Interview: DJ Destructo

DJ Destructo – otherwise known as Brian Johnson, mild-mannered Toronto resident – has been spinning since late 2005, rocking some of the top raves in the Toronto community. His more recent work has focused on producing Hard House and other styles of Hard Dance through his record label, “The Beat Ranch.” I spoke to him about his label, his DJ career, and his passion for the “heavy metal of electronic music.” Take a look below!

In addition, Brian was kind enough to record an exclusive mix for the readers of Spindle Magazine, which can be found here. Curious about Hard House? Take a look!

Tell me about yourself and your background:

I grew up in a small town called Winona, which is now part of Hamilton, Ontario. It’s far out of the city so growing up I had to find ways to keep myself busy, be it through skateboarding or video games. During High School I was introduced to electronic music through the radio and a few friends. Not knowing anything about genres or DJs at the time my friend Pat and I would swap burnt CDs to each other of whatever songs we could get our hands on.
Some of the artists that really stuck out for me at that time where The Crystal Method, Robert Miles, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Propellerheads and Love Inc. Near the end of High School in 2002 I attended my first rave called “Energy Nation”. I was instantly blown away with the different styles of music and people there, and I can remember watching the DJs play thinking “How do they do that? I want to do that!”. A couple days after the event I went down to the local record shop and bought my very first vinyl and I didn’t even have turntables yet I just knew that this is what I wanted to do. In 2004 I moved up to Toronto to go to college and shortly after I got my first set of decks.

How long have you been performing?

My very first gig was on Sept 2 2005, so it’s 7 years behind the decks.

With which companies or organizations (if any) are you affiliated?

On the DJ front I have had the pleasure of playing for some amazing local production companies including, Nocturnal Commissions, Destiny, Bring The Bass, Braincell, Scum DJs, BassTeasers, and DarkRave. On the production front I have tracks released on The Beat Ranch Digital, Twisted Traxx, Toolbox and Definition Recordings.

Tell me about the music you’re into. How did you get into it?:

I mainly like Hard Trance, Hard House, Trance and Drum n Bass but I like to keep an open mind and listen to a bit of everything. I first heard Hard House at a Goodfellaz party back in 2002 and I was instantly hooked. To me it combined the heavy dark side of Rock with the snyths and uplifting sounds of Trance. I always try to explain Hard House to someone who has never heard it before as the “Heavy Metal of Electronic music.”.

What are your musical influences?

I think the electronic music that I listened to in the past has had a direct link to what I play today. For an example the track “Keep Hope Alive” by The Crystal Method has a squelching 303 acid line and FXs that I can find examples of in other tracks I have.
I love the sounds of Guyver, Dynamic Intervention, Edison Factor, Paul Glazby, Grady G, Paul Maddox, The Thrillseekers, Myon & Shane 54, SubFocus, the list could go on and on lol.

What motivates you to perform?

The music motivates me. I love throwing down a tune that gets a great reaction, be it an original mix of a tune that hasn’t been played in years, or a new remix of a track that everyone is digging at the moment.

What differentiates you from other performers?

I would think that the tracks I play and the style at which I play them would be what makes me different from others. I like to play a few songs a set that no one has heard before (at least here in Toronto) mixed with a bit of classics that are sure to get people moving on the dance floor. My mixes also tend to be on the longer side with more fader tricks compared to some other DJs like Cynex for example.

How do you see yourself as an artist?

I have a style that is mine and I try to resonate that in the music I play. I don’t like following trends or fads. I like to play the music I like to play. Just because Dubstep is popular at the moment doesn’t mean I am just going to get up and start playing Dubstep to get more gigs – I am who I am.

What’s next for you?

I would like to get into live performances in the future. With Traktor Pro there is now the option of 4 decks and live remixing on the spot and that’s something I would really like to get into.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would hopefully like to get more solo productions out and more gigs, I mean buy viagra online los angeles really what DJ wouldn’t?

What’ve you got in your studio?

My current studio setup is as follows, on the DJ front: I have two Technic 1200 turntables, Numark DXM06 Mixer, M-Audio Trigger Finger and Traktor Pro A6.
On the production side of things I have a Intel Quad Core desktop with 8GB RAM, Creative Titanium HD soundcard, FL Studio 8 XXXL and KRK RP6 monitors.

Do you have any heroes? If so, who and why?

Locally I have looked up to the likes of Sebby Bozak, Cynex, Lady Bass, Opel, and Ken Finch. I’m not sure I have many heroes but I do I look up to people and artists that push the boundary of their craft.

An example would be Rodi Style, he combined scratching, looping and live performances during his set. Something that I never knew was possible with Hard Dance. Then there is DubFX – this guy does everything with a loop recorder, FX panel and his mouth. It just blows me away.

What’s your favourite on-stage memory?

I helped put on an event called Lunar Bass back in 2007 and I was slotted to play last. Well, usually by the end of the night people start to leave, but this time I kept them there till the very last song. I had people coming up to me saying that’s the best set they heard – made me smile to say the least.

How have you evolved over the years, as an artist? What, if any, were the catalysts of that evolution?

I have somewhat shifted styles over the years. When I started out I was heavily into Trance & Hard Trance and then I shifted over to Hard House & NRG, and I think the main reason was Sebby Bozak. We would get together every week at his place to do a radio show on 1Groove.com and he would play NRG for the first or second half of the show. I wasn’t really into it, but we would record the shows and at the end of it I would put them on my mp3 player. The next week would come around and I would be asking him “Oh what’s this tune?”, “Who’s this by?”, so needless to say he had a big part in that.

What other interests outside of music do you have?

When I am not on the decks I love to cook and playing a little Call of Duty on PS3.

Of what achievements are you particularly proud?

Most definitely The Beat Ranch. Having over 120 international and local DJs being featured on the site with 60+ interviews from the leaders of the Hard Dance scene, and 146 tracks on the label and counting.. That – if I were to quit tomorrow – I could look back and say, “I made my mark on the scene.”

Can you tell me more about The Beat Ranch?

The Beat Ranch was created in 2007 after our online radio show on 1Groove.com (also called The Beat Ranch) came to an end. Sebby Bozak and myself thought it would be perfect to start up our own site, where we could host mixes and info on ourselves. We wanted to support the scene any way we could, so we started up a guest slot for anyone who wanted some exposure for the week.

We started getting a lot of DJs & producers coming to us for a chance to be on the site. So we thought, why not start up an interviews section to give the established producers some more exposure and to chance to showcase their new material? We have had over 60 interviews from the scene’s biggest names since the site began, and have a few more coming up soon.

The digital label was created with the help of Dan Dyson in late 2007. With the popularity of the site it seemed like the right step forward. To date there are 180 tracks released with a few more in the pipeline. We have had some of the biggest names in Hard Dance scene on the label, along with some bright up and coming artists. Its been a privilege to working with such amazing producers and DJs.

Okay, let’s hear it – what’s your favourite song?

For Hard Dance, it would have to be “Colin B vs Gaz James – No Fear” on Vacuum Records

What makes a song stand out for you?

I find for me it just has a nice balance of groove, toughness and uplifting parts. It has a nice rolling bassline, the synths are stand out in that you rarely hear anything like them anymore. Most of the time now, I can tell who engineered a tune just by the synths or bass that are used. This tune though I can listen to it over and over and not get bored

Where can people find your music?

You can follow The Beat Ranch Digital (Soundcloud and Facebook) and myself (Soundcloud and Facebook).
I have also recently partnered with LabelWorx distribution, so now you can find all my music on major download sites like like TrackItDown.net, Beatport, iTunes, AmazonMP3, Toolbox, etc.

Don’t forget to check out the exclusive Spindle Magazine mix from DJ Destructo right here.

Words: Tim Ellis

Photo: Darby May