This veteran DJ has seen it all, and this week he’ll be back for The 10th Annual Urban Bear Weekend. But this time, the party will be on the high seas! Say hi to Billy Pfeiffer!
Thotyssey: Hey, Mr. DJ! Thanks for chatting with us! So, what is your Track of the Moment?
DJ Billy Pfeiffer: I’ve had Purple Disco Machine’s ‘Love for Days” featuring Karen Harding on my short playlist for months.
Werk! As far as genres go, is this what you’re usually spinning at your gigs?
How long have you been a DJ?
I started when i was 16, back in the salad days of house music in Chicago. I’ve held down at least one residency since 1993 in NYC, and have played all over the city. I’m 51 now, and too old to manage simple subtraction–lol–so let’s just say 35 years, if you need a number.
Incredible! Most DJs only last a few years before the crazy lifestyle takes its toll. How did you survive not getting bogged down by all that wicked living this whole time?
I’ve had a traditional career within higher education at NYU for 23 years, as well as quite a few other interests to keep the balance and maintain perspective. And for me, the music has always been center stage
So, you’re a Chicago native! Was music always there for you, even before DJing?
In the 80’s, Chicago was one of the most vibrant music centers in the world: punk, new wave, house and techno were all taking shape at the same time, and influencing each other in very interesting ways. My tribe and I went to every club we could get into–and it was an era of “under 21″ venues–which fed our love for music and blurred lines In a deeply segregated city.
That’s quite an education! At what point did you find yourself as part of the bear scene?
I just aged into it, I suppose. I’ve always been drawn to low key low drama dudes.
Do you feel that queer nightlife has become too divided into all these “scenes,” or is it good that there’s something for everyone?
I think the divisions that “define” the scenes have always been around–scenes for younger guys, “twinks,” sports / jocks, leather, bears, etc. While it may help people find what they’re looking for, it’s certainly limiting.
Indeed! What have been some personal highlight moments of your DJ career so far, would you say?
That’s really hard to say; I’ve been fortunate to connect with so many people over the years while playing. The best memories are those where the magic happens: the right mix of people, the right vibe, and above all else an audience that truly loves music and the people around them.
As far as your Thursday nights at the Eagle go, that’s their big Gear Night… do you have any cherished piece of gear of your own?
Haha! No, I’m too lazy to do much beyond getting dressed in the normal sense.
Seeing everyone else in their gear must be the best part, than!
And this week brings us the return of The Urban Bear Weekend, for it’s tenth year! That’s exciting! How long have you been involved with this annual event?
I think I’ve been working with [UB founder] Robert for five or six years. I like being a part of something that brings guys of all shapes and shades together–I’ve had a blast.
You always used to DJ the UBW main event “Honey” at Slake, but sadly that venue has recently closed. Do you miss it?
I liked the main room at that venue; the size and sight lines were perfect. The sound system was a little fried, but the guys who came to dance were happy–and that’s how I know it was a good party.
This year you’ll be manning the booth for “Bears Ahoy,” the UBW boat party, on Saturday, May 19th! How do you like DJing boat parties?
The approach is a little different because you have a changing light and scenery, so I think I’ll spend a bit more prep time programming. I’m not the hugest fan of boats due to motion sickness, but I’ll have a stash of Dramamine and my Seaband bracelet on me!
Lol, they say you’re supposed to “look at the horizon” to feel better! Anyway, it’s gonna be mad fun regardless.
Are you going to any of the other Urban Bear Weekend Events?
The more the merrier! Okay, final question: what’s your best advice for DJs who are new to the scene?
First, make sure you are in it for the right reasons; it’s not about feeding your ego, and it’s not a competitive sport. Music and community should be your focus. Secondly, pay your dues: start a party, build up your name and reputation through long, hard work. Three, go out and listen to older, established DJ’s. Listen to how they build a set–following a baseline, staying in key, etc. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice from those that have been at it for awhile. My favorite thing is hanging out with bedroom DJs or aspiring DJs to talk shop, mix vinyl or put together a basic track. Mentorship is a side to it that deserves more attention.
Well said! Thanks, Billy!