Bad Boy for Life

Beatport pioneer talks past, present and future electronica, and the healthful side of snacking

Utter the name “Bad Boy Bill” and the first thing that comes to mind for most DJs, myself included, is the 1989 Disco Mix Club World DJ Championships. And it’s not just because he sported a mullet that any Canadian hockey player would be envious of; it’s because during the climax of his performance, a scantily clad, well-endowed female proceeded to remove his sweatpants in order to expose a strategically placed phallus of massive proportions.

Over the last few years, as I have become friendly with Bad Boy Bill, né William Renkosik, I realized that this solo act was a physical manifestation of the thought process of someone who oozes creativity, has a knack of identifying fun and possesses a sick mind. In other words, a perfect shipmate for The Captains of Industry.

My initial interaction with Bad Boy Bill was over a gran piatto degustazione at Il Mulino in the Forum Shops at Caesars during a roundtable of notable disc jockeys. He seemed shy, though pleasant, but opened up a bit more later in the evening when we went to hear Roctakon spin at MGM Grand’s Tabu. This transformation may or may not have something to do with me thrusting my pelvis rhythmically into his face as the music overtook me, but I digress.

Whatever the case, the next time Bad Boy Bill came to Las Vegas, he invited me to keep him company in the DJ booth for his appearance at Tryst. This held multiple benefits for me. For one, he doesn’t drink while he works so every bottle of Dom Pérignon sent his way went right down my throat. Second, I was blessed with an intimate view of his unique skill set, which involves two CDJs for mixing but also a turntable to incorporate scratching, thus spicing up his performance. And lastly, as I watched a bar back deliver a large vegetable plate for snacking, I realized that when you reach such notoriety as that of Bad Boy Bill, you can ask for anything you want.

Certainly something to aspire to, for DJs and civilians alike.

I, of course, have a reason for mentioning all of this: Bad Boy Bill has three Las Vegas appearances this month. On May 6, he will be cooking in God’s Kitchen at Vanity nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel, and on May 30 he will pull double-duty at The Mirage with a daytime set at Bare pool, followed by another during industry night at The Bank. And since chances are slim that anyone will be able to replicate the circumstances that forged a camaraderie between Mr. Renkosik and myself, regardless of primal motivation, it gives me great pleasure to present publicly our open dialogue—to share with the masses his worldview.

I chatted with him via phone just after he had finished what was reported to be an amazing performance at Germany’s Mayday Festival.

You have been in the DJ game for 25 years; you’ve had a hand in the evolution of dance music and witnessed the growth of hip-hop. How have things changed in nightlife over these past decades?

It’s the same shit. People go out to get drunk, to get fucked up; they want to hear good music. The music styles change, they come and go, it kind of goes in cycles. What was old is now new again, but basically it’s the same vibe. It’s just making people have a good time.

Touch a bit on the recent surge of popularity of dance music in America, from the widespread acceptance of David Guetta’s production in the mainstream to the increasing presence of house music in clubs that provide a primarily Top 40 environment.

I think it’s good. You can have your underground house heads that are like, “Oh, it’s commercial, blah, blah, blah,” but I’m not from that school of thought. I’m from the school of thought that’s, like, “Listen to this music. It’s meant to be shared and heard, and my people enjoy it.”

You have these three high-profile Las Vegas dates this May. Tell us what patrons can expect from each one—Vanity, The Bank and Bare pool.

Well, I am really looking forward to Bare pool because I hear it’s topless. So you can expect to hear music that’s going to make things bounce. Looking to The Bank, Sunday night is usually a very mixed crowd of different people so I have to play music that’s going to appeal to different people. So you might hear me play different stuff that makes you think, ‘Oh I didn’t realize Bill played that way.’ But I’ll play stuff that’s going to get the crowd going. And then Vanity, I’m really looking forward to. It’s my first time playing there and I really don’t know what to expect, so I’m going to kind of play it by ear and see what the crowd is into and what kind of vibe it is before I can make a judgment on what direction to go in.

In addition to securing a place of reverence in the house scene, including plenty of acknowledgements on BPM Magazine’s America’s Favorite DJ list, many don’t know that you’re also an entrepreneur, stretching back to the early days of the mixtape. Tell the people about Beatport, your cutting-edge music service.

In 2003, before iTunes and everything, these guys from Denver came to me and wanted to do Beatport. And it wasn’t even called Beatport; it was just an idea to start an online store. Serato [DJ interface software] was just coming out, so there was really no way, other than buying a piece of vinyl, recording it and then putting it into a digital format to be able to play it. We just thought it was inefficient—why did you have to keep buying the vinyl?—so we figured we had to start this online digital store, and that was it. I had been in the record industry for a while, so I brought that knowledge and they were really good with graphic design and really good from a business standpoint, so we all kind of cultivated our talent together and that formed Beatport.

You are represented by AM Only, possibly the premier agency for electronic artists, and home to heavyweights such as Tiësto and David Guetta. Quid pro quo, Clarice …

Paul Morris is the owner and I think I’ve been with them since 2000. They were a very small agency at the time, when I joined them, and now they’re probably one of the biggest. They’re my pimp, I’m their ho. They send me around, I get their money.

One last question to satisfy my own curiosity: Why do you snack on carrots and celery sticks while you work?

I love celery, man; it’s my favorite food. People think I’m a freak. Some people do rails, I do celery. What are you going to do?

Suggested Next Read

Jen Harvey, bartender at Screwballs

Story from the Bar

Jen Harvey, bartender at Screwballs

“So, this guy comes into the bar, has a few drinks, pays his tab and sits in the corner. A few more regulars come in and notice that the guy is passed out. I tried to get him up, give him some water, but it wasn’t working. He [woke up and] tried to walk out of the back door for 20 minutes, but couldn’t even find the handle—plus, it was locked. Then the guy managed to make it to the bathroom, where we heard a loud SLAM! … When I went to check in on him, all of his clothes were off except his socks. We left him there—I wasn’t quite sure what else to do—until he woke up.