HEADROOM Listening Sessions is not just a monthly event at Flash Nightclub typically held on the 3rd Thursday of the month from 7-9pm. This is is a grassroots movement to connect local artists and producers in the electronic music community. This event gives artists a forum to showcase their tracks on a world class sound system and to receive valuable feedback from other producers in a friendly, constructive environment.
The event was founded in 2016 by Chadwick, a DC-based producer and a resident DJ at Flash nightclub. Blisspop chatted with Chadwick about all things HEADROOM: from how the event got started, Chadwick’s favorite memories from past events, and what’s on the horizon for HEADROOM!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what are the Headroom Listening Sessions for those who aren’t familiar with the event?
I’ve been into DJing since I was really young, but around 1991 I got swept up in the underground raves that were really amazing. I was going to school in Richmond, VA so I was close to DC and Baltimore where things were really hot. At the time, I was working with some promoters in Richmond and they did a couple of parties in the Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) that were really big. I ended up moving there and opening up a record and clothing store, Wax Worx, that operated from 1995-2003. I got interested in production and picked up some gear around ‘97 and did some collaborative projects and had my first record release in 1999.
I moved to DC in 2003 and in 2012 became the first resident DJ at Flash when the club opened. Through that relationship, I was able to pitch the HEADROOM idea to the club and they gave me the chance to get it started. The idea came out of an afternoon when I was at the club alone with my Native Instruments Maschine Studio hooked up to the sound system making beats. Another producer/DJ friend called and I said come by. He did along with a couple more artists and everyone wanted to play their new productions on the Funktion One. We stood in the middle of the floor listening and talking about what worked and what didn’t.
That was the moment I knew I could share that energy in a regular event. Getting to hear your production on a quality sound system is a missing element in most artists’ workflow. At Flash, we have that ability and the room is sound treated like a studio, so it truly is a great place to listen. There are not a lot of rooms like that. Flash is special.
What are some of your top memories from past Headroom sessions?
Wow! Umm well… there’s been some months where there’s been exceptionally great music. But there’s always quality music. I couldn’t say that there was one that was spectacular. Each event is unique. The last event before the pandemic was crazy because it was so big! We had about 40 people try to enter music for that one. A lot of listeners came out as well for that one so there was this great energy along with music that was top quality from start to finish. So we hit this peak and then it dropped out from under us!
There was another one in September 2017 that had just really an all star lineup. During that period we had an extremely talented group of regular artists and track after track, it was music that moved you. People were saying, “WOW!” There are just those moments when you know it’s right and will be something when released.
Who are some of the artists who are considered event favorites that have come up and have been consistently showing up to Headroom?
We’ve had a lot of artists in the events that are currently achieving success. At least half a dozen #1 spots on Beatport and Traxsource and too many top tens to count. Michael Gold, (Enamour) is one who was there from pretty much the start. For the first couple of years, he put his music through there every month and he has now reached a global audience. His dedication to making music and his work ethic were evident from the moment he came to HEADROOM.
Michael Cobaria (Micfreak) has also been receiving a lot of attention with his releases. He also has been a great mentor to other HEADROOM artists. Through his label, Funktrap Recordings, he has consistently released music by local artists. The list is getting longer each session of HEADROOM alumni reaching new levels in their careers.
HEADROOM is just an incubator. It’s a place that brings these people together. It doesn’t make anyone a star, but people can see what these artists are doing. It makes them work harder and they see that there’s a path to success. Talking with an artist, asking questions, and building on those interactions can make such a difference in elevating someone to the next level.
How would you describe the format of the event?
Artists submit their original music through our website, HeadroomLS.com during a set period of time before the event. We have a maximum of twenty artists for the two hour sessions. I act as the host and I call each artist up to the mic. They introduce themselves, talk a little bit about their music, and then we play it. Listeners then give constructive feedback and thoughts on what they hear. It’s simple and gets people to really connect with each other. That’s a big thing because a lot of artists aren’t really great at connecting with people.
Or if you go to a club especially on the weekends it’s hard to have conversations and it’s dark. It’s a good place to see people but it’s not always a good place to communicate. Headroom is great because it’s like a happy hour. The lights are on so you can see, hear, and talk to everybody.
For me, something I really appreciated about the event is the fact that after I showcase a track, there’s these conversations happening. I get to meet different producers. They give pointed feedback that’s not mean spirited but well intentioned. It has definitely given me ideas for improvements to my mixes.
Yea, and that’s what makes it special. It’s a room full of artist peers. You get feedback that’s not fluff. No one is blowing smoke at you. It’s real. You can make music that might not appeal to everyone. That’s fine, art is subjective. What HEADROOM can do is help you make it sound better sonically. But it’s up to you to make your music. If you are having trouble with some elements of a track, there will be someone at the event that can give you some advice and tips to help you get it right.
Hasn’t this event grown since 2017 and now isn’t there a Headroom event on the west coast too?
We had some visitors from San Francisco that loved what we were doing. They work with a music school and have a production and mastering studio, Dark Star Audio. They hold regular events at Halcyon in San Francisco. I went out for the initial one and they are running great events out there! Same thing, they are bringing people together and showcasing their music in the club.
Where do you hope to take headroom in the future?
Ah yes, that’s the exciting part! So I’ve taken on a partner with Headroom. I’ve been doing it by myself since the beginning. Ri Caragol is now working with me and is developing the HeadroomLS.com website. He’s been coming to Headroom since the beginning and he’s a great artist really into performing live with modular gear. His studio setup is amazing. My jaw dropped when I went into his studio, he’s got so many cool pieces in his rigs. The website is new and is just starting to take shape. We are working towards getting that to be the vehicle to accompany the live events, host a community board, and eventually link other cities as we go. We don’t want to be a global thing that trickles down. We want to trickle up so we have each group retain their individual identities but still based on the live events.
Is there anything else you want Blisspop readers to know?
Yea! It’s open to anybody. We do it at a tricky time. It’s from 7-9pm so we have little traffic issues and such but people make it. It’s a great place to just hang out. Really come and listen. You don’t have to be a music maker to enjoy it. You can really come and meet people. There’s nothing else like it. I would love to see more female producers there too because they often bring a different energy. For me, the room’s perspective and sound feels more balanced when female producers are participating. There are some super talented women making music in the area and I would love to hear more from them and hopefully encourage other artists to try producing.
It’s not just diversity of gender but also the diversity of types of people, perspectives, genres. I do appreciate hearing a wide variety of electronic music genres personally when I’m at HEADROOM.
I absolutely agree. Since we restarted in September at Flash, I think we have had the widest range of electronic sounds. It’s made the listening experience more unique and more creative inspiration for everyone.
Maybe that’s a result of the pandemic? People were learning how to produce because they didn’t have anything else to do.
Yea not just making club bangers.
No club bangers, more lofi chill beats!
The upcoming HEADROOM Listening Session is scheduled for December 16th with submissions open from Dec. 12-14th. Visit HEADROOMLS.com for more information.