By Kimberly Wethal
Sept. 23, 2015
You know him on stage as “McCoy’s Boy.”
For now, that is.
Originally choosing a name based off a love for “Star Trek” and the show’s character Leonard McCoy, DJ and UW-Whitewater senior Andrew Eppen is looking to rebrand himself as a professional performer as he strives to reach new heights in an ideal music career.
Opening for Timeflies at UW-W’s second-annual Welcome Back concert on Sept. 1, Eppen achieved another milestone as he played for hundreds of peers: his biggest crowd, and his “best show yet.”
“I was so nervous to play before the show,” Eppen said. “Once I got on stage, I was in the zone.”
It’s a “big deal” to be a DJ in the United States, Eppen says, because most come from other countries. Most notably, The Netherlands.
Eppen’s appreciation for music started with school band and the Backstreet Boys.
“I was always someone who listened to music,” Eppen said. “That’s something that I got from my dad. He was in just a fun band in college, and he was a guy who really showed me a lot of music when I was a kid.”
He had a friend as a senior in high school who listened to Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and deadmau5. He wasn’t sure if he liked it.
EDM is dance music commonly played at raves, nightclubs and festivals.
At first, Eppen thought the genre was weird.
“The more I listened to it, the more I got into it,” he said.
That led him to go to Pandora Radio and search for more DJs who would eventually become his favorites and that convinced him to try his own hand at it.
Eppen started to play around with DJ software and EDM with friend Mark Jansky as a college freshman and found a passion in creating electronic dance music sets.
“During that first semester I started playing around with some DJ stuff, and Andrew joined in because he thought it looked cool,” Jansky said. “We just started with some programs on our computer without any external DJ gear, and we slowly bought bigger and bigger stuff, and now we have a pretty professional setup.”
Mixing music in a free DJ app led Eppen to play venues in Madison and Milwaukee clubs, most notably The Rave. He’s gone so far as to travel to Missouri to play with DJ S3RL, an internationally known artist.
“I road-tripped it out, and for one show I got to taste what it’s like to be a real DJ,” he said.
National and international DJ radio stations from California and England, respectively, were taking notice of him during his sophomore year of college.
“There’d be international DJs from around the world, and we’d have our set time for an hour to play all different kinds of EDM,” Eppen said. “It was a really good community and we’d have a chatbox … really support each other.”
Eppen also did monthly mixes for a record label before they decided to part ways due to artistic differences, among other things.
He describes opening for Timeflies as “euphoric.” He overcame any pre-show jitters once he was on the stage and was “in the zone.”
Once comfortable on stage, Eppen lets the music move him and reads the crowd, playing different music styles the audience likes and responds to.
“The reactions the audience had right away to my set … I was clapping, and then the whole crowd started doing it,” he said. “The whole experience is amazing. The feeling I get on stage is unlike anything else.”
On stage is where he wants to be for the rest of his life.
He recently started talking into the microphone, which he says breaks down barriers between the DJ and the crowd and makes a DJ look like an actual person. It’s one of his biggest pet peeves when a DJ isn’t doing all they can to interact with and engage with their audience.
“If they look bored, it’s like, ‘why are you up there?’” he said. “I want to be up there.”
Opening at the Welcome Back concert gave Eppen a chance to showcase his work to peers who’d only heard about his passion in the past, and show them what EDM is all about.
“I think Timeflies was a really cool experience for me, because going to school here, most people know me as a DJ and I would talk about the music and how awesome it was, but the thing is people didn’t know. They didn’t know the music, and they didn’t know what it was like to experience it,” Eppen said.
One thing Eppen says is “in the works” is learning to produce his own music and play new instruments to add to the music-mixing and set-creating skills he already has.
“DJing is all about knowing people, and I think I can do a better job of getting my name out there within the community.,” Eppen said. “Sometimes it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone … that’s gotten easier for me because as I progress in my DJ career. I’ve gotten more confident.”