From hip hop dancer, to Monster bartender, to club DJ, to award-winning music producer… this guy has come far and done much. And now with the success of his production company with Bob the Drag Queen, the unending pleasure that is his hit single with Bob “Purse First,” and a new “Drag Race” musical collaboration about to drop… this is a completely exciting time to catch up with Mitch Ferrino!
Thotyssey: Hello Mitch! So, oh my gawd, the city is Drag Race crazy! And your home base, the West Village’s Monster, is kind of in the middle of it all–thanks to you, Bob the Drag Queen, The Only Productions and Look Queen… and of course, the Friday night viewing parties! Do you, like, feel all that crazy energy there now?
Mitch Ferrino: It’s really amazing – I’m not sure if you have been to any of the Look Queen events with the Drag Race girls, or at the premiere of Season 9, but the energy is so good and also so intense. It’s so huge, and I’m really grateful to be a part of it!
It’s funny, I kinda feel like before Look Queen there really wasn’t a place for the Drag Race girls to come through NYC and just slay some numbers in a real nightlife setting.
Drag Race, and drag in general, is just amazing and magical. It’s so cool to me that drag can captivate, bring people together, change lives, educate and entertain all at once. It’s pretty amazing.
The Monster is also a magical and amazing place, too. Not too many bars/clubs stick around for over 35 years like the Monster has. It means a lot to a lot of people. I’ve been there for 10 years, and it has helped shape who I am today.
Bob had the idea to bring those things [you mentioned] together, and it just makes so much sense – its perfect. Also, I had the idea to bring Bob to The Monster, so technically this is all thanks to me. (Kidding)
You totally got the ball rolling! Okay let’s back up and get to know you a bit.
Where’s your hometown?
I’m from the south towns of Buffalo, New York. A little place called Blasdell, south of the city.
I actually know Blasdell! I went to college in that area. Those winters are not cute.
Gurl. That’s crazy you know Blasdell. How funny. Yeah, I remember one winter we got, like, seven feet over the course of a couple days. Insane.
‘Twas a carry! Were you always into music growing up?
Yeah, totally. I was kind of always into music. I sang in chorus, and played saxophone and a little piano. I did a musical or two in high school, but I was also a bit of a rebel and got in trouble with the music department because I would get caught smoking cigarettes behind the school. That need to be a little edgy (and then getting caught) is probably what stopped me from really diving into full-on musical theater cliche gay kid when I was growing up.
I was also totally obsessed with competitive dance. I used to travel with a dance company to competitions around the U.S. The company was best at hip hop, so it felt “edgy” enough for me [laughs].
Mad edges! Did you have, like, a signature move that made everybody go crazy?
Haha… I used to love to make people laugh; anything I could do with physical comedy in a routine would light me up.
It was a really fun time in my life, with some really fun people. We were a close group of about 20 of us, and a few of the people I danced with are working now in LA with people like Britney, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. Its really cool.
So, what ultimately brought you to NYC?
I was getting too old to be in the dance company (I was 22), and I started getting good enough at dance to win some awards and scholarships, so I knew I had to move to NYC or LA. I chose NYC, and became a bartender for 10 years [laughs]!
Isn’t that always how it goes!? What was Monster like when you first started working there? I remember it being a bit cruisier, but I guess every place was then.
Yes, back then one of its biggest nights was the Monday Latino night with Barbra Herr. It was totally insane. That’s where I learned all the Spanish I know.
Monster ten years ago is very similar to what Monster is now though; the main difference is that now it’s tapping into a much wider range of entertainment and performers.
It’s kind of bringing life back the West Village! When did you start DJing there?
Well, touching back on the Monster shaping me into who I am today… the owner has been incredibly kind and generous to me. He allowed me to come in when the disco was closed, and teach myself how to DJ on the CD players he has there. I got one lesson from the previous resident DJ Tony Cruz and the rest was history. Then later down the line, I met DJ Johnny Dynell, who encouraged me to get into the production of original music.
He would be the best one to teach that! What kinda music were you making in the beginning?
I was trying to make remixes. They were bad. Really bad. I just listened to one today, and I was cringing a little!
Gotta start somewhere!
I think most of the times I’ve seen you, you’ve been DJing Holly Dae’s Wednesday show there, which is one of my faves. You two interact so well there. Was it always easy for you to get that vibe going with queens onstage, or did it evolve over time?
Holly is a hoot! We have a lot of fun. I really genuinely enjoy drag and drag queens, so most of the time it comes pretty natural to kiki with each other.
Also when that show started there were zero customers on Wednesdays, so we always just approached it with a, “well there’s no one here, so lets just have fun” kind of mentality.
And it works! Those monthly Beat Your Face competitions Holly hosts on first Wednesdays are always a big deal too. Are those wild to DJ?
The wildest part is dealing with the various form of media players the girls come with. I’m juggling different androids, iPhones, USBs, emails and CDs. It’s a nightmare. The performances are always fun, though.
Yes! Our Saturdays were starting to decline, and as a person who was out and about often I thought I could try my hand at promoting. It was my very first party and promoting gig. I pitched it to the owner, and he went for it.
MANSTER had some growing pains, and took some re-arranging, but Honey has been my host since day one. Johnny Dynell was a huge part of it in the beginning, and his wife Chi Chi actually came up with the name!
The party won a 2016 GLAM Award!
Yes, I’m so happy that after a few years of nominations, this year we won the award at Cherry Jubilee’s amazing GLAM awards. Cherry is legendary.
So, how about Bob–when did you first meet her?
I first saw Bob at Barracuda. I would go after working out at David Barton Gym when it was on 23rd, where Crunch is now. My friend Alan Kelly, who was working the front desk at Barton until midnight, would go after his shift. I think the first time we went it was random, because where else could we go at midnight on a Monday in Chelsea?
From the first time, we were totally gagged and hooked. It was hands down the best show in the city. As someone who works five nights a week in a bar, it takes a lot to get me out to another bar regularly. Bob’s show at Barracuda was so amazing, I would go as often as possible.
Eventually I asked her to come work at the Monster, and she did a few Wednesdays before I hired Holly regularly. She hosted Manster a couple times when Honey was out. Then eventually we started Look Queen.
Who’s idea was that?
Look Queen was Bob’s idea. She mentioned it to me once, when she was guest hosting Manster. Then when there was a spot open on Sundays, I asked the owner if I could bring Bob to our Sundays for a show. He told me he loved Bob and gave me the go.
Together, DJ Scotty Rox and I met and listened to Bob’s genius mind about what her idea for the night was. Scotty and I loved it, gave our own little tidbits of input, and went from there.
Bob is a visionary. He invested so much into Look Queen, that he often lost money on the night. It was her baby though, and she really really believed that it would one day become a huge success; so she invested. She bought the big huge “Look Queen” sign herself, booked the queens herself, and really just turned the fucking party.
And the show really is vital now… shout out to current host Dusty Ray Bottoms!
So, when you first learned that Bob was gonna be on Drag Race–that was an exciting time–did you feel immediately that she was going to win?
Without question. First thought: Bob just won Drag Race.
Yeah, I think we all just knew… she even knew herself! It was great to watch the world discover her, though. When you saw her enter the work room on Episode 1 “purse first,” were you aware that a Thing was born?
It was like, “oh wow, Purse First is really, really going to be a thing!” I think I’m still gagging [laughs].
We all are! After Bob won the show, did she come to you like, “let’s do this right now while it’s hot?”
Well actually, before the show she and I were working on a different song. She noticed me one day trying to make a remix, and asked me what I was doing. From there she was like, “wanna make a song, I have an Idea!” That’s when Johnny Dynell’s voice popped into my head saying “MAKE ORIGINAL MUSIC!!!”
Well, we started it, and then about halfway through she left for her “cruise.” Then after the show she was like, “let’s change the song!” That’s when “Purse First” was born.
There’s a few Paris is Burning direct quotes in the lyrics, and a total “ball scene” feel to the song… was that all from Bob?
Yep. She told me the vibe she wanted, and I produced the beat. She’s a complete genius. She wrote most of the lyrics; I helped a little where I could, but the vision of the song was completely her own.
I love that you caught the Paris is Burning reference… “It is a known fact” is a quote from Paris is Burning! Most kids just catch the Alaska quote in the video: “this purse is my ID.”
I’m an old school bitch! I’m probably the only person who doesn’t know this, though: where was that crazy video filmed?
Haha! We filmed in LA. The director is Assaad Yacoub, and we filmed a lot of it in the amazing historic hotel converted into condos that he lives in.
We filmed between DragCon and the finale of Drag Race. Bob didn’t sleep for three days. The whole video is literally Bob with zero sleep. Bitch, when I don’t get a full 8 hours, I won’t leave the house. She’s a powerhouse!
So when we see Bob stumbling into the limo in the last scene, that’s not just amazing acting! Well, it’s a great final product.
When you hear other DJs’ remixes of “Purse First,”, do you dig it or are you like, “hey, you’re fuckin’ up my song?”
Well – for the main DJ remixes I hand picked the remixers. As for the bootleg remixes, I love them all. I’m so honored that people felt inspired by our work to do their own thing with it.
“Tongue First” was a classic parody from Jasmine Rice! You appeared in the video for that–I’m guessing you had fun!
[Laughs] I love Jasmine. We had a lot of fun doing that. She’s disgusting.
Ugh, the Crisco! You and Bob have benn hosting great events with your shared company, The Only Productions! That Only Bloodbath party on Halloween was everything.
The amazing Brita Filter said that Bloodbath was exactly like the adult costume party scene in Hocus Pocus, and that it was a dream come true to finally attend that party. To me, that is epic.
What are you trying to accomplish with these events, as far as providing NYC with what it might’ve been lacking?
Bob and I formed The Only Productions to put on really great, fun and epic events. We both love, live, and breathe nightlife, so making good fun events is just natural to us
We don’t just want to do events, though. We want to make music, videos, movies… everything.
I only discovered the video and song you two did, also called “Bloodbath,” recently! That was wild, you two were running the city and riding the subway dressed as killer clowns.
LOL! We made that as part of our Halloween party Bloodbath. We took on a lot this past Halloween. We didn’t get to announce the video/song until about the day of Halloween, so it didn’t have a lot of build up. Then after Halloween, people don’t continue listening to Halloween music, so it isn’t as widely known as say, “Purse First.”
If we started it a few weeks earlier it probably could have been a bit bigger. Either way, i loved it and still love the song.
We’ll rediscover it this Halloween! So here comes another cool project: you’ve just produced a single with Drag Race Season 9′s four New York contestants! I think that’s amazing and hilarious, because they are all so talented in their own ways, but I could never see these four people coming together for a collaboration under any other circumstance.
[Laughs] Yeah? I guess I never thought of it that way. The song with the four of them works so well together, it just makes total sense to me. It’s cool because the title represents what they have come to represent in NYC: Club. Legend. Art. Theater. Aja is club, Peppermint is legend, Sasha Velour is art, and Alexis Michelle is theater. “C.L.A.T.!”
Ack, I love that! How did that collaboration come to be?
Peppermint was the one who called and pitched it to me, though it’s equally all of their song. Then after I gagged and said yes, of course I’ll do it, we had a video chat where they all got together and told me their collective vision for the song. Very similarly to how Bob pitched “Purse First” to me. From there, I took their ideas and turned it into a beat and melody.
This is why I’m still gagging from seeing the first “Purse First!” It has continued to change my life from that very first moment! I’m sure the fact that I made “Purse First” probably had something to do with the girls choosing me for “C.L.A.T.”
You must now be like, “Wow, I’m an artist! I can do this stuff!”
Haha! It feels like I’m really living out my dreams. Its really fucking cool.
Yes, we’re having a big dance party to celebrate the single. We’re going to play the song, show the video, and the girls will perform it and some other numbers, too. We’re also going to give away a free download to a special New York City remix of the song that you can only get if you attend the party. We’ll never sell it, or give it away anywhere else. It’s set to be a pretty special night.
Also – there’s probably only one night the rest of the year that all the girls will be in town together, and that will be the finale. So this is a good time to see all the girls from TeamNYC.
So, basically every drag queen probably wants you to produce their songs now, right?
[Laughs] I have heard a lot of, “so I have this idea for a song…” I love it. I want to make them all!
Are there any other projects or events in the works that you’re able to talk about?
I have a quite few other projects in the works, but the only thing I can really talk about at the moment is the viewing parties at the monster with the Season 9 girls. I’m going to book as many as I can from this season. We have Sasha hosting this week, and Alexis is hosting on the 5th of May.
Also, Bob just filmed her comedy special Current Fucking Reigning – that was really amazing too. She did it at The Jungle in Atalanta. I flew down to help with that. I think it will be available for purchase through some sort of streaming media outlet very soon.
A lot to look out for! Okay, last question: What would the title of your autobiography be?
Hmmm… You Don’t Know My Life! [laughs]
You’ve certainly lived it! Thanks Mitch, and congratulations with everything!
Mitch Ferrino can usually be found at the Monster, particularly on Wednesdays DJing “Holly & Her Dollies” (10pm). The premiere party for the single he produced, “C.L.A.T.,” will be held at the Copacabana on Friday, April 7th (11pm). Mitch can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube.