LIFE STORY

How Will became THRILL:

Musical Learning …

Will Russell – otherwise known as THRILL was born in 1997 in Honolulu, Hawaii and was raised at the Jersey Shore from a very young age. Throughout his life, he has always had interest in music as it had a huge impact on his life, leading him to become the DJ/Producer that he is today.

Throughout his elementary academic days, he took piano lessons, and started playing the trombone while performing in the grade school concert band. Also during this time, he enjoyed singing (most notably, Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”) and had a strong passion for music (listening to popular music on Rhapsody). During this time, he was the center of attention during the “dance circle” at his grade school dance functions doing his signature “Thrill Freestyle.” At the eighth grade winter dance, he was tearing up the dance floor so hard that the whole student population just backed up and the whole crowd was looking at Will just dancing to the beat. In grade school, he wanted to be different than the other Will in his 2012 class, and began giving himself the nickname “Will the Thrill.”

As he began high school in the fall of 2012, Will decided to keep the nickname “Will the Thrill,” and this was also due to the fact that many seniors and juniors in his high school knew him as “Will the Thrill” so they kept on calling him that specific nickname. In high school, even though he no longer practiced piano and trombone, he was still tearing up the dance floors at school dances – just going outside of his comfort zone to feel the vibe of the music. Classmates of Will were very excited to see him break dance and get the crowd hyped in the center of the dance circle. This continued throughout high school and even during his senior prom, he was still tearing up the dance circle bringing positive vibes, energy, and good vibes throughout the dance floor.

Curious Beginnings …

During freshman year at the Monsignor Donovan High School’s (now Donovan Catholic High School) Winter Formal, Will was doing his regular freestyle routine, but though of a very interesting yet fun question. “What if I was able to bring those fun vibes and energy from the DJ Booth, not just the dance floor?” he asked himself. That question was stuck in Will’s head for the remainder of his sophomore year until the Spring Fling when he asked his friend Jonathan Hyland about his job controlling music. Jonathan explained to him that he was a disc-jockey (DJ), and that just fascinated the young Will. Just having little-to-none knowledge but also having so much excitement and passion, Will got the Numark Mixtrack Pro II for Christmas in 2013.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, the information-seeking Will was intrigued by Robert van de Courprt (better known as HARDWELL) and fell in love with Hardwell and the scene of Electronic Dance Music from his first views. The I AM Hardwell documentary fueled Will’s fascination and inspiration to become an aspiring DJ to perform in front of the biggest crowds and to just give people a great time. He saw the big crowds and was so fascinated by the whole atmosphere while watching the AMF Awards 2014 on YouTube. Just seeing Hardwell’s set and sensing the energy throughout the whole arena inspired the young Will to work hard so he could be there one day performing in front of thousands of people. While first listening to Hardwell, he also was finding interest with Hardwell’s record label, Revealed Recordings and its label DJs.

If You Can Dream It You Can Do It.

Hardwell (I AM Hardwell Documentary)

Molding Will the Thrill …

When a junior in high school (2014-2015), he had the capability of mixing well and feeling the vibes of the crowd to bring the energy. Mrs. Karin Krenek (the performing arts director) believed in the young Will and had him play background music at the school’s annual Performing Arts Theater Banquet. This was his first ever event, and the administration at Donovan Catholic took notice after Will did a great job. In his senior year at Donovan Catholic, Will the Thrill had four events in Toms River, NJ – performing at the football tailgate party, the senior class tailgate, and two performing arts functions. It was at this time Will selected his DJ name to be “DJ Thrill.”

When he stepped onto campus in August 2016 to being college at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU), Will had already made an impact with the campus community. On June 28th, he had his first “performance” at Saint Joseph’s University playing a little pre-party before the orientation’s annual Black Light Dance (BLD). His orientation group memebers really enjoyed the music that hyped them up for the BLD. Once in the Black Light Dance party, Will wasn’t afraid to go back to his New Jersey roots and tear up the dance floor. Everyone was having a great time that night thanks to Will.

In October of his freshman year at Saint Joseph’s, DJ Thrill was planning to put together a little welcome party, but accidentally set his residence hall’s fire alarms off while he was testing out his fog machines that he was planning to use later that night during the party. The residence area manager, Shawn, was a bit disappointed in the young DJ Thrill but that at least got him noticed.

Later in the academic year, Shawn was in connection with Jess (another residence area manager at SJU) discussing the freshman disc-jockey. Jess, was the main catalyst for getting DJ Thrill exposed on campus. Jess and DJ Thrill worked together to put together “Pop-Up Park Events.” These events were held on sunny days on one of the biggest lawns of campus to encourage freshman to come outside of their dorms and the enjoy the beautiful weather and fun times with their friends. Through these Pop-Up Parks, campus organizations heard about the young disc-jockey. During his freshman year, he had 11 on-campus events. He also teamed up with also freshman disc-jockey JulezP (from Boston, MA) for one of the events.

Sophomore Year at SJU, DJ Thrill was still doing on-campus events with Jess Brown and Residence Life, but was also doing more events in Philadelphia, and even got the honor to DJ his summer work’s Christmas Party back in New Jersey over the holiday break. While in Philadelphia, he got his first taste of playing in front of the school playing the Pre-Show opening up for T-Pain.

Become the THRILL …

A big change to the DJ Thrill brand occurred during the transition between sophomore year and junior year. The fact that Will wanted to take his DJing status to the next level, meant that he needed to produce his own content to differentiate himself from other DJs. In 2016, he started producing mashups but in 2018, it was time to start producing his own music. On September 18th 2018, he changed his stage name from “DJ Thrill” to “THRILL” and rebranded himself.

During his junior year, fans of THRILL were responding well to the brand change as it had a better ring to his “Will the THRILL” nickname. Will was touring with JulezP as one of his lead promoters and best friends, and was being introduced to many phenomenal DJs and club promoters in Philly and Boston. THRILL added a promotions component to his brand when he got hired by Philly Raves (ran by Moises Cruz) in October 2018 to promote in Philly for Franklin Music Hall (formerly Electric Factory), NOTO Nightclub, and other venues. JulezP even invited THRILL to DJ at a local college bar, Mad River Manayunk on a few occasions which helped increase the THRILL vibe.

In November 2018, THRILL was promoted to the position of being the Hagan Arena DJ for Men’s and Women’s Basketball games. Around that time, he also started to watch production videos to aid in creation of his own music. All in all, this furthered his ability to play at various in front of different crowds.

In 2019, THRILL decided to cut ties with JulezP and focus more on the growing THRILL brand instead of just using the brand as an aid to JulezP’s success. Later during Will’s junior year at Saint Joseph’s University, THRILL started to get recognized by more-and-more campus organizations and was establishing contacts within those organizations. THRILL had a promising senior year ahead of him as many of those same campus organizations were ready to call him back when the time would come next year.

BEING WILL THE THRILL …

In the summer of 2019, THRILL traveled to Philadelphia on a few occasions while living in his permanent residence in Toms River, NJ. On June 21st, THRILL had his first “opening sounds” DJ set at NOTO Nightclub, opening for Henry Fong. THRILL was a big fan of Henry Fong, and enjoyed the opportunity to play at one of Philly’s biggest entertainment venues. Many of the club employees were dancing and enjoying the vibes during the set, and the opening DJs were very impressed with his stuff.

While he was in Philly for the Henry Fong show, he visited JD McGillicuddys, a bar in Manayunk where the SJU students would do during the weekend. Will was able to market himself with one of the bar managers and discussed the possibility of playing at that bar. They agreed on 2 shows in September and then would see from there how it went.

When Will stepped on campus for his senior year, he got asked to DJ some early move-in events for the incoming freshman as the word about him was literally in every aspect of campus. During the early move-in period, he had to travel back to NJ for a high-end dance expo. When THRILL was presented the opportunity in the early summer of 2019 to DJ the dance expo, he didn’t hesitate and said yes shortly after being asked. Throughout the event. all were pleased with how professional Will was with the handling of all music.

Once on campus for good, THRILL was asked left-and-right to DJ SJU organization events, as per usual. Through SJU events that occurred at off-campus venues, THRILL was able to network with more venues. ‘The Grog Grill’ a bar on Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore reached out to THRILL on a few occasions to DJ, including New Years 2020. After THRILL’s two September shows at Cuddys’ he was booked at least twice a month, as SJU students and people within the Manayunk area flooded the bar and people were still there until close to enjoy the music.

During his senior year (already being friends with Moises Cruz for some time), THRILL strengthened his connections at NOTO and got to know many of the staff and was fortunate enough to DJ a few more shows at NOTO during his senior year including opening up for another DJ he idolized, DANNIC.

THRILL also enjoyed some opening performances opening for The Armentani Brothers, a trio of 3 brothers named Jimmie, John, and George. THRILL and Jimmie met while they both were promoting for ‘ Up & Up Festival’ in Philly during the Spring of 2019, and both continued the friendship throughout the summer. When the Armentani Brothers started to emerge as an upcoming DJ trio in the fall, they brought THRILL along as an opener, and they were further impressed with THRILL’s ability to play to the vibes that the crowd was sensing. While hanging with the Armentani Brothers, THRILL met more DJs such RAM B, and Nico Oso.

THRILL was able to keep these connections due to his favorable personality and great character and passion for music. During his senior year, he continued to make connections and to just further grow his curiosity and knowledge of the DJ scene and all that happens in it. Further connections include, DJ Muve, Nicholas Saverio, CONST, $ilv@, Kevin Sihwan, DJ H4PPY, DJ GUY, the CPR Brothers, WID, Little Legends and Into the Knight, while keeping the connections he made already such as the Remote Controllers, Siroch, and Pro Mo Entertainment.

While on Spring Break participating in SJU’s Appalachian Experience in Harlan KY, he received the devastating news of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic forcing SJU to recall all students back to Philly and then headed home to NJ to try and stay safe. During the quarantine, he has produced some live mixes for his loyal fans in Philly and New Jersey; and procured new music to play better sets once everything opens back up.

Once back in NJ given the CDC and NJ mandates, THRILL waited until it was deemed safe to get back out on the decks while DJing his friend’s events. THRILL was anxious to get back on the decks, but when he was able to DJ 2 events during the summer of 2020, he took precaution and wore face-coverings to protect himself from the airborne virus. During the fall, THRILL was able to have outdoor events at his alma mater (Saint Joseph’s University) as part of the university’s campus programming to engage within the student population to keep the campus community close-knit; but those events stopped in early November as the city of Philadelphia enforced new restrictions to minimize the spread as COVID-19 is spreading into a “second wave” in the United States.

Throughout all of quarantine, THRILL was confined to his bedroom studio, but has been making the most of the unforeseen situation of quarantining at home. THRILL was able to download and watch tutorials from the likes of 789ten.com, Zen World, and the SlamFM Studio Challenges. He has been watching tutorials and trying to work on new demos that may work out sometime soon. He hopes to get some dope tracks released in 2021 for his fans.

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