Patrons are starting to trickle into the dimly lit Wild Buffalo House of Music as Western’s own William “Hunter” Philip orders a gin and tonic to calm his nerves. It’s St. Patrick’s Day 2016 and Philip is only an hour away from his first professional DJ gig.
In no time the club is packed. Philip, who goes by traffic. on stage, begins playing, and all he can think about is not messing up the transitions in his set after practicing it six times before the show. As the last song of his set, “Inner Bloom” by Why So Not, begins, Philip spots several of his friends in the crowd. Some of them have tears in their eyes, the result of a strong mix of pride, joy and alcohol.
A feeling of relief overtakes Philip as he leaves the stage, a mistake-free set accomplished. Looking back on it, that set was Philip’s first step toward a professional career in DJing.
Philip, a senior environmental studies major, was first introduced to electronic dance music by his brother while attending Ballard High School.
“I liked the music more than I liked the culture at that point. There was a lot of EDM back in the day, but I’m not really into that. I’m more into a little more progressive and weird sounds,” Philip said.
“People really liked what I was doing, and I just got progressively better.”
Philip bought a sound mixer his freshman year at Western and started messing around on it, finding the more he practiced, the better he got.
“I didn’t really have any music library or anything because I was sort of in this whole new world of stuff that I had never heard before. [It was] completely different from what I listened to in high school,” Philip said. “I picked it up and sophomore year started playing house parties. People really liked what I was doing, and I just got progressively better.”
Philip started booking gigs as they came to him, averaging at least one performance a week. One of his first shows got booked after Philip received a text from an unknown number.
“Hey, we’re having a party this Thursday for a birthday. Do you want to come play?” the message read.
Philip began building a reputation for his skill through playing house shows but always wanted to perform on stage. After seeing an ad from The Wild Buffalo requesting local DJs, he sent the club an email and was told there would be a opportunity for him as soon as he turned 21. True to it’s word, The Wild Buffalo booked him to open for its St. Patrick’s day show.
Since that show, Philip has played shows in Seattle and still tries to play one show a week while balancing school and work.
“Sometimes it is kind of difficult because I want to put more time into DJing than I do in school, honestly. If I could pick one or the other it would definitely be DJing and making music would be the next step,” Philip said.
Jacob Losi, Philip’s roommate and friend since middle school, has seen Philip work tirelessly in pursuit of his passion.
“[He would] save enough money, eventually buying a more professional board and then slowly investing in the speakers. I would let him know whenever I saw deals on music equipment,” Losi said. “I wish I had the drive for what I want to do as much as [Philip] has a drive for what he does.”
Losi said his buddy’s shows have a unique atmosphere.
“It’s just wild fun. It’s a lot of dancing. It’s a lot of underground techno that he really likes. It’s different than watching someone who you have no idea perform up there. It’s cool. You feel more of a connection,” Losi said.
Philip gets musical inspiration from acts and DJs all over the world such as DJ Madame from France, DJ Ana from Brazil, Sluggers from Miami and Jensen Interceptor from Australia.
“I’m still sort of developing [my sound]. I’m trying to create a certain vibe for when I DJ, but obviously that comes with time,” Philip said.
His goal is to always tell a story when he is playing a show, giving his audience a very select experience when they hear it.
“It’s a beginning, a middle and an end. You don’t want to leave someone hanging right at the end. [Having them think], ‘Wow, this is super intense,’ and then you’re just done,” Philip said. “When you are playing 20 songs in an hour, you always want to start by bringing the crowd in and then take them on a journey.”
Philip was recently added to an art collective called Milk + Honey, which is put together by The Wild Buffalo. The collective has a promoter that gets the members opportunities to open for various acts, including recent gigs with Hot Chip and Luca Lush.
For now Philip is just taking shows as they come and trying to experiment with making his own music.
“It’s definitely somewhere I didn’t think I would be when I first got my mixer,” Philip said. “I’m humbled to do it.”