New Year’s is a festive time of year. We celebrate and ring in a new year with close friends and family. Some of us may celebrate at home and others may do this on the dance floor.
During the interview I learned that although Wesley and Serving Ovahness have never met in person, their connection runs deep. They used to run in the same circles, have mutual friends and associates, they share a love for music, and have fond memories of a time when clubbing was an experience and you’d be taken on a journey by the DJ.
I spoke with Serving Ovahness aka Brian to get his thoughts on the state of music and nightlife and how it’s changed since the golden days of clubbing in the 90’s.
Brian grew up in New York City and is no stranger to the arts and music. He learned to play the piano at age six and took up the drums in high school. And musical talents run in the family as he has two aunts who are singers, one classically focused and one in musical theater. Although he had a penchant for music and the arts, he ultimately decided to take the non-artistic route and studied economics and art history at Dartmouth.
He came of age in New York City during the 90’s, the golden age of clubbing. Brian recalls clubbing as an experience. Going to places like Twilo, Palladium, Sound Factory, or the Tunnel were all about going on a journey while you were in the hands of the DJ for the evening. Back then Brian says you went out because you were committed to the DJ and the DJ’s music and the experience you’d have. He says today it’s less about being committed to one particular DJ and sound. Nowadays people follow the crowd and the “host” of the party.
Brian pays homage to renowned DJ Junior Vasquez by stating that Junior’s music was unique and no one was playing the way he was. “You wouldn’t hear his stuff played by anyone else,” says Brian. Serving Ovahness’ goal is similar to Junior’s in that he attempts to communicate his thoughts and feelings through his music. He takes his audience on a journey for the night.
In the early 2000’s Brian felt that the role of the DJ and music in general was being transformed in such a way he was drawn to return to his musical roots. Serving Ovahness was born. I asked him where the name came from and he explained there may be a bit of a misconception in understanding this. Some have said that he’s proclaiming being better than others, however, the reality is Brian sees his role as DJ as “serving” the audience unique beats and sounds that are “ovah,” thus “Serving Ovahness.”
Serving Ovahness shared that there are a lot more DJs out there than there were in the 90’s making the environment quite competitive. The challenge today is for DJs to find and serve music that is uniquely theirs; something that is new and not cookie-cutter. One trend Ovahness has identified that is tied to that challenge is that there has been a growing interest in the U.S. to “import parties” from places like Spain. Party-goers have become increasingly interested in a particular party or host, rather than the sound and experience offered by a particular DJ.
As different generations of party-goers have become more global, Ovahness says there is a weakening sense of local identity and flavor which he would like to see brought back. He believes some locale’s have lost their uniqueness or edginess to be known for a particular sound. “Japan is where New York City was in the early 2000’s in terms of sound.” Madrid caters to progressive house, and Ibiza style, “pool party” music. “Berlin, however, still has a very strong local sound, Berlin House,” shares Ovahness.
So what is Serving Ovahness up to these days? Living a bi-coastal life, he’s energizing and defining the afterhours scene in LA with Reload since early 2000. He’s traveling the world delivering progressive tribal house to his audiences. And this New Year’s Eve he will be spinning on the main floor at NYC’s XL Nightclub. He will continue to love people and the interaction they have with his dance floor. As he says, “it’s about the music.”