All You Need is BASS

Wax Romeo Interview

Wax Romeo has become a staple of Calgary’s dance music culture over the past decade with his residency at The Hifi Club. As a member of Smalltown Romeo (Smalltown DJs + Wax Romeo = Smalltown Romeo) and Homebreakin Records, Wax Romeo describes his sonic ideology as “hatched from a queer disco egg fertilized by the manic seed of a jheri-curled 80s R&B drummer”. He pulls influence from the likes of the The Rub, and west coast party-chameleon, Vinyl Ritchie to name a few. Recently AYNIB sat down with the self-proclaimed “world’s greatest lover” to discuss his musical beginnings and the release of his new album Heavenz 2 Murgatroyd.

AYNIB: How did you initially get into electronic music and DJing?

WR: I wasn’t really into electronic music ’til I started going to raves. I wasn’t really into the music, at first, but I did like a lot of disco and 80’s funk type stuff, and then hearing some tunes with samples I recognized kinda turned me onto house music. Pills helped too.

How did you initially get started with Homebreakin’ and Smalltown DJ’s?

WR: I’d been going to the now-defunct Night Gallery for a few years and had seen those dudes play almost every Thursday, while also making some tunes. Pete had a label and I dropped off some music I had made one day, and he wanted to put it out, and that’s how I got mixed up with Smalltown. As for Homebreakin’, I had posted some music I’d made on a local rave forum, and another guy on the forum suggested meeting up with Neighbour, who I ended up doing a couple records with. We also became good friends really quickly. That feels like so goddamn long ago. I wanna say about 7 years.

What are your favourite festivals to attend?

WR: I’d say Shambhala, for sure. I still have the stamina for that one, and it’s always so much fun. This past year was my favourite. I’m really looking forward to checking out Mutek and Bass Coast this year.

Do you have any festival/gig horror stories?

WR: One time at a rave, I saw a girl trying to put socks on her shoes. As well, I saw a bunch of security guards anxiously tackle a naked dude who, astonishingly, managed to find his way onto the Ewok Village stage, while doing something that is supposed to make you blind.

What has been your favorite gig over the years?

WR:I haven’t been playing a whole lot of music like this lately, but I do a party called Stars & Muscles with DJ Pump, where we play mostly house and disco, and it really is one of my favourite parties to do. It’s always full of people I know and love. Really good looking crowd. Fun music. I’ve had some memorable moments there.

Do you have any pre-set routines to get yourself warmed up?

WR: I’ll usually just clip some of my hair to a voodoo doll and dip it in the toilet a couple times.

What artists are you listening to now? What inspires you to keep progressing?

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I wanna make cool sounding shit that doesn’t sound too much like the stuff I’ve done before.[/quote] WR: Blawan is such a fuckin wildly good producer. I’m really digging Marcus Intalex’s new alias, Trevino. I’m, as ever, a huge Hrdvsion fan. Anything Boddika does. Eli Escobar, again. I like Randomer a lot. I think Nautiluss is doing really cool shit. I’m a huge fan of what the Lighta! dudes in Vancouver are up to. Man, there’s really just so much good music. Classixx, I love a lot too. As for what inspires me to keep progressing, I’d say it’s the long bouts of not progressing at all, and then something happens. I dunno. I wanna make cool sounding shit that doesn’t sound too much like the stuff I’ve done before.

You’ve played with some amazing talent over the years. Who are some of your favorites acts you’ve played with as Wax Romeo?

WR: Eli Escobar is a great dj and producer, and I’ve always had fun when he plays. In Flagranti was a highlight. I was really impressed with the caliber of Fake Blood’s djing. Jacques Renault played really fun shit. Classixx, again, always plays such a great vibey set.

You have been DJing now for quite some time. As someone in the industry, what’s your perspective on current bass/electronic music culture?

WR: I think it’s in a weird place. There’s this whole EDM circus shit going on, with kids who just wanna go outta-their-heads mental, watching DJs who stand on the turntables or throw cakes into the crowd like they’re fuckin’ Gallagher. Then on the other hand there’s the there’s the nightclub Nardwuars, who are like the dance music equivalent of backpack rap dudes, who suck the fun out of it in a very similar way. But other than that, I’d say things are awesome. People are making the best music ever. People are DJing really well. People are having a nice time.

The album Heavenz 2 Murgatroyd seems to be a blending of multiple styles, genres, and production techniques, yet still keeps a consistent tone throughout the track list. Was this something you were conscious of when you were making the album?

WR: I think I was conscious of it. I had made, or at least started on about 7 of the 14 tunes when I decided I wanted to do an album, and I think I felt like they sounded coherent enough as a group that I could do one. Also, I kinda did the shit with an assembly line mentality. I didn’t finish anything before moving on to the next one. They were sort of all in the same stage of production the whole time, if that makes sense. When I started wrapping them up, they were all pretty close to the same stage, so it was like “bang, bang, bang.” That probably accounts for some of the consistent tone.

You used to produce on an Akai MPC2000XL (which I remember trying to buy off you in the early 2000’s hahaha), now your go to production weapon is Apple’s Logic. Can you explain a bit of the production process on the album? Also, how long did the album take to produce?

WR: Dude, I wish I had sold it to you! It’s kinda funny what happened to it. It got stolen from a party we had at the Homebreakin stuido. The reason it had been there is that I was recording some beats off the MPC, which was my main module, and I would start every tune with that. So it was gone and I was fucked, cause I had like 8 million floppies with beats on them, all colour-coded and held together with elastics. So, I bought a new computer and Logic with a little more money than I woulda spent on a new MPC, and it was the best shit I ever did! I love Logic. It was always so intuitive for me. Most DAWs are pretty much the same nowadays, with the only real difference being the specifics as far as workflow; and Logic is the one that suits me the best. But, I have been using Ableton more and more for little things, via ReWire.

I worked on the album on and off for a bout 10 months.

Can you describe your studio setup at the present? How has it changed over the years?

WR: I’m pretty much just using Logic, inside the box. I started out with the MPC controlling a few different synths, and then I’d have to pay some nerd to record it. Oh, and between the two, I fucked around with Cubase, which I always thought I hated, but in hindsight, it was most likely due to the fact that it was a cracked copy and as glitchy as glitchy can be, if I remember correctly.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I love the idea of being able to present something that is unique to you, and not just playing the same 75 tracks that anyone else can get their hands on[/quote]Have you given much thought how you are going to deliver the album live? Strictly a dj set, or are you considering using Ableton to play-out?

WR: I am 100% going to do a Live show. I am going to separate all the tracks into their stems and set up an Ableton Live performance. Without a doubt. This is something that kind of intimidates me, because I’ve not done it, but I’m looking forward to it immensely. I love the idea of being able to present something that is unique to you, and not just playing the same 75 tracks that anyone else can get their hands on nowadays. I really like the idea of The Bridge, which is the collaboration between Serato and Ableton. So, if your live set is not going so hot, you can just switch to DJing for a bit. Another thing that excites me about playing live, is that I do work in the same few keys a lot (it just happens), so it would be very easy to mix and match parts of different songs, or even use parts of unfinished work. So yeah, I’m excited to do this as well.

You have seen the industry change from CDJs through Serato, and now through the controllerist movement. How has technology shaped how you dj? What is your perspective on current DJ technology? Are there any pieces of kit you see yourself incorporating in your sets as time goes on?

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]I’m fucking done with turntables. Good riddance. I can’t see any reason to go back to them.[/quote] WR: I’m fucking done with turntables. Good riddance. I can’t see any reason to go back to them. I kind of feel the same about Serato. I switched to the CDJs a couple years ago, and I love them. No needles, no dust, no problem. Now with the CDJ’s you can even just plug in a data key, and you’re good to go. Pioneer has this software called Rekordbox, which allows you to manage your folders and set up loops and cue points, so it has everything that Serato does.

To be honest, I’m really surprised that more people haven’t made this switch. Vinyl is cool for finding samples, or listening to your collection of old shit at home, but I can’t see the point in buying new records. Records end up stinking after a while too, even if they were always yours, they wind up smelling like an ugly divorce that some total stranger had 30 years ago.

As for incorporating new gear… for the Live set, I would like to do it with as little extra bullshit as possible. Maybe down the road once I’m comfortable with it to the point that I’m bored, I’ll toss in some extra shit, but it’s more important to me to have a solid, dependable live routine than it is to be fucking around with light-up buttons and goddamn infinity knobs. That new Push controller for Ableton looks really cool tho.

What does 2013 hold for Wax Romeo? What future projects or gigs are you excited for?

I’m gonna be doing DJ gigs whenever and wherever I can to support my album, Heavenz 2 Murgatroyd. Also, there’s gonna be a remix album where all the tracks get remixed, so I’m getting all that together. I’m actually really amped on that, and there’s gonna be a really wide variety of remixes done. I’ve got another sizable batch of tunes I’m about to finish off. So, I wanna group those up over the next little while, and send them out to various labels, which is something that I’ve not done as much in the past. I wanna do a lot of remixes this year. I did a bunch in the last couple months, and I love doing them. The hard part is already done, and it’s like playing a video game.

I’d like to start working on another album in the spring, so I think there will be a lot of running around and trying to find vocalists to work with this time around. Other than that, not too much. I’ll be DJing a lot and making a lot of music that hopefully sounds better.

A big thanks to Wax Romeo for spending some time with us! 

 Get his album HEAVENZ 2 MURGATROYD on beatport! 

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Student/Crate Digger/Visual Artist/Turntablist/Beatboxer, born and raised in the Calgary area. "Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth." -Alan Watts

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