DJ Frank Wild is a globetrotting DJ who hails from a different world. Though he always lived for the dancefloor back in his native New York City, he was also vice president at an advertising agency, a life with little time leftover for pursuing his dream of becoming a mixmaster.
It wasn't until he moved to San Francisco in 1998 that his life as a DJ began. Promoter Gus Bean gave him his first break, with gigs at Orgy, Giant, Metropolis, and Mass. From there Wild got the attention of DJ Luke Johnstone, who set him up with appearances at Dragon and Thick (Club Ei8ht). Wild also has teamed up with DJ Hawthorne, who added him to the DJ roster at The EndUp, where he's known for his afterhours and sunrise sets. In 2007, he was selected by readers of San Francisco magazine 7x7 as one of the city's five favorite DJs in the annual Boogie Knights contest.
Wild's style combines progressive house and tribal for a sexy ride that "goes deep but always returns to the light." The ambiance he builds through his sets combine uplifting energy with a dark and nasty side, creating a total experience that keeps both brain and your body moving.
He's also got international flavor. Splitting his time between his home bases of San Francisco and Berlin, Wild recently signed with a DJ agency in Europe and is reaching for his dream of becoming an international touring DJ who spreads the sound of San Francisco, while importing the best beats from his travels back to his home dancefloors.
Check out Frank Wild at the Endup on the 15th, before he goes to Miami and Berlin. He's back at the Endup for the sunrise set on the 28th of March, and headlines Thick after the Paradise t-dance with Kimberly S. on the 29th. Thick typically takes place after Paradise, Fresh, and H.O.M., San Francisco's newest t-dance, and Wild is also on deck to spin at Andre Shannon's Pornstar in April. At the end of July, he'll play at the Out Games in Copenhagen, and in August he'll spin in Hawaii.
Frank Wild also happens to be TobyGo's guest DJ for the month of February. Check out his Top 10 songs at:
How did you go from being a high-powered exec to being a start-up DJ?
I've had a love of dance music from age 18, when I started going out to really good clubs in New York City. I wasn't a club kid, but I was a member of The Saint (Black Party) for 8 years, and at the time there was no better club experience, on a consistent level, in the United States.
I would actually bring pen and paper to the club and ask DJs what songs they were playing, and even got really good at looking over the DJ booth and reading the label on a record as it was spinning.
I started developing relationships with different DJs, but I never really thought I could be on the other side of the turntables, and I never really had enough time to devote to it because of my career. When I moved to San Francisco and had a downsized job with more structure, I would come home every day and toy with the turntables. Eventually I got comfortable with it and started making demo CDs, mostly for friends. I sent the demos around the world seeking input, and it wasn't until about 6 years ago that I felt comfortable enough to send the demos to clubs. I started small.
And now you're an international DJ with residencies abroad. How did that happen?
My partner and I always loved Europe for vacation, and eventually we bought a place in Berlin, which is a really fun city with a fantastic club scene. Through some of my acquaintances who were DJs, I started making connections with promoters and club owners. In a way it was a very natural evolution.
How is your sound influenced by all the traveling you do?
Playing in Berlin helped me realize that I can be much more experimental with my style. I really started trying to go back into my archives. I have so much music that I had forgotten about!
I'm always telling my DJ friends that they should definitely travel, because in the U.S. you can sort of get into this bubble. Going to places like Amsterdam and Paris opens your eyes and your ears to this whole other capacity. A city like London, for example, has such a variety of club scenes that you can really learn so much from everything you hear. It makes me want to get cross-pollinate more. I want to go there more, and I want other DJs to want to come here, so that they can be similarly influenced.
What are some of the surprising things you've learned from spinning overseas?
One interesting thing I learned in Berlin, from spinning at a party called SexDance, is how to stay focused while I'm DJing. I've discovered that it's either a sex party with dancing or a dance party with sex, and when it's the latter it can be quite distracting! In that atmosphere, if I play a screaming diva, it just won't work. It's all about creating a sexy mood, but at the same time you have keep the energy going.
When everyone is at a venue for one reason, it's a whole different approach to how you play. You can only do so much when there's no dancing. I played at a rubber event on a leather weekend once, and no one was dancing. But then it occurred to me, would you want to dance in a gas mask? I learned that I needed to cater to a rubber party with music, more than a dance party with rubber.
But I'm often surprised at home as well. I recently played at a leather club in Seattle called The Cuff. Guys in full-on leather were requesting Kelly Clarkson!
What's unique about spinning in San Francisco?
In San Francisco, what I spin is more about club I'm in than the city I'm in. As afterhours-style as I play at Thick, I can still play harder in Berlin. They still have a huge techno scene, so to play harder is not unusual.
I'm always hunting and pecking for something unique when I play in San Francisco, but I know that it also has to be applicable to the places I'm playing, and it also has to fit my personal style.
When I play at Thick (Club Ei8ght), I try to introduce a high percentage of new stuff every time, because I feel like I can. The crowd is receptive. And for those gigs, I was inspired by Phil B. He did Mass for many years, and kept people coming back 12 times a year to the same venue to hear the same person. It's made me really think about how I can do the same gig so many times and still keep it up to my own standards of fresh, new music.
The Endup inspires me in a different way. It's a mainstay of the San Francisco scene, with an eclectic crowd that's really into the music. There's always a group of people who stand at the DJ booth and watch like they're at a concert, which is really invigorating. When there's people facing you and reacting, it's more motivating even than watching people dance.
Thick and The Endup represent the 2 sides to my sound. At Thick, it's an afterhours party, so I spin a lot of tribal, Latin, sexy, stuff, which I absolutely love. It's what I'd want to dance to.
The Endup, on the other hand, has tapped into this other side of my sound. It's a more pure house style, and it's a combo of a lot of things, with a little bit of trance, some electro, and some disco. It just has to have this groove to it, which is hard to describe unless you've been there.
Even though tribal comes naturally out of me, I love the Endup sound equally. I find it much more challenging, though, which I really like, because when I prepare for the Endup, my thought process is totally different. I think about every song like it's the most important word in the sentence, and that's paid off.
I know I've seen you grooving and dancing while you're spinning. What kind of sound really gets you going?
Well, knowing how fantastic I've felt as a clubgoer, my goal is to be able to re-create that feeling for others. Generally, I take my inspiration more from the songs than the crowd. I don't play a song just because it's popular. I really have to love it and it has to move ME. I'm always asking myself "What would I want to hear right now?"
Vocals are a huge part of the selection, because sometimes you can have the best song, and the best mix, with the best beat, and it can have a really bad vocal. I like vocals that get me to a point where I can't control whether I'm dancing along or not.
What's your process for selecting just the right song?
I divide my day into thirds. One third is serious music shopping, and if I have a particular gig coming up, I focus on shopping for that. It's an endless process, because once I find the song, I listen to it several times before I actually put it into my book.
The second third of my day is rehearsing and practicing, which involves figuring out which songs go together, and when in the night I should I play a particular song.
The final third of my day is promoting myself, making contacts, and networking. That's the hardest part for me, despite my background in advertising. The best thing I can say about it is that Facebook is your friend.
You're a pure DJ rather than a DJ-remixer. Do you ever think about remixing?
These days it's almost required that DJs dive into that. Agents are keen on pushing DJs into that market, because so many of them have started a record label as part of their company, and it's all about how they can market you. But I don't always think it's a natural thing for a DJ to become a remixer.
At the moment I just consider myself a DJ. But there is one Macy Gray song that I'm dying to remix one day. She's got a very emotional voice. It's not necessarily a beautiful voice, but it hits me. I've got ideas in my head about it.
Who are some of the remixers that are influencing your sound now?
Right now I love a lot of the Latin remix artists, like Edson Pride, Alex Acosta, Isaac Escalante, and Gustavo Scorpio. Their sound just resonates with me.
I'm also really inspired by Rio de Janeiro. Between Rio and Sao Paulo, they give birth to some of the most fantastic DJs who exist now. I also love a lot of Mexican DJs.
What's your dream gig?
Hopping between continents and balancing the two is my goal, would love to expand more in the US, 3 or 4 big trips to Europe, then I can tour
Anything in Ibiza! It's just a dream venue. If you haven't been before, I just don't know how to tell you about it other than you'll come back a changed person. I've been 5 times in the last 6 years. It's addictive, the zenith of the club scene. You can go to a club on a Monday night and there will be over 10,000 people there dancing. It's a mix of straight, gay, and whatever, and they're all screaming and dancing together. The bottom line is that they are all just music lovers.
I've got a whole list of dream gigs, though - the White Party Miami, any Saint at Large party, Queen's Day in Amsterdam, Gay Pride in Madrid. Those would be amazing experiences.
Sounds like the dance circuit is alive and well overseas, whereas many people feel it is on the decline in America. Would you agree?
There's definitely a generational thing going on in America, but I've found that younger gays who actually venture to circuit parties like Winter Party and Alegria, they get hooked. They realize there's more than just a 3-minute radio mix of the songs they love, and that you can have a full experience when those songs are remixed and woven into a journey on the dancefloor.
Promoters these days cater to the young crowd with smaller clubs and bars, but I think they just need to push the younger crowd in the right direction. I think the younger crowd would enjoy the experience more than what's being pushed at them.
I also think it's interesting that a lot of the older circuit guys are getting into gay cruises. While I totally get it that there's camaraderie on board, I just don't think you can get the feel of a foreign city on a cruise, especially if you like clubbing when you travel. Don't get me wrong. I would love to DJ on one of those ships, but you can't mimic Ibiza!