Not too long ago, Melbourne-based metal-obsessed muso Luke Gelsumini was enjoying a typical weekday evening, watching YouTube and flicking through Facebook. Little did he know his life was about to change when he stumbled upon a post from Universal School of Music promoting their second annual Sonic Presence DJ Competition.
“I saw the ad pop up and I thought to myself, ‘Why not? I haven't done a competition in a while, let's see what happens,'” explains Gelsumini. “The worst thing that could happen is I get some feedback, but I’ll have had some fun on stage.”
Gelsumini’s happy-go-lucky attitude is infectious and his good nature shines through in his performance behind the decks. When asked to describe his musical style, he says, “If you're ready to party and you're wanting something a little bit out of the norm, I'm your guy. It’s a little different, but you're going to like it. There's something in there for everybody.”
At the finals of Sonic Presence, Gelsumini went on to win against tough competition, with all five contenders (three women and two men) leaving it all on the stage after mixing up everything from hip-hop to stadium rock. The judges declared it a tight race, but in the end Gelsumini’s silky transitions between the genres of rock, soul and dubstep saw him take the title. Artists he sampled in his set ranged from Freddie Mercury to Sade, with American DJ Getter and dubstep master Excision thrown in for good measure.
“I've been DJing for 11 years now,” says Gelsumini. “It’s been a long time. It’s been non-stop late nights, so to finally win a competition, it’s a huge deal for me and I couldn’t be happier to finally see the last decade beginning to pay off.”
Despite gigging around the city for the better part of ten years, for Gelsumini there was always one career goal that remained elusive. “I’ve never really held a residency as a DJ,” he says. “I’ve done a few things in bars and nightclubs, and I was playing at One Twenty Bar for about a year, which was awesome. I got to play all retro music, and that was fun. But as a DJ I’ve never really held a solid spot at a big name night club. So now this competition has thrown a little bit of exposure on me and I’ve got to push to be my absolute best because I’d love to be playing more and maybe even go on tour.”
In fact, Gelsumini is no stranger to the inside of a tour bus, with his band Frontier Season hitting the road from time to time. “I started [Frontier Season] with our bass player Wes Magpantay about four or five years ago. I was tinkering with some electronic music and then he showed me some of the rock stuff he was doing, and that just spiralled. Now we’ve got seven members in the band. We’re all like one big family, recording, playing music and playing shows. It’s mad fun. We get to play metal music, with me doing synthesisers in the band. I’m happy.”
The 27-year-old credits much of his eclectic taste in music to his friends and family, crediting his mum as the source of his fondness for seventies soul classics. “Mum introduced me to the Bee Gees and all that good stuff, but after that one of my other family members introduced me to heavy metal, and that’s when I got really obsessed with music and learning everything I could about it.
“I was in my late teens when I first got to use turntables and it was crazy difficult, but once I got the hang of how to use them and how to work with them, I was hooked. When you put your hand on the record, you’re touching music. It’s awesome that I can incorporate the digital side with the vinyl stuff and use real records in my sets. You can go so far beyond what you could do thirty or forty years ago.”
With more than ten years in the game, Gelsumini is the first to say how important this opportunity is as his prize includes exclusive airplay on KISS FM, the release of three singles, branding, club gigs, free mentoring from industry professionals, and more.
“I’m just excited to see where this all goes,” he says. “It’s a cheesy thing to say but it’s true, if you keep trying things will pay off.
“And of course there’s been those moments where I have considered giving up because there’s times I’ve played at parties where no-one has danced, and you question absolutely everything that you’re doing, and it sucks. There are low points, but if you give yourself time and push through it, it’s a very rewarding feeling.”
Take the next step in your musical journey at Universal School of Music. Find out more about courses and how to apply at universalschoolofmusic.com.au.