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.


MadonnaTribe: Hello 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 you.
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 saved me.
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 underground clubs.
Maybe I need to check into royalties (laughs).


MT: 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 (laughs).


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.

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.

Our relationship now is better, but we still don't have much to talk about.

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.


MT: Lets get into how you started remixing. You started this during your years as an aerobic instructor, how did you start teaching?

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.

MT: 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.


MT: 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.

MT: Do you think that is the magic you try to capture in your shows?

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?

: 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?

BB: Trusting 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.

: Your long awaited first album coming is out this spring and is already getting quiet the buzz. Don't you think this may worsen?


BB: 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?


MT: 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.

MT: 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 commercially though.

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 has.

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.

: So this is what inspired you in producing this particular mix?


BB: I was bored with just DJing. I felt I couldn’t reach through the darkness on my dance floors with the music alone.
I 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.

MT: 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?

BB: 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 this before."

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 than that.

MT: Has Madonna seen the remix video you and Dustin did?

: 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 down.

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.

MT: 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?

BB: 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,


MT: 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?

BB: 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 similarity?

: 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.)

MT: 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 survive.

MT: Do you have a favorite track in the new Madonna album, or maybe one you
love to produce a remix for?

BB: "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 an artist?

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.

MT: Like?

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 loud?

BB: 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 the drug.
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 this earth.


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?

: 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 sad.

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.

: Thanks - the guy upstairs didn't take me for a reason.

MT: Do you think it is to spread a positive message to help people?

: 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?

: 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?

: Um, probably but I would need to bring my dog with me.

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.

: Thank You!


For further information about DJ Bill Bennett don't miss

Pictures courtesy of Bill Bennett. This interview Copyright 2005 MadonnaTribe


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