Dallas Observer Mixtape With Joe Virus: Celebrating 18 Years at The Church

Joe Virus: 18 years and still presiding over The Church.
Joe Virus: 18 years and still presiding over The Church.
Joe Virus

For 18 years, Joe Virus has held down his residency, The Church at Lizard Lounge, where he still plays every Thursday and Sunday. He has been delivering industrial and goth standards in line with his own take on cyberpunk on a consistent basis for almost two decades, making it the ever-constant soundtrack to the gloom-and-doom underground of Dallas goth and fetish. For this week's special anniversary mixtape, Virus delivers two mixes, one an early night mix and the other a late night mix. 

Dallas Observer: How did you get started DJing? How long have you been at it?

Virus: I was 11 when I first saw Beat Street and I saw the DJs scratching records and the crowd was going off. I was already into punk and new wave music but that movie introduced me to electro-rap and beat-driven music. I had a dual-deck cassette recorder, so I would extend out my own mixes of Duran Duran and A Flock Of Seagulls by recording to deck two from deck one and then hitting pause, rewinding the first tape back a bit and then hitting record again. It was time consuming but the finished product was pretty cool.

When did you learn your way around turntables?

When I was 12 I picked up a pair of turntables using my allowance (and lunch money I had saved up) from a thrift store for a total of $15. One was a beat up Pioneer and the other was a home stereo Technics. Both had pitch adjust and had curved tone arms like 1200’s. My parents bought me a Radio Shack mixer and from then on I spent all my money on either records or music gear. So [in] 1984 I caught the buzz and learned to mix in 1985. I started DJing raves and clubs in 1993.

How did you get into goth and industrial music?

I had been into the “goth/industrial” music genre since I first heard Skinny Puppy and Nitzer Ebb in the summer of 1986. We were a bunch of punk kids listening to college radio in Atlanta when the DJ discovered Industrial music and started mixing into his show. We were so into it we got everything we could find that was “dark music.” I moved to DFW in 1988 and started hanging out in the original scene as it was starting to fade out. Ritual in Arlington (R.I.P. DJ Voodoo) was the last vestige of a dying Dallas industrial scene.

When did you start attending The Church? Before you DJed it?

I started going to Lizard Lounge soon after it opened. I was still in high school and we’d make a weekend of it partying and going to clubs. It was easier to sneak in to these places back then. In 1992 or '93 Ritual closed so we were really left dangling with no place to dance, so when the Lizard Lounge started doing “The Church” nights, it was a major deal for me and my friends. I could go hear some of the things I liked and then dance around with people into similar things I was into. After a year or so, the newness wore off and I realized that the DJs were only into things that were already 10 years old, and metal. No European industrial except maybe Front 242 or Nitzer Ebb, and the New Beat Belgium sound was prevalent at the club, but that was as deep as it went. The music was starting to get stale and very, very radio oriented like NIN and Manson and Tool.

How did you get involved with The Church yourself then?

At the time, I was a co-host with Honest Steve on The Hideous Couch Show on KNON 89.3 (from 1995 to 1997) and I had started DJing in Fort Worth at The Impala spinning real underground industrial music and booking international goth/industrial acts. I met Leo (Del Hierro, manager of Lizard Lounge) one night at the door to the club, and gave him a little attitude. I said something like, "When you want to hire a real DJ give me a call.” I handed him my card and walked away. I had balls of industrial-grade steel back then! When The Impala got shut down for serving underage kids, I got a call the next day from Leo, offering me a gig. That was December 28, 1997. I started DJing in the “video bar” on Thursdays on January 8, 1998, and in 1999 Karl Fought left and I took over the main room on Sundays. Been there ever since.

How was this mix made? Is there a particular theme for the track selection?

I use Traktor Pro. I set up my DJ rig in my home studio and started pulling tracks I like to play at the club. Some new, some old, but so you can get a feel of what I do at The Church. I believe a DJ in a club is supposed to provide the soundtrack for the night, like a movie inside the club-goer’s head. Someone in the club is breaking up, someone is falling in love or lust, someone is fighting, someone is lurking, stalking, et cetera. It’s all very visual for me and I like to make every moment they are in the club count. Most club nights these days are filled with five or more DJs banging out their fave songs to the crowd, not giving a shit about the crowd, just showing off their guns and polishing up their Jesus poses. And then you hear the same 10 songs played by every single DJ that night. "Put your hands up. Put your fucking hands up. Put ‘em up. Sit down." It gets truly annoying. I hope I can give the crowd more than just that! I am in the club from open to close creating an atmosphere, not just banging out hits. I hope this mix conveys that atmosphere.

How did you get involved in production?

I took piano lessons for several years and got a Yamaha synth for Christmas when I was 13. I wanted to sound like Ministry’s “Revenge” and my buddy Mike had a drum machine. We figured out what MIDI was and taught ourselves to program the synths using the drum machine pads as note numbers. It was really killer to hit play on the drum machine and hear the synth spit out very early unquantized bass lines and melodies. We were stoked. I bought a sampler when I was 17 and started making industrial music under the name Solemn Assembly. I still write and record under that name and still play shows. I now run Logic Pro and started piecing together a Eurorack Modular synth last year.

Do you have a preference between DJing and production?

I love both but I couldn’t live without making my own music. Beat mixing and programming a DJ set is the easy part; that’s why there are so many out there now. A DJ used to be the guy with the killer record collection and rarest, hard-to-find mixes. Now it's all online and easy to get, so that made it harder to stand out as a DJ. But I see a future for the guys who take those records, break the music into particles and reassign them into a live remixing rig. Ableton Live is a sick tool for that, and I have barely scratched the surface, but I think I’m more suited to producing than remixing these days. The goth industrial scene is such a niche market too. Most of the DJs in the scene don’t even mix anything — fade in, fade out. Weird. I think growing up mixing electro-rap and early rave techno helped me stand out in this scene as far as my DJing goes.

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What is your favorite piece of gear or software in the studio?

Oh man. Two things: my Sequential circuits Pro-One analog monophonic synth, and my Modular rig. The Pro-One is fat, and only gets fatter with age. The bass lines and noises it makes are the best out there. My modular is a growing beast. I just added a Waldorf NW1 Wavetable synth module that I have been tweaking out and creating some very bizarre, outlandish soundscapes with.

Who are some of your favorite DJs or producers of late?

cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy is my fave DJ/producer. His sets are so random and insane! His music is incredible. His BananaSloth project and Download project are always breaking new sonic ground with experimental techniques and he even designed his own Eurorack Modules. I think BT is a wicked producer as well. His software is sick and I use the hell out of his Break Tweaker software drums machine.

How are you celebrating your 18-year anniversary at The Church?

We will be partying like grumpy old men, celebrating the fact that my career at Lizard Lounge/The Church is old enough to get in the club without a fake ID. I have two of my friends DJing with me: my old friend Rik (aka Disease Interface) from the band Antonym, and my friend Oliver (aka DJ Deathchurch) from the underground dark music night Wardance. I also have a special live performance from a new friend, Teen Slut (aka Hesh from Hex Cult). I might bring out my modular for some live tweaking, but I am for sure gonna try to fit the best “Church” music from the past 18 years into one night. It should be a riot.

Are there any genres or is there any music that you would like to play out more often?

I am really into the DIY punk/industrial/noise scene. Bands and artists like Realicide, Divtech, Human Traffic, Mavis Concave, Decide Today and Street Sects really capture the essence of what it is to not give a fuck and just create what makes you happy. I am also a huge Japanese cyberpunk fan. Artists like UteroZZZAAA, Kokushibyou Guillotine and 444Capsule use noise and break beats and synths to create some of the most hardcore and REAL cyberpunk music I have ever heard. I actually brought 444Capsule and UteroZZZAAA to Dallas last year to perform at The Church and it was off the hook. It was the wildest show we have ever had. I want to start a night somewhere just playing that stuff!!

What’s in the future for Joe Virus?

I have two full length albums to release this year. I have a music project called Robot Seppuku Crisis!! with my friend Amber DeVille and we have a 23-track CD called Monster Robot Annihilation!! ready to drop as soon as we get the artwork finished for it. It's Japanese cyberpunk/digital hardcore — like Atari Teenage Riot meets 444Capsule, but instead of politics we scream about Monsters and Robots from outer space.

I also have a new Solemn Assembly CD in the works. I’ve got about 16 songs that I am picking through to piece the album together. The CD will be called Zero Hour. Hopefully I can get this out by May. I have also started a new project with my friend Brian Aitken called Cone Of Silence that is a full-on modular synth project. We have been recording all of our jam sessions and are pulling our fave parts out and expanding on them. Very fun project with a really great partner!

I am still spinning at The Church every Thursday and Sunday night. Stop by and say hi!

Tracklist: 

Mix 1:
1. Delerium - Flowers Become Screens
2. Download - Base Metal (remix)
3. How To Destroy Angels - The Believers
4. 3Teeth - Pearls 2 Swine
5. Eisbrecher - Fanatica
6. Celldweller - The Imperial March
7. Daft Punk - Derezzed (Glitch Mob mix)
8. Gesaffelstein - Viol
9. Nine Inch Nails - My Violent Heart (Cru5hed)
10. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence (Aesthetic Perfection Remix)

Mix 2:
1. And One - Shouts Of Joy
2. Wolfsheim - Find You’re Gone
3. Youth Code - Keep Falling Apart
4. Hard Corps - Metal & Flesh
5. Apoptygma Berzerk - Kathy’s Song
6. Ministry - Revenge (remix)
7. Faderhead - TZDV
8. Aesthetic Perfection - The Siren
9. Imperative Reaction - Fallout
10. Combichrist - They
11. Leæther Strip - Adrenaline Rush
12. Caustic - White Knuckle Head Fuck
13. Faderhead - Fistful Of Fuck You
14. VNV Nation - Control
15. Nine Inch Nails - Me. I’m Not (Cru5hed)
16. The Lost Brothers - Cry Little Sister (featuring G Tom Mac)

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