By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
HOLYOKE - Shaq peers over Steve Porters left shoulder and motionlessly awaits his mashup.
The Big Retirees retirement press conference and the kid contestants in last months Scripps National Spelling Bee are perfect fodder for Porter. The smirking words of the basketball leviathan and the wide-eyed nerdiness of the pre-pubescent spelling savants will be smushed on top of each other and set to music.
The result will cause the corners of more than a million mouths to curl north.
But for now, Shaq hangs on the computer screen in Porters cave. Porter better known as DJ Steve Porter is hearing first-person feedback. And hes flattered to learn that at least in the Curran house he is revered. His One Clap mashup of Randy Moss is the modern-day equivalent of the 70s TV jingles I grew up with; the ones you can start singing and know someone else will join in to finish.
I say Moss this, Moss that one of my boys will answer Mossthis, Mossthat from another room. I say, I dont shine shoes . . . I know Ill hear, I dont tape ankles, I dont cut checks . . . Straight cash, Homey.
The scene makes the angular 32-year-old grin, rock back in his chair and turn his palms up as if to say, I had no idea!
Im always in the cave, Porter says, referring to the 25x15 studio nestled in a red brick warehouse in this proud, working-class city on the banks of the Connecticut River in Western, Massachusetts. Im always here just grinding away on stuff, so hearing those stories is amazing to know people are moved while listening to this stuff. Im either here, traveling or working with clients directly so its rare that I get out and touch anything outside the fishbowl.
The uploads on Porters YouTube channel have been viewed more than 25,663,000 times. The Slap Chop remix, Press Hop (1 and 2), Charlie Sheens Winning (and more!!), Blake Griffin.
Strewn across the Internet landscape are millions more views of Porter creations. Once an underground DJ spinning techno and dance in clubs from Boston to Ireland, Porter is now very much above-the-surface. Shaq and the spelling bee kids are going to be part of a monthly mashup he does for ESPN. He did the house ads for the NBA during the 2010 playoffs. Youll soon be seeing his latest creation for Wheaties featuring Kevin Garnett and Peyton Manning. Theres a Hyundai commercial, a Puma account featuring Usain Bolt, a gig DJing at Comic Con, a date to DJ in and out of breaks for ESPNs Sports Nation and mashups for NBCs Community.
Porters company, Porterhouse Media, is blossoming and his marketing directormedia specialistspokesperson Bethany Daley is straight out trying to manage Porters schedule.
Despite proof of his success, Porter is endearingly self-conscious about the fact people really, really like his stuff.
I have no way of fathoming (the number of people whove watched his work) and thats probably a good thing, he professes. Its just reassuring that people are checking out the videos. Its impossible to get your head around the numbers. But multiple elements make it go viral.
The son of two UMass professors his father Roger started the Polymer Science Program at UMass, his mother is currently the ombudsperson at the university Porter started on this road when he was at Willison-Northampton, a prep school in Easthampton. He joined the DJ club there. It became his passion and he was a prodigy. Spinning at raves in Boston and New York led to gigs in Europe.
For about 10 years he was immersed. His crossover began with, of all things, the Slap Chop. Noodling at his computer one night, he mashed up Vince Offers infomercial and uploaded it to YouTube. Within hours, it had gone viral. Its been viewed more than 12 million times. Before long, Porter a diehard sports fan - was sampling from press conferences and working his magic there.
Now his world is mashed up between underground DJ and burgeoning business titan as companies come to him to help themselves get edgy and go viral.
The transition wasnt easy.
It took me a long time to get to this point as an artist, he explains. When I first started making music and creating things I was doing it a lot more for myself because I wanted to see what I could do. Now, Ive reached a point with becoming more confident with my skill set. And when I became more confident, I became more comfortable working with other people and letting people into my world.
Its a personal world when you make something and then invite people in to look at it, he adds. It takes some strength and courage. And it wasnt until I reached a level of maturity that I could allow that. And now its what I want. Let me know if were going in the right direction.
The most daunting account so far?
Definitely working with the NBA, he says. Theyre very image conscious and rightfully so and I did my very best to honor their consciousness of their own image with the playoff ads. Thats something I really enjoy doing, drawing within the lines. If you tell me you want to go this direction, thats the most fun part of doing these videos is to draw within those lines.
"To make something that (the customer) will love but is still dynamic and fun. With the NBA it was a great challenge because youre upholding their tradition and image. But thats how you make awesome things, with cooperation. Thats a difficult thing for an artist to get through and get over is to allow other people to critique their work.
How has the underground DJ community reacted to his success? He says hes heard sellout accusations.
I did nothing but keep it real for 10 years, he explains. I think the only thing keeping me from being completely massacred is that Im doing something new and fresh and people offer me respect for that in that Im treading new ground. If I started making completely cheesy commercial pop music, theyd say, Steve, whats up? but I havent. Still, there will always be people out there who are critical and as the notoriety has come theres been that kind of criticism. People have said some really mean stuff.
The reason that criticism doesnt really stand is that Porter is creating something he likes that he hopes others like too. The fact a broad audience enjoys it is not his fault.
Porter is most proud of his work for the NBA. But his favorite mashup may be the Moss one, released last fall when the mercurial wideout returned to the Vikings.
The amount of amazing content was already there, he points out. To make a solid beat and solid track around that was easy compared to the content that was there in the first place. You cant get that from every athlete. What he was saying was gold. There was a comedic value but a catchiness to it as well. Theres a little comedy, impact-full moments. You can combine different elements to them and tint it with some cinematic tones with the highlights then go to the personality stuff.
With the Moss video, that wasa perfect storm, he recalls. The soundbites were great, the track came out well and he was on the tip of everyones tongue. Everyone was already all over the guy. We had planned to do the Moss video a month before everything went down and then it exploded. Thats viral in a nutshell. You have to have a perfect storm where everyone is already talking about it and then something kicks it even harder.
Porter is in the eye of the perfect storm now. A modern-day alchemist in a Holyoke warehouse.