Full time college student by day, new wave DJ and dancing fiend by night, Phil DeStefano transforms from a Columbia College photography major into DJ Peroxide, spinning tracks into the night for new wave fans all over Chicago. He is a regular at Neo Night Club’s Atomic New Wave Dance Party Thursdays and has also recently become a guest DJ at various bars and clubs throughout Chicago. A few hours before one of his many appearances, Peroxide answered a few questions about his double life as a student and a DJ.
DJ Peroxide… I’m assuming the name comes from your bleached-blonde hair?
It is. I quickly had to decide on a name to promote for the guest slot I did for my first gig at Neo so my roommate came up with that and it stuck. Though Mahatma Blondie is quite fetching too, don’t you think?
Quite fetching indeed. You are now a senior at Columbia College. One might think you would be a music or media major, but you’re actually studying photography. How does someone majoring in photography become interested in being a DJ?
I actually started photographing the crowd when I went to Neo and was instantly struck by the music because everything the resident DJs were playing was music I loved. I started to go every Thursday night, which is their “new wave dance party” called Atomic, and became a regular. From there, one of the residents, [DJ] Kamar, asked me if I’d like to do a guest slot because he knew I was familiar with the music. And the rest is history.
I know music is a big part of your life, what specifically drew you into being a DJ?
I haven’t really ever found an outlet to contribute musically through an instrument, though I have sung on things randomly just for fun. I find myself to be more of a music fan than a musician, which I think makes sense with the interest in DJing.
You mainly spin 80s and new wave tracks. How did you become a fan of this type of music?
I got really into new wave and 80s music at a young age through a family friend, and it has always kind of stuck with me. I loved the sound and the visual elements attached to new wave.
How do you balance your time when you are being pulled in so many directions with school, work, and your passion for being a DJ?
I try to give equal time to everything I do. I find at least that attending these clubs and getting the chance to guest DJ at some of these places gives me an escape from the regular school and work routine – an escape that allows me to have fun and enjoy my music all at once.
Have you taken advantage of any opportunities through your college? I recall you being a guest DJ on a college radio show a couple of years ago.
Yeah I did do a radio show but it was through the school of the Art Institute. That’s about it really … I’m basically a self-starter.
Have you made any interesting connections in the DJ world through school or from going to bars, clubs, etc?
No, nothing through school. But I have met a whole world of people. I’ve met a lot of people who are really important in the new wave culture.
Can you give an example of one of these people in the scene who have affected or helped you along the way?
On a personal level, I have always been inspired and looked up to DJ Scary Lady Sarah who has been an important part of the Goth scene for over 20 years. She runs her own company, American Gothic Productions, and a bi-monthly Goth night in Chicago called Nocturna. I probably would have never even tried guest DJing if it wasn’t for her. She actually recently attended one of the events I did and to see her on the dance floor was very rewarding for me since I look up to her.
What kind of advice would you give to a peer trying to break into the scene?
Meet as many people as you can, and have fun with it. There is obviously a common interest that brings most regulars out to an event – people who you look forward to seeing each week and who love the same music as you. Same goes for the DJs. It is interesting to see their different styles in piecing music together during their sets.
May is right around the corner. What do you see in your post graduation future? Will you continue to DJ?
Well… for now I can’t really picture myself doing anything other than something with music. So right now I think it’s safe to say I will continue to DJ.