We had the good fortune of connecting with Marshall Watson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marshall, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born in Bakersfield, CA where I played the clarinet starting in 4th grade. From a very young age I was interested in music and performance. Whether listening to a record on my parent’s turntable or going to local concerts in town, there has always been music in my life. Growing up my parents were very supportive of all of my musical and artistic endeavors. I had a passion for playing and performing which led to my pursuing acting starting at the age of 12 with local community theater. Not long after this I also fell in love with dance after seeing swing dancing at a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy show in 1998. I became instantly hooked on the vintage style, the jitterbug life and the music of the era. Because of my love for dancing and performance, I moved to Northridge, CA to attend CSUN and explore my passions for the arts. It was there that my swing dancing really started to take off professionally as well! I was going out 5 or 6 nights a week all over the greater Los Angeles area and beyond. I was so fortunate to live in LA during the height of the Swing Revival where I was privileged to hang and learn from some of the best swing dancers in the world and hone the craft that would eventually be my livelihood. I loved every minute of it. I’ve had the chance to perform with some of the most amazing people, host the most incredible parties, be featured in film and television as both actor and dancer, and now continue to be hired to do what I love DJing and producing vintage nightlife events.
I think my background has definitely impacted how I live my life today. My zest for life comes from entertaining. I am most happy when I’m dancing, acting, DJing, performing or creating an exciting vibe for others. It is not an easy road to take and I am well aware of the challenges in pursuing a creative lifestyle. At the end of the day I can’t see myself doing anything else.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an entertainer, a swing dancer, a club aficionado, and a vintage vinyl DJ. I have been in the LA nightlife scene for some time. In 2013 I had a vision of starting a nightlife event company in the LA area which would bring together the best vintage style DJ’s, variety acts and live music. I wanted my company to be dedicated to the preservation of jazz music, the evolution of its sound, and the appreciation of both the old and new. What was born from that was Swingtronic, the future of vintage nightlife.
Let me backup for just a moment- As my love for swing dancing and swing music grew I found a new genre of music, Electro Swing, which combines swing samples of the 1940’s and club dance beats of today. I thought this would translate to an event that would provide LA with a new and exciting club atmosphere. I first partnered with Electro Swing Club Hollywood and realized I could throw events that blend the best of all these worlds. I could cater to both the party going, craft cocktail loving club scene and those who had a love for traditional jazz music and swing dancing. For about a year I worked on the formula for the best nightlife experience that I myself wanted to be a part of. It was at this point Swingtronic was born.
I had contacts in town and venues that wanted to work with me, so I decided to go out on my own and start producing my own events. Swingtronic is a time traveling experience complete with live hot jazz of the 1930’s and 40’s, big bands and neo-vintage artists of today, and electro swing mashups, all coupled with the best vintage vinyl djs, burlesque and variety acts from around the world. I’m proud to say that I run the only consistent club night of its kind here in the Los Angeles area. When I started DJing I was starring in a webisode called Vinyl Rewind and my character’s name was Professor Watson. I adopted that as my DJ moniker. Professor Watson is the resident DJ at Swingtronic.
The challenges with running a successful club night and event company are the same as they were when I started. You have to attract the right crowd that gets the concept and will support the venue. You have to make your brand stand out from the others. I think we’re doing a great job at appealing not only to the swing scene but also those curious about the experience, and are looking for something different yet classy to do with their dates. Currently Swingtronic is a monthly event held at The Airliner in Lincoln Heights, a beautifully restored 1923 venue with an upstairs event space. This space provides gorgeous ambiance, delicious craft cocktails and food, and is a perfect place for Swingtronic to host our regular event Swingtronic Speakeasy at The Airliner on the first Saturday of the month. Chelsea and myself teach a beginning swing dance lesson at the start of every event included with admission for those interested in learning the basics. Dapper and dolled dress code is requested at all Swingtronic events.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I lived in Hollywood for a little over 15 years and have seen so many amazing places come and go. That being said, whenever a friend would come to town to visit I was called upon as “Mayor of Hollywood” to show them a good time and I never disappointed HAHA. I love all the Houston Hospitality spots. One of my first Swingtronic residencies was at Pour Vous.
Night one I would take them to No Vacancy to see the speakeasy style entrance, then we would go outside to watch the burlesque performers and probably end the night down the street at Black Rabbit Rose watching some magic and sipping “Smoke and Mirrors” cocktails. We may also take a cab to Sassafrass depending on who’s playing in the balcony that night.
Next day we would go to Downtown LA and check out the incredible views from The Standard rooftop, maybe hang out for a pool party with world class DJ’s. Afterwards we’d hit up Coles for happy hour and knock on the back door to grab a drink at The Varnish. If we still were thirsty we’d go to The Wolves for some amazing craft cocktails in the historical Alexandria building. For late night eats in DTLA there’s nothing better than a Lobster Grilled Cheese at LA Cafe.
Day 3 would be a relaxing day out at a museum. I love LACMA, The Getty, and The Broad. Dinner that night at Musso & Frank’s, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood or Yamashiro for sushi with the best views.
Daytime activites would include hiking Runyon Canyon, exploring the Bat Cave and old zoo in Griffith Park, and Farmer’s Market.
I love places and venues that give an ode to the past. LA is full of hidden gems like the ones mentioned above. Showing my friends those places that they wouldn’t generally know about if they were coming here on their own is what being a good guide is all about.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my parents, especially my incredible mother Marlene Elbert. Her continued support of my creative career is a blessing.
Along with my mother, my girlfriend Chelsea Beach has been a rock for me! Chelsea understands me and really gets my vision for Swingtronic, my nightlife event company, as well as what I want out of life. I’m never afraid to share my ideas with her and we have an amazing connection.
Instagram: @swingtronic / @professrwatson
Amy Seiter. Megan Duffy. Regan Riot.