Roongsak Griffeth, whose DJ stage performing name is Roonie G, confides that putting all of the pieces of The Sound Factory and The Tavern Grill & Bar at Main Street Village together has been plenty of hard over the last six months.
That’s why he was prepared on Saturday night to celebrate the mini-entertainment complex’s debut with a big New Year’s Eve bash. He says there will be more to come in 2017 as he and his staff tweak a few things, add a few bells and whistles here and there, and work to make the facilities a showplace of which his adopted hometown can be proud.
The Ledger-Enquirer caught up with the Army brat of Thai descent recently (his parents live in Las Vegas) to discuss his job, his love of music and his passion for launching a business on the city’s north side. This interview, held inside The Sound Factory nightclub, is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q. You started this project several months ago. How have things evolved?
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A. It’s been an enormous amount of work and energy, with a lot of support from people who have helped build it out, from the design to the construction to implementing the promotion, the creativeness and bringing together this entertainment facility. Everything’s coming together and we’ve got what a call a trifecta effect right now. It’s a restaurant with The Tavern, and that’s got live music, and there’s karaoke bar/pool hall six days a week, and then there’s the nightclub element, which is four nights a week. ... The response that we’re getting (so far) has just been tremendous. People like it, people get it, they like the design, the flow, the concept of what we’re delivering, which is what we’re trying to do, and that is provide a very unique experience, a fun, exciting nightlife experience.
Q. Why did you launch this venture?
A. I’ve always (felt like) a native of Columbus. ... My concept has always been the same from day one. I just felt that it was very appropriate to deliver this experience to locals and anybody who’s coming to visit our town. Any city around the country with an equivalent market size, this would be a very, very unique experience for them, too. I’ve been able to see major cities, New York, LA, Vegas, Miami, and I’m able to bring my experiences as a professional performer and deliver that into our town.
Q. Those travel moments and performances are ingredients for this place?
A. Yeah, I think so. I think it’s a lot of my experiences and the things I’ve seen and the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with to perform around the country, around the world, and see things that I can bring together here. On top of that, it’s not just the design, the audiovisuals, but he DJ format is going to be very unique. We also have a touch of the homegrown atmosphere, the Tavern, the restaurant, the karaoke bar, which is more low profile and very casual, and the club is more upscale. So we have a little bit of everything.
Q. What prompted you to get into this career?
A. I started very young in my teenage years in high school as a ‘B Boy,’ break dancing in Japan. I went to school in Japan and danced professionally, and through that I had to make music for my dance routines. No one could ever get it right, so I was like, I can do this myself . So I started making my own mixes. From those shows I ended up DJing my own homecoming prom at my high school. All of my life I’ve been an entertainer. I used to do book reports on turntables and B Boy and graffiti and the hip-hop art. I’ve always been an electronic fanatic, and as it grew and EDM (electronic dance music) became popularized and mainstream, I’ve always had the love of just good music. That’s whether it is electronic or old soul Motown. For me personally, music is everything.
What prospered my career is the way I perform with my music and my audiovisuals. Fast forward, as my career has built, I opened up my nightclubs in town, and at the same time I’m still DJing in Las Vegas regularly. I used to fly to LA every Thursday for a couple of years while I was living in Columbus. So I took some of my savings and opened up my first club, which was The Mix, and opened up other businesses. We still have Martini’s, which is downtown and a hip-hop and R&B nightclub, which does very well.
For the Top 40 crowd, The Sound Factory project is just something that we knew we had to do. We provide just good music, dance music, more nightlife, more upscale, which is The Sound Factory club side. And then there’s the Tavern still providing classic music, classic rock, classic feel, disco, funk, acoustic stuff. So now we’ve got a little bit of everything.
Q. Clubs are something you enjoy?
A. I always think people put nightclubs in a very adolescent mind frame, which a lot of them have been. They don’t put a lot of thought into it. They just open a bar. I’m a little different because my background is different. I always say I don’t sell liquor, I sell an experience. That’s why I try to build a unique experience.
Q. Can you recall your first big break?
A. It’s been a long journey. I used to drive an hour away with all of my records and my turntables, all of my equipment, and set it up and spend five hours and I was paid $50 for the whole night and had to pay for my own gas. My first break? The most major break was my contract in Vegas and with Pioneer. Ten years before Vegas I did Pioneer, which is a major electronics company. I was the face of the innovative stuff. I kind of helped innovate DJing with visuals. Why there are so many video graphics here now is because that’s me, it’s part of a unique experience. That’s why I’m still hired even today. I’m opening for acts like Pitbull, Kid Rock, Ludacris. Two weeks ago, I did stuff for GoDaddy. I’m doing the Mardis Gras parade and one of the biggest parties in New Orleans, the Bacchus Krewe. There’s like 10,000 people in the krewe. It’s been a blessing for me to have these opportunities.
Q. What’s the most challenging aspect of being Roonie G?
A. I think some of the frustrating things, as with any musical artist, is sometimes the local appreciation. I have a lot of people who do appreciate it and I get a lot of feedback and I’m very thankful for that. Sometimes you question that because I’m getting paid so much money to go out of town, being hired by another corporate company, but some of the local people don’t realize what they have. I know a lot of musicians who probably feel that way. They get booked out of town. They get paid more money than they will in town. It’s kind of challenge.
Q. What’s the best part of being Roonie G — the creativity, the response you get from people?
A. I think the feedback of the people, whether it’s on the dance floor or when they see you and say I really love what you did, I love this mixer and that song that you did. When people show an appreciation, that’s the best part. You realize that people get it. That’s the reward, to know that. But you know what, this is my passion. Once I realized this is what I wanted to do I never turned back and I kept pushing. So every time I did that next project, I’d just dive into it with both feet and give it my all. Like this, I gave it all on this project here.
Q. What does 2017 hold for you? Will you be here at The Sound Factory off and on?
A. I’ll be here a lot. I still have a lot of shows booked already for my corporate side and I’m thankful for that, so I’ll still be traveling quite a bit. But we’re excited about this project. Right now it’s been 16-hour days working. I could stop and say it’s fine and let’s just let people come. But to me, there’s still some bells and whistles we’re going to add through the next couple of months and make people realize, wow, not only do they not see this in Columbus, but they don’t see this when they go to Vegas, like how the videos are mixed in. Secondly, I’ll step back a little bit in 2017 and go back and write music. I’m a writer, too, writing and producing music.
Q. Is there a message you have for Columbus?
A. My company and I and the people that have worked hard to build these facilities, this mini-entertainment complex here, we want everybody to come out and enjoy it, try it. Where we’re located may be a little challenging, but once they come out and realize what we’re delivering, I think they’ll just absolutely love it. We built this for the people of Columbus. I want to build this for the home base and build a product you can’t get anywhere else.
Hometown: Son of a military retiree and calls Columbus home
Current residence: Columbus
Prior jobs: He’s been in music and DJing his whole life
Education: Went to high school in Warner Robins, Ga., and attended Macon College
Family: Single with three children, Ariel, Skylar and Phoenix
Leisure time: Enjoys spending time with his family, writing music and playing poker
Of note: Has two World Series of Poker rings