Joe Pompeo is one of those artists that has made an impact with his platform in the New York dance music industry. He’s known for his creativity blending elements in house music. The insanely talented DJ and producer express his passion through his love of the genre. This statue of talent gained two releases on Green Velvet/ Cajmere’s infamous Cajual Records, plus Salted Music, Beatdown, Nervous, and airplay on Radio 1 by Annie Mac. His first Salted release “Try to Love Me” was remixed by Miguel Migs and licensed to Miguel’s second “Get Salted” mix compilation. He has a unique talent in his production and DJ sets and a long-running DJ residency at multiple popular nightclubs such as TBA Brooklyn, Ceilo, Output, and Sullivan Room. He has played alongside Charles Meyer, Detlef, and others at multiple elrow New York residency events. Pompeo is the type of artist that pushes boundaries and extends the bar of performance. Taking over the decks and the crowd in the perfect formality takes specific expertise to do it the right way. His form of mixing and transitioning each track in every set in the art of craft makes him the unique underground artist Pompeo is known for. Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the underground DJ and producer. Digging deeper into the minds of one of New York's well-known artists and getting to know more Joe Pompeo. The humble and laid-back artist spoke about the challenges and the perks of being a DJ in the beginning and today’s music scene, how New York dance music shaped him as an artist, and new music in the works.
“You end up with the people who think they should be listening to you, wanting to hear you play those big tunes that they've heard, and then it becomes soulless. You become a jukebox. I want to play my style of music inspired by the New York scene of the 90s, Chicago House, a little bit of acid, a little bit like European techno mixed up what you want.”
It always didn’t start easy, it usually never is easy to make a famous name, especially as DJ and music producer. Even twenty, thirty, and forty years ago when there was no social media or barely any internet. “Back then it was definitely tougher in the early 2000s. You had to have a lot of money to open a studio. You couldn't just have a computer as you can nowadays and download some software. It was more hardware-based, so it was a little bit more difficult. You had to get in and do that,” said Joe Pompeo. Making music and getting music out to the public as a DJ is tricky, artists had to be original and come up with effective ideas. Although back then not too many cared about the artist and the name as people take so seriously and aggressively today. Only if you were the original O.G. legends like Paul van Dyk, Frankie Knuckles, and Danny Tenaglia. “So we went out one night and they took me up to see Danny Tanaglia at Vinyl. People say they have an eye-opening moment, and it was just, that was it. I remember going out that one night and saying like, holy shit, this is good stuff. I want to do this. I want this to be a part of my life." So yeah, that's kind of how I got into the whole dance music thing.” At that moment Joe Pompeo’s life was changed. He carefully tabled and experimented with different sounds and baselines to create his own original style. He slowly crafted together tracks on different labels, getting his name throughout the dance community and industry. Labels such as New York’s top house music label Rawsome Recordings, Space Invaders, and mentioned before on Cajmere’s infamous Cajual Records with his EP ‘Keep it Up’. This was one of Pompeo’s favorite pieces of work and label it with work. “It's definitely Casual. I had the most success from that label. It was great to have Sunny Federa introduce me to Green Velvet/ Cashmere. So that was really cool. It was great to work with him. He gave a lot of good feedback on the tracks. But yeah, it was definitely my favorite label to work with by far.” Then it was asked if would he consider releasing music again on Cajual Records. “Yes, I would love to. He doesn't really do Casual too much anymore.”
Joe Pompeo has been making an impact both stateside and overseas via his DJ sets and productions. Well known for blending house and tech house elements, Joe has created a unique production style, earning him fast support from top international DJs. As was said before he enjoyed dabbling with different sounds to stand out. “I like evolving as an artist, but sometimes to go in a direction from, Oh, I'm playing house and now I'm playing borderline techno because that's essentially what he does. I feel like that would be too much of a drastic shift. Well, I would love to get on Relief. I just feel like I'd rather stay true to my sound and not do that.”
During his career as a DJ and a producer, he faced some struggles from an emerging artist to a well-known resident. Learning to face those struggles and overcome them as a DJ can be difficult constantly overcoming obstacles every day, testing yourself and as an artist. Plus not get lost in the famous and all the perks that come along with being an all-around DJ and producer. It is hard to fall off and it's hard to stay afloat, consistently keep up with the crowd, and stay true to your sound. Pompeo faces all these challenges every day as an artist and stays social, and maintains a good image.
“The hardest part is probably the, I don't want to use the word struggle because it's not a struggle, but just the constant struggle and the pressure you put on yourself to want to do good and achieve and do better. I think that's kind of the hardest part. There are a lot of aspects to it too, especially in dance music. Having to go out and be social all the time as well. That becomes a little bit of a challenge at times, just because you have to have so much time to do so many different things. But yeah, definitely that's the hardest part.”
“The best part, I guess, is just the reward that comes with it. Obviously, if you make a good song, if either a big DJ plays it or it does well on Beatport, that's always rewarding especially. No one really knows how long the artist put into, the time they put in a single track, which these days is very easily disposable. Something's cool for a week or two, and then no one's really going to hear it after that unless it's a really good song. That's the rewarding part.”
Throughout the years he established a name in the New York City dance community and it was then Pompeo continued to perform at iconic nightclubs and gain tight support and following. “I think just the community in New York is super, super strong.” Especially in house music where he thrived mainly and tech house. Although some of the top nightclubs he played at are unfortunately shut down for good. As DJs and producers evolve so does the nightlife. “I would say Vinyl. He talks about his favorite old clubs and his favorite moments. A lot of people don't know what Vinyl is. So Vinyl was a little club on Hubert Street in Manhattan, down in the East Village. It was strictly an after-hours club that had no liquor license. That's where I heard Tenaglia play first and it was just a small room. It had a low ceiling, but it had an amazing sound. And the lights in there, it's hard to explain. It's hard to say, "Oh wow. The lights in the place were amazing. It really made it." I kind of judge every club that I go to after Vinyl. I can't find anything like it. Maybe because it was just the first venue I went to, but it was a really, really good place. Cielo would definitely be second on the list because we held the residency there for a couple of years. Output was also a great venue. I played there a lot as well, but I definitely, yeah, I definitely like Cielo. I would say. Not like it, but I would want Cielo to come back.”
The process of making a track can be different for every artist, everyday life, nature or a meaningful memory are all elements of inspiration for a DJ and producer. Throughout Pompeo’s epic DJ performances and massive bangers, the process of making a track and the inspiration behind them are unique. “So the inspiration for a track, it comes in many different forms, I think. I might find a vocal sample that says, "Oh wow, I like this. I want to use this for a song that I'm working on." Or I hear a sound from a synthesizer that I'm just kind of playing around with or something. I wouldn't say there's a direct inspiration for my music and say, "Oh, this is what I pull off of for every track I make." It kind of just comes in various forms. And that'll kind of inspire me to say, "Hey, let me do this." If I hear a cool loop or anything.”
Pompeo has worked with many artists before and has been on multiple compilations but who is his all-time dream collaboration? “High up on the list would definitely be Darius Syrossian. I really like him. I like all the stuff he puts out on Moxie Muzik. Darius is awesome! Guys like Latinum or Detlef, I really like that kind of sound. It would be awesome to collaborate with him. Obviously to do something with Green Velvet/ Cashmere remixed one of my songs. But to actually work on a track with him, I think would be kind of a next-level vibe. Danny Tanaglia. would definitely be up there as well.”
Over the years, and with his hard work and dedication, Joe Pompeo has become a main staple in the New York City dance music industry. “It's good. It's a lot of fun. It definitely is a lot of fun. It was awesome that people and the perks! Yeah, there's definitely always some perks. Not having to pay to get into any clubs is always fun. I can say I haven't done that in a long time.”
“Obviously just the people. I enjoy going out sometimes and seeing people I haven't seen in five or so years or a long time, or just reconnecting with them and everything like that. I think just the community in New York is super, super strong. And I've met so many people and have so many friends just from a kick and a snare drum. Put that in simplest terms, so yeah. I really think that's a big perk. People don't understand why. It's the music industry and stuff, but just the community and everything, I think is a big part of it, and I like that”
From one upcoming DJ and producer to a professional, here are some inspirational words from Joe Pompeo for the next generation of house music artists in the New York City community. Any advice in the industry can be helpful to anyone trying to get their foot in the door or moving to the next step. “I mean, just be true to your sound. Definitely, you're going to have to put in a lot of work. Definitely going to have to go out and learn how to network. And there are definitely a lot more factors in the game now as having good social media obviously helps. You can't just be a good DJ and then that's it. You know, you have to do everything and you have to be ready to do it yourself in the beginning. So just be ready to work.”
So crunchy or soft tacos?
"Oh, crunchy Tacos."
Eat out or cook at home?
"Definitely eat out. I never cook at home it's so rare. I eat out."
Football or football, like soccer.
"Soccer, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Big soccer fan!"
Coffee or tea?
Club sets or festival sets?
"Club sets a hundred percent!"
'90s techno house music or today's music?
"Today's music, yeah. The '90s were cool, but definitely, today's music is better. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Better produced."
Fly or drive?
Fly! I hate driving.
Vinyl or DJ programs?
"I play off USB sticks. I would love to play on vinyl again. While I love the mobility of a USB stick. Not carrying around crates of records. There was just something cool about playing on vinyl."
Backstage or dancing in the crowd?
“I do like going out into the crowd and dancing and hearing the sound of the club or the venue that I'm at. Just seeing everything. Yeah, exactly. But yes, when it comes to just having some room and your own bathroom or whatever they have back there. I'm mainly backstage but sometimes I'll like to walk around.”:
Early set or a late set?
“Both, to be honest with you both because I have a lot of early music that I would love to play that I don't necessarily get a chance to play if I was playing a later set. But obviously, the later set has better energy and more people. So both. I don't prefer one or the other, but I would never want to cut out an early set from playing them. Yeah. Yeah. I don't mind playing chill kind of opening stuff.”
Warehouse or nightclub?
“Definitely a nightclub. The warehouse serves its purpose and it's cool, but I definitely prefer a nightclub.”
Normal hours or after hours?
“Normal hours. After-hours are few and far between for me these days. But yeah, I'd definitely rather go home at four. Nothing really productive happens after hours. But yeah, it's still fun after hours, especially in New York. You can't be in New York after hours, I'll tell you that.”