He has as unique a first name as you’ll find in the industry—Ilan, pronounced EE-lon—and he’s one of the industry’s veteran club DJs. Ilan Fong, ED’s DJ of the Year for 2016, has been in the biz for over two decades and he isn’t ready to slow down any time soon.
We had a chance to catch up with this Midwesterner and certified Van Halen fanatic to find out what he’s learned in 20-plus years playing music for customers and entertainers alike.
ED PUB: You’re a previous winner of the ED’s DJ of the Year Award. What did the award mean to you, as far as a career and personal achievement?
FONG: Winning the 2016 ED Publications DJ of the Year award was such a momentous moment in my career! The outpouring of support and love in the comments that went along with those votes was really moving. It was great to hear all the lives I’ve made a difference in over the years. After 22 years in the Industry it felt so rewarding to be acknowledged on such a big stage for something I love doing and had no expectation of ever being acknowledged for! Lol Professionally, receiving the award has opened up so many doors by giving me the confidence and credibility to reach out and build new relationships and connections for myself and PANDA. I will always be so proud of this accomplishment and I am forever thankful to ED and everyone who voted and supported me over the years:)
ED PUB: What is your current role with PANDA, and what can you tell other industry DJs about PANDA who aren’t currently active/involved with it?
FONG: I am on the Board of Directors and the Secretary of PANDA. I am in charge of developing the relationships and resources with the Music Industry through our partnership with Oracle Entertainment & Marketing and the PANDA Track Alliance as well as our 2 Podcasts “The PANDA Top 20” & “PANDA Off The Charts” hosted by 2017 DJ of the Year Danny Meyers and myself. For the DJs who aren’t involved, PANDA is a bubbling wellspring of resources! We provide music, tech help, DJ/MC technique, social media experience, professional support, networking, and a place djs can go to share their experiences (both good & bad) with a diverse group that truly understands the unique position we hold within the Industry.
ED PUB: Of course this is a difficult question to answer, but how do you balance the music that the entertainers want to hear versus what you believe the customers in your club want to hear, or what the club’s owner wants you to play?
FONG: Well I am VERY lucky in that my entire 24 year career I have always worked in clubs where the club controlled the format and the entertainers had very little say in the music. That being said, I am a firm believer that the DJ/Entertainer relationship is a partnership! I spend a lot of time explaining the reasons for why we have the music formats we do for the market and club that I am performing in. There is a fine balance in playing music that maximizes the potential earnings of the club and the individual entertainer. My rule of thumb is to play the music within the format that is conducive to stimulating the majority of the club’s audience into the desired actions (I.e. purchasing dances, room, bottles, alcohol and tipping entertainers on stage).
ED PUB: What’s your favorite four or five “strip club songs” that you’ve heard in the past few years? Meaning, what songs have remained popular over the last few years and are good for the strip club environment?
FONG: ”Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd, “Wild Thoughts” – DJ Khaled/Rihanna, Numerous Bruno Mars tracks, One Dance (feat. Wizkid & Kyla) – Drake, Boom (feat. Gucci Mane) – Tiesto & Sevenn, Freaks (feat. Savage) – Timmy Trumpet, Fever – The Dukes, Safari Song – Greta Van Fleet to name a few!
ED PUB: Urban clubs have the distinct advantage of being able to play music that is enjoyed by the customers, entertainers and DJ alike (for the most part). How much easier would your job be if everyone in your club was on the same page, from a music selection standpoint? Or do you think playing a huge variety of music to a wide demographic is better for the club?
FONG: We will have to agree to disagree on this one. The brand and business model of the club and the market in which you operate determines what you should play. Why limit yourself to one demographic? Play to a wide range of clientele that fit within your desired audience! In my opinion, too many clubs try to fit a square peg format in a round hole. I actually believe an OPEN FORMAT is best and you need to have a DJ that can read the room and rock your party a little different every night following the ebb and flow of your audience from shift to shift. I have played everything from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – The Tokens to “Stir Fry” – Migos and everything in between to great success! Finding a Dj to do this in partnership with a knowledgeable ownership group and management team is a very difficult thing to do! So play what works for your club!
ED PUB: How long have you worked as a strip club DJ, and what is your favorite thing about working in the strip club industry?
FONG: I have worked as a strip club dj for almost 24 years. My favorite thing about the job is taking an audience on a celebratory journey that complements the beautiful and talented entertainers of our industry! And that’s going to look and sound different every shift!:)
ED PUB: What are your favorite bands or styles of music to listen to in your private time? If you could see any concert by any band, past or present, who would it be and why?
FONG: Van Halen on their 1981 “Fair Warning” tour would be at the top of my list to see! I never got to see VH with David Lee Roth at the helm and they were the band that made me become passionate about music. They were the EPITOME of everything that I love in a great rock band! They had it all, virtuosity, hooks, groove, charisma, showmanship and an incendiary energy on stage!
Personally my musical taste is all over the place and really depends on my mood. I love Rock, Blues and Soul. One of my favorite bands is Living Colour. I love them because they are all virtuosos who love and play a genre defying blend of music bringing elements of rock/metal/jazz/funk/soul/reggae/pop and blues to every album! And I love all of those genres! Some lesser known artists I love are Badlands, The Eric Tessmer Band, Doyle Bramhall II, The Dukes, ZHU, Lianne La Havas, Andra Day, and Nathaniel Rateliff. Love classic artists like The Beatles, Zeppelin, Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, Bob Marley, Zapp, Parliament/Funkadelic, Prince, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Billy Joel, Tupac, Biggie, Outkast, The Roots, Avicii, Skrillex, DeadMau5, Tiesto, Swedish House Mafia…I LOVE MUSIC!
More about Ilan Fong:
Where do you hail from: Pittsburgh, PA
Current Club: Kahoots, Columbus, OH
Years employed at the club: 17 years
Years in the industry: 24 years
Favorite recording artist: Living Colour, Prince, Van Halen…geez SO many!!!
Where do you find new music: Stripjointsmusic.com ,PANDA Track Alliance, BPM Supreme, DJ City, Club Killers, crate digging on the internet, other djs
Industry hero: The late Rob Caprio
Favorite feature entertainer: Angela Summers/LaceyRain/Simone Danalustrous/Aria Moon/BJ McNaughty…you’re trying to get me in trouble! Lol
Favorite part of your work night: When you’re synch with the crowd and entertainers and they are singing along and getting loud etc
Pet working peeve: A lack of attention to detail and or communication and teamwork
Advice for new strip club DJs: Learn to communicate with everyone in your club! You are often the liaison between everyone! ALWAYS be willing to learn new things!