Interview with Dirtybird’s J.Phlip Ahead of the ‘Fresh Start’ New Years’ Party at The Midway

For the second consecutive year, Dogpatch music venue The Midway is hosting a ‘Fresh Start’ block party on New Year’s day with performances by tons of DJs and electronic musicians. Jessica Phillippe, aka J.Phlip (Dirtybird), is one of this year’s acts, along with Claptone, special guests Walker & Royce, Lunch Break Set with Moon Boots, Elax (Boys Noize), Eli & Fur, Jeremy Olander, Sacha Robotti.

There will be four stages of music, art installations, food trucks, and vendors at this block party, which starts at 4am and runs until 8pm. Tickets are available.

J.Phlip moved from her hometown of Champaign, Illinois to San Francisco to join the Dirtybird crew. (She now lives in Portland) To preview the upcoming event, we asked J.Phlip about her 2019 highlights, new year’s resolutions for 2020, her plans for the block party, and what she loves most about visiting San Francisco.


What have been your highlights from 2019?

Many festivals that I play have DJ hosted extracurriculars – the Dirtybird Campout takes that to the next level – the activities / games are nearly as popular as the dang music! I’ve been wanting to find that thing that is me that I can curate and host – because they always organize all the activities and then give me one of them to host. Some of them were a horrible choice for me it turned out; because it involved public speaking on a microphone, agh!

One day, like a freakin’ light blub, I knew what was the Jess thing – Double Dutch ya dum dum. I used to be dope at it in middle school. I hadn’t jumped since. I got some ropes and some friends to go to the park to make sure I could still do it lol. Yup!

Curating the entire vision and hosting my Double Dutch event has been one of the most fun and happy moments for me this year! It has brought some wonderful new people into my life as well. I hosted it for the first time on the last AMFAMFAMF’s “FriendShip” (music fest cruise).

The music aspect was a hit as well. The theme was hella throwback – songs that make you think ‘Back in the day when I was young, I’m not a kid anymore, but somedays I sit and wish I was a kid again.’ The music makes it feel like a house party and helps people stick around even if they can’t jump – simply because it’s such a fun vibe!

The last missing piece was finding two people who knew how to double dutch properly. You need three to do it, duh. (laughs) Sounds silly – but most people cannot turn 2 ropes on their first try. It was a dang miracle that two of the most fantastic ladies ever, Marina and Paige, showed up and saved the day! They are a duo called the Twerkaholicz; who live in the East Bay by the way. Peep them on Instagram! They were on the ship to dance for Gary / Destructo’s set and teach their TWERKSHOP! It was a massive help to have them as assistants and they are way better at jumping than me.

At the (Dirtybird) Campout, the whole team was re-united – bringing to life Double Dutch part 2! They just rode in a giant shiny gold plated bus – The Twerkulator – no big deal. And I honestly don’t think my set would have gone off like it did if it weren’t for them tearing it up on stage next to the booth. They are two of the best people to recently enter my life. So happy to have them as friends – even though I feel bad I haven’t tried to twerk yet, lol.

Musical highlights have been DJing at Smartbar and making contact with some of my favorite producers right now – Garneau and RLGN of the Russian rave scene, with a crew of artists including Locked Club. I’m totally obsessed with their music and vibe – it’s so raw and unapologetic — definitely suits my style. Shout out to those guys for inspiring the shit out of me this year!

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?

The beginning of 2019 was a total nightmare. It seemed like the scene was suddenly not the same, and my sound had evolved even further away from what is popular. I found this music happening and holy shit did it make a spark for me. It still is. There is crazy exciting dance music happening – but damn, it for sure sucks trying to play it here (laughs)… from the perspective of just one measly touring DJ. But nearly 10 years I’ve gotten away with taking the dance floor out of their comfort zone, and they would follow me and end up dancing to sounds they never heard before – leaving the party stoked about it! It’s been a fantastic experience. I’m not sure where those people went, because now most dance floors are not open-minded to any unfamiliar music. It was shocking. I couldn’t play a single breakbeat track without losing all but seven people on the dance floor… if I’m lucky.

For the first time ever in my career, it reached a point where I finally gave in and changed my set material. I had to. I dug up less risky 4/4 tracks and took out loads of the music that I’m super duper inspired by right now and took me ages of deep-sea diving to find.

Also, I gave much of my time to Dirtybird related work in 2019, and ended up with not a lot to show for it. I helped out with the History of Dirtybird book, digging up 15 years of personal photos of all my adventures with them – lost deep in my archives. Plus, all sorts of Dirtybird memorabilia I’ve saved from way back in the day. That took up my summer and into the fall. I’m not even sure if they know that I was helping out with it all the way up until the Campout. Succeeding at all things Dirtybird Campout related took out a hefty chunk as well. And the one remaining original party with the just OG’s (like a freakin time capsule) came to an end. They first invited me to play it in 2006, before it was at Mezzanine, and I was added to the team alongside the four guys keeping it going up until now.

2019 was dark times. 2020 is the year to build the next era of Jess, and I do everything I can to be a part of building something new in America. I can’t accept the scene the way it is now, paranoid how the dance floor might react. It did get better at the end of the year, woo, and I can’t quit doing this music and DJ thing. Not without giving it my best fucking effort.

Who are some musicians who have inspired you lately?

Dance music:
Locked Club
Raw Takes
Jensen Interceptor
Assembler Code
Kill Frenzy
Denham Audio & Borai
Nei Landstrumm
Karawai Dj
DJ Takyon
Turk Turkelton
Mad Mike Banks
Underground Resistance
James Stinson

Not dance music:
The Liars
Kria Brekken
Daniel Johnston
Chelsea Wolfe
Dead Folk
Branch Walker
Nick Normal aka Ladywolf
Yung Dmize
Lil Kaine
Freddie Dredd
Mica Levi aka Micachu
Young Fathers
Mr Mistakeman
The Grubby Mitts

How did you initially decide to join the Dirtybird crew?

I mean, I wrote a song that Barclay decided to sign. That’s how you join the Dirtybird crew, as one of the DJs anyway. It wasn’t a very hard decision (laughs).

But there are a few years that I was unofficially a part of them before that. It started at Smartbar 2004 – when a guy in a trucker hat came & danced all goofy-like with me. No fucking clue who he was. Then he ended up being the closing DJ. So I knew who he was cause I had all the first vinyl. 5am Smartbar stops – asked him for a mix cd for my long drive back to Champaign. He gave me CD of all his unreleased tracks instead. Nobody else would ever do that.

Then, I met the whole gang thanks to winning a trip to WMC 2005 from a DJ Contest. Crazy. Was hooked up on fancy pants parties guest lists. Fuck that. I had to find these Dirtybird people. Not even sure why. But I did and never left their side.

Repeats at future WMC’s and Movements went as follows – arrive. Hotel drop. Run away. From whoever. Didn’t care – solo Jess mode… go: find them birds. Not sure why the hell they let me follow them around & almost never leave their side for days. Up to the last minute, when it was that time, pack up the hotel and head back to reality.

I became a pro at never losing them – when they were running around mad. It’s a skill, really. They felt like my home.

We were always laughing – so much funny shit. Nonstop. I became the instigator. Sly-ish. Get them to do dumb stuff & get in trouble. (laughs) We had so much fun. Those days were the best. When we didn’t take ourselves seriously. We confused the industry. We snuck into huge parties and we were just different than everyone else… And yup, still laughing the whole damn time. More than your face is designed to handle – then you crying too – and then it starts to really hurt your face, you know?

Could you share some elements of the live setup you plan to bring to the Fresh Start block party?

I just perform as a DJ. I started mixing vinyl back in 2002. I didn’t learn how to use a CDJ for many many years. I thought they were really hard to mix on too for a long time. Eventually was unable to keep doing vinyl in the USA, after too many disasters. Very few clubs are set up right.

So that’s what I do. I don’t perform live. I DJ like it is the art form it can be – and the art form I learned it to be. No FX crap. Just beat matching, long blends, layers – and all you need to mix is utilizing gain and equalizer on the mixer. Simple. Seamless blending and creative mixes and fitting in tricky songs, which can be quite the puzzle, but (these things) pay off when the crowd is wondering if you’re a magician – the more hours the better to create a proper journey with all sorts of feelings.

I put a ton of time into my sets. I’m addicted to digging. Old or new music that is only on viny takes so much extra work and time. but I always love to dig like that. Those songs are part of what makes my sets special and different. It has to be ripped digital to play it out – this is very tedious. I’m insane about the process. So I give blood sweat and tears to this work – the vinyl. The sets.

Since Fresh Start is having a very Dirtybird lineup on one of the stages, I will be playing that stage. Most Bay Area fans know me but if they don’t, here’s your heads up so you aren’t shocked by the music that I play is often not Dirtybird sound. I’ve never sounded 100% like one particular style of music ever. I got no genre boundaries. Just bpm boundaries. But even those have gone crazy lately. Currently, I’ll go from 125bpm up to more than 140bpm… It’s so fun! Hope you are ready to have fun and hear some crazy next level music!

What do you like most about visiting San Francisco?

The familiar faces at my shows from over all my years of living and doing there. The joy when an old friend shows up to surprise me and seeing that they’re still dancing to my sets after all these years. My best, best, best fan base, possibly a tie with Detroit, but either way I love and appreciate my fans in the Bay so much. They know me so well at this point. It’s wonderful that I know they are there for what I love to do – give them the unexpected. I have a fan who’s still coming to every show since I had a weekly Thursday residency at The EndUp – starting in 2007 and going for a few years. He’s a proper dancer for life.

I’m happy these people are keeping it alive there. It’s tough to live and I just had to go because I just couldn’t pay for it. I was mad at SF for a while – that felt really weird – because my boyfriend and I tried for many years to find a way to stay, putting in so much work until we finally cut our losses and moved. I don’t feel mad anymore. This is great in Portland and I get to come back to SF all the time.

RIP Barneys! I loved to go there to look at the beautiful pieces by crazy designers – not just any clothing – some were like wearable art. I will miss that place. I love fashion.

San Francisco will always be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.