Brian Armstrong has spent the past two decades as a dedicated apostle of DJ culture. At various points he’s been a budding dance music fan, an MC, a record store employee and a full-time track slinger under his alias DJ BrianPibb. Like any good working DJ, Armstrong is not one to be pigeonholed by genre. His range extends from mainstream fare to underground sounds. For this week’s mixtape, Armstrong delivers a solid hour of no nonsense, foot stompin’ techno.
Dallas Observer: How did you get started deejaying?
DJ BrianPibb: In 2002, my friend Gilbert Najera — DJ Titan, who I was emceeing drum and bass for at the time — worked at Tech*Sun Records in Arlington. He did the drum and bass ordering for the store and would often order records for me. My roommate at the time had turntables so I would practice deejaying when he wasn’t using them.
I especially loved the darker aspect of drum and bass. I hooked up with producer Dani Petterson of Psyborg/VECTORWOLF who was throwing shows under Darque Science Productions. Dani allowed me to play some opening time slots. I would get more opportunities later through Joe Gomez, aka DJ MxMind. I deejayed at the venue Afterlife, which gave way to more things in the future, and as they say, “Practice makes perfect.”
How was this mix made?
[I made it with] 2 CDJ 900s, a DJM 850 with a JBL 12” monitor, Vmoda Crossfade M-100 headphones and the program Audacity 2.1.2.
Is there a particular theme for the track selection?
I had a couple of visions for this mix, but honestly, if it was a mix that represents me, then it would be high energy for the majority of the set. I think the most important part of the set is the opener, so that it pulls you in. From there, I progress to a point where I can really show my style and flavor before closing the mix. I just enjoy getting people to dance and I’ll keep reaching ’til I do.
What is your relationship with Dallas DJ culture?
It all started when Jeff K hosted Edge Club ’94 and my young ears heard him play Josh Winx “Higher State of Consciousness” for the first time. I was hooked on dance music from then on. When rave promoters “True Family” were bringing him to Lakeside Ranch in Midlothian, Texas, I had to attend. That night honestly changed my life and I wanted to be a part of it all.
It has been a long journey since then. I’ve been a part of the scene since ’97 as an overexcited kid trying to take it all in. I witnessed the Dallas music scene evolve and was lucky enough to have been a part of it and witness Dallas dance music history. I got to MC with producer Mundo at one of the first dance festivals in Texas, Airport 2. I booked Eric Estornel as “Eric Entity” almost two decades before he became famous as “Maceo Plex.” Heck, I was fortunate to see Dave Clarke deejay in Dallas.
People come and go but to stay relevant in a scene that is always changing, it’s extremely hard work. I used all my energy that I put into the scene growing up into starting a DJ business. While others are seeing headliners and partying these days, I am usually working those nights. The last show I paid to see was Danny Tenaglia, which was definitely a magical experience because getting him to perform in Dallas had been in the works for years.
You cover a lot of ground as a DJ. Which genres do you play most often when you're out working?
I do a lot of Top 40/EDM gigs which is usually house/electro remixes of tunes the general public knows, from the ’60s and on. I’ll mix a night of Pitbull, Journey, Janis Joplin, Depeche Mode, Bruno Mars, Prince, David Bowie, New Order, Fleetwood Mac, etc. — usually at 124 to 128 bpm.
If I don’t have people dancing on the floor they are at least singing along to the song. It’s a way I can play to them and still do my thing. I usually mix in line dances to get people on the floor who normally wouldn’t feel comfortable and sometimes mix in a little “breaks and trap” depending on the crowd reaction.
When I get to play for fun and not for pay, I play tech house and techno. I actually plan on going back to my [drum and bass] roots and will be putting out a mix on my SoundCloud just to keep things fresh. Stay tuned.
What is your relationship with techno?
I think I had a love for techno since way before I was old enough to go to shows. Movie soundtracks introduced me to the likes of Prodigy, Moby and Orbital. I like to think the soundtrack from the 1992 movie Cool World was my gateway drug into techno. I found myself buying CDs by electronic heavyweights like Everything Is Wrong, In Sides, Music For The Jilted Generation as well as live mixes of Computer Controlled “Live in California” by Frankie Bones and The Sound of Ultimate B.A.S.E. by Carl Cox.
I was blessed to have known Reggie Zeno when he was alive and got to attend the events that he threw as Zedan Productions from 1997-2000, which showcased techno artists like Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Dave Clarke, Eric Davenport, etc. Seeing the legends write history in the states when things were still underground was definitely educational to me.
Techno has not been the same since the Zedan days. Thanks to Scottie Canfield — Red Eye — and the venue It’ll Do, I feel the techno fever has made a comeback. Seeing names like Adam Beyer, Green Velvet and Nicole Moudaber come through has definitely put a smile on my face. I don’t get to play techno as often as I’d like anymore but these DJs inspire me to get back to my roots.
Where do you like to dig for tracks?
I follow my favorite labels and producers on SoundCloud and Beatport. I am on there weekly looking for new tunes to play out.
Which new producers have been getting you excited?
Producers Harvey McKay, Jay Lumen, ANNA and UMEK rock my socks. I love every release these guys put out. If you want labels: Octopus, Footwork, Toxic and Drumcode just put out great releases and showcase great artists.
What has been your most significant music experience of the past year?
I have been fortunate in the last year to play for large crowds and events but there have been two significant gigs that really left an impression. I’ve been lucky enough to DJ the DFW SEC [Southeastern Conference] float for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the last three years. It’s a big deal for me because I feed off the interaction from the crowd.
Last December, I played a techno set at Drum Jam at Green Elephant on my birthday. Even though it was freezing cold, there was a huge crowd and the vibes were thick. It was like a religious experience for me.
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What gigs do you have coming up?
I have a radio show in the works on ActiveSessions.FM, which will air bi-weekly and feature me playing techno, of course, and an open forum guest slot with interviews and an hour set from the guest DJ. Stay tuned for more information on The 214 Untz Sessions.
As for events, I’ll be playing at Taboo Lounge in Dallas with headliner Donald Glaude on Feb. 25 and on April 28 at the Everland Festival in St. Joe, Texas, with Anthony Marquez, aka Cid Phillips. I will also be returning to the DFW SEC float on March 11.
My bread and butter each weekend is hosting karaoke at Chuggin’ Monk Fridays in Arlington and Big Tony’s Pizza Saturdays in McKinney. Follow my Facebook fan page or my website to keep up with me and where I’ll be each week.
1. Harry Romero — "Balance (Wehbba Remix)" [Tronic]
2. Chus & Ceballos — "EsVedra (Arjun Vagale 'Back To Basics' Remix)" [Stereo Productions]
3. Frankyeffe — "Can You Feel (Original Mix)" [Riot Recordings]
4. Jay Lumen — "Warehouse Trip" (Original Mix) [Footwork]
5. Pig&Dan — "Mexico (Original Mix)" [DRUMCODE]
6. Makaton — "Night # 1" [Token]
7. Sam Paganini — "Mercury (Original Mix)" [JAM001]
8. Philipp Ruhmhardt — "Faust (Original Mix)" [Tronic]
9. UMEK — Fonon "(Original Mix)" [1605-229]
10. Ben Champell — "Thrill Me (K-Style Remix)" [MLDRecords]
11. Raffaele Rizzi — "Skynet (Chus & Ceballos Remix)" [Tronic]
12. Alan Fitzpatrick — "Love Siren (Original Mix)" [DRUMCODE]
13. Tiger Stripes — "Ego Express (Original Mix)" [Truesoul — TRUE1276]