DJ Profile: Steve Sherwood Balances Late Night With Tea Dances

by Jim Hauck
Thursday Feb 9, 2012

Steve Sherwood is a rising star in the San Francisco music scene. This talented DJ spends his days as a technical director for an advertising agency At night, he takes that talent for bringing creative ideas to life in the ad world and applies it behind the decks.

Although DJ'ing may still be something of a hobby for him, Sherwood is enjoying success in San Francisco. He has done a well-received podcast for the Juice Box Party Bus at the Gus Presents Sundance Party in the summer of 2009, which first brought him to the attention of local clubgoers.

The call for more led to several appearances, including his first big club gig with "The Disco Cherry" by the producers of Frisco Disco for San Francisco Pride back in 2010. He also had gigs at the Bearracuda parties in San Francisco, Vancouver and Austin, Texas, as well as an international opportunity playing Tonker at the Eagle in London last year.

Steve grabbed his second big San Francisco Pride gig with the launch of the new "Reach T-Dance" by Juice Box Presents in San Francisco. Most recently, he spun a progressive House and trance set for Bliss T-Dance on Martin Luther King Weekend last month.

His inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Sherwood cites big names like Pagano and Manuel de la Mare as the DJs to whom he looks to for his own late-night sound, while Wayne G and Joe Gauthreaux influence his tea-dance sound. "

"Calling out a specific sound can typecast you" explains Sherwood, who adds that he does not want to be pegged as a just a tea-dance or late-night DJ only. "I struggle with positioning myself," he admits. "I am still defining my sound."

If you take a moment to scan through the variety of podcasts this very diverse DJ has put out for listening, you can see that his eclectic taste in musical styles. "My sound stems from my love of tribal, disco, electro and progressive" he explains. "But progressive is the real sound driver," adding the caveat, "Music is music."

Comfortable With Technology

With 10 years of experience now under his belt, Sherwood has become comfortable with an array of the technology available to his craft.

He works from a Mac laptop in the booth, where he attaches a Pioneer DDJ-S1 controller that has the look and feel of a complete CD configuration, while also driving the electronic music files he stores on his laptop. "This is as close to mixing vinyl as I can get," says Sherwood.

That's appropriate for a DJ who began his career mixing the ancient technology of pressed vinyl discs. (Remember those?) "I learned to mix on vinyl and read tracks, then moved to CDs and now to the laptop," he recalls.

The technology behind the use of this equipment allows him to provide the magical experiences for the dance floor while watching what is coming up in a track and predicting how to mix and match music. Before the addition of this computer technology into the DJ booth, the talent was in reading the analog groves in a record to make certain assumptions about where a track would evolve.

Today, with the aid of his computer, Sherwood can "read the digital representation of the same analog grove and give me quicker access to even more information about the track." All of these technological advances create the opportunity to course correct and change what Sherwood is playing rather rapidly depending on crowd response.

"DJs have more music than ever to listen to" Sherwood explains. Tools like BeatPort and online music libraries have given him choices that virtually endless, unlike the days when a DJ was limited to what he heard and could buy in the record store.

Incorporating tools like the DDJ-S1 gives Sherwood the opportunity to move a recently acquired track up on his playlist and use it much faster without having to listen to it over and over again to find that perfect mix-in and mix-out point. Gone are the days of spending endless hours in a record store listening to music trying to find the perfect mix.

Now, he can "get exactly what you want on line when you want it." Even so, this invasion of technology has a down side as well: "Because you can get what you want, you miss the B-side tracks and other mixes that often came with purchasing a long play album." That means sometimes the best mixes are often overlooked.

Selling Sex (Or Not)

In case you thought being a DJ was all grooves and glamor, he cautions that it ain't necessarily so: "You work weird hours, you are surrounded by all kinds of people and temptations, and sometimes you just want to be at home in bed with the person you love."

In his case, that would be his partner Paul of four years. "DJ'ing is a passion and I love the art form," Sherwood explains. "But more and more it is about the image of what you are selling and not as much about the music and journey."

With porn stars becoming DJs and technology making DJ'ing ever easier, Sherwood is aware that he is taking a hit for not selling sex as part of his presentation. But, he adds, he doesn't bother worrying about that aspect of the business.

That's not to say he's not easy on the eyes. And he has been known to strip down to a jock during his set, sharing a smile and some skin for viewing. "I play for my fans," he explains. "I do not just book a gig because people are going to show up. It has to be something that makes sense for me as well or it is not worth the effort and expense that is required to create the musical journey."

Like many who begin spinning, Sherwood hopes to add producer to his accomplishments. He has been studying with Paul Goodyear to learn the art of producing tracks with the aim of eventually creating entire tracks of his own. "This is an investment in my future," Sherwood says.

Steve Sherwood's next big gig on the decks is a seven-hour tea dance President's Day Weekend at Play. The gig will happen Sunday, Feb. 19, at Mezzanine in San Francisco from 5 p.m. to midnight. Additionally, he will be spinning an after-hours set on Saturday, February 25 at Rebel for the Stallion party.

For more information and to link to Steve's podcasts, check out his website.


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