The meaning behind the name
My name is Misstress Barbara. And before you say anything, no, it isn’t a typing mistake. People don’t really understand the ‘stress’ part of it but I’ll try and explain it. I’m a really hyperactive personality and I’m always very stressed. It’s in my nature. I’m also very serious about everything. I’m always stressing that things should be done properly and when they aren’t; I really, really get annoyed.
From Canada, outta Italy
Okay, let’s go to my story. Although I was brought up in Canada, I was born in the shadow of Mount Etna in Sicily and I’m a Sagittarius, a fire sign – maybe that explains why I’m quite a fiery person!
While I have a passion for DJing, I also love to fly aeroplanes. I was 17 when I got my glider license and 18 when I got my single-engine license [for safety, it’s best to go flying every couple of months but that’s impossible with my life! So every time I go I have to do like a million checks then convince the instructors that I’m okay to fly. It’s really great fun].
I got into music before the plane stuff happened. Here in Canada, I was in the Air Cadets between the ages of 12 and 19. It was here I really developed the serious side I was talking about before. Once I start something I keep going until it’s finished. It’s in my nature also. When I was 16 I had made it up through all the ranks to the top level.
I played drums with the Cadets. Using the experience I’d had on the snare drum, I took up drumming in my spare time. I bought a big kit for my home. It was beautiful. I was playing the drums with friends in bands and doing a bit of teaching; back then I used to hate electronic music. I didn’t know about techno and house, I just knew about commercial dance music. I was a rocker: purple jeans, Dr Marten’s, leather jacket, you name it. Led Zeppelin were my favourites and in my CD collection were Guns & Roses and Iron Maiden.
I found house music
One night, when I was 17, I went to a friend’s birthday. She wanted to go to a disco so I went with a crowd of people. This club was really commercial and the DJ played rock, reggae, cheese then half an hour of the latest underground music. I was stood at the bar drinking my beer looking at my watch – I couldn’t wait to get out! But I was moving my knees. My friend came up to me and was like “Barbara, you really like house.” I was like, “What the hell is house?” He told me what it was. I was like “Okay, maybe I do” and he told me to go check out raves, parties and gay clubs because they play house there.
And I did. I started going out to these parties and I found out electronic music was different from the Rhythm Of The Night shit they played in that club. I started finding tracks like The Age Of Love and stuff and I just fell in love with them. By 1995 I couldn’t have fun unless I was trainspotting the DJ and seeing what he was doing. I wouldn’t even dance anymore. All week I would dream about going out to check the DJs and what they were playing.
My first decks were a pair of used Technics 1200s. One of my friends, Neerav, was a DJ round here and he showed me how to mix for just five minutes at his place one night – “Have fun,” he said and off he went. He came back hours later and was like, “I’m going to bed, if you want to practice more come back tomorrow”. I was like “I’m not coming back”. He asked me why, and I told him that I sucked but I really wanted to improve, so I would buy my own decks. He said he’d lend them to me but I refused. That’s my independent side. I like having my own things rather than lent stuff.
It was February 1996 when I finally got my turntables. I had to sell my drum kit to afford them. That was one of the biggest heartbreaks in my life, but I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t selling the drums to fund a hobby, I was selling them to kick off my career. After two weeks I offered my first mixtape to that guy Neerav. He didn’t want to hear it cos he didn’t want to tell me that it would probably suck. I went mad but when he invited me to jam with him acouple of weeks later, he was gob-smacked. He took me by my shoulders and looked at me in the eyes and said was, “You’re going to go fucking far”. My first gig came three months later. I didn’t practice that much. And I still don’t. I hate to play in front of a wall.
All around the world
And here we are today. I’m doing okay, you know? I get to play all these exotic places - like Brazil and Iceland. I also love playing in Spain, Italy and the UK. In fact, Europe is my favourite. I don’t normally get nervous before I go on but I might get a few shakes if I have a Red Bull beforehand. The biggest place I’ve played at was to 35,000 people in a stadium in Los Angeles but I prefer smaller parties so much, like Ultimate Base in London or Row in Barcelona because you’re so much more connected to the people and that’s what it’s all about.
Meet my sound
I play drummy, funky, pumping techno. Here’s why:
Drummy: With drummy I am trying to say “percussive” – but I say “drummy”, because it’s cuter.
Funky: Even though my music is hard there’s always a bassline that makes it really funky. It’s got soul to it.
Pumping: This is a good word to use instead of banging or hard. I don’t play hard techno. Sometimes I play a record that sounds normal on 0, but I pitch it up to +7 so it sounds not hard but pumping.
Techno: If you don’t understand this bit, then you simply must come and see me!
I did not start DJing because I was a producer. I started DJing because of my love of spinning vinyl. I produce for the liberty of playing my own music. In addition to my techno label Relentless, I have plans to start a house music label soon.
When I sit down in the studio these days, I seem to make more house music, which I release under the Barbara Brown name. Musically, when I make house tracks, I do stuff with my own voice – so far I have spoken on a few tracks. But I’m moving building myself a new house in a nice area of Montreal, which means I will have more time to be creative in all of my music; there’ll be a studio right there at home. It’s going to be a penthouse-style loft and there’ll be lots of activity outside – if I ever get lonely I will just have to open the window.
So that’s my story. I want people to know me for my energy. My company – Energia Productions, my label – Relentless, and me - Misstress Barbara.
Now & Wow, Rotterdam
Club Las Palmas, Rotterdam
Long Marston Airfield, Stratford upon Avon
Recreatieschap Spaarnwoude, Velsen Zuid
NDSM Docklands, Amsterdam
Flanders Expo, Gent