DJ Kevin Brown has been a staple in Phoenix’s dance scenes and a revered DJ around the world since the 80’s. His repertoire includes industrial, post-punk, acid house, techno, and much more. He’s proven himself to be an essential component of the underground and a respected force among more mainstream crowds as well.
His latest endeavors include the new club night, Nocturne, as well as DJing for the show ‘Nitewave Radio’, which airs live every Sunday night on KWSS 93.9 FM. Even with so many years of DJing under his belt and thousands of hours of music at his fingertips, Brown’s ambitions haven’t slackened. We talked to him about his past, present, and future.
You’ve been traveling all over the world since the 80’s. What made you decide to settle down in Arizona?
Yeah I’ve travelled quite a bit over the past few decades. Lived in Israel and Germany. But I always come back to AZ because all my friends and family are here. I was also tired of the toll and grind that DJ touring can impose on mental and physical well being. And I’m also involved with People Unlimited and The Coalition For Radical Life Extension, both offices are here in Phoenix. Plus I think that Arizona is just a great place to live, the cost of living is low and it’s just super convenient here.
How do you think the Phoenix music/dance scene compares to other communities across the country?
I think that overall AZ has produced some of the best Talent and DJs in the world. I think we hold our own pretty well compared to other Large cities in the world….. There is definitely bigger crowds and way more venues in Europe and The Middle East. The scenes there have been going strong for a long time and there is a really great age variety…. Not just people in their 20’s and 30’s…. You have tons of people in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that regularly attend events. So it’s just a really solid vibe and culture that’s not just about partying but more about the music and vibe.
But saying that I also think that it’s hard here because there is not a lot of support from the local community here in AZ…. The promoters don’t really work that well together from my past experience…. I think if the promoters and artists really came together to make a solid scene here and support everyone’s events, it would really grow the scene and the dance/club culture. One of the stigmas in Phoenix is that your never a prophet in your own land. Most of the DJs and artists have had to move from AZ to get the exposure they deserve…. So I think it builds up a resistance in said artists and deejays to not want to say they are originally from here…. And that in turn leaves Phoenix in the dust as far as being a culturally viable city. I’ve had the same experience but I always say i’m from here and Cali. But most of the Famous DJs that are from AZ never even mention Phoenix in interviews or articles. I know because I played with all of them back in the day. And I also know their true origins haha.
What are your favorite dance nights currently happening in Phoenix?
My favorite regular dance nights in AZ are Haxan and Cupcake.
Out of all the types of gear you’ve used, which do you find to be the most useful and versatile?
For DJing Traktor… It’s by far the best format I’ve used. There is just so much you can do with it. Live remixing and looping on the fly! And you can have your whole library of music with you…. You can’t do that with vinyl or CDs. It’s more of a live experience for me as well and I can get really deep in there and create new sounds every set. It’s just dope! It was a real game changer for me when I first started using it.
For music production I use a combination of digital and analog formats. I’m using Machine and all of Native-Instruments Komplete plugins and I absolutely love my Moog SUB37 and Sequential Prophet 6.
You’ve spun an incredibly diverse array of music genres to diverse audiences for years. What attracts you to darker styles of music like post-punk, darkwave, and industrial?
Well I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s listening to punk rock and disco…. I started DJing in the goth and industrial clubs in the mid 80’s along with my good friend DJ Randall of Asylum and Atomic Cafe Fame….. It was so rad doing the nights at the Asylum! We also started doing the Underground Sound Warehouse Rave parties in the late 80’s in the East valley…. Those to this day are some of the best party experiences i have had….. It was totally illegal and underground and we had great crowds with so many people…. Those events were off the hook! But at our last event we had some skinhead and chollo gangs show up and they started a fight with each other… and the chollo guys ran over one of the skinheads with their car! The kid got up and walked away from it but someone called 911 so the police and fire department showed up and shut us down….. Unfortunately that was the last big Warehouse event we would throw together. Randall moved to Austin and did Atomic Cafe there as well…. He passed away mysteriously while in Austin…. I still miss him to this day…. We were both a huge influence on each other music wise…. A lot f people don’t know that Randall was one of the best Acid House DJs there was back then…. We would mix everything together back in those days…. Acid, Techno, Industrial, Newbeat, New Wave, Disco, Post Punk, the whole enchilada haha! And that’s what made those times so great! Everything was so raw and fresh! Then I really got into the late 80’s and early 90’s Techno sound. I started playing at Silver Dollar and the The Works. Them I quit the Works to go do a club residency in Germany….. So the darker underground sound has always been in my life…. That rebel blood has forever been running though my veins as well…. I can’t stand the hypocrisy and injustice I see in this world on a daily basis…. I guess that’s what has always attracted me to darker sounds…. I just love minor keys it’s really where the beauty and emotion live for me. So in the wise words of Johnny Cash – I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back, ‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.
What have your DJing ventures consisted of in the last year?
I’m still heavily involved in the Underground Techno scene so I’ve been doing a lot of Dark Techno gigs this year. Also I’ve been playing at the RAAD Festivals and that’s just a whole new fantastic experience.
How does Nitewave Radio differ from other goth/industrial radio shows?
Well we try to find a lot of rare and new tracks that you don’t hear a lot in the clubs or for that matter on the radio…. Redadax AKA Tondra Dene and I are just constantly searching and digging to find great music…. Tondra has a really great ear for bad ass music! I also go back into my vaults and grab from my old catalog as well.
What are your plans for the future, locally, nationally, and abroad in terms of DJing?
I’ll be going to Singapore, Seoul and Dubai in 2017. Also Germany and Israel again, I’ll also be doing more live shows and performances as well with my two groups, West Of Berlin with Heidi Gadd and also Die Cine-Maschine.
You are also hosting a new club night soon: Nocturne. What can you share about that?