Island Thunder: Martha’s Vineyard DJ’s hype the scene

Island Thunder is a group of Island guys who produce, mix, remix, and hype the music scene on Martha’s Vineyard. The Times recently sat down with the two main DJ’s, Islanders Carter Hakala, 24, and Spencer Binney, 27, to learn more about the group.

How did each of you emerge into the DJ scene?

Carter Hakala: I’ve been heavily into reggae since the age of 16. However, two years ago in Burlington, Vermont I experienced Reggae Night at Nectar’s…saw DJ’s killing it, and on my way home I stopped in Boston and purchased some equipment and setup material, started mixing, and my next trip to Jamaica added musical influence and only continues to do so.

Spencer Binney: In my youth I dealt with music as a trumpet player, always involved in bands, and at 14 built my first sound system. Took my father’s speakers, amps, and just threw the biggest parties I could…I would DJ all of them and from there on people just kept asking for me. I didn’t “professionally” DJ until this past summer, however, and just dove into it. I took all of my learning to the next level with Pinto [Abrams], Carter, Ned [Posin] and Owen [Maloney] to thank.

How does Island Thunder promote themselves?

SB: Through mix tapes — lots of mix tapes that can be accessed online (from 2006 and on) but honestly the best promotion is through our radio show, especially in the winter, on WVVY 93.7.

CH: Yeah, the radio station is amazing, especially the responses we get from people listening all over the world: Nicaragua, South Africa…Hopefully Island Thunder will just keep growing and revolving.

Where and for whom did you spin this summer?

CH: In early July the Seafood Shanty gave us a great live intro into the summer followed shortly by an extensive wedding party at Troy Carter’s house, Lady Gaga’s producer.

SB: The Sand Bar has been good to us and Nectar’s has given us a great opportunity to show our talent. We have a truly symbiotic relationship with them. They let us play what we want and we bring in people to every show with fresh beats.

What artists would you want to mix with in the future?

SB: Tarrus Riley was who we were looking forward to and Island Thunder did it…but if Sizzla ever got out of Zimbabwe we’d go after him…in the states I’d love to link up with Itation Sound Systems.

CH: In Jamaica I had an opportunity to spin at the recklessly loud Dirty Fridays sound system in Logwood and at JB Sundays, and hope to mix with them again this winter, but seriously want to open for Lutan Fyah in the future.

What was the best song you each listened to today?

SB: “Goodnuff” with Major Lazer and Collie Budz.

CH: Junior Kelly over the “Jah Children” rhythm.

Does Island Thunder have any music in the making?

SB: So much of it is in the making including the pivotal production of Supernova Fieldtrip’s debut album and we’re in the midst of creating Robert Parker’s “Trapshack Volume One.” Anticipating our winter, we will be filming videos for music made this past year.

CH: As far as brand new rhythms go, we are always working on something. I’ve been working since late winter on a collection of original rhythms in preparation for recording in Jamaica this coming season.

Do either of you believe someone can be taught to be a great DJ?

CH: It’s all about passion. If you have the passion for music you can learn, but you can’t teach passion.

SB: Some technical things can be taught, but there’s something intrinsic about being involved in feeling out a group of people and mediating what to play next. There’s a sort of empathy towards the crowd for sure.

What are your plans for Island Thunder on the mainland and outside of the United States?

SB: We are so excited to offer up the studio in Roaring River, Jamaica to Vineyard bands. We want them to go there and record, get inspired, do an internship, etc. Island Thunder is about everybody on the Island; a community thing. Even if you don’t love Reggae, just get involved. We just want to show the Island the same support they’ve shown us.

For more information on Island Thunder, search Island Thunder on facebook.com, or search Roaring River on youtube.com and datpiff.com.