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DJ Bruno

SPINNING keeps a finger on the pulse of Boston’s club sceneI STARTED DJing at the Loft in October of 1991," recalls DJ Bruno, "when Armand requested that I play with him. I’m actually the one who turned him on to house music." Bruno is referring, of course, to worldwide superstar DJ Armand Van Helden — Boston’s original B-boy, who got his start at the Loft. Bruno continues his nonchalant, hometown house-music history lesson: "The Loft opened up at 11, and we stayed there until five, sometimes six in the morning. We had a packed house every week. The thing that I liked about the Loft is that it was a young crowd. It was an 18-plus crowd, and they were very open to listening to new things, you know? Whether they were black, white, gay, straight, or Euro, I mean everybody went to the Loft.

At that time, it was the only after-hours party in the city."By the time the city forced the Loft to close its doors, in 1996, Bruno’s work behind the decks had made a profound and lasting mark on the face of Boston’s house-music scene, influencing a whole generation of local fans and DJs. From former Bostonians Dana "DKMA" Kelley and Fran Englehardt to Pete Moss and Armand Van Helden himself, Bruno’s deep, soulful musical legacy has spread from Boston to the far corners of the earth.Bruno’s voice is gentle and earnest; his words are kind-hearted and humble. "I can think of one defining moment that really signifies to me what it was all about," he says. "This was back in 1992. Our number-one song of all time at the Loft was ‘Follow Me,’ by the group Aly-Us. There was this dude who came up in the club, and he was there with a bunch of his friends. They were standing in the corner, and I noticed them. One of them came up to me, and he said: ‘Yo, when are you gonna play rap?’ So I just said: ‘I’m sorry, we don’t play rap.’ He kept going on, ‘Well, when are you gonna play Dre or Wu Tang?’ At this point, I just said: ‘Yo! I don’t play it, all right?’ Then the guy called me a sellout! I told him, ‘All right, man.’ Three weeks later, that same group of people had their hands in the air, singing ‘Follow Me.’ Okay? It wasn’t because they were drunk or because they were high. They felt the energy in the room. You know, I think that is a part of the reason that house is called house.

I mean, what type of people live inside of a house? A family. So, when you have all of these people, all of these different races inside a club and sharing one vibe, it’s a very contagious thing."The music may have been the messenger for denizens of the Loft, but Bruno’s message was the importance of community. Look no further than the lyrics of Loft anthem "Follow Me": "Follow me/Why don’t you follow me/To a place where we can be free/Come with me, over there/And put an end to racial hatred, and let’s learn to share."Since the Loft era, Bruno has continued to play a vital role in Boston’s dance-music scene. He opened his own hip-hop and house record store, Biscuithead Records, then launched an imprint of the same name. Biscuithead has since closed, but Bruno hopes to reopen the store within the next year. He also hosted Boston’s longest-running hip-hop night for nearly eight years, recently choosing to shelve the event indefinitely. Bruno explains: "I just noticed within the past year I wasn’t into it for the music anymore, because the music had changed — drastically, I thought.

A lot of the hip-hop MCs and DJs in the scene, they were all doing the same old thing. You know, no one was really being creative anymore. It made me think of house music, and how very broad it was. House can go anywhere — whether it’s Latin, disco house, or deep house, it’s just a very broad genre. As far as hip-hop went, it just stayed. It didn’t change, and I just became very, very bored. But I didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. I realize now that it was because I kept on playing the same old stuff every week."I just want to help introduce people to house music," he explains, adding, "I think that when people really get a chance to listen to it, they understand how soulful house music is. In the mainstream music world, people seem to confuse house with techno. And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with techno, but the fact is that they are completely different. This is the thing: I think that techno and trance became very mainstream, and people just stopped playing house altogether. A lot of these kids who listen to mainstream music, they aren’t introduced to the underground stuff.

As a result, a lot of kids don’t understand that everybody listens to house — it isn’t just white people. People automatically assume that house is just a white thing. They don’t understand; it is for everybody. And that is what I am trying to teach."I can only speak for myself," Bruno continues. "I used to be into hip-hop and reggae and R&B only. Only! Probably back in 1989, a girl that I had a crush on brought me to a house club. When I heard house for the first time, I thought: ‘This is garbage.’ With all of the different people inside there, I thought: ‘You know, this is different.’ For some strange reason, though, I felt at home. The vibe was amazing, and everyone was just there to have a good time. Everyone was in there strictly for the music. You don’t find that anymore!"Bruno has decided that it is time for him to refocus his energy on house music. To that end, he is hosting "Utopia," a brand-new Sunday-night party at the Office that mixes classic deep house with neo-soul and R&B.

The venue features an intimate second-story dance floor, nestled in the depths of the Financial District. "I want to build a community of music lovers, and doing this night is going to be the first step in the right direction," Bruno says. "I am starting up the night because after all these years, we are back to a time where it’s hard to find deep-house music in Boston. It’s a funny story, actually. I threw a party not too long ago, and all of my records were in the back room. I’ve got over 15,000 records! I was in the back room rearranging all of my vinyl, and I looked at some of the songs and said, ‘Wow! I remember this song. Wow! I remember that.’ And I just started playing them. I called up a friend, Andre, my partner in the night. I was like, ‘You know, man, it’s time.’ And that is how it all started again. It’s crazy!"

My Artists Sessions

Sunday, May 18

10:00pm EDT