Written by Steve Weinstein
Joe Gauthreaux is a travelin’ man. Not only in his professional life—as one of the Circuit’s reigning stars, he’s on the road every weekend. But in his personal life as well, he’s on the move. The New Orleans native packed up and left the Big Easy five years ago for the Big Apple. Now he’s busy unpacking his clothes and books alongside his records, CDs and turntables in the Big Orange.
Yes, Gauthreaux has relocated to the City of Angels. “I get restless,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m 32 years old. Before I get too much older, I want to move around and try out new places before I settle down.” He admits that he’s getting tired of the Yankee winters, but Los Angeles has other charms. His manager, Patti Razzeto, lives there. And so does his collaborator on mixing projects, Peter Barona (who’s also Manny Lehman’s engineer).
He’s moved in with a friend in Hollywood, but he has yet to get a car. He even let his driver’s license expire. So he’s a long way from becoming an official Angeleno. Besides, it’s not as though he’s leaving New York forever. His occasional residency at Splash will continue, and he’ll still be doing plenty of gigs on the East Coast.
In fact, Gauthreaux is making a musical imprint at parties all over the world. When noiZe caught up with him, he had just returned from Rapido, the big September party in Amsterdam, where he contracted a nice case of food poisoning the day before he was scheduled to play. “I hadn’t eaten for 24 hours,” he recalled, “but I’ve never cancelled for getting sick.”
That kind of sticktoitiveness has helped propel him to headlining status. After 12 years of DJing, 2008 has proved to be Gauthreaux’s breakaway year. Aside from regular gigs in New Orleans for Halloween, Provincetown for July Fourth and other stops, he spun the Winter Party in Miami. He shared the turntables at the mammoth Pier Dance that caps New York’s Gay Pride with Tracy Young. He was at Gay Days. And, in what he considers the year’s most memorable event, he closed the Saint-at-Large’s Black Party. As if that weren’t enough, he’ll be opening for Victor Calderone during Miami’s White Party.
If the Black Party was the highlight of this remarkable year, it was not only because of its unique nature or even the notoriously demanding musical sophistication of the crowd. Rather, it was because he knew he’d be following Jonathan Peters, one of a handful of gay DJs who has established himself as a major star in the larger club world. As the closer, Gauthreaux was responsible for bringing the 18-hour marathon party down with the Morning Music and ending it with the Sleaze segment.
It’s the kind of music Gauthreaux loves best. He readily admits that he’s never been a fan of pots-and-pans, and gleefully heralds the end of Tribal’s dominance on the dance floor. “The days of playing all night long are over,” he said. “People are not doing crystal the way they used to—they’re being more responsible than in past years. The music reflects that. Four or five years ago, it was hard to find good lyrical music. Everything was drums, drums, drums.
“I don’t play tea dance all night long,” he added. “But my music is happier; not ‘Perfect Day’ all night, but people want something not as dark as a few years ago.”
Gauthreaux honed his musical taste—as well as a sense of the evening as a journey from one musical point to another—from the woman he acknowledges as his mentor. “Susan Morabito was the DJ who inspired me to become a DJ,” he said. It was at his first Circuit-type party, during Halloween in New Orleans in 1994, when he was just 18.
“In 1994, there was great music,” he recalled. “I hadn’t heard 80 percent of that.” He joined her fan club. (Who even knew there was a Morabito fan club?) He started seeking out and collecting all of the music he heard her play: “Every extra penny I earned working at the Gap went to music.”
Finally, after two years, he had enough mix tapes to get hired at Oz, where he started out as one of the house DJs, five times a week—but no nights. It wasn’t until eight months later that he got his first nighttime slot.
“Things were different back then,” he noted. “It wasn’t the age of the traveling DJ. Clubs relied on resident DJs. One of the regulars got sick, and I went up to Johnny Chisholm, Oz’s owner, and asked for one night.” As the old show biz movies would have put it, he went in there a kid, but he came back out a star. He soon after stepped up to a Saturday night residency.
He first visited New York in 1996 and immediately fell in love with the city. He had planned on a December 2001 move, but 9/11 postponed it for a few more years. As soon as he got there, he became a fixture on the local scene at storied clubs like Limelight (later Avalon), Twilo (later Spirit), Crobar, Splash (then SBNY, then Splash again), and the Pavilion on Fire Island.
He also began releasing compilation CDs. He even became a Billboard reporter. It didn’t hurt that his brooding good looks made him so photogenic. He ended up gracing the pages of Out and other magazines—all before he was 30 years old.
Through it all, he’s kept a special fondness for his native city. He returns every year for at least a few gigs. He was a vocal advocate and booster after Hurricane Katrina. His family (unaffected by the hurricanes) still lives in suburban Metairie, in Jefferson Parish, just across Lake Pontchartrain.
And now he’s exchanged coasts. He’s not one to bemoan the state of New York nightlife. He sees it as a cycle, and the city may be in a down period right now, but “if you go to any small town, you’d be thankful of all that’s here. Things change. When the Saint or Twilo or Roxy closed, people thought it was over. Then something else came along.”
For now, however, he’s perfectly happy in L.A. He’s planning on a lot more mixing and even producing. His remix of “Give It” by X-Press 2, which is the last song on his Winter Party CD for Masterbeat, has been in heavy rotation on the dance floor. “I’m still finding what ‘my sound’ is,” he said. “Whenever I play today, half is either done on my own, or songs I’ve taken and not just rearranged but added sounds to it to make it unique. That’s how I’m getting my feet wet.”
He’s even going to get a driver’s license and a car.
Joe is one of the hottest DJs around. My friends have heard him spin twice this past year, and his music is fresh and great to dance too.
By Jim Yuan on 12-17-2008