EDM Life: Today we have Rony Seikaly speaking with us at EDM Life. Rony was born in Lebanon, he grew up in Greece, moved to the US to play basketball at Syracuse where he led them to the championship game and then later, he was the first-round pick by the Miami Heat and he led them to the playoffs as well. At the same time Rony’s been a lifelong dance music fan who started spinning records as a teen and then professionally in the past decade playing such events as the Ultra Music Festival and the BPM Festival. In the past year he’s launched his own record label Stride with several recent releases. And in his career originally playing basketball Rony was known as “The Spin Doctor” and now that label fits perfectly for his later career in dance music. Rony thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us today.
Rony Seikaly: Thank you Greg.
EDM Life: So, recently a documentary about your life and career was released and could be seen on YouTube how did that project come about?
Rony Seikaly: I’ve worked with Jared the producer of the documentary few times before as a journalist for Sports Illustrated and Beach Report and I always thought that he was he was very good at writing the story. So, when we talked, he started doing this documentary and really well done. So, he reached out to me and said that they wanted to do something on me would be a full-length documentary and we had a lot of fun shooting it and it came out great.
EDM Life: Yes, we really enjoyed watching it and there definitely some you know things about your past history and even your later career or business that we weren’t aware of. We could say that some people would call you sort of a Renaissance man with your three very different parts of your life. You have the DJing and the music producing, a highly successful college and pro basketball career and what we didn’t know is you’re also a developer of luxury real estate homes in Miami and asking this question would be sort of like if you had three children which is your favorite but of those three different very different parts of your life which one would you say it’s kind of closest to your heart kind of the favorite?
Rony Seikaly: That’s a very good question and I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to do the three things that I love the most and honestly when I tell you basketball is everything I did as a young kid going to college, playing in the NBA that was my life and I had a lot of love for that moment and the time. Music is also another love of mine and it’s been with me since I was a little kid DJing in my parent’s garage. So, that had never left me even while playing basketball and that’s why all we had kind of like mini clubs you know turn a little room into a club and now playing music for friends even during the NBA years. So, music had never left my fiber in any way and then the real estate is something that I had an eye for. This is you know it’s something that I love doing and I saw very early on that I had an eye for architecture and for design stuff like that. So, I started taking pictures of different houses that I would see around the world that I would be impressed by and it goes down to the smallest detail whether the color of the wood or whatever it is you know or the texture. That kind of led me on to this part and that was you know I always said to myself what am I going to do after basketball. Basketball you retire at 35, if you can push it a few more years great, but more likely you’ll play even less than 35 and then what do you do for the next seven. That’s how I kind of jump started this career in real estate this is something that I enjoy doing and it’s something that I like and I can make money out of it. So, it can’t be that bad. So, asking that question and reverting back and I tell you like have you everything played such a big role of my life that I can’t let go of any of them.
EDM Life: That’s a great answer and you know you love all of them and they’re always going to be a part of your life even if you’re not quite the NBA part of it is you kind of moved on past that for obvious reasons. You have played in the NCA championship game and the NBA playoffs and I imagine it’s a very kind of stressful anxiety-filled situation. But how would you say that compares to being in the in the front of a crowd of thousands of dance music fans and wanting to make sure you deliver a great set that puts a smile on everyone’s face?
Rony Seikaly: That’s always the most fun part of it capturing the moment to be one with the crowd because it’s the moment that every DJ life for. So, as strong as that connection is will never be as strong as hitting a winning shot or something of that same caliber because of the pressure that comes with playing basketball. Basketball you know you’re scrutinized on every position, every game, but it is easier if you can be an artist and kind of drift other places and if people love you, they’ll follow you through that with that drift as long as you don’t drift too far. You can always play with the crowd in backhand, but in the NCA you can’t play with anybody this is like you livelihood. So, it’s really two different things but basketball absolutely wins.
EDM Life: Right that’s a great answer. So, for in terms of DJing out what would you say are some of your favorite venues or parties that you play around the world especially being a globe-trotting DJ?
Rony Seikaly: I think my favorite two clubs in the world are Space in Miami and Guards in Beirut Lebanon. They’re kind of the same where the dance floor driven clubs so people are there for the music and not so much you know for the bottle service kind of thing. So, it’s just kind of really people are there to listen to what you got and so I love that aspect of those clubs. And then obviously my biggest moment was when I headlined Amnesia in Ibiza and that was pretty intense but as intense as it was it was never felt the pressure that I would feel in the NBA. So, when I played at Amnesia you know it’s 4-5,000 people, I’m used to playing in front of 30,000 people so it wasn’t that bad.
EDM Life: It’s great that you mentioned Space that was actually related to a bit of the next question we had. It does seem a little bit as the Miami nightclub scene has dropped off a bit from where it used to have all the Opium Group venues. At one point I believe you were a part owner of Wall I don’t know if you’re still involved there. Of course, Liv still does very well, Space does very well but some of the other ones like Electric Pickle don’t exist anymore. Do you think there’s any reason why maybe there’s a bit of a change in the Miami nightlife scene and it may be outside of you know that one week in March isn’t quite the same?
Rony Seikaly: Well I think that’s the case for every city you know pretty much in the world. I mean you’ve got a couple of venues that work and that’s it. One the DJ fees is too high so these little clubs couldn’t pay the DJs and if they do pay them, they have to charge their clients and if big charge the client too high a price they will come once or twice and they won’t come again and that’s what was going on. It was just the kind of DJs were priced where clubs are just basically open you know for people to have fun, but not to make money. So, it just became senseless to own clubs if you got to pay this kind of fees to DJs and promoters.
EDM Life: And you know you mentioned Space being one of your favorite clubs to play and because they have the you know the 24-hour liquor license there they’re kind of famous for staying open well into the next day. What’s like kind of the longest set you’ve played there?
Rony Seikaly: My longest set was probably 10-12 hours.
EDM Life: That’s amazing to be able to sit there and just kind of be in the groove that long and not take any breaks it’s pretty impressive.
Rony Seikaly: Yes, I’m playing again November 9th at Space so that will be exciting.
EDM Life: Okay great we’ll make a note of that. So, now one of the festival’s you played in the past was the BPM festival in Mexico. You pretty much played every year and they’ve now announced they’re going to relaunch it in Costa Rica in January. Are you able to say if you might be playing there at that event?
Rony Seikaly: Yes, I’m definitely going to play there. I definitely think it is a great festival because Costa Rica – while there are festivals in the world everywhere in the world, but when people can make a vacation out of it-it just makes so much more sense and I know a lot of people love to go to Costa Rica and then you get music as well as an amazing combination. I think it is great thing by them and I’ll definitely be there.
EDM Life: We hope it turns out well with the new location. So, now next week is Burning Man and I understand you’ll be out there. Is that something you kind of go to every year?
Rony Seikaly: Yes, this will be my 14th year straight.
EDM Life: Oh, wow that’s pretty impressive especially I know out of people are having trouble getting tickets this year sounds like all anecdotally over here.
Rony Seikaly: Well yes, I used to go when it wasn’t the thing to do. It was kind of a taboo thing to go to Burning Man you got to be a weirdo now it’s become a hip thing to do. So, the experience became all of a sudden became part of like you know Coachella and Burning Man are the same kind of rap.
EDM Life: Right no doubt we kind of hear the same thing. What camps or what parties will you be playing at next week?
Rony Seikaly: I’m playing the closing set at Robot Heart on Wednesday morning and I’m playing at the closing set at District on Wednesday afternoon at 6:00 PM.
EDM Life: We attended the District Burning Man party here in LA early this summer that was a good time. What would you say you love the most about Burning Man? I mean you’ve kind of noted maybe the crowd’s kind of changed and went from like kind of the weird thing to go to to the trendy thing to go to. What could you say you appeals to you to go each year?
Rony Seikaly: I think it’s an experience that people should participate in. I think it’s an experience that humbles you. It’s an experience that gets you back to the roots of things. You know a freedom of being whatever you would like to be and just being free of time phones whatever it is or free of everything and just time to yourself and go around. It is Disneyworld for kids between what you know looking at the art, the artist. There are some amazing artists doing some great things. The fact that everybody is kind of equal in the sense that everybody’s on their bicycle, you know it could be a billionaire on one bicycle and next to them is a plumber on the other bicycle and you wouldn’t know the difference. So, it’s kind of equal and everybody helps out each other to catch. It’s nice to have for a week because it’s kind of just reminds you of how to be a human being and how to enjoy yourself that your freedom and your time and this and everything. Burning Man ebbs and flows and that’s part of the whole adventure to it. It’s not something where you can go and guarantee that it’s going to work out for you for the whole week. You know you’re going to have some good times and you’re going to have some really bad times. But you know the combination of the two is what makes you stronger and what makes you more and more humble and that’s what I look for.
EDM Life: Yes, that’s a great description I think of why everyone should try and get out there at least once. Now you have a new track I understand coming out in September I believe called “Frontin” and that is on your own label Stride Records what can you tell us about that?
Rony Seikaly: I’m like a junkie when it comes to productions. I do music all the time so it just doesn’t stop. This is a track where I used a little bit of a hip-hop vocal and it’s smashed in a way you can’t tell it is a hip-hop vocal. It’s a catchy tune. It’s been playing in the summer and people are loving it when I played it during my trip.
EDM Life: Do you have a release date on that?
Rony Seikaly: We’re looking at next September, but we haven’t gotten back yet the exact time, but should between this mid-September and December.
EDM Life: Okay so everyone should be on the lookout for that and in about a month or so. Now so far on your new label all the tracks I believe have been either solo tracks you wrote or maybe some you co-produced with other artists. Are there any plans to release tracks just done by other artists?
Rony Seikaly: Yes, this track is being released next month Fronting and it is also going to be remixed by a great producer named Sabb, and he is the owner of Radiant music label which is a great label today, they’ve done numerous number hits and always in top ten kind of thing. But it’s a great label and he’s the head of label and he’s a great producer so he’s doing the remix for me and looking forward to this and what he’s going to do with it.
EDM Life: Yes, you know looking forward to hearing that. Now you had an EP early this summer “Practice” and that was also one of the tracks from that you know some people are kind of familiar with the famous Allen Iverson sound by you talking about his dismissing his black eye from a basketball practice have you heard from him or any of the others in the NBA kind of you know about the fact you based a song around that sample?
Rony Seikaly: It’s funny because I thought that I was going to hear back from somebody. I actually didn’t hear back from anybody. That shows you that they don’t really listen to house musical like who cares [Laughter].
EDM Life: There you go! You probably notice that we’ve seen Shaq out now playing some festivals. It’s a very different music style but you two could be the two tallest guys in dance music so that is something. [laughs].
Rony Seikaly: Yes, we’re going to need security or something to get into the middle [laughs].
EDM Life: Yes. Do you still run into the problem we’re due to your height when you show up in an event, they didn’t read the writer closely and the decks aren’t high enough for you so you’re kind of constantly bending over? I can imagine that be just kind of a bit frustrating for a long set especially.
Rony Seikaly: Oh yes it always happens. You either get it fixed or just deal with it that’s height. In a longer set you usually have it all set because they know. For the shorter sets sometimes, I have to bite the bullet for a couple hours.
EDM Life: Right kind of power through it but it’s definitely I’m sure a little annoying. The last question I had do you have any other kind of major projects be it in music or reel state or anything else coming up in your future you know you’d like to kind of mention?
Rony Seikaly: I mean I’m always looking for stuff and always hungry to learn and do things. So, I’m sure I’ll come up with something and then I’m going to continue doing the music and something will come with something else. I haven’t zoned in on it yet. I’m just enjoying the track.
EDM Life: Based on you know your past history and how well you’ve been doing with everything else and we’re quite sure whatever your next projects should be a great success and do very well.
Rony Seikaly: Thank you.
EDM Life: Anyway, Rony thank you so much for your time for speaking us now and you know for those of you listening to this make sure you catch Rony’s weekly radio show Sugar Free Radio and also watch the recent documentary about his life on YouTube, he did it with Close-Up 360 and we’ll post those below wherever you may be catching this. That’s it for now thanks Rony and have a good time at Burning Man next week.
Rony Seikaly: Thank you, thank so much.
[Editor’s note – the transcript has been edited for clarity]
You can buy ‘Frontin’ from Rony Seikaly here on Beatport: