DJ Randy Bettis :: Spinning Around
It's been nearly impossible to catch up with Randy Bettis these days. He's hardly had time for any sleep. "I'm pretty much a workaholic," he confesses. Such is the job hazard of being one of the most sought after DJs on the club scene. But Bettis does find moments of quiet time and distracts himself. "I need to watch TV - to see something visual in order to tune out the noise." He admits that the club sound follows him out of his gigs, but that it can often inspire him as well. "I could remix sounds that I hear out on the street," he jokes while setting up an example. "If I hear a bag lady pushing a grocery cart...I'll hear a rhythm in that and I'll start creating a song in my head." What a labour of love music can be, and for Bettis it certainly is.
At a recent gig at the Hammerstein Ballroom, he joyously reveled in what he does best. Spinning at the turntables the walls throbbed and the dance floor was jumping in happy anticipation as Bettis moved the crowd all gathered anxiously awaiting the arrival of Kylie Minogue. When the pop goddess of love brought her Aphrodite Live! 2011 Tour stateside, only a select number of DJs nationwide were courted to open for Minogue - among that handful asked to play was Randy Bettis warming up the crowd at her first night in New York City.
"I felt totally exposed - that stage was so big!" Bettis says about playing before the main show. "They could have at least put some go-go dancers up there or something." But it was still no less a thrilling experience for him. And about seeing Minogue in action, he says: "She smiled and waved to me during her sound check - and just the way she treats her crew and her dancers, you can tell she's the real deal! A true performer." Kylie sought out prominent DJs to open her shows nationwide that added value and were in sync with her particular style of music; mix-masters who were familiar with her gay fan base as well. It helped that Bettis has a solid following and always delivers as an energetic presence at the party.
Bettis on Music...
Music and especially performance were always a part of Bettis’ life. It was a desire to perform that landed the young talent in New York City dancing on stages all over Broadway’s the "Great White Way" - but his devotion to the rhythm introduced him to a new lover. Dance music innately inspired the creative side of Bettis and DJing seemed like the perfect marriage for him. It wasn’t long before Randy was breaking sweats and stealing hearts across the biggest parties on the circuit scene. And he’s not surprised at all by the resurgence dance music has been enjoying lately.
"Within the last five or six years dance music is really started to show it’s prominence," Bettis shares. "You’re hearing dance music all over the television." Certainly in the case of an international pop-act like Kylie Minogue, it’s helped that dance music is enjoying some mainstream attention. Even with a more than 20-year career to show for, Minogue who is deeply rooted in the dance genre, has had a modest round of success in the States. "That happens particularly to artists who’s platform is mainly dance music," Randy theorizes. "In the United States we’re still suffering from that Death to Disco era...and even though straight people will say they hate disco, if you put on the Village People’s ’YMCA’ or Diana Ross’ ’I’m Coming Out’ they’re the first ones on the dance floor. Which is weird."
And certainly Bettis recognizes that dance music has itself evolved and transformed since the days of disco. He says, "That’s what I love about Kylie - she’ll take chances but then go back to doing something that sounds nearly pure disco. She doesn’t shy away from it."
More chart-topping artist have recently embraced electronic synth sonics especially in R&B. Artists like Rihanna and Kelly Rowland most obviously have dabbled with great success in the dance music genre. "It’s really hard to create something new that really goes out on a limb," Bettis relates, he himself is also a remix producer. "It can be freaky or it can work." An example I cite for him is Beyoncé new beat-heavy track "Run the World (Girls)". "Yeah...I’m gonna have to sit with that one for a little while," he responds.
Bettis on Gaga, Britney and Whitney
I ask him about the most relevant pop-artist on the scene. Lady Gaga has been in command of the feel and temper of music since her debut. She’s had an incredible impact on what DJs are playing on the dance floor and could have singlehandedly revived the music industry, an industry that has seen a significant shift since the advent of file sharing and digital downloads. "The good thing about the digital revolution and all the file sharing that’s happening," Bettis says, "is that it’s forcing artists to get out and have to perform - they can’t just put out an album. They really have to bring it!"
It seems Lady Gaga has shown an incredible amount of prowess in when it comes to performing live. Like the rest of us, Bettis is very interested in her upcoming new album "Born This Way." A sampling of the tracks from the full-length release reveal an interesting new direction for this artist. "They are very different," he comments about the tracks and remixes he has heard. "It’s a very different Gaga."
?And about the controversy surrounding the song "Born This Way" and its comparability to Madonna’s iconic "Express Yourself" from his perspective Bettis suggests, "I’m sure Gaga didn’t blatantly steal the melody line from Madonna. There’s such a generational gap between them." He continues, "but perhaps it [the melody from "Express Yourself"] had to have been in her consciousness, and it felt really good and familiar to her, but let’s face it: everything’s been done at this point."
What other artists, I wondered were on his radar. Artists that Bettis is always eager to hear new tracks from. "I kinda miss Whitney," he solemnly admits, "but every now and then I try to pull out a Whitney track and the crowd just kind goes: ’Oh No’" I also ask him which artists has most recently surprised him the most. "I thought Britney Spears was kinda done - what with all of her antics," Bettis says, "but I’ve been really shocked by this album." Britney’s latest release "Femme Fatale" continues to chart impressively and has given many critics reason to pause. "I’ve got like 70 remixes of ’Hold It Against Me’ - everyone is trying to get their hands on this new sound of hers - this is a lot better than her last go around."
Bettis in Action!
Overall Bettis is most optimistic about the state of new music, and especially dance music as it affects the popular culture. "It’s a good time for dance music as well as for gays," he says. "We’re starting to have an impact on public policy." Certainly music most recently has been used as a powerfully universal tool delivering the message that civil inequality is just not tolerable any longer. "When you have so many prominent personalities, especially sports figures coming out supporting marriage equality...that’s really telling."
Bettis and his longtime partner Sean Dwyer have recently tied the knot, marking a significant milestone in the success of his personal life, just as his professional life as a DJ and music producer continues to significantly match the bpms he most known for unleashing on his adoring fans.
With his producing partner David Boyd, the music director for the popular Off-Broadway hit "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" the duo continue to elevate the dance genre to the next level. Projects include a remix featuring the marvelously gifted Marty Thomas who recorded the track "Love Conquers All" from "Gay Wedding," and an upcoming remix of Matt Zarley’s cover of Pat Benatar’s "We Belong" to benefit the Trevor Project.
That doesn’t mean that Bettis will be taking any time off from the party circuit this season: "By the time I actually get to Gay Days it will be like a vacation for me." He will be playing at one of the weekend’s major events Riptide @ Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon on July 3. "This year we’re doing something really cool!" And you’ll just have to be there to find out!
If you want to stay in the know and keep track of where DJ Randy Bettis will be laying his beats visit his official website at DJ Randy Bettis website and don’t forget to get yourself ready for the most magical weekend when Gay Days takes over the Magic Kingdom in Orlando June 2 - 6, with Randy’s turn at the tables for Riptide @ Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.