After making waves as a resident DJ at LED events and clubs like Voyeur in San Diego, the Connecticut-raised TJR has embarked on the biggest year in his DJ career. The easiest indicator of that might be his new residency at Hakkasan, the new EDM mega club inside the MGM Grand. Anchored by a Michelin Star restaurant, the five-story, 80,000 square foot space is the visual representation of how colossal the dance music world has become. And now, TJR finds himself right at the center of it. Add that to his recent feature in GQ Magazine, a successful European tour and the impending summer festival circuit filled dates all over the world and you've got yourself quite a recipe for notoriety.
We got to chat with TJR, born Thomas Rozdilsky, as he relaxed in his Encinitas golf course home after a wild weekend playing LED's My Life Every Day Memorial Day Party at the Valley View Casino Center and the 6 a.m. daybreak after party. Tomorrow, he comes to Orange County to play Heat Ultra Lounge along with local favorite Adam Auburn as the opening support.
Since his decision to move to LA three years ago, TJR has seen his career take a steady incline which has pretty much blown up into the mainstream world of EDM. "I grew up close to New York City, but at the time they weren't embracing new sounds," says Rozdilsky. "Since Chicago and New York where the originators of the deep house and techno scene at the time, they didn't want to deal with any sort of electro or dubstep."
This was before Electric Zoo and Webster Hall where hot spots for the EDM craze in the East Coast. He moved to West Coast seeking a more free-roaming environment for his music. With hopes to be able to expand his musical talents he moved in with Jon Pegnato of LA Riots at the time. Jon got him an opening gig at Voyeur and the LED guys loved him. With one foot in the door the rest is history.
"It's kind of hard finding direct supporters because everyone wants to play the hits, but you have to warm the crowd for the headliners first," TJR says. "I understood how to do that and tried to be the best opening DJ I could be." His fusion of house, tech house and minimal techno had him on heavy rotation at LED Events, clubs and the infamous Wave House in San Diego.
He also saw how competitive the LA market was and soon moved to SD with the LED guys to create a following of devoted fans and build his confidence. "It really helped me believe in myself more," he adds. "As an opener I got to hone in on my sound and work on productions. I was even inspired to write [my track] 'Funky Vodka' from the wild shows at the Wavehouse." Sounds about right since LED is known for their ranging parties with plenty of booze flowing.
"The way dance music is today it's really about producing your own music to get to those headlining spots," Rozdilsky says. "If you are making enough tunes eventually you will get there." Aside from making his rounds headlining clubs in the US, TJR has made at big enough name for himself to play shows like Wavefront Music Festival in Chicago, HARD Summer in downtown LA, Made in America in Philly and Groove Cruise. And we ain't mad that it took him taking a really good house song and turning it into a Pittbull remake with "Don't Stop The Party" to get there.
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Plenty of other DJs a la David Guetta or Calvin Harris have taken the same plunge into mainstream pop dance music, but we just hope it doesn't make him lose his original vibe. "I'm trying to include more vocals in the chorus and bigger hooks in my tracks," says TJR. Currently, he's working on a track with Dirt Nasty, Crookers and hopefully Laidback Luke. "It takes me at least couple of weeks to write a tune," he says. "If I could write a great song in a day like Afrojack then I could see myself having a full album. It just doesn't make sense for me right now."
As an artist on Rising Music (Chris Lake's imprint), TJR plans to continue creating funky dance music which kids in Milan will be singing along to, regardless of how it's classified. "I know people get mad about the mainstream but it also fills up the underground scene which is doing very well right now," the DJ says. "In the end I think you can give a better experience if you read the crowd and you can have a really special time if you feed off each other."
TJR also notes that the layout of the club can make a big impact on his set, saying he favors clubs where he isn't so high up that you can't see him playing with the faders and scratching a bit. "If people can see what I'm doing and my hand movements then there will be a good connection," he adds. "That's when you can get crazy and go all over the map with music." Lucky for us, Heat Ultra lounge has just that kind of set up and not to mention a Funktion One sound system which he's sure to turn up the bass on.