Capturing the Present: Kingpin Discusses his Craft & Ohio Stand Up History

1.) A Brief Introduction: The Importance of the Present Moment

Before I begin to discuss the virtues of the social media as a tool for scene building, I wanted to discuss how important I feel it is to try and capture the present moment through interviews and discussion of music or parties in addition to tell the story of the past and how it informs the present. Today, I am greatly indebted to the many people in the old school who are willing to talk to me and teach me about the historical continuities and changes that have occurred over the last 2 decades of dance music. Such a privilege is something I am thankful for everyday, as I have been embraced by the very people I respected so much as artists. I am also indebted to people like Trademark Gunderson and Ed Luna who documented the moments they experienced in real time. I have certainly benefited from such archival work. Inspired by such experiences I have adopted that role as our scene archivist/historian. I don’t say this to make some claim at my importance.  I say it to provide you some framework for where my ever evolving project is going and to help you understand why I hold down every crew in town for what they add to our scene. That being said, I think the present moment we are in represents a very interesting iteration of Columbus Dance Music history, and I want to make sure to capture this moment through the stories of people in our scene. The formation and evolution of Ohio Stand Up and its foundational The C.O. Way is one such story that I want to explore through a series of interviews with its foundational members. No doubt, such a story reveals the importance and utility of social media for the contemporary guerilla scene building we are using today. Today, Kingpin gives us some vital scene history and provides us a way to think about his artistic craft, Ohio Stand Up, and is current experiences with Juicy. Before we get to that, I have a few words to frame Ohio Stand Up that may help you think about its place within the larger scene building project we have ongoing.

2.) Ohio Stand Up & Guerilla Scene Building

The internet has revolutionized the way people in music scenes interact both internally and with other people in scenes around the world. In the columbus dance music scene, the internet has increased the speed of sharing ideas, sounds, and events. New music or information about your favorite local crews or artists is just one click away. You can get on soundcloud and listen to the freshest beets, go to facebook and see what your favorite artists are up to, or watch Mike Harmon’s Videos of shows you have missed. It has also given promoters and artists the ability to send event details to vast social networks hoping to take advantage of their core fanbase wanting to bring people to new experiences around the city. This has obviously added a degree of communication that has greatly aided bringing new faces into the scene. It is just simpler to reach new people now, and arguably it could be more effective than putting flyers up in high traffic areas. Doubtless, the tried and true methods of stomping the ground, putting up flyers, and talking to people that are still very important tools a person has to have a successful event. Yet, the internet has become increasingly important part in that equation with the power to disseminate a message, an image, or a framing of your event/community/music to a wide audience. My entrance into this community and my experiences with Ohio Stand Up are a testament to the power of the internet in this capacity.

As a person who really liked electronic music but didn’t know how to get involved locally, I did not know where to go or what to listen to until I happened upon the Ohio Stand Up blog The C.O. Way and the Ohio Vibe Event Calendar. I did not know much about our scene, because I did not know the language people used to describe dance events, where events were, or anyone going to events at the time.  I can just remember looking around the internet for information and finally came onto the Ohio Vibe and Ohio Stand Up’s The C.O. Way Blog. Without leaving my house or making any calls, I was able to connect to a movement that was gaining steam and looking to take Columbus by storm. I was given an event calendar and commentary on what was going on in Columbus. Show previews, show reviews, streaming audio, and pictures all opened me up to a world that I did not even know existed in Columbus. Interestingly, people are are still shocked when I tell them about how dynamic our dance music scene is. For this reason, I think web presences are particularly important because we are able to build a community with less resources and let people learn how to get involved and learn with much less of a time/money investment. (I am a biased source though I suppose) Now, there is a whole other question about whether this type of connection is as deep or has the same levels of investment as a more intimate face-to-face connection would. At the least, this type of internet connection provides the gateway for deeper immersion into the scene, which I believe is tantamount to scene building and success.

In this way, I think of our mixture of traditional stomping the ground scene building and social media work as emblematic of our guerilla scene building approach. I like the imagery of this framing, because it evokes a sense of dogged determination that oozes out of our every action. It also captures the flexibility of our approach. Because we do not have much capital invested in any one strategy, it is simple to just pack up shop and shift methods. Such malleability is tantamount to continually recreating ourselves and opening up our doors to new audiences as we continue to grow. If there is one truth to everything I have witnessed it is that how we frame ourselves never stays fixed and is continually shifting for each crew and each party. No doubt, the social media infrastructure we have created has been especially important in this regard.

Since their beginning, I feel Ohio Stand Up has been especially important to the building of this social media infrastructure (they were a foundational inspiration for me). They have rallied the internet community in Columbus and provided a way for new members of the scene to understand a little bit of the landscape available to them in town.  Not only have they provided regular blogging content on trends in international and Columbus dance music, but they have used facebook to let over 2,000 people in Columbus know what’s up around town. I feel that such a feat is incredibly special today, and highlights their special position as an implementor of guerilla scene building tactics.  I certainly benefitted Ohio Stand Up’s services, as I was given my first mental frameworks to understanding how to make sense of our scene. It is certainly the case that I am able to do what I do because they provide the vital services I do not. For this reason, I think it is important to document this moment in history as its occurring, because we are in a brave new era where one is able to wrap their mind around everything that is going on in our scene much more quickly than the past. Furthermore, I think it is important to document the motivations the foundational members of Ohio Stand Up had for creating such a strong web presence. Beyond this, its important to facilitate the sharing of the oral histories and viewpoints people have about our scene today so those that pick up where we leave off will understand where we have been. In this way, I hope to encourage the continued intergenerational transfer of information that I and so many others have been so lucky to experience around town.

To embark upon the exploration of the history of Ohio Stand Up, I have solicited interviews from Kingpin, Magua, FreeWater, and others affiliated with the group to tell us about themselves as artists and why they felt a consolidated web entity like Ohio Stand Up was needed. Today, we turn to the ever articulate kingpin to shed some light on this moment in history for us. He was gracious enough to sit down for me and answer a few questions about Ohio Stand Up, how he got his start in DJ’ing, and what he has learned from his experiences in Juicy with the legendary Kevin Grimm (Kevy Kev) while working with Imperial Forces:

LA: How did you get your start DJ’in?

K: I got started DJing in college. Partially because none of my friends knew how to make iTunes playlists appropriate for a party or knew a whole lot about musc, so I took the initiative to do that. It was just a few house parties here and there, and eventually evolved over time into full fledged actual djing and not just manning the iPod.

LA: What does the act of DJ’in mean to you? Why do you do it?

K: For me the act of DJing is one of the single highest forms of self-expression I’ve ever encountered. I’ve always felt a close personal connection with music for a number of years. I love DJing because it allows me to interact directly with music I love, and manipulate it in different ways to sound a unique way that I control. I guess the reason I keep coming back to it is for the release I have and experience when I DJ. Few things are more enjoyable than to getting a large group of people dancing and grooving to music that you’ve personally picked out and control. It’s also a pretty good personal stress reliever. If I am having a shitty week in my personal life, I have a good outlet waiting for me where I can completely forget about those things for an hour by embracing something I love. We all need some sort of creative outlet or hobby to help us get through the drudge of our daily lives, and mine is music and DJing.

LA: You are always playing with diverse sounds to explore new territory. Why do you explore such diverse sonic universe while up on the decks?

K: I seem to get this question a lot from people. I do it for a couple of reasons. One basic one is it’s much more interesting and engaging to explore different genres in a set, and I think it keeps dance floors fresh by changing things up on them so they don’t get bored hearing the same sounds/tempo continuously. I just love so many different genres of music it would just be wrong for me to not play. I think it’s really important for a DJ to constantly be exploring new music and genres. I’d rather be known as a tastemaker and innovator of pushing new sounds on people then being 100% safe and just play music off the beatport top 100 chart. I’ve had one or two people tell me that multi-genre DJs are DJs that don’t know enough about one genre to play an entire set of it. And I think that couldn’t be further from the truth for me personally. Worst case scenario, I hope that in playing a lot of genres at least something is going to reach every individual on the dance floor or make them think differently about music.

LA: How did you become a part of the Columbus dance music scene?

K: I had a really funny way of stumbling into the Columbus dance music scene. I truthfully was pretty blissfully unaware of the local EDM scene until I was about 22. I started going to Dance or Die first because an old friend who had become a local rapper (Path) had Self Help as his DJ. I went to that (Dance or Die) very regularly. Then eventually started going to My Best Friend’s Party Tuesdays  at Bristol Bar when another friend played there occasionally, where I really started to connect with and realize that people actually went out to hear electro and other forms of EDM pretty regularly. I also recognized that it really was a staple of the community that showcased all the local DJs. After this realization, I spent the next 6 months just networking with the other DJs, promoters and party goers, and really attempting to just go to every dance party that Columbus had to offer and get a feel for everything. By the time I finally got up the nerve to ask Nick Reed if I could play at his party the first week he had moved things from Bristol to Circus, he was comfortable enough with who I was to let me do it.

LA: How did Ohio Stand Up come about? Who was involved?

K: Ohio Stand Up was something that I was lucky to stumble upon by chance in the first few days it was getting started. I ran into Scott Singerman the first night he went to talk to Nick and Chad (My Best Friend’s Party) about a music blog called the C.O Way to promote the local EDM scene and try to unify things more. I was standing next to Nick when he was talking to Scott and I was pretty much captivated by the ideas and vision that Scott had to really organically grow the community. After talking to Scott for a few minutes knew I was 100% on board with what he had in mind And from there we formed a pretty close relationship that was all about building up the Columbus scene. Scott was the main guy behind Ohio Stand Up, but we had a really solid team between myself, Dave Dixon, Adam Tzagournis, Frankie Spotinelli (DJ Free Water), and Paul Bonasera (DJ Pro Bono).

LA: Why was Ohio Stand Up Started? Was there something missing in the scene you wanted to highlight?

K: Ohio Stand Up was something that technically came after C.O. Way. We wanted to change the name because a lot of people were pronouncing it co-way. Calling it Ohio Stand Up and launching a full fledged promotional team and website (still centered around the blog of course). I am not sure who exactly came up with the name change, but it stuck a lot better than C.O. Way and the idea of growing a locally based EDM community did too.I think one of the main reasons Ohio Stand Up got started is most of us felt there was a big gap in promoting a lot of the events and overall EDM scene in Columbus. It felt very fractured at times, and not a lot of people knew when parties were. And sometimes multiple parties would be thrown on the same night. The idea of the social media presence centered around blog would let people know about upcoming EDM and describe to them what the events were like that they missed. I think for me one of the things I wanted and have always wanted to do was highlight the diversity in Columbus’s night life . One of the first posts I ever did on our blog was a recap of my night when I went to three different parties in Columbus on Tuesday night(an electro/house party, a dubstep party, and a hip hop dance party). I always had so many of my friends tell me Columbus was boring and there was nothing to ever do. Showing that there was 3 different parties you go to of very different tastes (I covered an electro party, a dubstep party, and a rap dance party) you could experience and on a Tuesday night even, not just a Saturday. I remember being very flattered by several of the biggest party promoters in town who came up and personally thanked me for the positive things I had to say about the party.

LA: Why was going to the web so important for you guys? Why do you continue to keep the Facebook page so active?

K: I think Scott just saw a very proactive social media organization with great content as being something that  could really change things around here and it was easy to get people on board with that. Everyone was already on facebook, so it wasn’t going to be too hard to reach out to these people. I think we really saw how many people could be reached by this when promoting the Summer in the Winter party at Fort Rapids. I think when it was all said and done, over 20,000 event invites got sent out for that party mainly by just party goers who were excited about it.  Somewhere around 2500 people attended that party too and we never even printed out flyers. The possibilities seemed endless when the right people got together to make an event happen that people wanted to attend. I really look at those parties as being a major catalyst in sparking more people to come out to shows now. And people still ask when the next one is going down.

People still add Ohio Stand Up to be friends on Facebook every single day. I keep things active on the facebook page still because I feel like I personally owe it to Columbus. Someone has to let people know about the different events going on in this town. I really wish I had the free time to do more with it than simply just post the event pages for local events, and songs I find interesting. But it’s certainly a lot better than me doing nothing.

LA: Ohio Stand Up’s dominant credo “Collaboration Not Competition” has been proliferating widely around our scene. Where did this ethos come from? What does it mean to you?

K: Once again this was another thing coined by Scott. We really thought it was important for people who threw EDM events to talk to each other and work together to put on bigger and better events. The EDM group in Columbus represents a subculture, to fight over bringing this crowd out is a bad idea in my opinion. When 3 or 4 different parties get thrown on the same night, it’s easy to see how fractured the group of people who come out to show becomes and I generally think it is overall a bad look for this to happen. However when more people work together to put on shows, you can pool together more resources, a larger base group of people to promote too, etc. Throwing EDM parties ultimately aren’t about making money (for me at least), they are about creating an environment that people want to be in to enjoy the music they like.

LA: What was the reception you got from the community when you guys started Ohio Stand Up?

K: People were pretty open to the idea from the get go. The idealistic view of getting everyone to collaborate together for building up the EDM community is something that most people in the scene can relate with. We did a really good job of promoting the hell out of the blog and what we were trying to do too.

LA: Over the last year you have gotten heavily involved with the Juicy. How did you start to work on that party?

K: I’ve been involved with Juicy for just shy of a year now. Kevin Grimm (Kevy Kev) approached me about this time last year saying he was looking for a new partner to throw his party with at Circus. He approached me because he had seen everything I was doing with Ohio Stand Up and knew I had a pretty good pulse on the EDM scene and what people were into. I was a bit surprised when he first asked me, but it seemed only logical to have a proactive role to start throwing my own EDM party in town rather than just promoting all the other events. It’s not the biggest of parties, but it is one I really do love and care passionately about. I really believe you have to start by supporting all the local DJs and building a good following behind them before you can expect to have the necessary following to bring in bigger headliners from out of town.

LA: What have you learned through your time working on Juicy?

K: Probably the biggest things I’ve learned is the whole process of booking artists and the production work behind putting on a show. Kevy is a bit of a perfectionist with the production of our party when it comes to making sure everything is 100% and ready to go before the first song gets played at 10pm. His professionalism is something I am eternally grateful for as well as his talent in designing our flyers.  I’ve learned a lot to about just in general things like how big of a following certain DJs have, and what happens when we have three different EDM parties going on the same night in Columbus. Basically, a lot of the little things I need to personally learn if I ever want to start throwing bigger parties with major national headliners.

LA: What has driven you to get so involved building the scene in town? Why do you do it?

K: I think the reason I’ve become so involved with trying to build the scene in this town is because of the connection I have with Columbus. I’ve lived here my whole life for starters. The EDM community has been one of the most giving and welcoming group of people that I’ve ever met and become a part of. I kind of feel like I owe the scene to give back to it and give people the opportunity to hear new types of music they don’t get to hear anywhere else.

LA: What has it been like to see the scene building and growing while you have been here?

K: To be honest it’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced. Before dubstep really blew up (something I see as the major catalyst for a lot of the growth), 50 people at a bar for an EDM night was fairly normal. To be at the point, where it’s not out of the ordinary to see 300 people at Circus on Wednesday night feels like something out of a dream. And it really shows we’ve come a long way. It wasn’t much more than a year ago, I was going to shows where I literally new every one in attendance. So many new kids are coming out now, and way more than ever have for quite some time.

LA: What is your vision of the ideal future for our Columbus Dance Music Community?

K: I don’t really know what I see as the ideal future for the Columbus Dance Music Community. I love that more people are going to shows now, but I wish we could be considered a more major market to get some bigger acts like say a Feed Me. Certain big artists agents wouldn’t let their artists go to a city like Columbus because they consider the market too small here. We obviously still have a long way to go to attract some bigger name artists. I really think to some degree that is possible too. I mean we have one of the biggest universities in the country here with 50,000 undergrads. Finding a way to appeal better to those kids and getting them more generally interested in EDM in some way will be the ticket to that happening.

Not only does this interview give us a deeper insight into the foundational moments of Ohio Stand Up, but it allows us to delve deeply into Kingpin’s artistic process. You have all heard me discuss the strengths of this guys approach to DJ’in and production work. I am a BIG fan of his work. Luckily, he is playing this saturday in his regular role as a resident at Juicy at Circus with Kevy Kev, DJ Axcess, Dave Rave. This show is gonna pop off so you best be there! Event Details are available HERE.

If you want more from Kingpin check out his Soundcloud page HERE. Also, Don’t sleep on his Disco House side project with Sybling Q called Disco Disco. LISTEN HERE.

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