On The Record: Willis Haltom
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Changing the electronic music landscape in Hawaii and sharing it with the world has always been the mission of forward-thinking DJ and producer Willis Haltom.
If Haltom has anything to do with it, the talent and electronic sounds of Hawaii will never live in seclusion. Since moving to Oahu from Colorado nine years ago, he has witnessed trends come and go. With a mindset oblivious to popular culture, Haltom has turned many of his dreams into reality while bringing big name DJs of global significance to Honolulu.
Over the past 12 months, Haltom has traveled for gigs at clubs and festivals in San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas, Berlin and Germany. Along with releasing two EPs on his label, Asylum Confidential, he put together two remixes for dance music mega labels Dirty Bird (San Francisco) and Get Physical (Berlin).
“You won’t see me playing or making music I don’t feel passionate about,” he said. “I am not that kind of DJ.”
It was his feats as a producer that got him featured in the April issue of DJ Mag, and the recognition continued when Asylum Afterhours, a nightclub on Queen St. that he is part owner of, was ranked No. 77 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs list. It was the third consecutive year the Kakaako establishment was recognized by the magazine.
The launch of Asylum Confidential in August was followed by a release that broke into the top 10 on the techno and tech house charts on popular online music store Beatport (think iTunes for EDM producers), while a track by friend and labelmate DJ Russoul was played on iconic DJ John Digweed’s “Transitions” mix show.
Haltom said at times he wishes the islands would recognize all of what his crew has done and show more love, but he will always remained focused on the positives.
“I’ve had the chance to follow my dreams, DJ and run a club for a living,” he said. “I feel like without a very select few people here, the scene would be quite stale and boring. I commend the people doing events for the love and not for the money. That’s never why I got into this. It’s because I love the music.”
Haltom’s goals may be far-fetched to some, but Haltom doesn’t care. He’s out to surpass is own visions. In the grand scheme of things, he has only just begun.
“(The scene) was getting quite large but it seems like it’s taken a step back lately with the lack of community support and what authority figures and people on the outside looking in perceive our scene to be,” Haltom said. “Let’s hope that changes with time. There is a huge history with this music, but people just focus on the (negative).”
Haltom’s enthusiasm is evident and infectious when he talks about closing out 2013 with one of the crowning achievements of his career — DJ Sasha on Saturday, Dec. 14, at The Fix in Chinatown.
“He was one of the reasons I fell in love with dance music 13 years ago,” said Haltom. “He’s been on top for a long time and his music has inspired many. To date, he is the biggest DJ I’ve ever booked and it took years to bring him to Hawaii.”
How does Haltom close out a banner year? He already has his sights set on a festival gig in Mexico early next month.
“I got to travel quite a bit to the mainland and abroad, played in some amazing clubs and met more like minded people,” he said. “I’m ready to take things up a notch in 2014.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.