s see…my Transformers routine, my Superman intro, my “Eye of the Dynamite” bit, my Star Wars intro, the penguins “walk it out” video…there’s a lot! [laughs] But, being able to use the DVJ-1000 for this long, I can transition and flow very organically. I don’t interrupt the flow. On my website is my Batman intro from the “Dark Knight” movie. I have a whole different bunch of things that people request. I have tons and tons of different montages. But most importantly, I believe my trademark is that I’m always gonna rock the crowd!
What’s next for Roonie G?
Roonie G: I’m working on a couple of remixes for people right now. I’m always trying to write my music and I’m excited to go back into the studio. Video-deejaying is fantastic and it’s my trademark, but I’m excited to go back to the studio and create new audio productions aimed at a 2009 release. I used to write music a lot 10 years ago, but the time devoted to video-deejaying has meant less time for songwriting. I’m a writer and a producer, so you could say I’m looking forward to coming full circle.
Thank you Roonie and Emily for this interview!