If you haven’t heard of Bobby DeMarco Jr. yet, it’s only a matter of time. Gridlock Management’s latest recruit, Uncle Bob, has been aggressively building his empire in the New England area over the past few years – with no plans to stop there. From his bookings, to his mix series, podcasts, and eponymous Uncle Bob Presents event partnerships in multiple cities, this Massachusetts DJ/event producer lets absolutely nothing obstruct his dreams of expanding his brand nationwide. When one door closes, he plows through the wall to make another way – “no” is never the final answer. We were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to pick his brain about what drives his ambition and fuels his desire to be so successful. Check it out!
The Wook of Wall Street: Tell me about the moment that got you into the EDM scene. What was the catalyst that let you know this was something you wanted to immerse yourself in?
Uncle Bob: I have always been a music lover, a fan, and musician; grew up on classic rock, motown, and hip hop. I had a passion for new types of music, too. I was attending UMass Amherst in 2009 and my international friends on the rugby team with me were all going to see this Bassnectar guy at Pearl Street in North Hampton – a small venue with like a 400 person cap. It was my first real DJ/EDM show and I was blown away by his performance and interaction with the crowd. The feelings he evoked from me were something other wordly and all I wanted to do was know more. After that, it was guys like Kaskade, Prydz, Deadmau5, Claude, Pretty Lights, and Skrillex that really propelled me full force into EDM.
TWOW: Ok let’s backtrack for a second. You mentioned you’ve always been a musician, and I’ve seen the videos of you jamming out on guitar, did you originally want to pursue music in a band or is this something you were just taught as a kid?
UB: I can trace my performing all the way back to 6th grade so, yes, I always wanted to perform and pursue music in some fashion. While kids were making PowerPoints for presentations, my boy and I made creative raps with homemade beats and performed them in class. My dad gave me a guitar at 13 and I’ve played it since – I can drum as well! Throughout high school and college, I’ve always played in bands: an original band, a Rage Against the Machine cover band, and my own personal acoustic project. I never produced music, but was always writing music, songs, lyrics, and poetry.
Unfortunately, at one point in college, I had my laptop stolen from me with all of my personal music creations on it (not backed up of course) and I really lost touch with my musical interest; I didn’t play or write music for a couple of years. To be honest, in 2012 I saw Phish for the first time and they truly inspired me to get back into music. Around this time, EDM was at its height (and I was having a hard time finding committed musicians) so the perfect storm was there for me to start DJing solo in 2013.
TWOW: That’s something I’ve always admired about the scene. While collaboration is a beautiful thing, if those resources aren’t readily (or consistently) available to you, you can absolutely make good traction on your own. How challenging was it to learn how to mix, and what was your experience like getting booked when you were just starting out?
UB: Well, when I first started, I picked up this plastic Numark Mixtrack controller (literally the most basic thing ever) and just enthralled myself. I started with house and funk music. All I did was go to shows, listen to mixes, and try to understand the tracks. What I learned early on was that if I knew and understood my tracks, in and out, I would be able to create proper flow and energy through my mixes.
I was always business savvy, so my networking game was highly on point from the start: contacting any local events I could, making mixes for promoters, anything to help me get booked. As I started getting booked, I would work tirelessly on my opening sets, making sure they set the mood properly and weren’t too much. I think my attention to those details are why I was able to catch fire with my bookings, because promoters knew that I would not just play a proper opening set, but I would do it well with the tracks I selected.
One show in particular really caught people’s attention and that was opening for Antiserum & Paper Diamond at Royale back in 2013. Everyone obviously used CDJS, but I was still learning on my Mixtrack. The sound guy at Royale was not happy that I had them move the CDJs over for my shitty Mixtrack, however, the crowd came out early for me, I opened the show with a Tipper song (probably a rare moment within itself haha) and they went wild. This moment can be a huge teaching moment for up and coming DJs: stay true to yourself and make sure you do what you think is best for the set in that moment. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than for just doing you. I still maintain that notion today, even though I’m fully on CDJs now.
TWOW: That’s actually a very important takeaway. Ive seen producers get clowned for not using CDJs. A lot of producers don’t give the same respect to artists who perform on controllers or even artists who don’t perform their own music. Have you had any challenges or criticisms from the latter? If so, how do you overcome them? Do you feel any pressure to produce your own music?
UB: I was waiting for this question (laughs). Through the years, I have been blessed with many wonderful opportunities like opening for some of the biggest acts in the world, on some pretty dope stages; it’s safe to say I was booked for those shows because of my DJ sets and what I bring to the table. These two different arts, DJing and producing, are now synonymous it seems – but I dont feel that’s the case and it’s not fair to judge someone based on their experience with both. Each are its own art-form; the [artists] that are seemingly the most successful are the ones that excel greatly at both – which makes sense.
I still believe the art of DJing is truly a magic power within itself; from getting people off their butts and on the floor, to flowing the right energies together, to unifying a room through music – all of that is truly powerful and (if done correctly) it shouldnt matter if the DJ spinning has productions or not. I’ve gotten challenged my whole career with, “why arent you producing music,” or “we aren’t booking non-producers,” or anything along those lines. It used to bother me because I still hustled my ass off to get the gigs I got so, if I’m working hard, why shut me down because I don’t have a track made?
Part of the DJ process is to dig for tunes and, with my style and my tune-hunting skills, the vibe I’m creating is my own; whether I’m using my own tracks or not. To put it simple: understanding your strengths, and putting your focus into that, and being aware of what you’re good at (and what your not), and [improving] that skill should be your main goal – no matter if thats DJing, producing, or both. Now when anyone asks me if I produce I say, “nope, I’m a DJ and I mix music.” If that isn’t something they’re down with…I’m not down to play for them – plain and simple. Becoming comfortable with what you are, and being confident about it, is the lesson here.
TWOW: Did your experiences in not getting booked for not playing original music play an important role in your decision to start throwing your own shows?
UB: Absolutely. To me, a show is all about the vibes, environment, soundscape, and what a certain artist can contribute to those elements. I also thought that it would showcase my love for this music scene, and it’d be cool to be able to provide a spot to someone that was like me when I first started – naked and afraid (laughs).
I’d book myself to do B2Bs with other major players in New England: guys like Diceman, Evac Protocol, and Bizdo to name a few. Rather than doing solo sets like, “OH LOOK AT ME! I BOOKED MYSELF!” it was more, “Hey…let’s bring the community together at a regional level and get some serious bonding time in!” I’d also incorporate a mix contest into my shows as well, which gave everyone who wasn’t getting booked (for whatever reason) a medium for them to learn how to be professional, and how to open a show properly.
I was always seriously impressed with companies like NVConcepts, Rezinate, Beandream, and Electric Impulse – not only have I known those guys forever, and been good friends, but each respected company was a mentor to me at some capacity.
This year, Uncle Bob Presents took off to heights I never thought possible. I learned so much to add to my “artist tool belt” (if you will) about business, about our community, and really how truly hard it is to throw shows at sustainable capacity. I have a new found respect for those who can make a career out of it.
TWOW: There’s an interesting parallel to find between our stories. Back when I was starting out, no publication would hire & send me to festivals to shoot photos, so one of the main reasons I created this site was so I could just send myself. Now I’m in a position to offer these opportunities to others who are in the same predicament I was, just as you do with your artists. It’s extremely important to find ways to give back and I see you just announced your charity, BASSic Needs, a few months back. Tell me more about your vision for that.
UB: BASSic Needs actually came up through Bassnectar implementing his own charity, BeInteractive. I decided to create my own program to help give back locally and that’s what BASSic Needs is all about. Each show now has its own chairtable platform. For example, we have done food drives, clothing drives for the homeless, toy drives for the children’s hospital, etc. The main point here is party to with a purpose and give back to others around us without expectation.
TWOW: In everything thing we’ve discussed so far, there’s been a very clear Do-It-Yourself tone present, which is not a spirit that not many people possess. Where do you think that comes from?
UB: I think it stems from watching my father as I grew up. He unfortunately passed away when I was 19 but, not only did he teach me the power of music, he also instilled in me a strong work ethic, and the notion of, “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” Everyday for me is a chance to make him proud so (if I put my all into my work) I know I will be successful, just as he was.
TWOW: Where do you see the Uncle Bob Project in the next 5 years?
UB: Thats a good question, but a hard one to answer. This life is about working hard and achieving that next great moment – and then repeating. Currently, I am trying to extend my brand’s reach regionally, and then at some point (hopefully) nationally. I want to play music in every state, at every festival, for everyone all around the world. I would love to take my Uncle Bob Presents concept to warehouses, throwing parties around the country, collabing with other promoters. I want to involve my guitar into my DJ sets, or in my Uncle Bob LIVE sets which include an MC, drummer, and turntabelist. As a DJ, I want to make as many people dance as I can, and I think that’s really just my overall goal. I’m so stoked to see whats next!
TWOW: Knowing what you know now, if you could go back in time to when you were first starting out, would you do anything differently?
UB: This is going to sound stupid corny but I wouldn’t change a damn thing. This journey has been amazing and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
TWOW: (laughs) I was hoping you’d say that. Now, what advice would you give to someone who is just starting out and trying to follow in your footsteps?
UB: I would say you need to be able to take advice and criticism, learn how to react when told no, be the best student you can be, go out and network with your local promoters, and actively listen to mixes of all genres to fully envelop yourself in the music to understand its flow. Last piece of advice I’d like to give is to never take music too seriously because, after all, it’s all art and it’s just meant to be shared and experienced with others. ♦︎
Catch Uncle Bob performing at one of the dates below in the near future!