In the Studio With: Stephan Grondin
By Duanny Medrano
Whether he’s playing major circuit parties, club dates across his native Canada, Pride events in NYC or festivals like Mexico’s upcoming Arena (Jan. 28 – Feb. 2), DJ vet Stephan Grondin continues to build a loyal and lasting fan base. Spinning tunes that, by his own description, are “a blend of house, tribal, tech-house and vocals—a bit of everything,” Grondin knows what gets the party jumping.
Additionally, his studio work—both remixes and productions—for artists like Ceevox, Superchumbo and Xaviera Gold have livened up dancefloors worldwide. Recently, he’s been working with Celeda, and he expects to release the Chicago diva’s thumper “To the Floor” on his deeperBPM recordings in early 2015.
We caught up with the Montreal-based Grondin to discuss DJing and his approach in the studio.
DJ Times: You started DJing in the turntable era. Do you miss it?
Grondin: It’s been over six years since I’ve used a turntable. I miss it sometimes because there is a special feeling dropping a needle on a vinyl and also the sound of a vinyl can’t be matched with digital. I also miss going to the record store every week to hear new releases.
DJ Times: What are your methods—in the studio and in the DJ booth?
Grondin: For the studio, I always start by listening to the vocal I have to remix—then I upload them to my sequencer and start sequencing music to it. For the DJ booth, preparation is the key! I now use USB keys along with the Pioneer CDJ players. So I make sure all my music is well organized in folders; then I go with the flow of the night. When you are well-prepared, you can face any live situation that comes in front of you.
DJ Times: Your studio-gear choices?
Grondin: In studio, I use Cubase 7.5 because I have used Cubase since the first version. I feel 100-percent comfortable with it and I know the software inside and out. I am also a beta tester for Steinberg, so I use in parallel Cubase 8, which has great new features. I also use Reason along with Cubase. I also have a lot of physical gear, like compressors, reverbs and keyboards that I use along with software instruments. My favorite plug-ins are all the Waves plug-ins—quite expensive, but so worth the money.
DJ Times: How often do you rework a track from its original version before you play it?
Grondin: It is safe to say that 95-percent of what I play has been tweaked or reworked or edited in some kind of way. It goes from very simple edits to a more complex thing, where I add synths and percussion, or change the arrangements. I also spend a lot of time doing personal mash-ups with older, vocal a cappella tracks I have.
DJ Times: Tell us about “To the Floor” and working with Celeda.
Grondin: I am so grateful that life put us together. Celeda, of course, was a huge inspiration from all the classics she’s made with Danny Tenaglia and Peter Rauhofer. So, when I got the chance to work with Celeda I was beyond excited! From the first time we met to this day, we get each other. We became good friends and the time we spent in the studio was so easy and fun. We did six tracks together and I can’t wait to share our work with everybody.
DJ Times: What’s your advice to young DJs, looking to move up in the game?
Grondin: It has to be from within your heart. You got to love what you do first. Don’t seek popularity or fame because that is not what it is all about. Fame only exists through the eyes of others.
DJ Times: You have built a very loyal fan base. How has that fueled your work over the years?
Grondin: That is exactly it—I owe my career to all the club goers that are still showing up at gigs. I’m so grateful that I’m still able to do what I love after all these years. The payback for me is when someone comes up to me and says, “I love what you do—it means a lot.” This is such a blessing for me to have the opportunity to have this. That is what gets me going.