As we celebrate 20 years of Nocturnal Wonderland, Headliners are preparing to experience some of the hottest acts across the electronic music spectrum. Longtime ravers recognize a plethora of old-school DJ legends on the lineup, but if you’re newer to the scene, a little education may be in order to expand your musical horizons. If you’re looking to take a journey in addition to the road usually traveled, add a few of the following to your daily schedule.
If you like Datsik, check out DJ Marky, Armanni Reign, R.A.W.
Datsik is known for bringing the bass to melt your face since emerging on the scene with his first release in 2009, subsequently racking up 10 Beatport #1s that same year. His self-described “dark and robotic, funky and gangster, dirty” sounds permeate with fans looking to work up a sweat dancing as hard as the subs hit. His Ninja Squad of followers grew with him as he expanded his arsenal and dipped into “new bass hip-hop” as well. Datsik dropped his Down 4 My Ninjas EP last year, so he may drop a few of those cuts at Nocturnal.
From: São Paulo, Brazil
Releases on: Innerground Records, BBE, V Recordings
Why we like him: Before many attendees of this year’s Nocturnal Wonderland were even born, Marco Antonio Silva was behind the decks in the early ‘90s, delving into hardcore, jungle and ultimately drum & bass. In addition to holding it down for 10 years with a residency at Lov.e in São Paulo, his label, Innerground, has been going strong since 2003 for the drum & bass community.
Listen to this: DJ Marky made his big international splash when he teamed up with XRS for the warm, uplifting and fast-paced “LK,” featuring Stamina MC. The track nabbed a top-20 spot on the UK charts, an appearance on Top of the Pops, and multi-continental tour stops.
From: Philadelphia, PA
Releases on: RAM Records, Sine Language, Rottun
Why we like him: When you’ve got the right MC flowing, the energy can only go up, and veteran Armanni Reign has definitely earned the “Master” part of his job title. He’s battled his way through the scene and even spent three consecutive months as the “Cypha” champion on Philly 103.9 FM. But when he was introduced to drum & bass in 2000, a whole new world opened up and put him on the path to be one of the most-known lyricists in the scene, providing rhymes and flow for not only D&B beats, but dubstep and hip-hop as well. He’s performed across many festival stages—EDC, Ultra, Nocturnal Wonderland—as well as alongside Dieselboy, Andy C, DJ Craze and more.
Listen to this: Though Armanni Reign could weave his lyrics into any beat without taking a breath, get dirty and gruff with his recently released collaboration with Mantis, “Warmonger,” out on Downlink’s Uplink Audio label.
From: Los Angeles, CA
Releases on: Warner Bros., Priority, N20
Why we like him: Quite simply, he’s the king of the L.A. jungle. Since 1992, he’s kept the subculture dancing to the sound the younger generation has only limited—if any—exposure to, and that’s the fast-paced tunes that keep you on your toes in the form of jungle. Veterans have caught his sets at EDC, Coachella and more, plus he’s toured internationally and counts more than 50 releases under his belt, spanning jungle, hardcore and D&B. Additional productions are in his arsenal under aliases 6Blocc and Skanx. R.A.W. was even the first DJ to win a battle using drum & bass records, circa 1998.
Listen to this: Via his alias Skanx, the track “Afrika” on Sub Slayers rose to the #1 spot on TrackItDown.net and gives you a taste of future jungle that intertwines with a bit of retro swankiness and soul.
If you like Nicole Moudaber, check out DJ Trance, Alan Fitzpatrick, Bart Skils
The techno goddess Nicole Moudaber has proved herself a titan in what is predominately a boys’ club. Thanks to some love from friend and mentor Carl Cox in 2009, when he declared her “the most-underrated DJ,” people started taking notice. Upon releasing her debut album Believe on the famed Drumcode label, it rose to #1 on Beatport and cemented her as a respected force and tastemaker in techno. Moudaber’s Breed EP is out September 18, but you can watch the video for the single “You Like This” with Skin now.
From: Los Angeles, CA
Releases on: Bassex, Fiveleg, Life Music
Why we like him: Jason Blakemore, aka DJ Trance, doesn’t actually spin trance music—he’s had that name since he started out in 1992, before the specific genre was really a thing. Nay, DJ Trance is an O.G. from the L.A. house and rave scene and has every major SoCal festival on his résumé, such as EDC, Nocturnal and Coachella. He’s collaborated with 6Blocc (aka R.A.W.), Markus Schulz and the Chemical Brothers, and his sets are a flurry of mixing and working the tables like an old-school DJ should, while bringing in tech house for his current incarnation as Jason Blakemore.
Listen to this: Jason Blakemore presents a dark and deep remix of Zack Highwire’s “Mind, Hearts, Lies” with a futuristic, spacey nuance in his Lurky Dub version, out on Whiskey Pickle Records.
From: Southampton, UK
Releases on: Drumcode, Cocoon, Hotflush
Why we like him: Alan Fitzpatrick first dipped his toes into the techno waters circa 2008 and worked his way up the ranks to debut on the respected Resident Advisor’s Top 100 poll at #85 in 2014. But Fitzpatrick is more than just techno; he seamlessly weaves in house, breakbeats, dub and electronica nuances.
Listen to this: Fitzpatrick’s biggest hit thus far was his 2014 remix of Trus’me’s “I Want You.” With the catchy hook “deep inside of you,” it became a must-have for DJs’ crates and Ibiza playlists.
From: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Releases on: Drumcode, Cocoon, 100% Pure
Why we like him: Being that Bart Skils has remixed Nicole Moudaber, he should be a shoo-in new favorite if you’re already a fan of her. Fueling the dancefloors with techno since the ‘90s, his longtime Voltt nights at Paradiso welcomed many of the early techno stars, ultimately spurring his own Voltt Love Summer outdoor festival in Amsterdam every year.
Listen to this: Bart Skils recently released a four-track EP on Drumcode, titled Lost Boys. The title track is a grooving, chugging, slow build, with the stirring energy rising and elevating as each second passes.
If you like Pretty Lights, check out Z-Trip, DJ Jazzy Jeff, the Beat Junkies
The art of DJing lies in the ability to not only select the right tracks to fit the mood of the party, but to manipulate and present them in unique ways, splicing and dicing samples and sounds for a new music experience. Colorado’s Derek Vincent Smith, aka Pretty Lights, has mastered the technical side and also channels the soul and spirit with surprises and songs to make you sway. Instead of always culling and reimagining tidbits from other artists, his 2013 offering found Pretty Lights recording his own original live music to be pressed on vinyl and sampled for A Color Map of the Sun. Plus, you have to love an artist who lets you donate whatever you’d like for their music.
From: Phoenix, AZ
Releases on: Interscope, Island Records, Hollywood Records
Why we love him: Z-Trip is, quite simply, the man. He pioneered mashups before they even had a name and can somehow spin any genre on any stage without batting an eye. The DJ/producer born Zach Sciacca earned early critical acclaim from Rolling Stone, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and more with his 1999 DJ P collaboration Uneasy Listening Vol. 1. He’s played Bonnaroo in front of 70,000 people, he won America’s Best DJ in 2009, and he’s worked with greats such LL Cool J, Public Enemy, MSTRKRFT and Dan the Automator. You can always expect a party during his sets with skills that are second-to-none and full of sampling and scratching surprises.
Listen to this: Z-Trip put his spin on one of Jack White’s many musical endeavors with his take on the Dead Weather’s “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” featuring Slug of Atmosphere. Rock fuses with hip-hop and skilled scratching for a track that’ll make you wanna break everything.
DJ Jazzy Jeff
From: Philadelphia, PA
Releases on: Rapster Records, Groovin’ Records, BBE Records
Why we love him: Younger generations may recognize him only as Will Smith’s sidekick, who got thrown out of uncle Phil’s house on reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But if that was the peak of his career, there’s no way he would have earned the nickname “the Magnificent.” Cutting it up since the ‘80s, he’s one of those legends you should see at least once, and his yearly Summertime mixes with Mick Boogie are a seasonal must.
Listen to this: The true test of a DJ’s prowess is set construction, and Jeff put together a special mix for Insomniac’s Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2015, so settle in and get funky.
The Beat Junkies
From: Los Angeles, CA
Releases on: Beat Junkies Sound, Supercut Recordings
Why we love them: You can’t talk about the art and skill of real DJing without highlighting the Beat Junkies collective. On the scene since the early ‘90s but collecting records since the ‘80s, their mass of vinyl is unparalleled and would make any record-digger coo. J Rocc, Curse, Rhettmatic, DJ What?!, Icy Ice, Melo-D, Symphony, DJ Havik, Tommy Gun, DJ Shortkut, D-Styles, DJ Babu and Mr. Choc are all part of the crew, so expect any combo of world-champion turntablists to take the stage and drop knowledge.
Listen to this: To get a taste of what the Beat Junkies are all about, Rhettmatic dropped Flavors From BeatJunkies.com Vol. 3 for a genre-spanning mix complete with exclusive edits, all available in their record pool.
If you like Kaskade, check out Donald Glaude, Plastic Plates, Speaker of the House
Every West Coast raver must have seen Kaskade at a festival at least once; it’s like a rite of passage. His progressive house washes over the crowd in waves and hits the feels, such as the recently released “Call My Name.”
From: Tacoma, WA
Releases on: Durty Records, Eden Records
Why we love him: Thank Glaude for Donald, because he’s got that insanely high and jubilant energy that exudes from the booth as his headbanging dreadlocks fly and his polished nails work the decks. Though he got his musical start with classical training via the upright bass and violin, his experimentation with tape decks and primitive mixers piqued an interest. Stepping into the booth in the mid ‘80s, he found a home in the Seattle rave scene. When he teamed up for the Funky Techno Tribe with DJ Dan and Ron D Core, the West Coast house sound was solidified. Glaude even had one of the first big DJ residencies in Vegas back in 2005—long before the explosion. Always keeping his fingers digging for the current sound, he’s been known to depart from house into more bass-y territory, so be ready for surprises from this super-skilled spinner.
Listen to this: Glaude’s latest release has him going back to his house roots, combined with some funky soul, sexy horns, fun switch-ups and an undeniable groove.
From: Sydney, Australia
Releases on: Kitsuné, Sony Music Entertainment Netherlands B.V., Ultra Music
Why we love him: Plastic Plates is the DJ/producer alias of musician and songwriter Felix Bloxsom. His studies in jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music led to a career that has seen him performing with superstars Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Empire of the Sun, and many more. As Plastic Plates, he’s remixed the likes of Sia, Adele, Katy Perry, Mark Ronson and Sam Sparro, to name a few.
Listen to this: Speaking of Sam Sparro, Bloxsom grew up with him in Sydney, and Bloxsom’s father and Sparro’s grandfather played in jazz bands together. Now that they’ve reconnected, they’ve collaborated multiple times, including the track “Stay in Love.”
Speaker of the House
From: Philadelphia, PA
Releases on: Ultra Music, Funky Element, 50/50 Records
Why we love him: A rising star in the EDM scene, Dylan Orvell, aka Speaker of the House, is a sound design whiz. He reaches into different genres that stem from his usually more electro house fare to bass and glitch territories, with even a bit of moombahton and trap along with drops to make Headliners go nuts.
Listen to this: With over 3 million plays on SoundCloud, the Speaker of the House remix of Dada Life’s “One Last Night on Earth” is resonating with the masses. It’s a progressive house offering with a touch of garage and a bit of tropical as well.