On Point With: DJ Brian Richards

This DJ is just as much at home spinning the big sexy parties, the neighborhood bar throwbacks and/or the drag shows. Meet one of NYC’s busiest music masters, Brian Richards!

Thotyssey: Brian, hello!

DJ Brian Richards: Hi Jim! I just want to start by saying thanks so much for the interview. Thotyssey is one of my favorite blogs, and I’ve enjoyed reading it in the last year! Kudos to you.

Many thanks! So, we’re getting into some nice weather, finally… are you enjoying it? 

I am loving this weather… this is my favorite time of year. In fact, it was the spring of 2010, I believe, when I started getting inspired to becoming a serious DJ.

What was specifically going on around that time that sparked the idea?

Well, I seem to get more creative in the spring and the fall. That year specifically is when I discovered new mixing programs and more access to music; the more I dove into it I thought, “Wow I think I can actually DJ!” Plus, I was really loving the dance music that was out around that time.

Remind us of an example of what was big that year.

Well, the first song that comes to mind is “DJ Got Us Falling In Love” by Usher and Pitbulll. I was drawn to songs specifically made for the dancefloor, and aimed at just having fun. That was the trend then, and it sparked so many songs in that realm. And of course there was Kesha, Gaga, Rihanna and Queen Bee, and all the pop divas we’ve grown to love over the years.

The classics! 

So, where’s your hometown?

I grew up in Woodbridge, NJ.

And what were you into growing up there, like creatively or otherwise?

My love for music dates as far back as I can remember. I also was a little comedian: I loved playing out skits with friends and imitating TV shows. Laughter and music then, and to this day, are my two loves.

My parents had given me a portable record player, and they had a collection of old 45’s. I would spend hours playing that, probably more than any toys I had. One of my favorites as a kid was “The Monster Mash.” They had the actual record. One day in probably 4th grade, I talked the teacher into bringing my record player in class for Halloween, and I played that record for all the kids in their Halloween costumes. They all danced around, and I just remember laughing hysterically. It was pure joy! So I guess I had the DJ gene in me from a little kid!

I would make [my friends] play with me that we were on the radio. We would make actual tapings of “shows,” just being silly and pretending to put on a radio show. Hell, I did that into my early teens [laughs]!

Sounds like the perfect DJ origin story! 

When did you start to become exposed to NYC nightlife?

It goes back pretty far… farther then I admit sometimes [laughs]! I started going out in the early 90′s, if you can believe it! I made a friend in high school who was older then his years. He knew all the places in the city, and took me to them.

At that time, the places in the city we explored were the Dugout in the Village (now Rockbar), The Palladium… I think there was a place called “The Tool,” if I’m not mistaken… Uncle Charlies… God, all these legendary places.

The first gay club I ever walked into was in New Jersey at the legendary Den, which sadly just closed last year. I spent the 90’s in Jersey at a place called the Colosseum, and would venture to New York for the Roxy, the original XL, and G Lounge, to name a few. I was lucky enough in recent years to play at both the Den and G Lounge.

What’s your favorite environment to DJ in?

You know, for me the environment isn’t as important as the crowd. If it’s a fun crowd that loves to sing and dance, then I’ll play there! I’ve done everything from small bars to rooftop events, and they all have their share of great memories.

Do you have any strong opinions on who should or shouldn’t be considered a “DJ” based on what they bring to the gigs, the tech they use, etc.?

This has been an ongoing debate among nightlife professionals. I have so much admiration and respect for the old school DJs who learned it “the hard way” with turntables. I can only speak from my own experience using my Traktor Pro software on my laptop and a controller that, yes, may make it “easier” in the regard of mixing… but your talent must still be on point. You still must know how to read the crowd, know who you are playing for, and have the chops to deal with all the rejection and ups and downs that come with this business. The bottom line is how you left that crowd feeling. So anyone who has staying power in nightlife, it did not come easy, regardless of the medium they choose.

I do get annoyed by the jokes that “anyone can DJ”, etc. Okay, then give it a try and see how easy it is! I dare ya.

It obviously sucks, for a pro like yourself, to see big venues throw money at a Kardashian to basically stand behind a laptop while someone else hits play on an iTunes playlist.

Well, of course. That is an ugly side to pop culture. If you can fill a club regardless of your talent, then money talks.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into DJing today?

Know your music, know your crowd. Go to the clubs an bars and see what party speaks to you, and get to know the people who run it. And please DO NOT take a gig for little or no money. You are short-selling the rest of us, and lowering the bar!

You were on rotation DJing the Love Age Sundays day parties this spring, which just wrapped things up this past weekend. How did it go?

Yes! I was delighted to be a part of the regular rotation this year at Love Age. Shawn Paul Mazur & Matthew Gagnon had asked me to do the premiere back in February, and I was floored. I had worked with those guys last summer for Fly Sundays, and I have to say their parties are always a blast and I have great respect for them.

My music selections get a great response from their crowd. They love pop, dance and house, and go wild for the throwbacks, especially from the 90’s, which has become my “signature” style at these parties.

Love Age wrapped up, but not to worry… we are gearing up for the 4th season of Fly Sundays on May 21st! Fly Sundays, I feel, gets bigger and better every season, and we are ready for the biggest season yet. Working with Shawn, Matthew and the whole gang has been such a thrill and I look forward to the summer!

The kids love Fly Sundays at the Monarch! Do you know when your first day is there this season?

I will be the DJ for [there] for May 28th. That’s Memorial Day Weekend!

And at a very different venue, you spin the Tyme Machine retro party at Ty’s in the West Village monthly. 

Yes, and I am proud to say next month our monthly “Tyme Machine” will be celebrating 3 years on Saturday, June 10th!

There is a little back story to how this all came about. When I first came to NYC scoping out places for gigs, by a fluke, POSH Bar was holding a DJ contest “So You Think You Can Spin” back in 2012. I entered the contest and played a 15 minute set, and by luck of the stars the crowd was eating it all up. The contest was supposed to run for a few weeks; they cut it short and granted me a residency on Sundays called “Retro Sundays.” That is when I got my first taste of playing retro for the kids and I loved it. It lasted about 8 months. I had to work my day job early on Mondays and the late hours were killing me, so sadly I had to make the decision to leave.

Long story short: I missed my retro nights, and I went to John Steadman who owns Ty’s [with the idea of bringing it them there] and he liked the idea. The rest is history.

There’s a lot of great, colorful characters in Ty’s. Bartender Julian is my Bar Crush!

I have made a lot of good friends at Ty’s and I love working with Julian. We work so well together, and he makes the night fly by. The crowd can be so much fun, singing along to the disco or 80s classics. I even met one of my idols at Ty’s, Elvis Duran, was just hanging out at the bar when I walked in! That was a thrill for me. I have looked up to him for years listening to his morning show on Z-100.

And I understand that you have a new Fire Island Pines gig coming up.

I made my debut in the Summer of 2014 DJ-ing for the pool deck, which was amazing. I met so many great people that summer, DJs and drag queens alike. I am however, making my debut at Sip-N-Twirl on Friday, May 12th, and I am elated!

You have a busy and fun summer to look forward to, Mr. DJ. Final question: what is one thing the world may not know about Brian Richards, but should?

Hmm. Well I must say, as social as I have been all these years, I feel like I am constantly on a journey to find a place to fit in! I think I have come close in recent years, though.

You’ve come far indeed! Thanks Brian!

Brian Richards will be on DJ Rotation for FLY Sundays beginning May 28th (3-11pm). He spins “Tyme Machine” at Ty’s monthly, usually second Saturdays (10pm). Check here for other upcoming scheduled gigs. Brian can be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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