Wilkie works it

Boston’s homespun house guru mixes business with pleasure
By DAVID DAY  |  June 14, 2006

WILKIE-PEDIA: Eli balances his two jobs effectively.
When people think of house DJs, they generally conjure an all-out party character set on dropping tracks and staying up until sun-up, but ELI WILKIE leads a double life. In one weekend, he can go from corporate office to DJ booth and back again to Woburn, where he works as a sales specialist for a font company. “I’ve been in boardrooms and people have been like, ‘Hey, you’re that guy . . . and I’ve been like, ‘Yeah, heh,’ ” says Wilkie. “People don’t know my face, but they’ll see my name and be like, ‘Hey.’ But I downplay a lot of it, basically I’m just busy and I work on the weekends as well.”

Wilkie’s day job allows him to travel (“I’ve tied a few business trips together with DJ gigs”), but his DJ cred is pretty lengthy too. He’s produced tracks as Agent 001 with globetrotting partner DJ STEVE PORTER; he runs the REVERSIBLE record label and has DJed at clubs nationwide in addition to his main residency at Avalon. “People stereotype it as guido or Euro,” he says of the Lansdowne Street gig, “but I don’t think it’s like that anymore. There’s a mix of different people in there.”

Wilkie has always kept things local. Born and raised in the Boston area, he attended UMass-Amherst and met up with a crew that would go on to international acclaim. Christened Silky Wilkie by the Amherst crew, he was one of the last of the scene to begin DJing. He was always aware of raves and such but never thought to give DJing a turn until, he says, “my roommate bought turntables and I was like, ‘Cool! Do you scratch?’ And he said, ‘No, I’ve got this cool dance music from England.’ And I was like, ‘Awesome!’ ” Wilkie was quickly turned onto house, which he still spins today. “I like movement of house music. I like the speed of it, I like the bounce of it, I like the way it moves. I like the way almost every form of music can be expressed through it.”

In the 1990s, the vibrant Amherst scene spawned a laundry list of DJs centered on the GROWROOM record store run by DJ HUSH and BONS. “It was a small, tight scene, but it was some pretty cool people, so most people continued on with the music in some form and are still involved in it.” DJ Steve Porter in particular has gone on to tremendous success. “They hired Steve to work there. He was hanging around there all the time anyway, so they just gave them a job! Steve’s in the middle of a world tour. He’s in China right now, in cities I’ve never even heard of!” A quick check of Porter’s Web page shows him in Xuzhou, Changsha, Yueqing, and Changzhou. He still reps New England, though. His new mix CD, Porterhouse , which was all over the Winter Music Conference in Miami, features nine tracks from Wilkie’s label. “That was a nice push for us. And now that it’s out and going to be coming out in Europe soon, that’s going to help us out a lot. He’s been a big part of helping out a lot of these people, but they helped him out back in the day as well, get his stuff started. A lot of the label is centered on Boston guys, all from the Growroom scene. We’re all growing still and working with each other to put out so much music, but in a more focused manner now. We’re keeping a lot of things tight.” Wilkie regularly plays at Rise and Mantra, but you can catch him this Friday, June 16, at Avalon opening for funky house master DONALD GLAUDE.

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