He is in the elite league of New York City’s “Superstar DJ’s”… but New York City boy Reed McGowan seems unimpressed with that title. Having spun all over the nation, he’s pushing his talents beyond the DJ booth– in a big way– as we enter 2008. McGowan has always been involved in production– but in addition to producing, he’s also got his ever-searching eyes on songwriting and performing too. Part of the reason for his new focus is the current state of Clubland, as well as the country. “A lot of clubs have shut down. Police have closed a lot of them as of late. A lot of places I used to DJ at are gone now because of high rents. And, people are less willing to pay their DJ’s well.” McGowan also regrets the fact that a lot of his like-minded friends–most of whom were DJ’s and musicians too– have left the city. “The only ones who stay are the ones with corporate jobs, and they detest their jobs! Many of my creative peers are gone.” But another, more important reason for his new aspirations is McGowan’s own personal revolution: “I’ve had fun… but right now I have more important things to focus on. Times are changing, and if we don’t evolve in the direction that demands our attentions, then the party will end whether we like it or not”. After hearing McGowan perform his new song “American Idle” live at a NYC venue and leaving the wall-to-wall crowd speechless, I contacted him to talk about his new endeavors. I discovered that when he said he had more “important things to do”, he wasn’t just spinning rhetoric. Mc Gowan wasn’t even in the Gay Apple when I called. When I finally reached the elusive scenester, he just happened to be in New Orleans, his hometown, volunteering with Habitats for Humanity. He pointed out that New Orleans is still not “back to normal”, comparing many parts of the city to a ghost town– “all boarded up”.“It’s ‘cleaned up’, but definitely lost its spirit,” he tells me. He adds, “It’s an overwhelming situation. More help is still needed. There are some good things happening, but just not fast enough. We need to be pro-active as citizens to do whatever we can to motivate change. ” He’s now ready to come back to New York.
Intelligent and articulate, Reed McGowan has a lot to say about the state of the world beyond New Orleans as well… and it’s not much prettier. “The people that have the responsibility are the people who are making the most money– but they are completely out of touch. It’s a distorted fantasy land that we’ve built, basically Disneyland for adults, and we can’t see ourselves anymore, only what is reflected in the funhouse mirror. We’re stuck in this conundrum and we’re trying to get out of it.” What’s the biggest contributor to the state of the nation? In addition to general apathy, Reed declares, “We’ve gone media crazy. Everything’s got a spin to it. We’re texting here, IM’ing there, changing identities in Cyberspace… It’s sensory over! kill, like mass A.D.D… all motivated by greed. I felt like my brain was gonna explode. That’s one of the reasons I came down here– to disconnect with the distractions, and get back to basics.” The Katrina tragedy seems to reflect exactly what Reed is saying about our national awareness of issues in general: the media seems to move from one issue to another, always forgetting the last one. Reed and I both agree that the masses largely seem to have forgotten about Hurricane Katrina, moving on to more ‘important” issues like Britney Spears (another disaster from Louisiana) and the decades-belated question of whether America is “ready” for a woman or a black man as President. But McGowan points out that some celebrities, like Brad Pitt, are still unyieldingly committed. Pitt, in fact, was in the city at the time McGowan was there! “Two thousand seven was a very cathartic year for me”, he states, revealing to me the way some of his friends fell prey to the darker side of Clubland (Use your imagination…). He confesses that he can’t be around certain elements of that scene anymore: “I’m expanding myself as a human being. Music should be a form of escape, but it should also be able to open you up to the truth. Music has taken on a new meaning for me because I know now that I can be responsible with it. It’s not about ‘changing the world’, (although that is certainly a possibility)… it’s about being aware, being conscious with your talents on a more personal level, not a superficial one.” On a wider scale, he tells me he’d like to see all of us develop a more “interdependent, interconnected, global view”. He feels that we have resigned ourse! lves to the internet without fully understanding the potential for greatness. In other words, it has become an excuse for disconnection.
McGowan is making his own mission known through a subject he’s more than an expert on: music. Under the pseudonym of eMpulse, the word warrior has released “American Idle”, a song in which he hopes to challenge America’s beliefs as well as the paradigm we’re living in. Any of us who can still tolerate most of the image-before-content crap that’s become “entertainment” these days will agree with the message behind “American Idle”: “Creativity is disappearing at the hand of the dollar. There’s more value placed on image than authenticity. What we settle for is so contrived.” He brings up our Miss Spears as an example: “I detest watching the media feed on her. On the other hand, if this is a marketing campaign for her album, then I think it’s a brilliant strategy on her part. But since there are children involved, it’s just not right…she cannot be that cold and calculating. Nevertheless, it sends a very bad message to her younger fans. And I really don’t blame her for the problem, I blame the media.” With lyrics like, “Pop smeared legacy, hip hop cultured effigy; Fast food lethargy, supersized obesity; PS3 Nintendo Wii, Overloaded Circuitry… American Idle is the way of life. Is it really living? American Idle: Don’t believe the hype; It’s what they’re giving…” and its shotgun style delivery , “American Idle” plays up on the diminished attention span of the audience, which Reed points out is one of our current problems as a nation: “It’s like every one’s on crack. It’s like, ‘Gimme the next thing, gimme the next thing. It’s like the news, when they just go from one story to another.” It is slam poetry dance music with a punk flair, and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Reed points out, “It’s not angry. It’s not anti-American. It’s PRO-American. It’s saying, ‘Wake the fuck up!” His “original subversive version” of the song is almost 12 minutes (!) long, although the a few more radio-friendly and dance mixes still squeezes all that intensity into about five minutes. Remixes of the song include versions by Quentin Harris, Warren Rigg and Richard Morel, among others.
I always believed that DJ’s are the unsung heroes of the club world, and McGowan echoes that theory: “The more experienced DJ’s are being sold out by the younger, less experienced ones– due to money. The younger ones are exploited for ‘exposure’… they wind up working for free or for very little money, so they can get their foot in the door. It’s legitimate, but underhanded and corrosive to everyone involved. It’s basically a result of greedy corporate tactics, and it has trickled down to the best of us. Those who would disagree are probably the ones doing the screwing”. Despite this and other factors, McGowan remains optimistic about the state of the music industry. “I personally think that music’s getting better. But you have to have a ‘wide ear’; you have to wade through a fl! ood of crap to find quality, especially now that the internet has opened Pandora’s box. You have to be selective to find the ‘needle in the haystack’, the ‘cream of the crop’. It’s the DJ’s job to do so, but it’s just more intense now. The window of opportunity has been opened for more participants; but on the other hand, it’s like when digital video came out and everyone thought they were a filmmaker. DJ’s used to get more respect. Today, because of technology, anyone on MySpace can call themselves a DJ, or an “artist” or whatever. The art of promotion is more prevalent than anything else. Where’s the content? Where’s the authenticity? In the long run, content will always win out.”&! nbsp; And musically, McGowan promises to deliver. likely more sooner than later. His next single is called “Medusa’s Eyes”… and, having heard it live, I promise ya that it’s an equally intense song with a glam rock flare. What else can we expect from Reed this year? For starts, there’s the lovely Sylvia Tosun. McGowan’s mix of Tosun’s “Head Over Heels” premiered at #2 on the Billboard “Break-Out” Chart in January, and is currently climbing the chart. There are other things in the works, including the followup single to “American Idle”. his work with one artist on their “comeback project” (I ain’t telling… look on his MySpace page for clues!) and another massive endeavor that he can’t talk about… but he will tell me, “It’s a REALLY big one!” There’s also an EP on the way, as well as a renegade video for “American Idle” in the works. (Let’s just say that guerilla promotion techniques will also make a comeback!)
Superstar DJ Reed McGowan, AKA EmPulse, concludes with, “Life gives you challenges. I choose to channel them in a constructive rather than destructive way. I believe it is the extraordinary people in this world who get anything done. It’s your choice to decide what kind of person you are, and if you have the capacity to follow through with what you say you believe.The reward is in the journey, not the destination.” Whatever his mission, McGowan promises his passengers a wild ride along the way!