Biography

New Year’s Eve, 1991
A flyer found. A map point located. A warehouse discovered. A threshold crossed. One night. One moment. For me, nothing would ever be the same again.

What is it about electronic music that captures us so? Why is it that, once found, it grabs hold and refuses to let go? And why is it that nearly all of us can name the exact moment when it made everything change.

For Alex Whalen, December 31, 1991 is that moment. Before, the path of his life had been headed one way. After, well…

In the beginning, he was nothing more than a dedicated punter, one of the East Coast faithful, traveling hundreds of miles each weekend in pursuit of the perfect beat. Thursdays at Baltimore’s legendary Fever. Fridays at Washington DC’s immortal Buzz. Saturdays at one-off’s with names like Catastrophic, Storm, Ultraworld, or Primary. They were all in the right place at the right time - the birth of a scene, a music, a movement.

Along with the flyers he collected the music. Guerrilla. FSOL. Limbo. Cosmic Baby. Stress. Leftfield. Platipus. The soundtrack of the weekend became the soundtrack of his life. At first, it was enough to let others arrange it, but then…

This was the era of the mixtape, a time before the Pro Tools perfect, studio session solid CD. Sets were played, recorded, and traded, passed hand to hand among the faithful, with no DJ too big or small to be worth a listen.

Although he loved the dancefloor, he started someplace that might surprise you - downtempo. Yes, downtempo. Back then, no event was complete without the “Chill Room”, and it was there he found his first source of DJing inspiration. One tape, two tapes, three tapes, more… He only gave them to a few friends, but these things, well, they have a life of their own. It started small - gigs in Richmond VA, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York. He was paying his dues. And then…

August 16, 1996
Washington D.C.’s Buzz presents Supersting. The greatest collection of talent that had ever been assembled on a single night in the States. Sasha. Carl Cox. Scott Henry. BT. Laurent Garnier. LTJ Bukem. And in the Cloudwatch Chill Out Tent, among others, Babylon - a.k.a. Alex Whalen. He wasn’t on the main stage. Far from it. And yet, He had to ask himself, “is this DJing thing for real? Could it become his life?”

Truth is, if you ask anyone who knew him, it already was his life. From that first night in ‘91, sharing this music with others had been the thing that mattered most. Whether it was making mix tapes, opening his own mail order record shop, or spending countless hours trainspotting tracks, nothing mattered more. But somehow, until that summer night in ‘96, the idea that it could happen to him, well…

Newly inspired, he poured himelf deeper still into the music, shifting focus from the chill room to the main room. The scene grew, expanded. Nightclubs were becoming superclubs, DJ’s superstars. The underground was going global.

With his turn towards the dancefloor he knew there would be yet more dues to pay, and pay them he did. More tapes changed hands, more connections made, more sets played, and then…

July 30, 1999
A return to Washington, D.C.’s Buzz. Only this time it was the main floor. Alex, his records, and 2000 of DC’s most devoted. Eight years chasing the beat and it was here.

And then, an amazing thing happened. What was an opening set became much more. The headliner’s records were lost en route, and he was asked to stand in their stead. Sounds like the stuff of legend, but it’s true. 4 hours later and his career had begun.

Offers to DJ came fast and furious - from Buzz and beyond. And then, soon after, an offer that would once again change everything. The Deep Dish boys were looking for someone to manage their new record shop and web site, and his name was on the short list. The dream of living this music full time suddenly became a reality.

Over the next three years he spent all of his days and nights working to build The Yoshitoshi Shop and Yoshitoshi.com. In Washington D.C., together with the seemingly unstoppable Buzz, yheir shop became synonymous with everything dance. On the Web, our shop went global - and Alex went along for the ride…

East Coast. West Coast. Hawaii. Ibiza. A residency was offered, and then a second.

The first came from D.C.’s Club Five, a new purpose built venue looking to build a night. Together with DJ Buster he took over Saturday nights, for over a year playing to the faithful, a thousand strong and up for anything. As a DJ, it was his chance to stretch his wings, to make a night his own, to define his sound. Club Five was a turning point, one that prepared him for…

…the second offer. Buzz was offering a monthly residency to Dave Ralph, and they were looking for someone to share the bill. A DJ who could set the night, establish the sound, prime the crowd. Dave had his list of names, Buzz had theirs. In the end he was offered the slot, and for the next two years our monthly was one of the highlights of the DC clubbing calendar.

More importantly, perhaps, it also became the launching pad for a close musical partnership, one that lasts right up to today. With the success of our night at Buzz firmly established, we took to the road, touring North America in support of Dave’s ‘Naturalized’ CD. Soon after they hit the studio, producing several tracks under the Ralph + Whalen moniker. Check Dave’s ‘Resident Alien’ CD for some of the results.

April 29, 2002
It was time for a change. DC, Buzz, Yoshi - they’d been great to Alex - more than he’d ever hoped for, in fact - but it was time to go. 100 boxes of records and 3000 miles later he found himelf setting up shop deep in the heart of San Francisco. Throughout his travels Alex had been blessed to meet a number of amazing people, but SF has more than its fair share. It was the only choice.

Over the next two years he added syndicated radio to his arsenal as a resident for Thump Radio, helped launch a new house music venue for Blowfish Music, and headlined for both Spundae and Release - quite an accomplishment if you know the SF scene. With two like-minded musical souls, Kramer and Nicholas Baker, he started a new monthly called Arrival, an ongoing night dedicated to breaking new talent in SF’s progressive house scene. And of course, throughout the world, he continued to travel and spread his brand of progressive house.

June 3, 2004
DJs, they’re nomads, never content to stay any one place very long. SF had been great, but it was time to move on. The legendary Avalon in Boston was calling with a new offer. A new residency. A new dancefloor. A new sound.

Boston does clubbing differently: Open at 10, close at 2. Bring it early, bring it often, and above all else, bring it hard. Open right and they’ll reward you. Make one false move and you may never live it down. But Avalon wasn’t his only home in Boston. In a twist for a DJ, Alex decided to take on a new role - a PhD candidate in Boston University’s Department of Political Science. What can you say? I’m a kid fom DC. Politics must be in his blood.

For three years he tried to keep things in balance, but eventually something had to give way. And then…

October 1, 2007
Everything changes. Everything comes to an end. For Boston and for Avalon, that day had finally come. After a 15 year run the club had been sold, its doors closed for good. What now? What’s next?

Every challenege presents an opportunity, and for Alex it meant a chance to find balance. That’s right, the unthinkable happened. The DJ chose to put books before records, the library before the dancefloor. But he passed his classes; he aced his comprehensive exams. And now he’s knee deep into his own research, working hard to determine how and why communications technologies drive change in the political world.

January 5, 2009
That itch. It’s back. Its time to find new dancefloors, time to deliver a new sound. Is Drum & Bass the new progressive? Will Alex once again call SF his home? Stay tuned. Big things this year… Big things.

For more information on Alex, or to sign up for his free podcasts, visit his official website at http://www.alexwhalen.com.

Edited by alexwhalen on 4 Feb 2009, 00:49

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Formed in
  • 1991
Founded in
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