DJ Rocko Makes You Move


Written By Brett Levine
Photography by Beau Gustafson

You might call it a fortuitous accident, or a mistake, but the way Tony Rodio tells it you’ll just laugh. “I was in a band,” he begins, “and I had ordered some business cards. When I got them back, they’d spelled my name wrong. It was only two letters,” he pauses, “and I was going to throw them out, but my bandmates thought it was a great nickname.” He probably didn’t realize just how good it was at the time. “They’d spelled it R-O-C-K-O…Tony Rocko,” he says with a laugh, “and it just sort of stuck.”

Part of the passion came from a love of all types of music, something that he had from a very young age. “I’ve always been in love with music that makes you move,” Rodio remarks. “When I was in high school I was surrounded by classic rock, which I love, but one day I heard something by Kraftwerk and I knew I had to search out music that sounded different—and that there were
actually great, different styles of music that I could enjoy listening to.”

Years later, after a series of events made him want to focus on his music career again, he remembered the mistake, resurrecting the moniker for a now-burgeoning career as DJ Rocko. “It’s been kind of crazy,” he says, “because I wasn’t really sure how it would take off. I just had a perception that I was going to focus on doing things I was really passionate about, and both music and DJing have always been a part of my life. Also, I’ve been really fortunate to have had the support of some really fantastic people here in town, particularly Andy Thorpe who people probably know better as DJ Coco, as well as the many business owners who support the scene by regularly booking and providing opportunities for local DJs. They’ve all encouraged me to focus on getting behind the decks again.”

It’s not as if Rodio—or Rocko—needs too much encouragement. “I love playing for all kinds of audiences,” he explains. “Whether it’s a chill-out set at Trim Tab, or a late-night set at Marty’s, I’m just as happy either way. What’s the most important to me is simply having someone—it can literally be one person—say that they’ve enjoyed the set once I’m done.” All modesty aside, it is usually more than one person: DJ Rocko recently had 1,200 people bouncing to his favorite sounds at the Sidewalk Film Festival After Party, to which he simply says, “Yeah, that was a
fun night.”

This sense of professionalism comes from a belief in hard work developed during a long—and continuing—run as one of Birmingham’s top post-production specialists in Birmingham’s professional photography world. Rodio’s name is synonymous with a focus on understanding how to put things together in a way that is seamless to the eye, and he brings that same approach and passion to developing his DJ sets. “I may not be the most technical DJ,” he laughs, “to the extent that you won’t see me onstage tweaking a lot of knobs all the time. But what I think I’m good at is understanding the crowd, and knowing what it is that I’m playing that makes them want to get up and move. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t necessarily about the song that’s the most obscure, or the newest, or the deepest. It’s about what makes people have the best time.”

Rodio’s approach simply works. Many of his bookings are word-of-mouth invitations from people who have heard him play, and this keeps growing. And DJ Rocko keeps listening, keeps finding better music, keeps making his sets better, more exciting, more likely to get people on the floor dancing, shaking their. . .you know.

When asked what the biggest challenge of being a DJ in Birmingham is, Rodio responds with surprising candor: “Sometimes it can be hard to simply get people to come out to a dance party. But usually when they get there and let themselves go, they really have an amazing time.”

DJ Rocko recommends dancing to STARDUST’s “Music Sounds Better with You More Current” &  SNBRN’s “California Love.”

3 Responses to “DJ Rocko Makes You Move”

  1. Lou & Helen says:

    Great story Rocko. As always we’re very happy and proud for you. Keep it going.

  2. Jubal says:

    Thanks for the music Tony!

  3. Sher says:

    Playing music for others, whether it be live instruments or DJ-ing (which takes talent, creativity, & passion) brings people from all walks of life together. It’s a universal language that speaks to all of us saying, “everyone come, alone or with friends, listen to and feel the music then look around and realize we’re one in the rhythm of life.”
    Music can move masses and change lives. You get that Rocko, you give that, and in return you are fulfilled in those moments. That energy is as real as it gets. Keep music and dance alive; spread the light that illuminates from the frequencies that reach our very core of being.

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