By Jacob Katel
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With pop culture spinning as fast it does, it would seem to make a certain perfect sense for DJs to start getting dizzy with visuals as well as with sound. But except for a very few practitioners here and there, the spin still remains basically the same.
Not so for Tom Laroc, who has turned his turntables on end and given them a screen to contend with. The proper term might be "VJ," but that ho-hum designation doesn't really do justice to his newly minted brand of visualized DJing.
Just check Laroc's "Nu-Disco" video mix. The 13-minute onslaught kicks in with a clip from Master Shortie called "Bringing It Back." Yes, if you close your eyes, you can hear the vivid '80s-era colors that are in the song's (and apparently the visual artist's) palette. But when you actually get to see the video, those imagined hues roar with a whole other life. The same applies to the mix's ensuing songs, such as LazerBitch's "Coquette," New Boyz's "You're a Jerk," and the Golden Filter's "Solid Gold."
The best part about it is that most, if not all, of the clips on Laroc's hit list are seldom seen outside of a search engine's results; they're certainly not regularly seen in the clubs. "Everybody's caught the hip-hop videos that are out there," Laroc says. "But folks rarely get to see the new disco and the electro-pop clips that are coming out these days. And I make a point of grabbing the rarest, newest things I can lay my hands on."
Laroc wasn't always a VJ, nor was he always on to some of the snarkier songs in clubdom. In fact, he made his name spinning hip-hop at the legendary NFA parties back when South Beach was still something of an adventure. And prior to that, he'd swing down from his Strong Island home to handle Don Busweiler's infamous Pervert parties, named for the then-hot streetwear line.
As a result, Laroc just so happened to be at the forefront of some of the fastest action the once sleepy town had ever seen. But though he didn't really hone his new craft till his residency at the late Bella Rose, his visual come-up can be traced back to his days in Providence, where he was attending Johnson & Wales and spinning the kinds of parties that make a college town jump.
It was there where Laroc met Gardner Post, one of three future founders of the notorious multimedia enclave Emergency Broadcast Network. A decade and change later, the two would recollide to found a collective called United Content Providers. And the rest, as Laroc will readily say, is set to make history. Hell, in his eyes, it's already been made. "This is where DJs are trying to go," he says, "but we're already here."
These days, Laroc boasts showings everywhere from the Miami Science Museum to the Arsht Center, as well as his own residencies at Pangaea (where he's been boothed-up for three straight years) and Klutch (where he handles Friday nights for the lads from SMAC). This is where you can catch the local extension of United Content Providers' extensive cut-and-shred reworking of the visual, an art the collective is perfecting in a Vermont farmhouse and unleashing everywhere people have open eyes and wide minds.
Is this the future of DJs? If Laroc and United Content are to be believed, indeed it is. And though what they do might not exactly mark the death knell for those sticking to two turntables and a microphone, it surely proves there are dimensions in spinning still to be explored. No doubt Tom Laroc will be out there exploring those dimensions and imploring others to take his cue.
Tom Laroc's current top five videos:
2. "Rad Anthem," Rad Omen
3. "Solid Gold," the Golden Filter
4. "In for the Kill (Goldspun Video Edit)," La Roux
5. "Animal," Miike Snow