One of 2018′s most in-demand dance floor DJs, this son of a choir director is a true beatmaster working overtime keeping you twirking through the city’s sexiest, chicest parties. DJ William Francis takes Thotyssey to church!
Thotyssey: William, hello! It’s nice to catch you during a minute when you’re not at a gig. Do you enjoy working this much, or does it ever get overwhelming / exhausting?
DJ William Francis: Lolz! I love the work! I usually don’t even think about it, to be honest. I just try and tackle each gig one at a time… and take care of myself so I don’t look too worn out!
What do you like to do on your downtime?
Sleep, mostly! And working on some side projects with my super talented friend Nashom. Also, Fire Island–for self-care, obviously!
So okay, we have lots to talk about, so let’s go right to the beginning… where’s your hometown?
I was born in New Rochelle, but grew up in Virginia.
Has music always been a part of your life?
I was a choir boy, always begging for a solo. But I never got it, ‘cause my mom was the choir director…. or I was terrible! But I was always playing an instrument: piano a bit, and I used to play the guitar. I led a youth group…: God Rock, I guess it’s called. Anyway, it was a dark time.
Was it always a big conflict with you, religion and family versus being Fabulous?
Mixed. My mother wasn’t really religious… just spiritual (jk)!. But seriously, she was just in it for the music. She LOVED a hymn, and the only reason it was worth it to go [to Church] on Sunday was when she would do her solo with the organ playing. Oh, honey! It would make anyone a believer, even for a second! There’s few places to get that energy out when you’re raising kids in Virginia. I think my dad still prays for my soul, though!
Hey, whatever helps!
What brought you to NYC?
My whole family’s from New York, and I always had a strong connection here and knew this is where I wanted to be. I remember coming to visit my aunt and walking through Greenwich Village, and my parents warned my siblings and I that we might see some homosexual things. I saw two guys kissing unabashedly outside a cafe, and I was like I want that life. I had to have been 10 or 12. And look at me now!
And then how did the DJing start?
After college, I moved here with my college boyfriend and friends, hungry to hit the scene and express ourselves. As I found myself and my place in the city, I was always drawn back to the music. Once I touched those decks, it was all over.
Where was your first gig?
First real gig was Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Vandam. I was opening for Michael Magnan in the basement, and Johnny Dynell was playing upstairs. Will Automagic was booking DJs for it, and he gave me my first real shot. I still have the CDs I burned for that night in a book somewhere. They’re so sticky and don’t work anymore!
I was also playing the backroom at Westgay at the same time. But there was no equipment back there, so I just brought in my little MacBook.
Is William Francis your Government Name, or a DJ alias?
It’s my first and middle name.
That works! So what was on those sticky first CDs?
Yikes. A lot of gems. I remember really going for it with the most iconic tracks–probably some of my all time favorites, honestly. And then a LOT of trash. A lot of times I would love a sample, but it was to a very basic beat and I would play it anyway. That made me always hunt out where the sample came from, which really broadened my lexicon. It’s always a hunt.
How has your musical lexicon changed over times since then?
I’m drastically different in my own mind now, compared to when I first started. But I think my goal was always the same: to play good music. People’s ears have changed, and my own definition of what’s good has narrowed, I think. But I still love trashy music sometimes!
Do you tend to be more driven towards house, or pop remixes, or both, or something else?
Disco actually, and classic house. There are, however, these remixes Nita Aviance did for Beyoncé that I can never get enough of. I’m also obsessed with mixing in some nu-wave and R&B, and some harder beats, too. I have a hard time staying in one genre, honestly. I bounce all over the place or I get bored. And I probably slip at least one Whitney song into every set, for good measure.
What are some changes you’ve noticed in the habits of your dance floor kids over the years? Have they gotten easier to please, less attentive, more adventurous?
All the above! People are less attentive in general, but far more adventurous. The biggest difference is the exploding Brooklyn club scene. For a minute, it was like pulling teeth to get people to come out and move around. And there really weren’t that many large venues to go to, as places in Manhattan closed one by one. The kids are more willing to trek deeper and deeper into Long Island to dance. They aren’t looking to sit around a bottle or hear and experience something they’re used to, either. People are really here for that release that a good night out dancing provides, and they know what they’re looking for.
Speaking of Brooklyn, let’s talk about some places where we can find you, starting with: Furball Brooklyn Pride at Analog, June 9th! The Furball brand seems to be expanding and getting more popular every year, what do you attribute that to?
Joe Fiore, who does Furball, is a great promoter who has been doing it forever, and is just about the sweetest guy to work for in the scene. He books some great talent, and has a great crowd that likes to have a lot of fun. What’s not to like? I’m super excited about about playing there this weekend. I love a Furball!
Yeah! The Deep End is my favorite place to play. I always come in early and grab some tacos before I spin; I think spinning on a full stomach makes for a happier set! Bear Milk is always a super fun and wild time there… very wild. The owners, Jorge and Jon, are so great, and created a cool space for the community. It’s awesome to be able to play for them and that party. They’re really, really, really fun over there, lol!
And Sunday June 24th, you’re back with Ms. Bartsch, in the booth for KUNST!
KUNST Is another wild one. Susanne and The Dreamhouse parties always draw the coolest and most colorful crowds. So much fun to DJ and spiral there, and this Pride Sunday afternoon party is going to be even more legendary! All the kids will be at this one!
And on July 14th, you’ll be spinning the Fire Island Pines version of HARDER! This is the cruisy Euro-flavored party that’s been bouncing all over the place lately. How do you think it will translate in the Pines?
I mean, it can’t get more cruisy than the Pines, and HARDER is gonna fit in perfectly at the Pavilion. The party has grown and changed a lot over the years. It still has it Euro-cruisy roots, but Ricardo–who’s party it is–has turned it into the kind of powerhouse of talent and production New York deserves. I’m happy to be part of the HARDER family, and anytime I get to spin with heartthrob resident Eric Bloom is also worth it!
Most of your Tuesdays these past few months have been spent at Acme spinning for Deryck Todd’s party STRUT, where club kids and regular folks convene and sometimes craziness happens. Have you had a Most Memorable Moment there yet?
I think when Rosario Dawson came. I’m a huge nerd and love her in all the Marvel Netflix shows, so I gagged a bit ‘cause she’s also stunning.
Where else can we find you in the near or distant future?
I’m doing every Thursday at Club Cumming starting this week for a diva- focused party…
…and I’m also playing tunes at The Cock every first and third Wednesday of every month, which is my most family friendly gig, lol!
Otherwise, I’m traveling a bunch. Going to Chicago with HARDER, and doing a fun party in Baltimore with all the drag queens down there. I think it will get more busy too as the month goes on, and I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff. Pride is always the most exhausting, but so worth it.
Yes! Okay, final question that I ask all DJs: What’s the best advice you can give to someone who wants to break into the biz?
Just do it. Trial by fire, baby!
Thank you, Mr. DJ!