5 Miami DJs Who Are Changing the Game
by jason fitzroy jeffers
Although South Beach clubs continue to host the world’s biggest DJs behind the decks, the arrival of Wynwood as a major destination for the more independent, arts-minded set has brought a range of new sounds to Miami for which you once had to travel to New York or Los Angeles.
As the Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival inundates Miami with DJs from all over the world, these five spinsters are reshaping Miami one mix at a time:
Panic Bomber, aka Richard Haig
RISK TAKER: Panic Bomber
Richard Haig doesn’t play it safe. Never has. His first forays into music were as a keyboardist in various local rock bands, but when that failed to yield the success and creative adventures he was craving, he leaped into action as Panic Bomber, a live electronic dance music act that found him singing over cascading self-composed beats and live instrumentation with brash abandon.
In recent years, Panic Bomber’s slew of singles, albums, and EPs have given way to his DJ sets, which tear through all of the influences—tech-house, electro, trance—that made his own music so compelling. He’s even started to throw live elements back into his computer-free sets. It all takes center stage at wild, off-the-wall parties thrown by his crew Slap N Tickle.
“I really try to take risks,” says Haig. “It’s all about finding the best underground tunes. Some of it might not be the most catchy, but it’s certainly going to be interesting and never boring.”
DEAFENING SILENCE: Robbie Wilde
Robbie Wilde would make you feel inadequate if he weren’t so busy making you dance. Wilde is legally deaf, yet his DJ sets run circles around his apparent competition. He’s most certainly not good-for-a-deaf-DJ good; he’s good, period.
“The way I enjoy music is more based on the groove,” says Wilde, who has come to be known as “That Deaf DJ.” “I have a little hearing left in my left ear, so I try to take advantage of that. I listen a little bit more, as funny as that sounds."
He may not be a Miami local, but his high-energy sets are right at home in this perpetually buzzing city, which is why he has been returning to play a benefit year after year for the Starkey Hearing Foundation at the Epic hotel during WMC. It’s just one stop on an increasingly busy jaunt around the globe.
CREATIVE DISCOVERY: Laura of Miami
Laura Sutnick has inspired a cult-like devotion among her fanbase that’s uncommon in this town. For several years, she served as the program director for University of Miami’s radio station WVUM, where she turned local ears onto tunes both cutting edge and rediscovered through her popular show Vamos a la Playa. The mix? About-to-break indie tracks, old-school Miami freestyle, Italo-disco, and exotica.
“I grew up between Bogota and here,” says Sutnick, giving some context to her eclectic tastes. “My mom used to listen to the weirdest stuff. We would get these pirated tapes from gas stations. That’s where it started.”
Though she’s since graduated from UM, Sutnick continues to redefine the city’s musical identity through Nightdrive Miami, a website/promotions outfit that has brought edgy new acts to the city’s stages. She’s also one of the brains behind the recently launched Klangbox, an online radio station chock full of shows and mixes from DJs both local and international that’s also the new home of Vamos. Her followers are pleased.
The guys of Dude Skywalker
THE FUTURE IS NOW: Dude Skywalker
As musicians, the dudes of Dude Skywalker—Alex Borges, Fabio Galarce, and Sam Plessett—make zero-gravity lounge music: spacebound, groove-oriented tracks that aim to propel their listeners into the future. As DJs, they mostly spin tracks that fall into the same format. It’s all very Jetsons.
“Some songs might be more deep house, some might be more disco, others more hip-hop,” says Galarce. “At the end of the day, they all go back to the discolounge vibe.”
The team fell into place when the three were attending Florida State University in Tallahassee, but upon their return to Miami, they got serious about their craft. It’s paid off, as they’ve been ripping up venues around downtown and Wynwood, even landing some coveted screen time on the increasingly popular Internet showcase Boiler Room, self-billed as—and widely considered to be—“the world’s leading underground music show.” From the looks of it, their immediate future is just as bright as the imagined one that so inspires them.
DZA in action
DANCE WITH SOMEBODY: DZA
If DZA were spinning at the Super Bowl, it would quickly become the best and biggest arena-size house party ever to exist. His sets are just that fun. It’s tempting to label his style throwback—especially owing to the fact that he’ll pepper his mixes of hip-hop and house with ’80s R&B jams—but he’ll throw anything into the mix, regardless of when it was released.
“It’s what I like to do best,” says DZA, who was born in France but now calls Miami home. “I’m not scared to play Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ next to some hood record. It doesn’t bother me as long as it sounds right.”
His curatorial style is what has made Peachfuzz every Friday at The Garrett the most popular party in downtown Miami. He’s also behind DZA’s House, a monthly old-school house music party at Bardot. That said, the man is in demand, and can be caught spinning everywhere from South Beach to Hollywood.
photography by khadija bhuiyan (haig); jon everry/@everryfoto (wilde); Candice Rubinsztain (sutnick); worldredeye.com (dza); anthony kim (dude skywalker)