By Ashley Zimmerman
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By John Hood
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By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
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The Syracuse-born Greenhouse began his craft at 13, after hearing cutting-edge hip hop tunes while chasing stray balls for the university's basketball team. House music further intrigued him. While at college in Boston, he dived into DJ gigs around the city and into the music industry, working for Chrysalis Records. Shortly after being voted best DJ in the city in 1990 by the Boston Herald, he packed up and headed south to Boca Raton.
"I had a lot of opportunities going for me in Boston. I mean, I was working for a major label, and I had the best gigs in Boston," he says. "But I just wanted to get away from that. I was tired of working for rent. Basically, you make enough money to pay your rent and blow the rest, as any 21-year-old would do."
Hardware was also tired of the music biz's cutthroat culture and instead sought a return to the grassroots, establishing young artists from the ground up.
"The problem with major labels is they're not artist-friendly," he explains. The way they do it is the way they do it, and there's no bending the routine. Independent labels are willing to take chances more than a major label, and that's why I like [them]. And I'm a firm believer that, especially in electronic music, it starts from the underground."
Leaning on his A&R and salesman strengths, Greenhouse launched Hardware World Productions in late 1998. The laundry room of his Boca condo has grown into his full-time warehouse and office space for the electronica distribution firm. He's supporting his latest release, Let the Drums Speak, with world tours. Past jaunts have included performances in Canada, Iceland, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Germany, Holland, England, Belgium, and France. His description of the tribal/trance double album: "Forward-thinking."
"I wanted it to portray what I was playing in the clubs now," he says, "not so much what the past was [or] what the current fad was. I wanted it to be what was in my heart, what I felt was a good record. It's kind of like breaking down the race thing. You've got to break down the genre thing because good dance music is good dance music, no matter how you slice it, dice it, and play it. If it moves you and it moves the floor, then it's a good record."
About five years ago, Hardware abandoned the staple SoFla subgenre of breaks. Back in the day (1997-98) he issued a slew of funky breaks releases: Phunky Breaks from the Vault, Volumes 1 and 2; Soundcheck, Vol. 1; and The Funky Breaks Edition. After that, however, he moved on, saying he couldn't find enough quality breaks to play.
"I don't despise breaks. But I do despise one thing about breaks: the lack of production. When people are just throwing samples together to make a song, there's really no production there," Hardware explains. "The only breaks that I really consider quality are the ones coming from England, because they're really trying to do something with the style."
After drifting to meet the demand for out-of-state gigs, Hardware's planning to reconnect and revitalize the local electronica club scene. And, as a new resident at Sutra, he's hoping to educate clubgoers while giving them what they came for, using his three-to-one ratio: for every three electronica songs people know, he always plays a new, unfamiliar one the lay listeners don't.
"That's really the key to making this scene, I think: keeping people interested." He wants the dance crowd to come in, hear something they've never heard before, and come out wowed. "That, to me, is the key to a successful club night," he declares.
Despite logging almost 20 years as a DJ, with world tours and several releases to his name, Hardware has managed to succeed in some nontraditional ways. He recalls a show in Denver, where a fan trembled and nearly fainted when she met him after his set.
"It's not that I'm trying to be humble or anything," he says. "I'm glad that people enjoy what I do, but I never understand that huge fascination. Obviously, I do like having support, and it's a good feeling to have someone hysterical over you."