MadonnaTribe had the chance to meet DJ Bill Bennett,
who recently remixed the classic Madonna ballad Frozen
to give a special treat to Madonna fans who attend his DJ
sets. Talking to Bill we speak about the dance scene, the
new Madonna album and also learn about his fight against
the problem of drug abuse and how he let the hurt inside
of him die.
Bill and welcome to MadonnaTribe.
I guess this has become a sort of classic questions to
our guests but it probably fits very well the story of
How did music come into your life?
Bill Bennett: Growing up in the early
80's gay was very difficult. This was when the AIDS epidemic
was starting. The media was obsessed with showing gay
men in there 30's and 40's on their death beds, I didn't
have anyone in my life that I could talk to. Coming out
of the closet wasn't an option for me because gay men
were looked upon as something wrong, all you would hear
is that they were sinners and that they were paying the
price for there behaviors.
I needed an escape, suicide even entered my mind many
times but for some unknown reason dance music is what
I would close my room door and put on my cheap disco lights
and for that time the world outside that had already judged
me was non-existent.
I would dance to Dead or Alive, Erasure, Depeche Mode,
New Order and of course Madonna.
See the black and white picture of me posing below: I
was vogueing way before it was even happening in the NY
Maybe I need to check into royalties (laughs).
How was your relationship with your parents?
BB: My mother is amazing but she is scared
of my father, it took me along time to come to terms with
that. Growing up I hated my father. Once when I was in my
disco bedroom bliss he walked in without knocking, I was
wearing white-hot shorts a white tank top with a white sailor
hat; and I was lip - synching in the mirror to Dead Or Alive's
"I'll Save You All My Kisses".
That is when the sh*t really hit the fan. He tried everything
to make a real man out of me. Working on the barn, cleaning
stalls, building fences, made me play every sport possible.
But I couldn't stop wishing I were one of the cheerleaders
He hit me a few times but it was more emotional abuse. I
used show horses and there were a few times that if I didn't
win I would have to ride home in the horse trailer because
I wasn't good enough to ride home in the truck. I see now
he was trying to make me tough.
My mother was usually in the truck crying
during this, she didn't want to start any fights with him.
It was and still is a loosing battle.
I realize now that he is from a different generation and
he didn't understand me. And he was doing what he thought
was best at that time; I love him but I still hate the things
he did, if that makes sense.
now is better, but we still don't have much to talk
My entire family came to the "ManHunt" tour kick
off in Chicago which was held during IML weekend; which
is a huge leather event.
So I have to give him credit, he has come he along way.
How many dads are willing to see 3,000 men dancing with
their shirts off in ass-less chaps in front of there son
spinning records. He even said next year he wants to wear
a pair of chaps.
Lets get into how you started remixing. You started this
during your years as an aerobic instructor, how did you
BB: Well, you can't keep a gay boy who
looks good in spandex locked in their bedroom forever...
I was ready to bust out!
I used to see the cheesy aerobic shows on television, and
I was like. "God they suck." I'm way better than
that. I went to gym and applied to be an aerobics instructor
and I was hired.
Do you remember the first years teaching?
BB: Yeah, it was the first time in my life
that I was free. I could move to the music and no one was
there to judge me. I was very happy.
Your step classes were definitely out of the ordinary, not
only for being so popular but also for the effect they had
on the people who attended them. Did you happen to figure
out what was your secret and why they were so unique?
BB: I think it was just a combination of
the music, the moves and the members. The class really turned
into a cult like ritual twice a week. It was an amazing
period in my life. I miss it. But I had to move on.
Do you think that is the magic you try to capture in your
BB: Wow, I never put that together
until just now. Yeah, it is but at a much different level.
The gay dance scene has been so dark over the past several
years with the black clouds of disease and drug use. I want
to try to get some of the innocence back.
MT: Do you think that
is also Madonna's message on her new album?
BB: Yes. That's one of the reasons why
I am a perfect match for a remix project.
MT: Right, you started remixing your own
music and it was a sort of natural evolution then?
BB: Exactly, it started as fun and I never had
any plan that I would become a DJ and produce music.
MT: And now after over 17 years of work
your popularity is just now taking off. How does that feel?
BB: Feels good in the sense that I have
accomplished many of my goals, but it can also be lonely,
I have sacrificed a lot to get here.
MT: Like what?
BB: Friends, a dating life and finances.
MT: Any regrets?
people I thought were my friends, when all they really wanted
was the glitz and the glamour of the DJ limelight and didn't
want the real me. That can hurt pretty deep.
I now find it hard to open up to people because I think
they have hidden agendas.
MT: Your long awaited first album coming is out
this spring and is already getting quiet the buzz. Don't
you think this may worsen?
Yeah, I am preparing for it and reaching out to my friends
and family now, I need to strengthen the relationships with
the people who have known me for years and don't care about
me being a DJ.
MT: So you’re building a support
system of sorts?
Let's talk about Madonna, who I understand is a passion
of yours as much as it is for us on Madonna Tribe. Do you
remember the first time you listened to one of her songs?
Yes, (laughs) I was in the car driving to school and the
first song I heard was "Holiday".
I just remember thinking she must be black.
In 17 years of DJing you probably had the chance to see
the Madonna career evolve as mirrored in her dance remixes
and club hits.
Do you have a favourite Madonna remix?
BB: Guido did a killer
mix of "Secret" where it busts into the album
version in the middle. I'm not sure if it was ever released
MT: Speaking of your remix of Frozen,
what was the reason for choosing this particular song and
turning it to such a different remix?
BB: The first time I heard the song was
actually when I saw the video. I remember just sitting on
my couch crying, nothing has ever moved me like that song
It was released just about the time I told my father I was
gay and I had so much anger inside. I swear it felt like
she was speaking to me directly that day, almost like a
religious experience I guess.
MT: How did that go over?
BB: He said he knew all along which pissed
me off because my adolescence would of been so much easier
if I could of came out younger.
MT: So this is what inspired you in producing this
I was bored with just DJing. I felt I couldn’t reach
through the darkness on my dance floors with the music
wanted to put together a show, a concert like tour with
visuals where I could be close to the floor and dance,
play the guitar and be part of the crowd. But most importantly,
I wanted the visuals to tell a story that the dance floor
would get. It had to be cathartic. (Both laugh)
So... when I put down the tracks to be used
in the visuals, I wanted to tell a story a guy who has
lost his lover, jeopardizes his health, has been betrayed
and has turned to drugs; but then comes out of it and
becomes a better and stronger person.
The segment in the show where I play the "Frozen"
video is meant to bring the floor out of the dark period
that I just had them in. I had Dustin intentionally put
the lyrics up "Let all the hurt inside of you die"
because I feel with what is going on today in our world
we need to let it go.
The story of the guy in your tour visuals is you?
BB: Yes and no. We dramatized some of
the scenes. Dustin Robertson did the visuals.
MT: How did you and Dustin cross paths?
I knew of his work from "The Power Of Good-Bye"
and "Human Nature", I know people who know his
people, and I called him.
I told him what I wanted to do and he told me it would
cost a serious chunk of change and that I could never
afford him with the budget I had.
So we talked for a bit, I didn't know he helped with footage
of Madonna being beat up from the Drowned World Tour.
We talked about that shoot and that was very cool. He
asked her, "Why are we doing this", she laughed
and said, " I don’t know, I have never done
So we ended developing more than a work relationship and
we met half way on my budget.
He is like the brother I never had. I cannot say enough
good things about him. I always ask him if we should get
married, then we are like but then we have to have sex
and we both are like, "Yuck."
MT: The original version of "Frozen"
is produced by William Orbit, the talent whose name is
tied to one of Madonna's most acclaimed albums. "Ray
of Light" is also one of the Madonna records that
are more different from what she had done before. What
do you think about the album?
BB: It was brilliant. She told her story
of finding herself in song; it just doesn't get any better
MT: Has Madonna seen the remix video you
and Dustin did?
BB: I know Dustin sent it to her office but I don't
know if she has seen it yet. I would really like to see
her use our video and perform my mix on her next tour. I
even have the choreography ready for her (laughs). So Madge
if you read this, we need to do lunch. Let's make sure it
is a place with lots of floor room so I can show you my
moves. Then I would love for her to go into the "Miami"
remix of Evita after it. I can put together her whole show
if she likes, she can just play with her kids. I will take
care of everything. Lol.
MT: How was working on a ballad and turning
it into a fast-bpm-ed dance anthem?
BB: It usually is very difficult because
you try to avoid the artist sounding like a chipmunk, this
one just worked for some reason.
MT: And which are the reactions
of the crowd to this video remix?
BB: I wish I could tell you, I’m
told people are digging it. Usually there is so much smoke
and lights I can't see much. Remember I play on the level
of the floor with the show, I’m not above them looking
I have received numerous letters from guys saying it made
them cry and re-evaluate their lives and drug use.
MT: And that was your agenda?
BB: Yes. So that makes me feel good.
Did you happen to work on other Madonna songs over the years,
maybe to produce something for your dee-jay sets, or just
for the fun of it?
Yes, I have done "Music", "Ray of Light",
"You'll See" and "What It Feels Like For
A Girl". You can hear them and most of my remixes on
my website, www.djbillbennett.com.
Is there a song of Madonna's back catalogue you would
like to work on?
BB: "Burning Up". Man, if I
could get my hands on a clean acapella of that, I would
be in heaven.
MT: The new Madonna album is called "Confessions
On A Dance Floor" and marks a come back to her roots
and to the club scene. What does this mean to someone
who is so deeply part of the club scene as you are?
The world is getting to be such a difficult place to live
in, I think her message this round is just to get on the
floor and dance and have fun. Don't think about Bush,
hurricanes or any other current problems.
MT: You have been using heavy retro-eighties
influences in your sets this year
and this is very similar to the way the new Madonna album
has been constructed.
What was your first reaction when you realized this strong
BB: Actually very frustrating because this has
been my niche for several years, and I knew I could be
a benefit to a remix off this album. Also know that the
"Frozen" mix is a mash up. (Kevin Roen where
ever you are, this one is for you babe. I told you I’d
get here somehow.)
You’re quite the popular DJ now. Do you think you
have a chance tol get a remix off the album?
BB: I don't know, there are so many remixers
out there sitting at the WB door step begging to remix
tracks for her, and for free none the less. I don't think
she even picks the remixers any more - it's so political.
I don't want to play games. If my talent doesn't get me
a remix off the album I will be ok, bummed but I will
Do you have a favorite track in the new Madonna album,
or maybe one you
love to produce a remix for?
"I Love New York."
MT: Cool one! Working in clubs for almost
two decades you are probably a witness of how the dance
scene has changed. What are your feelings about what dance
is now a days?
BB: Some of these euro-pop remakes coming
out are enough to make me get sick. I was driving home
one day last week listening to the dance station here
in Seattle; this beat starts and then this cheerleader
scream pops in, "Your my obsession, my obsession,
what do you want me to do..." I was like , Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Make it stop!
Don't people hear how bad some of this shit is when they
are recording? And why isn't someone saying, "Ok
we really need to can this project."
MT: How has Madonna influenced you as
BB: I couldn't even tell you in one interview
how much she has inspired me, it started when I was 14
years old. But I can try to tell you a few things.
She has taught me through her art that it is ok to fail,
and that it doesn't matter what people say about your
work; and that you can't take it personal because the
people criticizing you don't know you.
Also that when you fail, you do hurt and that is alright
because that recovery period is when you are at your creative
peak; and thus you become a better person.
She has also inspired me never to stop in working for
what I believe in, no matter what door closes one me or
what label, promoter, club owner may tell me that I suck
or they don't like me.
Why? Because one day they all will be kissing my ass.
MT: As a result of your own personal
experience you are now active in fighting drugs and crystal
meth in particular.
Can you tell us a bit more about this?
BB: I also work as an ER/CCU nurse a few
days a week, which is what has paid my bills over the years.
I have seen so many kids come in overdosed on meth. This
stuff is poison and it is killing people. If people could
see me pounding on some kids chest trying to get his heart
to circulate blood after a 3 day crystal binge, I think
people would stop using this crap.
I am angry that the media isn't showing this to our kids?
Oprah even did a show on it but it was polished and pretty.
There is absolutely nothing pretty about crystal meth use.
People need to see the darkness that falls on people when
they use this stuff.
BB: Kids who have had strokes and cannot
use one side of their body now, and are sitting in nursing
homes because no one can take care of them.
MT: Young kids are the ones who are affected
the most by the use of drugs connected with part of the
club scene. Is there something you would like to tell them
I don't feel it is just kids, I see plenty of guys in their
30's and 40's using as well. I am a recovering drug addict
, so I know people who do drugs are going to do them, so
saying don't do them would be stupid on my part. But I would
want to say is people need to educate themselves what they
are putting in there body. But the problem is usually not
I am a firm
believer that people don't get addicted to the drugs they
get addicted to numbing themselves.
People hurt, be it from loves they have lost, family issues,
finances. This is a tough world we live in. Drugs make you
feel happy and have no worries. That is what people get
addicted to, or as many would say, " the high ".
The same reason why people become alcoholics.
MT: You sound passionate about this.
I am, as I said before, I think that's why I am still on
MT: Coming to that, you overdosed at one
point of your drug use...
BB: Yes, I was in a coma for three days
and on a ventilator. The Dr's told my family if I were to
make it I would probably have severe brain damage because
when I was found my oxygen levels were very low.
MT: What happened?
BB: It wasn't by accident. When I did it, I wasn't
thinking that I wanted to kill myself. I was just wanted
to stop hurting. I wanted to be numb. I was just so fucking
MT: What were you hurting so badly from?
BB: The end of a 6-year relationship; I
couldn't handle it. I had built my life around him and when
he left me I literally fell apart.
MT: Glad you are still with us.
BB: Thanks - the guy upstairs didn't take me for
MT: Do you think it is to spread a positive
message to help people?
BB: I was without oxygen for over ten minutes,
there is no explanation for why I am still here. And I know
when I am touching people through my music or work as a
RN -yeah it is why I am still here.
I take medication for headaches and sometimes my left hand
goes numb but other than that, I have no permanent damage
from the coma.
MT: And that is why you still remain a
nurse with all your DJ success?
BB: Yes, helping people who are sick heals me.
Even if the album does very well, I will remain in critical
care nursing at least 1 -2 days a week.
MT: Is there anything you would like to
say to Madonna?
BB: Duh? (Laughs)
As you know the world is getting more and more difficult
to live in, many kids and adults are turning to a horrible
drug called crystal meth, I feel strongly that the reason
for this is because it is cheap and it numbs people from
the hurt we have going on in the world today. And things
will become more difficult over the next few years before
and if they get better. I don't think just lyrics in songs
are enough these days to bring people out of the darkness.
I know you have big plans for your new album and tour but
if you could just help me a little bit in my crusade we
could possibly eradicate this drug from our clubs and communities.
MT: Word has it Madonna is doing a new
tour, if she were to have a DJ on tour with her, and you
were asked to go.. Would you?
BB: Um, probably but I would need to bring my dog
MT: Well, we really hope you get to do
the remix for "I Love New York" Bill, and we look
forward to your upcoming album this spring.
BB: Thank You!
courtesy of Bill Bennett. This interview Copyright 2005