“I always try to tell people to follow their dreams and don’t get trapped in this vision that other people might have for your life. A lot of people have opinions on what you should do with your life, but it is your life, and if you wanna go out there and do whatever it is you wanna do, we live in a world where that’s possible.”
Doc Brown is a living example of his own mantra. From playing in a high school rock band to holding over a decade of experience behind the decks, music remained his focus ever since picking up a guitar. Studying classical guitar at the University of Miami would prove crucial for his career, both in terms of professional development and creative inspiration. The degree allowed him to gain access to the music industry professionally. The city allowed him to discover a passion for dance music that would later become his legacy.
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“I came to Miami in the mid 90s and prior to that I hadn’t really had any exposure to dance music. At that time South Beach was really blowing up. It had a lot of crazy clubs a lot of European influence. It was really my first exposure to dance music. I don’t know if it was the first club I went to, but one of the first clubs I ever went to was Liquid on Miami Beach. Lasers and lights and people going crazy. I was like, what is this?! I really enjoyed it, so that’s what inspired my passion to get into that music.”
Doc Brown paints a charmingly vintage picture of his initial discovery of dance music. Having bought two 1200s and a Vestax mixer with his first paycheck out of college, he would sift through record shops on Miami Beach. However, it wasn’t until winning competitions to play at EDC Orlando and Groove Cruise, years later, that he describes his career as a DJ “taking off.” He has since maintained his residencies at both festivals and added several other internationally acclaimed events and venues to the list.
The artist’s talent extends to production, with releases under significant labels such as Lapsus Music, Go Deeva, Natura Viva, and Cube Trax. Rich with groovy percussion and rolling basslines, Doc Brown produces his brand of tech house, a genre he defends against popular criticism:
“I don’t necessarily care what genre people want to put my music in. Tech house gets a bad rap because it’s the catch all bin for everything that’s not house or techno which encompasses a wide range of stuff and sometimes not awesome stuff. Genre police are funny to me. All those problems that they talk about, they are in every genre.”
Nonetheless, he is adamant he doesn’t produce for genres or for labels, instead focussing on genuine quality and inspiration, qualities which have undoubtedly been key to creating his own signature sound. These sounds are now captured by his label, Unlearn: Records, launched during the pandemic.
Disappointed with the lack of support offered by labels, Doc Brown founded Unlearn:Records to revolutionize the relationship between artists and labels.
“If you’re going to give away half of something you made to somebody, let’s at least hold them accountable to make sure they are doing everything on their end to maximize the amount of whatever can be achieved with that particular creation.”
The label particularly supports young or new-to-the-scene artists in a conscious effort to combat illiteracy on technical matters like copyright. Indeed, in 2020, Unlearn:Records saw two first-time releases from new artists. The label has also picked up widespread industry support from artists like Jamie Jones, Claptone, Low Steppa, Codes, and Demuir.
This passion project reflects Doc Brown’s determination to create a healthier and more accessible music industry. He describes the pandemic as having opened his eyes and the broader community’s eyes to future avenues for direct monetization.
“A Twitch subscription is a perfect example of that. They [fans] aren’t giving you money for anything, they’re giving you money because they like you and they want you to keep doing what you are doing because it gives them joy. That really made that very real for me. I do think that’s a huge future avenue for musicians and artists in general: being able to directly monetize their fans instead of having to participate in a system that might be somewhat exploitative, and not give away so much of what it is that you created without having that direct return on it. We’ll see how it all works out, I think technology is moving that way, like blockchain technology. A lot of these problems we’ve been having with digital art are slowly going to resolve themselves hopefully over the next five to ten years and that’s really exciting if you’re a young artist or new to the music industry.”
Despite getting stuck into online communities, Doc Brown’s eyes light up when I ask about his return to real dance floors. He has just returned from Groove Cruise, and he excitedly recounts his favorite moments. Amongst these, it seems, he cherishes reunions with all those working behind the scenes. I come away from the interview with the warm feeling that this artist cares about the industry from top to bottom.
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