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Phil B

Phil B

In a world filled with chaos and uncer­tainty, it’s com­fort­ing to know there’s at least one thing you can always count on: a stel­lar per­for­mance by DJ Phil B.

When plan­ning a night out danc­ing at the clubs, the game of chess prob­a­bly doesn’t come to mind for most peo­ple. Unless, of course, you are DJ Phil B, who is always think­ing a few steps ahead of his audi­ence. This explains how he’s able to deliver such unex­pected twists in every set he plays, throw­ing down the sig­na­ture moves that have made him so pop­u­lar with audi­ences around the world. After more than two decades behind the decks, Phil con­tin­ues to sur­prise even him­self by always tack­ling new chal­lenges, push­inghim­self cre­atively and shar­ing the joy of the beat with legions of new and return­ing fans wher­ever he plays. His is a life­long mis­sion to explore the vast fron­tiers of dance music while help­ing shape nightlife’s ever-changing landscape. An avid music lover and col­lec­tor from an early age, Phil’s career began quite acci­den­tally in his home­town of Perth, Aus­tralia. When the DJ at one of his reg­u­lar haunts failed to show up one night, the owner –- who was famil­iar with Phil’s con­sid­er­able record col­lec­tion and pas­sion­ate knowl­edge of dance music — asked him to fill in. Despite sim­ply play­ing one record after the other, the owner was impressed enough with Phil’s selec­tions and enthu­si­asm that he invited him back to spin the next week­end. Inspired by this thrilling, if clumsy expe­ri­ence, Phil rushed home and spent every penny he had on a sec­ond turntable and his first mixer, and started to teach him­self how to mix.

Although mostly self-taught, it was another local DJ, Rachel Har­vey, who Phil cred­its with teach­ing him the art of beat-mixing, and for play­ing a major role in influ­enc­ing his early career. “I have such total respect for Rachel, because had it not been for her,” he admits, “it would have taken me a lot longer. She would only teach me so much, though, which was a good thing. She said, ‘If you really love it, you will learn the rest your­self.’ And she was right.”As his skills and con­fi­dence improved, he even­tu­ally landed a gig at Perth’s iconic gay dance club, Con­nec­tions. Just five years after his first DJ gig, Phil had con­quered West­ern Aus­tralian nightlife, and real­ized it was time to move on. Because so much of the music he played was Amer­i­can, as were so many of the DJs who had influ­enced him, he embarked on a jour­ney that would take him around the U.S. He hoped to fol­low the paths of greats like Tom John­son from the Probe in LA, Bobby Viteritti from The Tro­cadero Trans­fer, Michael Fier­man, Rob­bie Leslie and oth­ers from The Saint, and the Par­adise Garage’s Larry Levan…to name a few. When Phil finally set­tled in the U.S., it was his first port of call dur­ing that trip –- San Fran­cisco –- that he decided to call home.

Phil began work­ing at The Record Rack, the West Coast’s equiv­a­lent to New York’s renowned Vinyl­ma­nia, where he met another DJ named Jerry Bon­ham. “I thought I knew every­thing,” Phil recalls. “But Jerry took my DJing to an entirely new level. He opened up this whole other door for me, teach­ing me about mix­ing in key, vol­ume con­trol, and a slew of other tech­niques I had never even thought about.” Then things really started to take off. Since relo­cat­ing to Amer­ica, Phil has played just about every major Cir­cuit event in the U.S., includ­ing Gay Dis­ney, White Par­ties in Palm Springs and Miami, Win­ter Party, Mardi Gras and South­ern Deca­dence in New Orleans, San Francisco’s Mag­ni­tude and After­shock, Sun­dance at Russ­ian River, the San Diego Zoo Party, and Gay Pride gigs in nearly every large U.S. city. He’s also held res­i­den­cies at venues like Avalon, Reflex and Probe in Los Ange­les, Club 57, Splash and Tun­nel in New York City, the Pavil­ion and Ascen­sion Party on Fire Island, and San Francisco’s Club Uni­verse, Club Plea­sure­dome, Fresh and The End Up.

It is, how­ever, the leg­endary MASS par­ties at 1015 Fol­som Street in San Fran­cisco for which Phil is per­haps best known. Back in 1996, he teamed up with Gus Presents to cre­ate the monthly Sun­day evening Tea Dances that reg­u­larly pulled in crowds of 2,000–3,000, steer­ing the entire run until 2005. The party was so beloved that Phil and Gus decided to carry on the tra­di­tion with equally pop­u­lar reunion/recovery par­ties on New Year’s Day each year. The series also spawned a spe­cial edi­tion boxed set of CDs span­ning the years 1997 through 2005. Phil’s first com­mer­cial CD, the highly acclaimed best-seller, Music for the Clubs, was released in 1999, fol­lowed by Masterbeat’s Win­ter Party CD in 2006. He’s also per­formed with many other heavy-hitting DJs and pro­duc­ers like Danny Tenaglia, Paulo, Twisted Dee, Sasha, John Dig­weed, Tracy Young, and Junior Vasquez. Phil is ded­i­cated to much more than a fan­tas­tic party. As a long­time Billboard-?reporting DJ, his influ­ence on the music indus­try has expanded well beyond the clubs. He also reg­u­larly donates his time and tal­ents to a num­ber of impor­tant polit­i­cal, com­mu­nity, and HIV/?AIDS fundrais­ers, which prompted the City of San Fran­cisco to des­ig­nate April 20th as Phil B Music Appre­ci­a­tion Day.

Like any DJ who has stayed on top for a notable length of time, Phil con­stantly strives to evolve as an artist. Whether he’s inno­vat­ing new sounds and styles or repack­ag­ing the clas­sics, his dynamic ver­sa­til­ity and keen per­for­mances are impres­sive by any mea­sure. If Madonna is the Queen of Rein­ven­tion, Phil B is the King. Although he may have first gained recog­ni­tion for his Tea Dances and lighter style of music, Phil quickly solid­i­fied his brand by inge­niously mesh­ing trance and mul­ti­ple gen­res of house with a healthy smat­ter­ing of diva vocals. But his lat­est incar­na­tion, while still incor­po­rat­ing those ele­ments when appro­pri­ate, focuses more on what he describes as an “electro-?infused tribal” expe­ri­ence, with a dis­tinctly twisted sen­si­bil­ity full of unex­pected mixes and high-?octane energy. And Phil is always on the hunt for new ways to play with his audi­ence.

“I get off on search­ing for new music,” he says. “If a song is really pop­u­lar, I try to find an unfa­mil­iar and eso­teric ver­sion of it to mess with every­body. I think a good mind-fuck is a great thing on the dance floor.” You just never know when Phil is going to drop some improb­a­ble, trippy new remix from his vast reper­toire to really work an already elec­tri­fied crowd into a full-?throttle frenzy. Con­flicted is not an uncom­mon emo­tion to expe­ri­ence on Phil B’s dance floor: “I prob­a­bly shouldn’t love this, but I do!”Even with so many accom­plish­ments under his belt and a steady flow of projects in the works, Phil is always look­ing for­ward, always search­ing for that new sound or the next big record to break. Through it all, he has devel­oped his own dis­tinct style, a deep appre­ci­a­tion for both his craft and his fans, and an extra­or­di­nary knack for tak­ing room­fuls of strangers with him on the jour­ney of their lives. “Come with me,” Phil likes to beckon. “It’s gonna be a good ride.”

Writ­ten by Matt Kalkhoff

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