DJ Equalizor Says House Music Purists Miss the Point

DJ and producer Adam Cahoon, aka Equalizor, is the founder of Denver House Music.
Modified Photo Graphics
DJ and producer Adam Cahoon, aka Equalizor, is the founder of Denver House Music.
In early March, Adam Cahoon, known better by his stage name Equalizor, was in the middle of emulating an early-2000s breakbeat track about the ritual of going to a rave. He was trying to absorb its essence and eventually translate it into a fresh track of his own.

He had taken a thirty-minute break in between grinding on the track and speaking with Westword. However, he couldn’t help making a little house music in his downtime.

This is the world that Cahoon occupies — one constantly consumed by his musical obsessions. So it’s no wonder that on top of deejaying and producing, he founded Denver House Music, a 2,900-member community of dance-music fans, producers and DJs, who share their insights and inspiration around everything tangentially house music-related. They book shows together, release weekly mixes in their Mix Wednesday series, and participate in a vibrant community.

Westword spoke with Cahoon about his community-building, his recent sold-out show at the Black Box, house music purists, and his latest release, Nightbreed, out on Basscvlt.

Westword: You’re originally from Colorado. Yet up until a few years ago, the house music scene in Colorado was very underground. Instead, the sound here was somewhere between bass music, jam bands and country. What originally got you into house music if it wasn’t the cultural norm?

Adam Cahoon: John Digweed’s label Bedrock. I think that is what really did it for me. I got into tribal house back in the day, and then just different house genres. I moved away from house for a short period of time, and just kind of went back to my roots eventually.

What did you spin before reverting back to house music?

Even though house was my first love, my first gigs were definitely not house. When I first started deejaying twenty years ago, I was a hip-hop, trap and dubstep DJ.

I played my first gigs at this Polish place downtown called the Polished Tavern, which is now closed. Then eventually I got over the environment of people constantly asking for requests, and the whole pop club mentality, and realized all I wanted to do was play house music.

So it took a little while, but I eventually was able to start doing that again at places like the Church.

Were you producing music this whole time?

No. I have deejayed for decades, but it wasn’t until four years ago that I started making my own tracks. My mentors and friends were pushing me to do it, so it only made sense, since it seems like the industry is moving in a direction where promoters are looking for creatives rather than just DJs.
Adam Cahoon is Equalizor.
Jason Greashaber / Modified Photo Graphics
With the Denver House Music page, you have tried to encourage people to produce, as well. Was this the impetus for starting Denver House Music, or were there other reasons?

It originally started with wanting to highlight more house music DJs around Denver and to make them more marketable. And production is an aspect of that. As I kind of talked about with my own music career, it is slowly transitioning that people who just deejay can’t get booked on their DJ merits alone. Now you have to be an artist where you produce your own tunes and incorporate them into your own set so you can do your own sound on stage. I think a lot of people are waking up to that and realizing that, and I wanted to be part of facilitating that.

But our mission statement has always been to connect Denver house music producers with quality house DJs who are consistently getting booked. And we want to link various types of house music events to the house music fans in the Denver scene. So what the people do on my team, and what my focus is with Denver House Music, is to just try to connect everybody together, whether that’s through putting together gigs through the agency, or having the community in the group on Facebook.

Also, every Wednesday we put out our Mix Wednesdays, where we highlight a local house music DJ with a mix that we put up on our SoundCloud.

Both yourself and Denver House Music have a very liberal definition of house music, incorporating many different subgenres. However, there are some really vocal figures in the scene who wouldn’t call a lot of what you support house music. They are very purist about what it is and is not. What do you have to say to the house music Aryans?

I get where they're coming from. House conservatives don’t want to lose any of that sauce that makes it so special, and sometimes it’s hard to adapt to change. However, the ethos of house music has always been one of inclusion and open-mindedness, one that welcomes all people from all backgrounds to the party. So it’s this mentality that we try to take with Denver House Music.

Speaking of gigs, you recently sold out the Black Box Lounge, and Denver House Music has a sold-out show slated for the main room coming up on March 25. What was it like playing house music to a sit-down audience?

I felt very welcomed. Within five minutes of being there, I had a full crowd to play for. And people were clapping to the house music. It was a good feeling, and to go experience that after a year of not performing...it was heartwarming.

Tell us about your current release.

The track "Nightbreed" is coming out on Basscvlt, which is a new label that I like to support. As a matter of fact, they're looking for new artists, so if there are any inspiring producers out there who make house music, electro or even dubstep, hit them up. They have provided me great opportunities for previous releases, and I have more planned with them. I highly recommend them. I think they do a good job.

"Nightbreed" is out on Basscvlt. Snag a copy on Beatport.