TAKE A QUICK GLANCE AT ANY ONE OF ASTRO 8000S PARTY POSTERS AND YOU WILL IMMEDIATELY UNDERSTAND HIS AESTHETIC. THE COOL PINK, WHITE, AND PURPLE TONES THAT ADORN HIS FLYERS EFFORTLESSLY CONVEY HIS UNIQUE STYLE OF MODERN CHIC MIXED WITH PLAYFUL SPACE-Y VIBES. THIS THEME CARRIES THROUGH HIS ENTIRE PERSONA. HE DESCRIBES HIS EFFORTS AS A DJ AS “TRYING TO CREATE AN EXPERIENCE” RATHER THAN BLASTING WHATEVER ATLANTA TRAP RECORD IS HOT AT THE MOMENT. HE WEARS TIMELESS STREETWEAR TEES WITH HIS SIGNATURE COLOR COMBO MIXED WITH BAPESTAS AND BLACK PIN-ROLLED JEANS. BUT BEHIND ASTRO’S UNDERSPOKEN, COOL-GUY AESTHETICS, THERE LIES SOMEONE WHO TRULY UNDERSTANDS THE NUANCES OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CULTURAL FIGURE IN THE MODERN WORLD WITHOUT LOSING THE NICHE OF WHAT GOT YOU THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. WE SAT DOWN WITH ASTRO TO TALK ABOUT HOW HE VIEWS HIMSELF IN THE MUSIC SCENE, HIS JOURNEY TO AND THROUGH PHILADELPHIA CULTURE, AND THE FUTURE.
Who are you and what do you do?
Astro 8000 is the sound selector. I don’t consider myself a DJ because the word DJ means disc jockey and that’s old school. I mean, I like keeping it old-school, but it’s a new era so I had to reinvent myself a couple times. I consider myself a sound selector because that’s how I DJ. When I DJ, I’m not really too focused on playing the top bangers or this and that. It’s more like a journey. The whole Astro thing, it’s short for astronaut, it’s like a journey to different planets, a different sound. We might hit some hard trap music and then go into some really light, futuristic, vibe-y stuff. It’s really just about... it’s a journey, the ups and downs. I’m not an old-school DJ trying to scratch and all that, I mean I can, but I’m not trying to do that because nobody cares. I try to consider myself more of an artist, as cliche as that sounds. Everyone wants to be an artist, but yeah.
When you say you are taking a journey, is that more for you personally or the people at a party?
I’m just trying to create an experience for everybody. You know, you go to parties and you hear the same music. At some parties, yeah whatever, I’ll play all the bangers, but at my parties, like this one on Friday and all the Astro parties that I’m doing, that’s all just a musical journey. Hit something popular that everyone knows, but then we’ll go left field. People might not be dancing, but they’ll be thinking, ‘Yo, that was really cool.’
What made you want to move to Philly?
I’d seen a couple people, they were DJ’ing at parties, and I’d seen New York’s scene and was like, ‘yeah okay, that’s cool.’ But then, I’d seen the Philly scene and there was something so different about it as far as the level of underground-ness. Philly just has a really gutter vibe. You can just throw a party anywhere and people will come to it. You can’t do that everywhere. You can’t do that in California, that’s all clubs, that’s all venues. In Philly though, you can throw a party anywhere. As long as your name is ringing bells people are going to come. Philly is just a really gutter city man, a hood city.
Where are you from and what is your background in terms of DJ’ing and just music in general?
I’m from Lebanon, PA. It’s a small town in Central PA. I started out DJ’ing… I got my own turntables when I was 16. I started DJ’ing in the ‘cool kids’ era. I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with that just because that was ‘08 when I started DJ’ing. DJ A-Trak, that was just the whole 808s and Heartbreak era. Music was just at a weird point where the boom-bap era was completely dead, in my opinion that’s when it completely died like the middle to late 2000s. So, you can kinda hear that when I DJ, I bring back a lot of those tracks, like the cool kids and old Kanye and all that. Also that Kid Cudi era right there too, that influenced me as far as trying to mix it up and play more alternative music. I started out strictly as a hip-hop DJ. I used to DJ for this rap group at my high school. That was really my focus, then I realized that I was focusing more on this rap group than I was on my DJ’ing. So I started getting more into dance-y music in a way. Now I pretty much know exactly where I’m at, I pretty much just mix all that stuff together. Like I said, I’m just creating an experience, it’s not just a party, it’s an experience. You definitely hear some weird music at my parties.
How did you get yourself established in the Philly scene?
So I threw this party, it was called ‘Ratchet Christmas Party’. I moved to Philly in… I want to say 2013. Yeah, it was April, 2013. I can honestly say I was frustrated because I had one of the hottest DJs in Philly inviting me into their DJ crew, DJ Diamond Kuts, immediately right when I moved to Philly. I had the skills, it’s just that, in Philly, you have to know people. It doesn’t always matter how good a DJ you are. So I knew her, but that wasn’t 100% the scene I wanted to be in. I knew it was going to be more than just hip hop, playing that radio hip hop music. I had always followed DJ Sylo on Twitter, I was following him since 2011. I came across his page somehow… Oh, he was deejaying at this Big Sean concert and I followed him and he followed me back. He was one of the influences and one of the reasons I moved to Philly. I came out here and I wasn’t happy with the way things were going. After meeting different people, going to different parties and showing love to people, seeing how things work, I decided to just throw a party. This spot I threw a party at, they just asked for $65 for security and a bartender. It was a free party. I didn’t make money, I actually ended up spending money. My homie DJ Keese, he offered to spin for free. My homie Jansen, he offered to spin for free. I was like, ‘Okay, cool. I’m going to put my money into this party and see what happens.’ That party, I don’t know what happened, but people showed up that are in the scene in Philly. I was surprised to see them. Some people from Babylon Cartel showed up. I had no clue these people even knew about the party. I was just happy that happened.
How did you build on that initial buzz to get to where you are now?
From there, Sylo just randomly reached out to me, because I was going to his parties all the time. He was just like, ‘Yo man, I got this party that I’m doing, I want you to spin.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I didn’t know you liked me like that. I didn’t know you messed with me.’ So I did that. From there, I booked this other party called Slice. This was May 1, 2015 and the Ratchet Christmas Party was January 2015. So five months after I threw my first party I got booked for this big warehouse party called Slice. I was deejaying and Tierra Whack was performing, my homie Stevie Rodgers was performing, this dude Lyrics from New York was performing, and The Ill-Fated Natives, which is a dope band from Philly, they were performing. At that party, I walked in at nine o’clock, and it was an art show slash party so it started at five. By the time I walked in at nine, it was jumping. The party part of it was from nine until whenever, they said like one or two. I walked in, it was crazy and that was the first time that I got to DJ for a large crowd in Philly, in the alternative scene in Philly. That was very inspiring to me. After that party, Sylo hit me up and said, ‘I want you to be a part of Stunt Loco, I want you to DJ with me every week. We do every Thursday, every Friday. Let’s do it.’ So he had the 700 club every Thursday and The Saint every Friday. So I was doing that with him for a while. Then this after-hours spot down the street, it’s called 940, we were doing that all spring/summer. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, every weekend it would be me, Sylo, and my homie Tay Banga. That was really the funnest time in my life. It was one of those spots that anybody could get in as long as you paid. It was underground so it was open until five AM. That right there was the Philly scene, that was the full Philly experience for me. After that, everything came. I pretty much owe everything that I’m doing now to that. Then, Stunt Loco eventually broke up and I just started doing my own thing and everybody started messing with me because I had my own lane. That’s where I’m at right now, that’s how I got here.
Are you trying to branch out in terms of bringing people onto your team?
Yeah, that’s what I’m doing right now, that’s the whole 8000 movement. With my name, Astro 8000, the whole 8000 part didn’t even mean nothing. It was a term of being futuristic, but that’s all it was meant to be. Once I made a logo with ‘8000’ I was like, ‘Man, this is hot.’ So I just started acting like it was a group, but it’s not. It’s just me and my manager Ramsey. It’s like, I’m very picky with the people that I bring on board. I have to 100% really, really like what you’re doing. I have a couple other people that are down with the crew, they help me out with stuff, I help them out, give them gear.
If you had to pick five songs to play right now, what would they be?
1. Minnesota - Lil Yachty 2. [an unreleased track] - Ant Beale 3. Love - Tory Lanez 4. Gone - SNAKEHIPS ft. Sid the Kid 5. Pick Up The Phone - Travis Scott & Young Thug
Would you say that you lean more towards ‘space-y’ songs?
I would say that there are certain producers. It’s all really soundcloud stuff, like Christian Rich, they’re actually OGs for real. The used to be signed, back in the day, to The Neptunes as producers. They used to make a lot of weird, alternative sounding music but they make cool, spaced out music now. Also, as far as the whole future sound thing goes, I don’t like calling it future sound but it’s called future sound, I love the producer Kaytranada. I’ve been listening to his album for a long time. That’s someone who has a more forward-thinking sound.
What about Philadelphia culture on a broader scale do you appreciate?
Well, right now, Philly is definitely still a cutthroat city and people aren’t afraid to step on your toes, but I feel that compared to last year there’s a lot more unity now. Philly is a city where there are a lot of successful people, but nobody is really claiming Philly because it has nothing to offer other people. Philly now, as far as the music scene, the art scene, and the city as a tourist attraction, is flourishing. The whole Philly scene in general is moving forward. The neighborhoods, there’s more neighborhoods becoming better places to live. There are more places opening, because there’s really a lack of venues around here right now, but there are a lot more opportunities opening.
What interest do you have in the peripheral lifestyle aspect of being a DJ, the image?
That’s the thing about it man, when I get booked some people don’t even know what I play, I just get booked based off of my image as a person. That’s the great thing about life, you can create who you want to be. Even as a DJ, you don’t have to play certain songs, you can play whatever you want. That’s what I’m developing myself into, more of a brand, so that when people book me they understand, ‘Oh, he’s going to play what he likes and I like what he likes because he’s a cool person.’ That’s why I make the clothes now too. It’s just the whole lifestyle behind it. You’re not just a DJ anymore. I’m a sound selector, I’m a brand. Nobody’s a DJ anymore, nobody cares about that.
What is your vision for Astro 8000 for the next 3 years?
I definitely want to branch out into more cities. I want to play in New York, I’m definitely going to do my first show in New York within the next month. This All Pink Party is really my next step to getting where I want to be. That’s not just being a Philly DJ, not just being an East Coast DJ, but like all-over. I mean, within the next 3 years, I guess it would be more realistic to say national, not international. Being able to be booked in all of the major cities, LA, New York, SXSW.
Do you see Philly becoming more recognized on a nationwide scale?
Yeah, definitely. I mean we have artists like Meek Mill, one of the top artists right now, Lil Uzi Vert, definitely top two. Pnb Rock, Tunji, he’s coming up. I guess Lil Dicky, I didn’t know he was from Philly but apparently he’s from the outskirts of Philly. He doesn’t really put on for the city though so I don’t really want to put him in that bracket. There are a lot of underground artists too that are going to start to pop because there’s a lot more unity between the hood hip hop scene and the underground hip hop scene. They’re starting to work together more now. I feel like a lot of good things are going to come.
Advice to the kids?
My advice really, is that it’s not hard at all. Figure out yourself, figure out who you are, figure out what you want to be known for. Don’t take every opportunity just because it’s an opportunity, take an opportunity because it fits with your brand. Also, show love to people who you want to work with. If you see a flyer for someone that you know, I would recommend going to the show. Say what’s up, talk to people because the people going to the show for the person who you want to work with are obviously going to be interested in what you’re doing. Definitely go to shows and say what’s up to people. Always say what’s up to people, even if you don’t know who they are.