Exclusive HIHF Interview: We Talk With Chicago DJ/Producer Willy Joy about the Impact of his “BackToBack” Podcast and Celebrating Two Years On The Air

Today’s interview is with a true renaissance man. Willy Joy is a Chicago DJ/producer who is absolutely crushing it on all fronts.

Willy represents the eclectic new form of Bass music and it’s ever-changing styles. He has co-produced in the past with huge names like Major Lazer and Brillz (aka LSDream) and he’s also running one of the most successful EDM podcasts on the air.

His BackToBack pod brings some of the most interesting names and stories in the industry to the airwaves. He also hosts BackToBackRadio, on Diplo’s Revolution (Channel 52) on Sirius XM airing every Wednesday at 9PM PST and Friday at 7AM PST.

Willy just celebrated two years of his BackToBack podcast and for his special guest, he interviewed the one and only Diplo. There’s something about the way that Willy interacts with his guests that is so appealing. He makes them feel so comfortable. We were ecstatic when we heard we would have the opportunity to chat with Willy. We’re huge fans of both his DJing and the podcast, so it’s our pleasure to share some of his stories with our readers.

What sparked your interest in starting the podcast?

I’ve worked as a DJ & producer for over a decade, and I’ve been lucky to accomplish and experience a lot in my career already. But a couple of years ago I had been feeling somewhat uninspired, and the path forward wasn’t as clear as it used to be. I was also listening to a ton of podcasts around that time, mostly from comedians and actors/writers/directors. Rather than listen to them talk about their work, I really liked hearing them talk about their lives. When the curtain of celebrity came down, I found people who I could relate to just as other humans with lives, stresses, ambitions, families, etc. All of a sudden I could automatically just relate to their work on a much deeper level. I started wondering why no one was doing this for my world. The music industry is full of amazing, talented, brilliant, crazy, bizarre and hilarious people, but no one was talking to or celebrating them in the same way. I definitely didn’t think I’d be good at it, and on most days there’s a significant part of my brain that still thinks that. But something I strongly believe is that if you have an idea that no one else has done, and everyone around you tells you it’s really good – you pretty much have a responsibility to yourself to go for it.

Congrats on 2 years! What were the first few episodes like when you were first starting out?

Even though the first episode I released was with Diplo, the first episode I ever recorded was with Aryay. I went over to his old studio apartment in LA, we sat on opposite sides of this really skinny awkward table. Honestly, he did me a huge favor because I already had a bunch of interviews lined up, but I was very nervous about all of it. I’ve known Aryay forever and knew that he’d be cool with me just coming over and trying it out, even if it was a disaster. It actually ended up being amazing, and he remains one of my favorite people to have on the show. Beyond being extremely talented he’s just one of those people who can always give you a new perspective. And thanks!

Who are you listening to right now?

I’m pretty obsessed with this band Zeal & Ardor right now.

What was the first concert you ever attended?

White Zombie & The Toadies in 1997. My dad took me. I had never heard anything that loud before, I remember the physical sensation in my ears like it was yesterday.

Growing up, which acts did you listen to most and how were you introduced to them?

Depends on what ages we’re talking about. Michael Jackson was the first time I remember really feeling like electricity was in my body when I listened to music. Then my friend in middle school turned me onto Green Day and the Offspring and I went crazy after that. In my teenage years, I was equal parts into metal (Korn, Slipknot, Sepultura, etc) and rave music (Everything from Basement Jaxx & MJ Cole to happy hardcore legends like DJ Brisk, Chicago house & booty house like DJ Funk, drum ‘n bass gods like Andy C… everything.) Rap music came in college. Hip hop, rave, and metal are probably the biggest pillars of my musical brain.

What do you think is so important about sharing these artists’ and industry figures’ stories with your listeners?

To be honest, I do the show for myself first and foremost, in the same way, I try to make songs that excite me before anyone else. Back To Back is not only a way for me to feel creatively refreshed and re-inspired in my own music, but it’s also just a great excuse to hang out with my friends and my peers while we make something awesome. When two artists get in the same room, they’re often subconsciously sizing each other up, seeing where they rank and trying to figure out if the other person has something to offer or vice versa. I think as artists we all instinctively put walls up sometimes when we’re around other artists. But the podcast format blows all of that up and you’re just two people hanging out again. It really feels like a breath of fresh air in the room, and in the best episodes, I think the listeners can feel it happening too. I really hope I can give people the same experience I had when I was first discovering conversations like these. I think there’s a giant gap between what people think a musician’s life is like and what it actually is like. If people can walk away feeling inspired and excited and more deeply connected to artists they love, that’s amazing. But I think everyone gets something different out of it. I try not to worry too much about what it “should” be, I just make sure that I’m proud of it.

Have you ever had any moments during interviews where you had to stop recording because you are laughing too hard? You and your guests have a pretty good time and you are close with a lot of them!

No, I leave pretty much every laugh in. Ray Volpe kept trying to take over the show while we were recording his episode, I laughed pretty hard when I was listening back and hearing how exasperated I got by the end.

Any other funny stories from in the Back2Back ‘booth’? Or any funny stories from Sirius?

I’ve gotten some pretty hilarious drops from a bunch of my guests that I use on #BackToBackRadio, but you’ll have to tune in to hear them…. Sirius XM Channel 52, Wednesdays @ 9PM PST/12AM EST, Fridays @ 7AM PST/10AM EST 🙂

Why is it important to spotlight more original acts rather than bigger, radio/stream-friendly names?

I think anyone can understand why supporting originality and cool new sounds is a good thing to do. That’s how music & culture evolves and gets pushed forward. That being said there’s lots of great original music that is on the radio getting tons of streams right now too.

You’ve said you love listening to Dubstep, but rarely include it in your sets. Why is that? Who are a few of Dubstep or Bass acts you most frequently listen to?

I mean I think most people think of me as a “Bass” DJ, whatever that means. I’m still heavily involved in that scene. But I also don’t really care about categorization, I just play what I think is dope. When I say I don’t play a lot of dubstep I’m mainly talking about modern dubstep, riddim, etc which has kind of turned into its own world. It’s awesome and I appreciate it, but I’m not a part of it. It would be inauthentic of me if I started making & playing a ton of it just because it’s a hot sound right now. But I listen to all of it. Off the top of my head here are some vaguely “Bass” artists I love right now: Jaron, Hairitage, Hellbound, GLD, Kage, Chime, Minesweepa

When it comes to the rise of Future Bass and Dubstep and decline of Festival Trap and Big Room, what do you think made that happen? Industry factors or just market trends or whatever it is, this is definitely something we wanted to pick your brain on.

Every sound has a shelf life, genres are just cycling faster now because platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify have created a bit of an echo chamber where people are all chasing the new hot sound because it’s more likely you’ll be heard that way. The more people that try to copy a popular style, the less creativity there is in the genre, the faster it will get chewed through. Simple as that. The people who are brave enough to forge their own path are the ones that will be remembered in the long term though.

Do you ever consider or has the idea ever crossed your mind, about hosting another podcast covering another genre?

You mean like rock or country or something? Not really, since I’m not actively contributing to those scenes I don’t think it’d be as good of a show. And Back to Back is open format to me anyway, I don’t really think about genre. I’ll include anyone who I think has something interesting to say.

Do you have any dream interviews you’d like to feature on the podcast?

Sure, every legend who hasn’t done it yet 🙂

You always ask your guests this to finish so we wanted to flip it on you, what was one specific moment that music played an important role in your life?

There are so many. I’ll follow my own made up rules from the show and tell you the first one I thought of. I went to high school in Minnesota, and backpack rap, particularly Atmosphere, was huge at the time. My friends and I were driving around at night, which is what we did most nights. We were listening to the new Atmosphere record, and I kept yelling at my friends because they were talking while the record was playing. I kept starting it over and trying to force them to appreciate it the same way I was. I was a weird kid, obviously. But looking back, trying to make people have the same feeling that a piece of music gave to me – that was a strong indication that I probably should be a DJ.

Thanks so much for sitting down with us Willy! We’re huge fans and this was such a pleasure.

Be sure to support Willy Joy online and check out his BackToBack podcast here!

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www.willyjoy.com

 

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