Off the Radar: A place to discover music founded by Miami’s most beloved DJ –Ray Milian. “You have to evolve with the times; it’s just the way it has to be.“ [Keep reading for exclusive interview.]
[By Franceasca Seiden]
Off the Radar is an internationally successful music blog created by Ray Milian. Milian is a DJ, music aficionado and Miami native. Ray weeds through hundreds of music solicitations every week to find the best of indie, electro pop and new disco music from the obscure to the celebrated, and places them on OUR radar. Artists from Los Angeles to Paris send their tracks to Off the Radar for maximum exposure and, lets face it, if you are going to party in the US, Miami is the place that you’re going to do it.
About ten minutes away from the cliché of South Beach clubs (that any tourist has visited) there is another area that provides a more chill artistic vibe. On the mainland there are a slew of lounges, bars, clubs, galleries and converted warehouse art spaces; these areas are Wynwood, Midtown, The Design District and Downtown Miami. Once homes to the shady, the homeless and the derelicts of Miami has turned into an arts district with buildings painted in professional graffiti art, luxury lofts and a bunch of delicious restaurants to delight your palette before hitting one of many hot spots to dance your ass off.
Ray Milian is one of the pioneers of this underground artist party subculture turned hipster mainstream scene. In true Miami fashion he turned his passion for music and Djing into a legit business providing the best sounds to dance to at the best parties to be at.
As a proud Angelino now, I have been on a quest to find that Miami artsy party vibe in LA but have yet to find it. I mean is that hard to hear MIA, Amanda Blank and Cut Copy and actually have the dance floors packed with people having a good time? I frequently visit Off the Radar to discover music and always discover a new track or artist. I decided to call up my favorite Miami DJ and discuss how he seems to always get it right with his indisputably flawless taste in music. Here’s the interview with Off the Radar founder DJ Ray Milian.
Before we get your music blog Off the Radar, how did you get your start as a DJ?
When I was 15, I used to DJ little house parties with my cousin and my brother. I remember buying all the gear for my friend’s parties. It’s funny because we used to do gigs where we got paid pretty well, three to five hundred dollars and we were only fifteen years old. We would split the money. I couldn’t even drive so my parents would drive me there, drop us off and pick us back up.
Did you start spinning records before CD’s?
When I started at fifteen it was records but by the time I started doing Poplife in 1999 I switched to CD’s. It was right before the Pioneer cdjs came out. When the cdjs came out they were revolutionary, you could scratch on them, and they were more like records. I became better as a DJ when those came out for sure.
You were one of the co-founders of what would be considered the first “indie parties”, in the Design District with a few others, what was that time like?
I co-founded Poplife in 1999. It was the start of a new wave of an indie electro music scene that was off the beach amidst furniture and design warehouses in the Design District. There was nothing going on at the time and we kind of just found a spot, at first it was just for fun and then we just kept going. Eventually we realized we could actually earn a living doing this. I had a day job in the beginning and after a year or so I was like ‘Oh I can actually do this full time and support myself.’ I ended up quitting my day job and just started DJing full time.
How did you start Off the Radar?
The parties became three nights a week and we kept growing so we got a bigger spot in downtown, which was I.O Lounge on 14th street where the Vagabond is now. That area and space was raw as hell when we started there. It was a little sketchy in the beginning; crawling with homeless people, crack heads; I was there for a couple years then at some point I went on my own and started Off the Radar.
Do you think in the late 90’s/early 2000’s was the start of a movement that helped shape the Miami’s club scene?
Since the start of it to now I feel like every two to three years there is a reshuffling of a scene that comes and goes. It seems like we already have had four or five different movements in music. In the beginning it was Brit Pop, then it went into Electro Clash, and then Indie Rock, now New Disco and Dance. It keeps progressing. Back then there was nothing going on that’s a reason why started the party. It would be a Friday or Saturday night and we were like what do we do? We had nothing to do, there wasn’t much going on, and especially on the weekends places weren’t playing the music we were into.
“I feel like every two to three years there is a reshuffling of a scene that comes and goes. It seems like we already have had four or five different movements in music.”
Does this have something to do with Miami’s progression as an artist’s city?
It was way ahead of its time for sure. Being indie is much more mainstream. You can find multiple parties in one day all over Miami. It used to be one party on Friday, which was Revolver and then Poplife on Saturday, and then Spider Pussy on Thursdays at SOHO Lounge. It was only one party per night. Now in one night there are two or three places throwing a party. It definitely was the start of something.
Aside from the South Beach lifestyle what makes Miami different than other cities?
One thing is because there is such a huge Latin culture. I think dancing is just more ingrained in our culture. I know there are parties in LA and NY and some people don’t even dance, they just stand around. Here people dance. That might have something to do with it.
Miami Bass Music that was really just in Miami at the time you started Djing?
That was what I grew up with; it was a part of my upbringing. I grew up with Freestyle and Miami Bass. That’s what was around when I was growing up in the 80s. Then I got into the Goth music scene. I got into that vibe and then Brit Pop. It’s kind of an evolution. You have to evolve with the times; it’s just the way it has to be. I’ve always been interested in finding new music; it would get boring if you stayed stuck in one genre and never move ahead. Most of the stuff I play now all has that new wave, dark, synth pop sound. All my favorite music has that sound since the beginning.
Who contributes regularly to Off The Radar?
I’ve had different contributors that have come and gone throughout the years. It’s a labor of love so it’s up to the writers to write. I’m always looking for people with similar taste that want to help. We get so much music sent our way. It’s kind of sad that we can’t post all the good stuff that’s sent to us because of time restrictions. When we started I would have to go out and look for music and for people to discover. At this point people just send me stuff. I get about 100 emails a day. If I miss a few days my inbox will have 400-500 emails and it’s a little overwhelming because you want to hear everything and you want to post everything. Michael Unger is probably the other contributor that posts the most. He lives in Atlanta, GA now.
“If you don’t adapt, you don’t grow. If I were still playing Brit Pop I’d be in a little bar with like ten people.”
Off The Radar has a particular style. Can you describe it?
New Wave, Electro Pop, New Disco.
How did you cultivate relationships with all these artists and producers?
We are on Hype Machine. People from all over the world check out Hype Machine and they would find our blog. Then they would just send us emails to check out their stuff. There are those that I seek out and post because I just like their style. We started building relationships that way.
Have you seen any growth in a viewership, collaboration with other DJs since you started Off the Radar?
I did notice in the mid 2000’s; 2004-2006 in the indie rock scene when like Franz Ferdinand and The Killers came out it was crazy for a while and then I noticed the indie scene fizzled out for a bit. It’s like a roller coaster ride, it goes up and down and I think the peak, at least for the indie rock, was back then. Now it’s more new disco and deep house. It’s always up and down. I’m sure that indie rock will come around in a few years, you’ll see.
Who would you like to see gets involved with Off the Radar?
Anyone that can expand our reach but keep our identity in tact. A long-term goal is to be like Pitchfork. They have integrity and they operate fantastically.
Off the Radar used to be a party, right?
Yeah we hosted it at The Standard from 2005-2007 and when that party ended is when the blog started. My friend suggested we start a blog to promote the same artist that I played and I liked. And it kind of made sense.
Do you think you will DJ for the rest of your life?
I don’t know… I see myself being too old for it (laughs). Who knows, I’m sure at some point I won’t be DJing. It’s kind of a young person’s game. I’d like just to focus on the music and Off the Radar. That’s my baby.
Since you’ve been doing this for twenty years or so do you have any advice for up and coming DJ’s?
It’s a combination of things, you have to have good taste in music, and be adaptable to the times. If you don’t adapt, you don’t grow. If I were still playing Brit Pop I’d be in a little bar with like ten people. That’s the main thing. And of course have good taste in music. Remember that Djing is kind of a business; a bar or a club is paying you, and you are catering to the people there. You want to make them dance and buy drinks. You have to make sure that you are playing for the people and not just for yourself. There are some DJ’s that only want to play really obscure tracks, and it has to be a combination of what you like and what people like. If you don’t have good taste in music you probably shouldn’t be DJing. (laughs)
How do you feel about people coming up to you and requesting songs? (We both have a good laugh)
Sometimes you get really drunk people who are very annoying. But other times you get good requests. I’ll be Djing and someone will suggest I play The Knife, and I’ll be like, sure, that’s a great request. Other times you get really bad ones, you’re playing indie and someone will ask you to play hip-hop. And I’m like, are you listening to what I’m doing? It really depends.
What are your top five tracks that are your favorite to spin at this moment in time?
It’s hard to say because I never plan my sets, it’s definitely moment-to-moment. I think when you do it long enough you find that planning your sets doesn’t work. It never goes the way you imagine it would. So you go by the crowd’s reaction. I’ll send you a list when I can think about it more.
Here’s the list:
The Picture by Hubert Kah
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads
Maaaaam by Oli Chang
Dance With Me by Le Youth
Beside Me by Chris Malinchak
Is there anything that you want to promote?
Good Music. A lot of these artists don’t get enough recognition or exposure so every little bit helps.
If you are looking to expand your music catalogue, find danceable indie electronic music or hear what the kids are listening to then you are one of the many that need know that Off the Radar exists and is always keeping current. It’s a different music blog because it focus’s on a certain style of music, the style that hipsters listen to (myself included).