Jeff Plunk has earned his DJ veteran stripes with more than two decades of service to dance floors as one of the pioneering drum and bass DJs in the region. Plunk's love affair with the thunderous sounds of jungle-related breaks goes back to when the sound was in its infancy. His passion comes through just as enthusiastically when he discusses the music as it does when he is mixing it behind the decks.
Plunk belongs to a select few old-school vets — most of whom went on to become major players in the scene for the last few decades — that did time selling records at Bill's Records when it was the central hot spot for DJ vinyl in Dallas. He had a front-row seat for the development of dance music culture in the city from the earliest rave days. He has seen it all from the clubs to the warehouse. That deep knowledge and experience are on full display for his Observer mixtape this week.
How did you get started DJing? What drew you into the culture?
I went to high school with a couple of friends who exposed me to my first rave at the Bomb Factory back in '91 or '92 (Rave New World). It was a life-changing experience, and I knew immediately that I wanted to DJ. I acquired a belt drive turntable and a RadioShack Realistic mixer shortly after and along with my tape deck, began to practice mixing the same few records over and over. I had also been working with Richard Shanks, aka The Shanks DJ (fellow Atmospheric Society DJ), programming intelligent lights at underground raves/parties, as well as clubs like Fish Dance, Club One, 2826 and Lizard Lounge, so I was exposed to the party/club scene at an early age (16 or so). I also started working at Bill’s Records during the summer of '92 and learned quite a bit there. After finally saving up for a pair of 1200’s and a Stanton/Vestax mixer, we started finding our own gigs anywhere we could and the rest is history.
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You have really deep roots in playing drum and bass in Dallas. You have seen it go through highs and lows over the past few decades. What has kept you in the DnB realm?
Richard and I started playing out DnB at a place called The Cavern in '96 or so. We couldn’t believe how well received the music was there. I mean this was chill atmospheric drum and bass we are talking about, but people just dug the beats and the vibe. We even had the fire marshal called on us a few time for too may people. We then moved on to start a Monday night in '98 at a tiny bar called Mick’s Bar. It was there that we made the music a staple and to our surprise, a very well received staple of the Dallas music scene. We kept that residency for 11 years and at one point was the longest running DnB night in the nation. Alongside other venues, we kept the vibe going for some time after. I have definitely seen the scene change through the years, but there is just something about those breaks that keeps me in the game after all these years. An amen break will get me every time. It’s just in the blood. What can I say? I’m a Junglist.
What was the concept behind this mix? How was it made?
For the longest time I wanted to make a moody, chill mix with that thick, rainy day vibe. I’ve made plenty of atmospheric, liquid, roller mixes but nothing like what I had in my head. After some time finding the right track selection, the opportunity presented itself during a lazy, rainy, summer day and “Moody Blues” was born. Some great tunes in there for sure. I made it using Traktor/control vinyl at home on 1200’s and a Pioneer DJM-500.
I have always known you for playing drum and bass on the deeper and more soulful side as opposed to the more aggressive sound. Is there any motive behind that?
The way it came to be was that I played deep house for years and I especially loved the deep minimal stuff. I still play it, as well as some other genres. I’ve just always loved the chill shit — some of it way too chill for a dance floor. I was living above a record store in Exposition Park called IGS or Intergalactic Groove Source right after I finished high school. My first roommate was JT Donaldson. I moved in with Arnold Velasco (DJ A1) shortly after and was always around the Hazy Daze Crew, as Robert Taylor owned the store, so standing out as an up-and-coming house DJ was extremely tough with the amount of talent I surrounded myself with. I was always looking for a way to individualize myself and make myself a name.
One morning, I was driving a buddy home from a party and he popped in a tape. It was my first experience hearing atmospheric/intelligent drum and bass. That ride home was forever life-changing and I knew that if I could get my hands on that sound, something so different but so ever-pleasing to my ears, that I would have found my sound. I spent quite some time acquiring that collection through any means. Others old collections, digging in every record store I could get to, B-sides. Oh, man, I have some B-side gems. It wasn’t around like it is today, so I had my work cut out for me. About that time I moved in with Richard Shanks who had just moved back from Austin and it just so happened that he had also discovered atmospheric DnB. That’s when “The Atmospheric Society” was born. As a testament to it all, I was asked by the Hazy Daze Collective to play a sunrise set at an Earth party. Something I dreamed of doing. My set was well received and was an incredible experience to be able to play out that vibe along with my peers.
I’ve spent many years evolving that sound since then and have watched trends come and go but I will always stay true to my roots. And by the way, I still have that tape.
What have you done production-wise over the years? Are you still producing?
I’ve put out a few things over the years but not as much as I would like. A few tracks that stayed digital and a vinyl release on Grab Recordings for a JT Donaldson remix I did called “It’s Simple.” Hard to find time to produce with a 3-year-old running around. I hope to produce an LP one day.
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Where do you like to dig for new (or old) tracks?
Josey Records has some good stuff and even some DnB vinyl finds from time to time. I have producer friends that still send me tracks. I find a lot of stuff online these days when it comes to new tracks. New DnB vinyl is a rarity.
Who are some of your favorite producers and DJs?
Blame, Lenzman, Keeno, Seba, Grooverider and Fabio, Photek, Big Bud. Dallas has some good locals as well.
What is the most significant musical experience you have had over the past year?
I’ve had the opportunity to play alongside a few of my heroes, but honestly, after the birth of my daughter almost three years ago, priorities changed, but the love for the music didn’t. I would say that some of the best experiences in the past year have been sharing my love of music with my daughter at home in the studio. She’s a Junglist for sure. I have also really enjoyed playing some park parties along White Rock Lake for the old-school throwback vibe with my family. Nothing beats a good park party on a Sunday afternoon.
Orthodox - Oversight
Monrroe feat. Emily Jones - Dawning
Altitude – Falling
Calculon & Dave Owen – Ben Carlos (Lenzman Remix)
Tokyo Prose – Tell Me
Joe Syntax –Sightlines feat. Jono McCleery
Muffler & Keeno – Ranua
Pola & Bryson – Walk Away
Hybrid Minds – That Way
Dawn Wall – Kythera
Hybrid Minds – Our Turn feat. Charlie P
Keeno – Hold Ya feat Whiney
NTC – Scars
NTC & Diego Torres – No One Home
Monroe – The Inevitable
Anile – Loosing My Mind
Enea – Levitation feat. Mika Doo
Amphix – Twilight Town (Pulsate Remix)
Monroe – Eventide
Drexcell – Never Free feat Ellie Mae
Nexus & Tight – Prism
Keeno – One More Moment feat. Cepasa
Seba – Cold Spring
Jrumhand & Scott Allen – Love So True
Muffler – Cosmos
Technimatic – Secret Smile feat Lucy Kitchen
Luke Wallis – Holding On
Enea – Nightwalk
Muffler – Dark Flower
Etherwood – Weightless
C41 – Cardamom Mountains