JACK PHOENIX, large-event multimedia DJ of international Goth, Industrial, 80’s, Dance, and Top-40 tracks sat down with us from his home-base in Boston, Massachusetts. Having traveled up and down the East and West Coasts, as well as countless points in between, Jack is also the founder of the largest Facebook conglomeration of Goth/Industrial Group Pages, encompassing the USA and Europe.
Come take a ride with us as we pick at Jack’s brain in this ‘tribe4mian – The Thirteen Questions’ exclusive.
01. TRIBE4MIAN: Boston is generally a rocker town with Aerosmith, Boston, The Cars, Pixies, Buffalo Tom, and other high-profile rock bands taking center stage in our musical realm. How did you transition yourself over to the Goth and Industrial scenes and do you sometimes dip back into the pool of rock during shows? Is there a big Goth scene in Boston?
JACK PHOENIX: Godsmack, J. Geils, Dropkick Murphys, Dresden Dolls, Susan Tedeschi, Chick Correa, Mission of Burma, also. :)
DJing in the Goth/Industrial scene began for me when I visited a Club called MANRAY in the Cambridge/Boston area back in the early 2000’s and found the music dark, heavy, mesmerizing and totally stimulating. Music with an edge to it has always drawn me, and here at this club for the first time, I was immediately caught up by the incredible, heavy synth beat. I walked into the rear room and had people dancing in front of me, fetish play over to the left of me, while watching two hot women making out over to the right of me. Everyone seemed caught up and energized by the dark pulsing music (probably the alcohol too, lol) and even though I had been to rock and dance clubs in the late 80’s, THIS was entirely different. The music had an energy you didn’t hear on the radio. The musicians were what some would call “Underground” like Peter Murphy or Nick Cave. There were songs being played by Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order, Siouxie and the Banshees that you never heard on top-40 radio. Bauhaus? Who were these guys? Totally ensnared by this new sound, I kept visiting over and over during the next few years, eventually also “working” there as the guardian to the Mistress of the Fetish Dungeon, Mistress Mimi. I got to know the resident DJ Chris Ewen during that time as well. Deciding that I wanted to be part of this incredible musical scene, I dived into the Goth/Industrial genre buying up all and any CD’s that were considered “Staples”, eventually encompassing whole catalogs of bands like Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, as well as the other bands music I had previously collected- all within half a year.
Having a passion for music and loving the history aspect of music as well (I consider myself a music historian on all genres; you can never learn enough about music), I did my research on background of Goth/Industrial, the important musicians; whom was considered an icon, who was up and coming and the important milestones of the genre as well.
As far as ever actually playing rock styled music at my events, if I do a Goth/Industrial gig then I stay within those parameters however an occasional trip down memory lane in other genres is sometimes asked for and I have no problem smoothly implementing that into my spins. I usually wouldn’t play Modern top-40, Bruce Springsteen or Bob Segar at a Goth event but old-time favorites are possible. If there is a band or a group or a song that could possibly cross over (I will sneak some 80’s into a night if I know that the song would get everyone up and dancing in a heartbeat, like Kate Bush or Falco), I do it. In comparison, I wouldn’t play Incubus Succubus or Electric Hellfire club at an 80’s flashback night. There are Rock-styled songs by Ministry and KMFDM and so forth that can give you the rock edge, without crossing over to the mainstream rock aspects.
The Goth scene in New England is a dynamic and well-attended scene with a mix of old faithfuls and new young blood enlivening the scene. I wouldn’t call it large in comparison to other genres but it is large in compared to other parts of the country.
02. TRIBE4MIAN: You host a massive amount of online gathering spots covering the East to West Coast on Facebook. What made you decide to take on such a daunting task? Is it rewarding and do you feel it helps bridge the miles of separation as you move across the country?
JACK PHOENIX: Yes, for America, Canada and Europe, I made three groups; East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast as well as the European Group (see the end of the interview for the 6 links to the groups I own to help the scene). It originally started on MYSPACE as a small group to help promote the NEPGM Fest (New England Punk Goth Metal). I expanded that group to eventually cover New England and then the New York/Tri-State area. When I came over to Facebook I continued the group, as well as starting the now largely successful International Group (19,000+ Members). While the International Group was growing rapidly, others asked me if I ever thought of having more regional groups other than the East Coast one. I thought that would be a great idea, so I formed the Mid-West and West Coast groups, as well as making a group for those over in Europe to post in as well. This way, even though everyone can and will promote and share in the International Group, they also were then able to post more regionally as well for others in their own time zones, at least.
It also helps people share their events in ways that weren’t available before. Now someone visiting from California can go to the East Coast Group to see what is going on there, or anyone visiting California can check the West Coast group as well. For the most part, any event worth going to or checking out will usually be posted in the groups. The promoters have noticed that they can reach out to people in the International group and now also show whoever may be in a region what events are available. Bands and Fans can share their music and opinions also. I must admit, it’s also helped me out personally in being able to both promote, DJ and attend events as well.
● The International Goth/Industrial & Fetish Scene group on Facebook (19,000+ Members)
● The European Goth/Industrial and Fetish Scenes (5,000+ Members)
● The East Coast Goth/Industrial & Fetish Scenes (5,700+ Members)
● The Midwest Goth/Industrial & Fetish Scene (3,400+ Members)
● The West Coast Goth/Industrial and Fetish Scene (6,400+ Members)
● The Artist & Musician’s Goth/Industrial Musical Scene (5,600+ Members)
03. TRIBE4MIAN: The American, the UK and European Goth Scenes: Are there any music differences between them? Many people say that the scene is dying. Are they right or are there any new bands rejuvenating it?
JACK PHOENIX: There are some differences between the American Scene and the European scene, but these are not surprisingly, more cultural than anything else with Germany being the center of the movement over there. Goth, as it is in its classic form, started in the US back in the late 1970s. Bauhaus’s first single issued in 1979, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead“, is generally credited as the starting point of the gothic rock genre. I would say the scene is more widespread here but thinner in its exposure while it is steadier over in Europe. I don’t think the scene is dying. It’s just that people in America aren’t really exposed to the music at a younger age anymore, as the music is pretty much controlled on the radio overall by about 3 or 4 Major labels now, compared to just 20 years ago. The American scene thus naturally has gotten smaller partly because of time and partly because it has diversified out into other subgenres like punk rock, gothic metal and horror punk to name a few types. They still sell tickets to clubs when groups tour them though, but the dominance of dance music and Goths underground status has made it harder to get known. YouTube has helped bands that otherwise wouldn’t get exposure the chance to show how they perform though.
Europe is vastly more independent as far as their music is concerned, as evidenced by the differences between performing there and here in America. For instance, Cruxshadows and Christian Death would be happy to get 50-75 people in the Boston area for a show, but over in the UK or Germany they perform to stadium sized crowds. There are always new bands that will pave the way, so there is always going to be a flicker of the Gothic flame. It just takes a willing ear and a wanting heart waiting to hear that dark haunting music is all.
04. TRIBE4MIAN: Could you provide us with a glimpse of what’s going on in the clubs by way of attendance, average ages, etc.?
JACK PHOENIX: The ages of the crowds will depend on if the club will allow 18+ or 21+ only in the States. The Crowds are various ages for the most part, though I do believe it’s an older crowd here in the States. My guess would be that in Europe It’s younger since drinking ages are different, as well as music isn’t controlled as tightly by major labels as it is here in the States.
05. TRIBE4MIAN: WFKU, Ritual Noise, and your new live video feed show. Can you tell me about the “Controlled Chaos”, your kind of DJing, the music you play outside of the clubs, and how the video feed concept came to be?
JACK PHOENIX: I call my style of DJing “Controlled Chaos” because I can keep a dance floor filled with high energy while going from one genre of music to another. I love to have my crowd go wild, have fun and dance their asses off. I can go from a Goth to New Wave to Industrial to a dance song from the 90’s or 80’s (when I DJ my own nights) within the blink of an eye, and people would not stop dancing. It’s that smooth transition and reading the pulse of the crowd, vibing off their energy, giving me that high I feed off of and giving it right back to them in the music that I KNOW they are needing to hear to get their blood flowing, their hearts racing and then giving it right back to me. Once that feedback starts it’s totally ‘Controlled Chaos’ looping between me and my crowd and it’s what I love best about being a DJ. That energetic high from sharing the music I love with others who love it as much as I do.
My music that I play outside of a club can vary as well. I could be listening to Yes, Journey, Adele, Prince, Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction, Sarah Brightman, Depeche Mode, Beastie Boys, Delirium, Enigma, or whatever else I may be in the mood to listen to at the time.
The new video broadcasting I do was suggested by my best friend (and current webpage designer, see his link below) Blaine Perry. He suggested trying something different along the lines of what his friend Michael Trixx does for his magic acts, and that was let people see him perform on the internet as well. The video broadcast runs for the first 90 minutes while the whole two hour show is also broadcast on WFKU.com, and then the last 30 minutes is exclusive to the internet radio feed (links also below). It’s very new, but it’s been a great hit so far. Sometimes I broadcast at my house, sometimes I broadcast while over at Blaine’s house. People seem to love it, and it adds a new interactive feel as well. I have been really enjoying it because I am a people DJ and seeing the chat liven up and the peoples comments on how they love the music, what memories it brings back and their own perspective of the song and the artist on the live feed is another aspect of that “Controlled Chaos” that totally energizes me!
06. TRIBE4MIAN: You’re pretty straightforward and unafraid to get to the heart of the matter. Have you encountered many brick walls that forced you to try harder to attain your desires?
JACK PHOENIX: There are people that don’t like to be called out on their actions-but if I have to do it then I do it in person. I won’t post negative stuff ever on my walls and call people out-unless you REALLY push me to even talk about doing it in the first place. I know my place in the scene, and the authority I have in it as well. I take care not to abuse my “influence” for lack of a better word. I’m here to unite the scene and help people get along NOT cause more divisions or drama. In my groups there are no biases and banning of members just because people don’t get along. I have a very simple rule: No drama. I hate it in my personal life, and won’t tolerate it in my groups either. But let’s face it, living life means we get the drama whether we want it or not regardless. It’s how we face those challenges, with honor, integrity and courage that determine how we not only look at ourselves in the mirror but how others perceive one, as well.
Can it make things harder though, if I speak my mind? I guess so, but I never know what I am saying at times that offends or bothers someone as far as my opinion. I figure if you asked for it, you are going to hear what I think because you wanted the truth not because you needed someone to tell you some sappy useless, nice things. Has this made me work harder? Oh hell yeah but I don’t regret any of the potholes or the inevitable negative BS that has happened when one has the balls ( or insanity …works both ways sometimes) to keep the faith in oneself and ones dreams. It’s made me even more determined to do what I think is right and do what I love to do and keeping my groups open to be a stronghold for the Goth genre is a part of that goal.
07. TRIBE4MIAN: Prince. How did he influence you and in what ways have you brought that into your performances. As we await the final decree on the truly heartbreaking past couple of weeks, do you have any thoughts on the painful life he hid so well from the outside world?
JACK PHOENIX: His influence has been immeasurable on me. I watched and adopted the same approach to my public and private life as Prince did in his but probably not with the same intensity. Prince is known for his hunger to create and to control. He also was known to be one of the most well-known unknown pop stars of his time. His sound was a brilliant fusion of pop, rock and R & B that produced a sound that was uniquely Prince. For instance, I am quite known through my on-line groups and my years as a DJ traveling both nationally and internationally. I realize that. But as far as my personal life, not many know what I like, do, date, and so forth. I keep things close to my vest. I won’t talk about family, friends, and personal situations in the public arena, and that includes Facebook as well. I’ve been called the most Introverted Extrovert people have ever met.
As far as my performances, I try to keep things loose, free flowing, and not have the same sound or songs all the time and yet keep the Controlled Chaos burning with the high energy I spin that is uniquely my own style. When I was DJing a gay club weekly, they would go months without hearing the same song (unless requested) after I played it, as my library is vast (Over 76,000 songs of many genres).
My thoughts of Prince hiding anything from the public, well, he always did that didn’t he? When he first started performing and up until rather recent for his career, he never really talked or did interviews. Dick Clark once said that his Interview of Prince on “American Bandstand” was the hardest interview he ever gave to anyone. I watched it too, and all Prince did was nod yes or no. No words for the most part. It’s just how he was, uniquely and ultimately Prince, himself. And that’s what I took away from having Prince be my idol, learning and accepting to be myself.
08. TRIBE4MIAN: Favorite events you’ve had the pleasure to DJ in the past?
JACK PHOENIX: I loved them all. I travel and get to meet new people, meet people I know on Facebook but have never met in real-time and see new cities instead of staying in the same area all the time. I loved Dracula’s Ball with its vampiric theme. DJing and creating an atmosphere Gothic in its intensity, with the dark romance, aura of hidden danger and the sensuality, with the “all things nocturnal” theme of the ball combining with my music sound was mind-blowing.
With my love of history and wandering, I really enjoyed checking out Philadelphia afterwards. Montreal Fetish Weekend was my first HUGE event and the crowd was totally into my music. The size of the crowd, the roaring of the music created a level of energy that had me riding high all weekend. One of my all-time favorites was the New Orleans Vampire Ball (which I did twice). It was incredible in that its dark theme synced so well with my Goth theme and its unique mix of Venetian Ball and Vampire Court made it a smash hit in my book. I also got to look around the city and check out landmarks mentioned by Anne Rice in her Vampire Lestat books and that it happened during Halloween made it even cooler. On subsequent trips, I met Dana Fairchild, who is an incredible promoter and whom I call a great friend.
09. TRIBE4MIAN: Does it really matter how people dress? Should Goths always be dressed as Goths or is it in one’s soul?
JACK PHOENIX: I don’t think it matters. I will get flack for it from some people but we are all entitled to our opinion. If you saw me on the street you would have no idea that the person you just walked past was the owner of those 6 Goth/Industrial groups I mentioned before. I dress in concert shirts of any style I feel, Blue Jeans at times or other colored pants, and so forth. It’s what you feel inside, it’s your love for the music and love for the culture. Not what you wear. Anyone can wear the clothes, but you have to really be in love with the culture to understand it and consider yourself a part of it.
This is where I hope the message and goal of my groups comes into play. I started the groups initially as a forum where people of like-mind regarding Goth then industrial and now alternative styles can meet and promote events as well as exchange ideas. Then I saw silliness on how people were not truly Goth or this or that because they didn’t dress the part or didn’t talk the lingo but how else were they going to learn? So not only did I want my groups to promote UNITY but to also provide a safe haven for those who wanted to just mix and learn at their own pace and in their own time. If we don’t get new blood then we truly start to die and I am too stubborn to let that happen.
10. TRIBE4MIAN: Any favorite books and movies?
JACK PHOENIX: There are so many. It really depends on my mood. I love Anne Rice and grew up on Stephen King. I recently read all the Harry Potter Books and because of the movies started The Lord of the Rings. I love Mick Mercer (He interviewed me) and I love reading reference and historical books on music because I am intrigued over when and where songs were sung and by whom and what has happened to these artists over time. To know the background of a song is to know its heart and the reason why it exists in the first place.
On a lighter note, I also love researching on the history of the city of Boston. I love reading about and analyzing photos and/or pictures of Boston then and now. It makes one think about all the lives and things that have gone on before and how things both change and stay the same. It certainly helps me put things in perspective.
As for movies, they run the whole gamut from Road to Perdition, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Donny Darko, any Star Wars or Star Trek Movie, The Pan Labyrinth, David Bowie’s Labyrinth, Milk, and pretty much any Disney and/or Pixar flick. I have to admit I am just a kid at heart.
11. TRIBE4MIAN: Funniest thing that happened while you were DJing.
JACK PHOENIX: In 2010 I was at the New Orleans House of Blues DJing the VIP ROOM at The Vampire Ball Halloween. Now there were bands that were performing at defined times between the DJ sets, and the headliners “Hate In The Box” had just performed their act. The bass player had stayed behind to gather the cords for the equipment while the stage hands were removing the steel barriers that were placed around the stage area. I, and the other DJ, Travis Stutsman, were set up to play our music. I didn’t want to have just dead air as everything was being put back into place, so I went through my library and found the song “Everybody Knows Your Name”, the theme to Cheers. Being from Boston, I just decided it would be great to play. Well, the patrons were standing there looking around, sort of looking confused, and obviously thinking “Hey, this is different, but cool”. The bass player stopped gathering his cords and wires, and pulled out his phone and had lit it up, then put it up in the air as if at a concert with a lighter, swaying his arm back and forth. He, and the room, then joined in and sang along to the song! It was a very cool, touching yet funny moment. A room full of Goths, Steampunk and Industrial lovers in New Orleans all singing along to a soft pop TV show song that symbolizes BOSTON! Totally one of my favorite memories.
12. TRIBE4MIAN: Is the Internet helping the music lovers more than the old ways or is it confusing and tiring because of the amount of information that it provides?
JACK PHOENIX: I think the internet has turned into the most powerful tool ANYONE can use to look up almost anything and this certainly applies to music as well. The trick is having the patience to sift through all the sites that are available to the average person and figure out which one is the easiest or most convenient to find information on. I use sites from Billboard lists, to Rolling Stones Magazine, The Library of Congress, and university libraries all the time to look up bands I have never heard of before, or find out what are considered an artist’s most critical/influential albums if I am just delving into them as well as looking up significant events in a band or artist history. I love using allmusic.com as one of my critical sites for gathering information.
13. TRIBE4MIAN: You’re up and down the East Coast and have gone as far away as Canada and Bermuda to DJ events. Upcoming events? Any European plans for the near future maybe?
JACK PHOENIX: I have been able to DJ some wonderful events around the country such as Montreal Fetish Weekend in 2009, Dracula’s Ball in Philadelphia in 2011 and 2013 as well as Bats Day, which is a Goth-related Disney event in Anaheim, CA. Word moves about quickly between people amongst the groups so I m definitely hoping to get some international gigs in Europe though my next three events are going to be kind of local for me:
June 3, 2016 – The Steam & Silk Summer Gala – Manchester, CT
June 4, 2016 – Dreaming of a Spark? Steampunking in the Park (Ade) 2 in Manchester CT
June 18, 2016 – Redemption featuring Failure 2 Comply & Xentrifuge
I am always looking for new people to connect with, new places to explore but most of all always looking to find new events that features the kind of Controlled Chaos that brings me the High when I am interacting with a slam on, party till you drop kick-ass crowd!
►BONUS QUESTION – TRIBE4MIAN: Anything you’d like to add?
JACK PHOENIX: Please, feel free again to check my new WEBPAGE for my upcoming events and accolades through the years (for which I am working on the page).
I love Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I thought that he was awesome to acknowledge that he didn’t make it by himself, he had influences, and he had help to get where he was when famous. These are some of the fine folks in the scene that have helped me:
● MICK MERCER – For your support through the years, for thinking enough of me to INTERVIEW me, and just overall for your wonderful friendship. And for being our scene’s living legend and its historian.
● BLAINE PERRY – For his guidance and his help through the years – as well as designing my new website! Feel free to check out his work HERE.
● WHISKEY of WFKU.com – I’ve been doing an online radio show with him for so many years I forget now. Feel free to catch not just myself, but other great DJs that broadcast there, for all things Goth/Industrial!
● VICTOR ESCAJADILLO (D.j. Kuro) – For his friendship and his wonderful night that I have had the pleasure of DJing many times in the Boston area: THE ATTIC
● DJ PET (JAMES DATTOLO) – For his work in the New England Goth scene by not only having his night in New Hampshire that I have DJ’d a few times, RESURRECTION, but also his work in the scene by making sure any Goth event that happens has awesome sound and lighting through his hard work via his company, A CURIOUS PRODUCTION, LLC, which he has been hard at work at since 2007.
● JULIE SIERRA-MONTES – For her wonderful guidance and her editorial skills, as well.
● TONY LEE (DJ ARCANUS) – For always being supportive and believing in me. He’s an incredible DJ. If he is in your area, do check out his sets!
● CHRIS EWEN (as mentioned above) – For his musical introduction to the scene and his belief in me, as well as over a decade of friendship.
● DARRYL MONTGOMERY-HELL – For being the music scene “Brother” I have grown to admire and love, and always learning from.
● DANA FAIRCHILD and GINGER CHRISTIANSEN of WICKED WONDERLAND EMPIRE – For partnering with me through the years, allowing myself to be blessed by working with them, and for all the work they do to help the Goth Scene flourish, as well.
● And last, but not least, to all of those who help moderate the 6 groups I own, helping to make sure we have a place where all of you, the people who DO make up the scene, have a place to find out, post, and share amongst each other. IF not for all of you in the groups keeping the scene strong, we wouldn’t be as united as we are today. Thank you, everyone…
Thank you for a great interview, Jack! It was certainly a wonderful AND informative time spent with you and we wish you the greatest of continued success!