Over the past three years, named Brian Concannon, whom is better known as DJ GHOZT, the “#1 Virginia DJ”, and Style Weekly featured him in its “Best of Richmond 2013” list. Both titles are well deserved, but they are not self-appointed. In the past, he has played at The National, the XL102 Chili Cook-off, Richmond’s Fashion Week, and pro bono at the event Cocktails for a Cause. He has also worked at numerous local radio stations and was one of the top producers for the Central Virginia Dance Academy. He works regularly at Off the Hookah, Baja Bean, The Mansion Room and Vanquish. We spoke with him about his rise to fame, some of his quirks as a DJ, and what the mystery behind his moniker is all about.

When/how did you start DJing? How long have you been doing it?

I’ve always been into music as far as a I can remember…I’d have my mom’s records, just scratching them back and forth—and really making her upset.

In college is where I really got into it and started putting two and two together, and realized [DJing] is really what I wanted to do. I went to Randolph Macon and was part of their radio program. In my fraternity, I was the guy at parties who was in charge of the music. It wasn’t DJing, per say. At one party, I “DJed” it using WinAmp or something and just clicking on to the next song because I didn’t know any better. That’s when I realized I like this idea of being this guy behind the curtain and being in control of making sure everyone else has a good time. Hearing people say, ‘Oh my god, I love this song!’ That’s what it’s all about.

I was still under 21 at the time, but there would be some college nights that we would [go downtown for], and I would be the guy that would hang out on the side and just watch the DJ. Eventually, I mustered up the courage to go up and talk to them. I was like, “Hey, I’m not here to request a song or anything, I just want to pick your brain.” It’s funny now—being on the other side of it—everyone has this image that’s like: you don’t go talk to the DJ; you just don’t, because they will yell at you.

That’s how I ended up meeting DJ JINXX at Catch 22 which is now, I think, Visions. I got to talking to him, at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. after the club, at Waffle House or Ihop. He actually got me my first gig, there at Catch 22, which was weird because it was literally the week before they shut down. I came the next week, stoked and ready to work, and the doors were locked. He got me my gig at Baja [Bean], and I’m still at Baja. I’ve been there almost seven years now. Shit, I love Baja. It’s so…chill. It’s the complete opposite of playing in a club environment. People in The Fan like more diverse stuff than club patrons. They ask for some of the most obscure music. I know what they are talking about, like some deep cuts off WU TANG CLAN albums, and I’m sitting there thinking, “Yes, absolutely!” It’s refreshing; it’s nothing like people at [downtown clubs] would ever request. I love playing at Baja.

That leads me into my next question, how do you feel about people making requests?

DJs might shoot me for this, but at the end of the day, if isn’t for the people who are there dancing, we don’t have jobs. The number one thing that I would say is, as a DJ it is our job to be able to look out on the dance floor and sort of, feel and guess [what the people want to hear]. I would say about 99% of requests I get are for things I was either already going to play, or was never going to play. If I’m in a mainstream club and someone asks me for whatever hot PITBULL song is at the top of the charts, more than likely I’m going to play it. At the same time, if I’m in a mainstream club, and someone comes up to me and asks me to play something off a DISCO BUSCUITS record, that person may be in the wrong spot.

I’m not anti-requests at all. If I was going to give one pointer to people, it’s all about attitude. Come up and have a conversation with me, and then sneak in the request. Don’t come up to me and demand a song. If it’s like 10:30 pm, it’s still early. Get a drink from the bar and listen to all this old stuff I’m playing first, because again, it’s about evoking that emotion, the ‘Oh shit! I forgot about this!’ Chances are I’ll end up playing what you were going to request anyway. I’m not anti-request, I’m just anti-ignorance. When I started at Baja, I had a request sheet and at the bottom of it, it said, “Please think responsibly!” [That’s to ensure that people realize] it’s not just about you. It’s my job to provide music for an entire environment. I may like what you request, but if I don’t think everyone else is going to enjoy it, I’m probably not going to play it. But, I still try the best that I can. [For example,] I was at Vintage, over on top of Pearl, and this woman asked me if I have “Same Love,” by MACKLEMORE. Yes, I have that song, but it was 12:45 a.m., and everyone was going nuts. It wasn’t an appropriate time to throw on a mellow record. So, I told her I’d play it after last call, because that’s when I’m trying to wind people down anyway. I played it, and she was so thankful. As a DJ, you’re not just thinking about the song that’s playing at the moment, or even the next song. You’re thinking about the next thirty minutes; where is the crowd? Are they where I want them to be? What a lot of people don’t realize is there’s a business side to [DJIng]. It’s not just about making people dance. Sure, you want them to dance, but the bar wants to make money, too. You have to kind of, keep everybody happy. Give people a chance to take a break and go get a drink. There’s a lot of time to work with, so if you request something, just understand I have to find a way to make it work.

Where did the name DJ GHOZT come from?

I got it in college. At Randolph Macon, the way we did our radio station was we bought time from the local AM station to use. The seniors before me kind of ruined that for us; we couldn’t go in there at night anymore because apparently they threw some crazy party there. So, what happened—the way the name Ghozt came about was we were forced to voice track, which is prerecording of the radio show which would play at a later set time. We had to be there under supervision. One day, someone heard me on the radio, and they went there looking for me. My phone was off or something, and they looked in there, and I wasn’t there. They texted me like, ‘Dude, we heard you on the radio, but you weren’t there. Like a ghost!’ That on top of growing up pale, in military school I got the nickname Casper. And, when I was in college, I would disappear into my room for weeks and work on music. I’ve always been a music nerd.

What did you grow up listening to? And what are your biggest influences?

Growing up, I listened to primarily what my parents listened to. My mom listened to a lot of disco, which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I have an appreciation for it now. She also listened to THE DOOBIE BROTHERS, stuff like that…EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE, and BILLY JOEL— huge BILLY JOEL fan, still, to this day—oldies, from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. My dad would send me newer stuff, like, Licensed to Ill by the BEASTIE BOYS and SUBLIME’s Sublime.

After that, when I went off to military school, was probably when I got the biggest culture shock. I had roommates from New York who listened to underground reggae, and the year after that I had a roommate who was a huge country fan… Towards the end, I went through a huge pop punk phase. I went to Vans Warped Tour in ’99; that blew my mind. That’s when I realized I should like a little bit of everything. There’s a time and place for every kind of music. College expounded that idea. I was the program director of the radio station there, and [part of that was] going through everyone’s music so, I got turned on to all this stuff.

As far as influences, DJ JINXX, of course, one of the first guys that I ever saw spin. He was the first guy who I ever saw spin and actually blend two records together. That just blew my mind. TONY FERNANDEZ has been around this town [for a long time] and is still DJing to this day. He’s more of a house guy. He’s the one who really got me into the whole house culture. JINXX blends records for 10 seconds, and then I’d see Tony blend them for like, three minutes. That just took it to like [another level]. You learn something every day when you listen to DJs, and that was a big thing for me, learning that you can literally take two songs and let them play simultaneously. I have a video of him spinning on three turn tables, with vinyl; it’s ridiculous.

Other than that, DJ AM—rest in peace—he was the one who opened up the whole business side of [DJing]. He was the first guy who was really doing it big. You know, on the level of getting the attention of the clubs in Vegas to basically do this open format mixing where [he was] basically mixing all mainstream records, but doing it in such an intelligent way that [the music] seamlessly flowed from a hip-hop record, to a country record, into a house record. You’d think that just because they’re different genres it wouldn’t work, but a good DJ can make it work. That’s what I saw from DJ AM.

I listen to different DJ mixes all the time, just to see where peoples’ heads are at. I try to learn something every day from somebody.

How many places do you DJ at, and where have you DJed in the past?

There aren’t many places in-town I haven’t DJed at. I’ve never DJed at Tiki Bob’s, although I may have high jacked the turn tables once on someone’s birthday, or maybe my birthday because I was drunk, I’ve never DJed at Kai, and I’ve never DJed at Cha-Chas, that’s about it. In The Fan, I’ve never DJed at Starlite. I’ve never done a VCU house party, which I would love to do. I’ll DJ anywhere. If it’s a party, I want to be there. I want to be a part of that.

Do you ever get pressured to turn down gigs from competing clubs/bars?’

The business side of DJing is what I dislike the most. It’s politics as usual. I am a fan of making the nightlife better in this town. I’m grateful to everybody who has ever employed me to DJ because you’re allowing me to do what I love.

What has been your favorite gig to DJ? Strangest instance/place? What about most frustrating?

Favorite gig? Ah, they’re all so fun! It’s never the same. My favorite was probably when I played V Live in Chicago. The roster had like forty gigs… I got to meet [STEVE] AOKI, DIPLO, and KIDSISTER. That was fun. That was the first time I’d really been out of Richmond, and I got to play in Chicago!

Strangest…that’s also a tough one because something weird always happens. Strawberry Hill [Races], at Colonial Downs. That’s really weird to DJ because it’s outside, not like a festival, just plots next to each other and everyone walking in a circle. That’s weird because your crowd switches over every thirty minutes. So, if you’ve just played whatever the new hot record of the moment is, and someone walks by thirty minutes later and requests the same song…it’s just like, “well, I guess I’ll play it again…”

Weddings are probably the most frustrating. The money is really good, but the stress level, it’s just insane. If you don’t have a coordinator, then you’ve got to find the drunk groomsman to give a toast. On top of that, you’re dealing with the widest age range possible, like six to sixty, and you want to keep all of them happy, without resulting in line-dancing. Any DJ will tell you, you feel like you’ve sold your soul if you have to play “The Wobble”.

I had a Dell, and one time, it was a Friday night at Richbrau (now closed). It was about 11:30 p.m., and I had just [played] “This Is How We Do It,” which is a huge song on a Friday, and then…blue screen-of-death. My heart just dropped.

Do you have any DJ related pet peeves?

If you request something, you should never include the words “now” or “next.” Unless you sign my paycheck, you don’t get to say that. I try to never play the same song in one night. I’ve never been a fan of air horns because to me that’s like the DJ saying, “Hey! Look at me! Listen to this song, listen to this song! I’m not a big fan of DJs on the mic; let the song do the talking. I’m also not a fan of DJ battles, I hate DJ battles. There should be no egos. At the end of the day, it’s not about us, and if you move a party, you move a party.

How do you determine what to play? Especially if you’re DJing somewhere for the first time?

That’s hard. I never go in with a set playlist. What I’ll do, I’ll look around based on some music charts, but I don’t follow them religiously. I always try to search for a better version that’s on the radio. No offense against what’s on the radio, but the club and radio are two different things. The program I use lets you create playlists, sort of, they call them crates, and what I do, I call it, “putting toys in my sandbox”. I don’t always stick to it. DJing 101: you have to be able to look out at a crowd and instantaneously break it down. Profile it.

What local musicians do think deserve a shout-out?

The reason I think I love Richmond the most is because of the culture here. I don’t think you have enough space for me to shout-out everybody. First, JINXX and Tony because they helped me so much. All the other DJs I’ve had the pleasure of working with…DJ FILI, man, I love Fili. He’s an audiophile, just like me. DJ Phenom, he’s like a straight up mechanic. He’s so, so…perfect every time. DJ Raen…eccentric. I’ve seen him do shit that just blows my mind. Carter Baldwin, he’s got the passion, he’s got the fire. The AudioAmmo crew, those guys are doing huge things. I hope to be as successful as them one day. DECIDE BY FRIDAY, they’re just getting up and just started playing shows. I’ve had the pleasure of working with The Black Girls. Those kids were fucking awesome…great sound. No BS! BRASS BAND, they’re insane.

For more updates on DJ GHOZT, be sure to “like” his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter, and visit his website to hear his mixes.

Marianna Campano

Marianna Campano

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