If you live in the greater Philadelphia area and enjoy festival culture or listen to electronic music (which, since your reading this here, you probably do…), then you may have seen web content by the e-publication The Wook of Wall Street show up in your newsfeed. The Philly-based news outlet dishes out all the latest in the scene from previews to festival recaps and interviews with burgeoning local artists as well as household names in EDM; and they’ve been rapidly on the rise…
Officially the site has been active for little over a year, yet in that time they have reached over 10,000 Facebook likes and followers. Making note of this and nothing else, it would almost seem like The Wook of Wall Street came completely out of nowhere, but after having the pleasure to speak with founder and photographer Bruce Harper about the extraordinary work which he put into building his brand, it comes as no surprise that his project has succeeded to such a degree.
My conversation with Bruce isn’t the first time we at House of Hearts have spoken with him. He was actually kind enough to give us some valuable insight into his musical upbringing and personal experiences prior to our interview. Hailing from a small town in Delaware, he explained how if he hadn’t stumbled into journalism and photography he “probably would have become a chef.” But while he’s still very passionate about cooking, it was ultimately music and the electronic dance music community that inspired him to start Wook of Wall Street.
Below is my interview with Bruce Harper, and as I hope you’ll see, the dude’s very serious about what he does. And for good reason—he sees it not as just a job or career but as a way to support fresh local talent and give back to the music and festival community. As Bruce explained to us, “the idea of being able to start from scratch and create something from nothing” has always been a driving motivation for him, both in the kitchen and while working a festival shoot. See for yourself, and afterwards be sure to check the link at the bottom of this page to see what The Wook of Wall Street is all about!
I N T E R V I E W
Brendan: First things first is your background. We know you are from Delaware, but you mentioned your family is in Connecticut. And as I already know, if you weren't in DE then you might be a chef today… and not the owner of a growing e-publication. How did you end up in DE?
Bruce: I was raised in Delaware I've lived here pretty much my whole life. The bulk of my family lives in Connecticut though (aunts/uncles etc.) immediate family all in Delaware
Brendan: Okay! Of course Wook of Wall Street is a Philly-based online news publication... Before you started in journalism and photography had you ever been? I know it’s close--about an hour I think
And follow-up question... if so, “wit” or “witout”?
Bruce: I've been coming to Philly for years. Straight out of high school I did a semester or two at University of the Arts on Broad Street. Overall it was cool but I realized it wasn't for me. I'd still come back to Philly though to party with friends and hit the clubs on 13th.
As far as cheesesteaks go though, I'll admit I've never had one sober haha. But when I did get one it was always from this place on South Street called Ishkabibbles.
Not sure if it's still there but their jawns were fire.
Brendan: I won't hold that against you--4/5 times when I order cheesesteak I'm at least buzzed. And props on your use of the word "jawn" in that response by the way.
It’s still there! I'm going to check it out this weekend (if I have time, I'm actually going to NYC to catch Zomboy at the PS Theater Saturday. If not I'll most def check it out soon!).
Bruce: Lol. Nice! I like that venue. Caught Tipper when he was there last.
Brendan: I'm extremely jealous. That actually is a great segue to one of the questions I was going to ask later, so I'll just skip to that one next...
[More info: Bruce got into the EDM / dance music scene around 2012 when he decided, somewhat randomly, to check out Firefly Festival in Dover, DE (since he lived pretty close by). It was the first year of the fest, and Bruce’s first exposure to a rising star named Bassnectar. It was Nectar’s set that inspired him to start chasing the bass around the country and eventually other fests as well. Eventually he thought “you know what? I should probably start documenting this” and soon after started his first blog, a precursor to WoW.”
…and if that isn’t cool enough—in one of life’s weird coincidences—Bassnectar was not originally on the lineup, but was added very shortly before the start of the festival…]
Brendan: Since you've started WoW, is every outing treated as a potential article on your webpage? Or do you go to some for work and some for play?
Bruce: Nah I definitely try to mix it up. When I'm working an event there's always the anxiety of making sure I get good shots & not getting $3-4K worth of gear stolen or damaged, so while I love what I do, there's always that risk & reality associated with it. But there's often times where I don't get approved to work events that I wanted to cover, so at that point I'll still buy a ticket, leave the camera home, and just kick it. It's nice because, when I'm working, I'm too busy running around getting coverage that I don't always get to engage with people or hang out with my friends.
[Some more knowledge for you: Bruce started Wook Vision because he felt that he could do better capturing the moments that inspired him at these events on his own. So he purchased a camera off eBay, taught himself how to use it, and started his venture into photography at the Silk City Diner in Philadelphia (his first ever show was Jantsen & Dirt Monkey):
“After a few weeks of aggressively shooting, I developed a cute little portfolio, but I wasn’t having much luck getting any blogs to send me to festivals. There were smaller blogs I knew would probably send me, but I knew the photographers they were already working with and didn't want to step on any toes. Frustrated, I decided to just focus on building up my own blog instead so I could just send myself - and that’s what I did. Two months later I got approved to shoot my first festival: Sonic Bloom 2016”]
Brendan: Great response--and again...awesome launch point to something else I wanted to ask. So now I'm back-peddling a little bit, but can you tell us what kind of articles you write and what (in simple terms) goes into one individually? In other words, what's your process?
Bruce: Most of my articles are either previews or recaps of festivals/events. Summaries of who & what I think people should check out or just my opinion on what was worth highlighting after an event. Then there are wild card articles I think are relevant like a recent one I did providing tips on how to protect yourself from festival thieves, since that's becoming a greater issue each year.
Brendan: I read that article. Somebody's mom sent it to my friend's mom who sent it to my friend who sent it to me. It’s awesome that you contribute cutting edge news AND sage advice to the EDM community.
Bruce: Thanks man I try!
[Quick quote: before this interview when asked about why he writes, Bruce told us that he does it for the underdog…
“Writing about popular artists will bring you traffic, but they’re the last people that need the press. I’m more interested and excited to put people on to the new guy making dope shit with only 200 likes on his Facebook page, the locals who don’t get the praise they deserve, the fine-print names on the undercard that have just as much talent, if not more, than the headliners.]
Brendan: Can you tell us about any events (or events if you're feeling generous) that you're going to be working, and which we can expect to read about on your site?
Bruce: I just got approved to cover The Meadows this year so I'm really stoked on that - the lineup is absurd. Imagine Fest might be in the cards, as well as Luna Light and Hulaween. I haven't been down to Suwannee yet so hopefully I'll get to christen it with Nectar. Oh yeah and I haven't heard back from Bass Center yet, but I'll be there's regardless because who could miss that?
Brendan: Yes! As a fellow Basshead I approve. I'm unfortunately strapped for cash right now or I'd be there in a heartbeat!
The last time (but hardly my last time) seeing Nectar was at Atlantic City in May.
Bruce: Basslantic was sick. Remind me to give you one of the pins I made
Brendan: Wow I don't even know what to say... Except I am definitely not going to forget that!!
[Some cool insider info: Back when he first started, Bruce worked in Sales at a corporate office in Delaware, which is actually where he got his business name…
“The dress code was business casual but I’d come in wearing my drug rug pinecone, crusty wristbands stacked up my arm, crystals all over my desk, spoon hanging from my neck…I was an HR nightmare – but I was good, so no one ever really pressed me about it. I remember posting on Facebook about how I moved $100K on one phone call and someone said, “Dude, you’re like, The Wook of Wall Street.” Once I heard that it was like, “Boom. That’s it. That’s the name.”]
Brendan: It’s incredible how you were able to work your way from a small blog to the owner of a by now largely popular (over 10,000 likes on Facebook and growing) e-publication. Back when you first started you did everything yourself: photography, writing, etc. etc... Is that still the case, and if not how much has the overhead expanded to meet WoW's exponential growth?
Bruce: This year I've been toying with building a team to cover more festivals. I knew once I built this platform that I wanted to be the publication I wish had been there for me when I was just starting out - one that would give new talent a chance. A few writers and photographers have pitched in here and there, but I've been very lucky to have been approached by Seth Watrous of Shutterfinger. He's a writer/photographer from Colorado who reached out to me early on and he's just been a pleasure to work with. He's smart, talented, driven, and he truly understands what it's like building something from the ground up (and, realistically, what that looks like) and I'm very grateful to have him as a part of The Wook of Wall Street family.
Brendan: That’s extremely well put. People have been heralding the decline of EDM since it first exploded back in the beginning of the decade. One of my closest friends, who is not the biggest fan of electronic music, loves to mess with me and declare EDM “just a phase.” While I think that there was some decline in mainstream interest after said explosion, the genre (or “genres” if you subscribe to the opinion that EDM as a term is too broad to encompass such widely different kinds of electronic music that exist) has since shut down those fears. That being said, there are still those challenges that must be overcome within the community as well as without, such as the thievery issue you mentioned earlier.
But let me say right now that, since I have my own personal goals and ambitions contribute to and perhaps build a career out of my passion for music and the scene itself, that hearing about and discussing your journey so far has been nothing if not a tremendous inspiration to me. I too am working from the ground up--building my portfolio from scratch. Do you have any advice for anybody like me with similar aspirations to build something within the EDM community? Whether that be aspiring writers, photographers, promoters, and of course DJ's/ artists
Bruce: I think my best advice for you and anyone else in your shoes is to find what you want to do, and go after it like you only have until the end of the day to accomplish it. Because, not to get dark, but that may be the case! I see so many talented people make the mistake of being lazy or complacent with their craft because they think they have time. We might not be here tomorrow, even more so these days! So, every day you wake up should be seen a gift; another 24 hours to accomplish your goals. Make a plan, work hard, stay consistent, stay positive, and get out of your own way! Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone, act accordingly. And most of all give back, man. Support each other's projects and help out where you can because our community is too small for foolishness and there's enough room for all of us at the finish line.
Brendan: That's most definitely something I'll keep to heart!!! And thank you, for both the advice and for taking the time to have this conversation with me! On that note I'll just leave you with my last question which is in two parts but just for fun (and since I personally kind of want to know):
1) I know at least that you're a fan of Lorin's stuff, but besides that what subgenre of electronic music specifically are you most into?
2) What is in your opinion the best / favorite event or festival you've attended and why? Doesn't matter whether you were there for business or pleasure...and neither do the parameters on which you base your decision?
1) I'm crazy about PsyDub. I was hella bummed I couldn't swing Oregon Eclipse this year because their Earth Stage lineup was straight gas. Kalya Scintilla, Sixis and AtYya are my holy trinity but the dude I'm super stoked about is iX. He's a Brooklyn-based producer that I first saw open up for Toadface at Coda back in February and I think what he's doing is really cool - you've got to check him out. Crazy talented dude, all original sets, and super humble - like I don't think he understands how fucking good he is. I clearly have a hard time not fan-girling about him lol just very excited for that dude's career.
2) Best event hands down will have to be F.A.R.M. Fest. After attending so many different types of festivals across the country, I realize I enjoy myself most at the more intimate events. F.A.R.M. is the one fest I know I'll see all of my friends at; the lineup is always good, always great vibes, and it's at one of the best venues (only an hour from my house)...so it's really just the perfect mid-season family reunion. Don't get me wrong, it's also consistently a train wreck, but that's just become part of the charm. I hate to admit it, but I couldn't imagine not attending F.A.R.M. every year.
Brendan: And wrap! Thanks so much dude I really meant it that this was hella inspiring to me!
Bruce: No thank you guys for even wanting to write about me haha I really appreciate you taking the time and I'm happy to hear you say that.
Written by Brendan Kerr
Photos by Richard Timbers II