From Guitars to Controllers: How Dillon Nathaniel Fell In Love With Dance Music

Jul 6, 2023

Carolina Quijano

3 min read

DJ and producer Dillon Nathaniel grew up surrounded by house and trance music, yet he didn’t immediately fall in love with the genres. Even though he has an early memory of being three years old and obsessed with the Mortal Kombat movie and theme song, that’s as far as his interest went. His brother fostered his love of music. It just wasn’t EDM; he grew up loving rock music, and guitars, focusing his time on learning how to play and sing.

Though he wasn’t interested in house music, it still encompassed much of his life. His initial exposure came from his father, with whom he’d spend summers and vacations. His dad would play Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren, and Sasha & Digweed, which embedded the sound into Nathaniel’s soul, waiting for the right moment to take hold.

When he was 16, he moved in with his father to start a new life. He and a friend began listening to electro-house and DJs like deadmau5 and Wolfgang Gartner. Then, his father took him to his first EDC. Watching deadmau5 perform live put it all together for him.

“It was just like this whole other world opened up with all this music I’d never heard. I looked at my dad, ‘This is what I want to do, Dad.’ I want to be that person on stage...I just had this epiphany. I wanted to do something in music,” Nathaniel told Gray Area during his Spotlight interview.

He wanted to live this lifestyle, to make music. Everyone was so respectful and so open-minded. And he felt that he finally had an identity as a raver kid. It was almost like he’d joined an exclusive club.

Capitalizing on Nathaniel’s interest in DJing, and as a way to keep Nathaniel out of trouble, his father gave him a copy of FL Studio. Experimenting with the software, Nathaniel used it to record himself playing guitar. After familiarizing himself with his dad’s controller, he decided to try making four-on-the-floor house music. He went from being someone who was more into playing guitar to someone who loved making dance music.

Nathaniel eagerly shared any music he made in his early days with his father, taking his dad’s unlabeled, super housey tracks and mashing them up with music he found around the house. Unbeknownst to Nathaniel, those were Carl Cox tracks. He was fusing them with the Black Eyed Peas, truly getting a feel for what music-making was all about.

It truly seems that Nathaniel’s come full circle. Though he didn’t realize he was using Carl Cox’s music to practice mixing and mashing, he now relates so much to Cox’s sound and how it changed Nathaniel’s thoughts about music. It’s returning to his roots.

From humble beginnings where he thought his father’s taste in music was lame to Nathaniel finding his place among house heavy hitters, he has one person to thank—his dad. Always his biggest cheerleader, his dad goes to every local show and is always front and center.

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