Changing the ‘electronic dance music’ game

Local DJs look to expand from the traditional sounds of EDM.

When Patrick Monahan began performing as a DJ in 2010, he wasn’t playing his own music. He wasn’t playing electronic dance music or even the popular songs from that year. Instead, he got his start playing disco for people he called “old-heads” at a roller rink in the Poconos. Monahan said the rink was all about freestyle skating and shuffling music.

“I feel like disco appeases to all people, and it was like the first genre to do so,” Monahan said.

Since then, Monahan has become DJ Patrick Richards. Now, his sound pulls samples and influences from all over the globe. Monahan said he still intends to return Philadelphia to the “disco hot spot” that it once was. To do that, Monahan said he needs to break the EDM label that is placed on him and countless other producers today.

“I definitely don’t like to be known as an electronic music DJ,” Monahan said. “I like my stuff to have more organic tones … because I feel like that has more longevity.”

Drew Mercadante, who performs with the stage name DJ Jack Deezl, also said he recognizes that the EDM trend is beginning to falter.

“It’s already dying down in a lot of ways, but I think people confuse EDM for being all electronic music,” Mercadante said. “I don’t think what I make is EDM, even though it’s electronic music you can dance to, it’s not in the same category.”

Mercadante said his music is “all over the place,” and the cool thing about electronic music is not having to conform to a label.

“I make a lot of different stuff,” Mercadante said, with a laugh. “I don’t really know how else to describe it – it’s just me. I make the music that I want to hear.”

Kyle Laskowski, who performs often with Monahan as DJ Kyle Ryan, said that EDM “is just kind of the umbrella term for all electronic music.” In Philadelphia, Laskowski said the EDM genre really has no definition. Every DJ or producer has a different name for the type of music they produce. Advances in beat-making software have made it so that anyone can pick up DJing as a hobby.

Mercadante said that might not be for the best.

“I just feel like people are really obsessed with the fame and there are a lot of people making music that wouldn’t do it otherwise,” he said.

All of these new artists beginning to produce music aren’t taking away from the music culture in Philadelphia, Laskowski said. If anything, the Philly music scene is reaching its peak, he added.

“I think the music scene around Philly is really awesome right now,” Laskowski said. “There are a lot of cool venues and a lot of cool producers out there and bands, anything from basement shows to really crazy venues. … There’s always something going on.”

“It wasn’t until I was inside of a house music crowd that I was like, ‘Alright this is really what I want to do,’ because it was the first time I felt like a family on the dance floor,” Monahan said.

Mercadante has recently started hosting monthly shows at an event called Truewave at The Dolphin Tavern, where he and fellow performers JXL Beats and Freddie Fresh showcase their new music for patrons of the club. He has also been working on a side project called Lightbringer, which incorporates partial electronic tracks with live instrumental performances.

Live house music is something Monahan said he can get behind, as he learned about the idea by interning with Worldtown SoundSystem, a production group that is pushing to create more music in this genre.

“I feel like that’s where the culture needs to grow to, to create that family aspect,” Mercadante said, adding that the Philadelphia dance scene is “too much party and not enough substance.”

“A lot of people like to do the ‘drop’ thing, and I really like blending music,” Monahan said. “I like to make records talk to one another.”

Mercadante said being involved in the community in Philadelphia presents an unorthodox opportunity for young performers.

“The whole Philly scene … is just this big conversation,” Mercadante said. “And it’s just fun to be a part of the conversation.”

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