Born in the States, and raised in Germany, he is known by many as the “ambassador of music”. It’s no wonder then that DJ William Reed has transgressed from early musical development immersed inside Frankfurt’s underground music scenes, to iconic radio shows and award-winning dance parties.
Introduced to me as a “celebrity DJ who has been voted LA Weekly’s best”, William Reed has DJ’ed with the legendary members of The Ramones, The Smiths, Sex Pistols as well as Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Kaskade. But how did it all begin? “In the late 90s I had just moved back to the states from Germany where I grew up,” Reed began. “My good friend and I started DJ’ing high school house parties on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona. We had no idea what we were doing at the time. We had 2 Sony Discman and a cheap RadioShack mixer. The rest is history.”
“There were a few years of my early life where I grew up in extreme poverty in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia,” he said when I asked about his childhood and the influence this had on him creatively. “We had no electricity or running water which meant no television or telephone. I was so young I didn’t care or even understand at the time. But it did require us, my brother and I, to be creative when it came to things like entertaining ourselves. For example, we couldn’t afford certain toys so ended up making our own.”
His teenage years were spent growing up in Germany; “Being exposed to the music scene and culture in Europe was very inspiring to say the least. It definitely influences my creativity even today.” Having gone from being immersed inside Frankfurt’s underground music scenes to commercial radio, the most important thing William Reed has learnt is that music transcends all barriers. “It’s the single most common thing that brings Humanity together,” he said.
William Reed currently maintains about five weekly residencies and about 4 rotating monthly residencies in Los Angeles. “No two residencies are the same and neither is my approach,” he said. “As a music curator an inherent part of the job is to cater to the room, vibe, aesthetic and crowd while setting the tone and maintaining the energy while simultaneously pushing the sonic envelope.”
Aside from all of the amazing memories making people happy, performing to arena sized audiences and receiving humbling accolades, which in their own right have all been extremely rewarding to say the least, they don’t come close to being a career highlight. So what is?
“I would have to say the biggest highlight for me has come as an instructor where I taught kids how to DJ and helped develop the DJ certification program at multiple community colleges.” What about being given the accolade of ‘ambassador of music’? “I’m not one for titles to be honest but I would accept that with gratitude and humility.”
I wanted to know, if William Reed wasn’t DJing and involved in music, what he thought he might be doing. He replied to say that was a really good question and that he always wanted to study and practice plant-based medicine. “Otherwise I would probably pursue my passions of photography and the visual arts full time. I also love nature and am a protector of the environment so something outdoors that has a positive global impact,” he said.
We went on to speak about how easy it is to fall into the right headspace to work on collaborations. “To be completely honest,” he said, “I’m picky about who I work with so it has to make sense. We have to be on the same page musically and it has to flow naturally. Nothing should be forced.” The same applies for working practices.
“Stay humble, work hard, be professional,” he added thinking about the advice he would give to others. “Think outside the box and never take this job too seriously. Most importantly, have fun. I am a champion of creativity across all channels and find it exciting to see so many young tastemakers and emerging talent. I find it both inspiring and motivating. To those considering becoming a DJ or taking their hobby to the next level my advice is to practice every day, work hard and stay true to your passion. The rest will fall into place.”