Stephen Massey, aka DJ Grind, makes his Purple Party debut … sort of
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Not many people can ordinarily call Kylie Minogue their personal matchmaker, but Stephen Massey, 36 — better known as DJ Grind — is far from ordinary.
“I actually met my partner because of Kylie,” Massey, who currently resides in Portland, says playfully. “I was asked to open for her in San Francisco on her Aphrodite Tour. My [current] boyfriend was in the audience and messaged me afterwards. That’s how we got together.”
Remarkably, Massey’s link to Minogue doesn’t end there. His career as a world-class remixer was launched by a remake of Minogue’s single “Into the Blue,” a track that he and Philippines-based producing partner Toy Armada created.
“We did it as a bootleg,” Massey says. “The record label loved it and licensed it from us. From there we started getting more and more remix work.”
Recent chart-topping remixes from the duo include tracks from Cher, Betty Who and former American Idol contestant Kimberly Locke, among others. “Kylie’s team commissioned a second remix, which I will be debuting at Purple Party called ‘Beautiful,’ a duet with Enrique Iglesias,” Massey says.
This may all seem a far cry from his prior career as a fitness instructor, but Massey first started recording mix sets as a hobby and for use as workout soundtracks.
“I loved dance music and used to post a daily music review for my friends that I called the Daily Grind,” he says, referencing the notion that in life we are always grinding our gears. “That’s how I got my [DJ] name.”
His first live performance was an unexpected stroke of luck. A friend who owned a Castro District nightclub was in a bind when a scheduled DJ canceled at the last minute. He called Massey to fill in. “He thought it was time for DJ Grind to debut,” says Massey; he was up for the challenge.
His tireless search for emerging dance tracks continues today. He now distributes his exhibition sets online as monthly podcasts. “I developed a strong fanbase through the podcasts,” Massey explains. “I try to scout the new producers and DJs.” To date, his podcasts have astonishingly achieved more than four million downloads worldwide.
Stylistically, Massey admits to preferring music with uplifting vocals and bright melodies. “I am sort of an unapologetic fan of happy music, and that is the type of experience that I like to deliver to the dance floor,” he says. “When we come together for an event [like Purple Party], it is a celebration of our community. I like to try to create a really joyful experience through the music.”
Although this weekend’s event may be Massey’s debut on the Purple Party roster as a DJ, it is not his first visit to the annual charity event that benefits local HIV/AIDS organizations. Last year, he was here … as a reveler.
“I attended Purple Party last year because I had heard so much about it. I was really struck by the party,” he says, describing the event as positive, upbeat and well produced. “I wasn’t even on the lineup, but they were really grateful that I had come. A lot of DJs who were not on the lineup were actually there. It was kind of like a DJ reunion.”
For Massey, the most rewarding aspect of being a DJ is the opportunity to make unexpected connections with complete strangers.
“I am really humbled by the people who reach out and tell me how the music has changed their lives, he says. “I have gotten notes from people who say they are feeling down, but my music makes them feel better. The power of music can be humbling.”
As an in-demand DJ headlining circuit parties around the globe, Massey also enjoys the opportunity to travel, often with his partner. This year alone, Massey has headlined at premier events including Sydney’s Mardi Gras and Palm Springs’ White Party. He is slated to appear later this year at NYC Pride’s Dance on the Pier.
“It can be a tough business,” Massey admits. “There are lots of DJs and talent, but supportive friends have encouraged me, and it’s been really inspiring. I’m trying to soak it all in and enjoy it while I can.”
But if you should ever happen to catch a ride with Massey, don’t expect dance music in the car. “I listen to NPR,” he says. “I’m a total news junkie.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2014.