The Rocks Off 100: Mr. Castillo, Song-Sniping DJ

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Who? Dan Castillo, Mr. Castillo to you, is one of Houston's most consistent DJs, and can always be counted on to keep a dance floor going. He specializes in... well, he doesn't specialize actually. That's what makes him such an effective DJ.

Hearing a set by Castillo will involve everything from Nu Disco to minimalist wave, post-punk to Italian Disco. That potent mixture that comes out of nowhere yet never misses a transition is why you see his name on all the posters for the good shows in town. He spins from the blindsides like a song sniper.

Castillo actually got his start in posters. He began working in the music industry in 2003 as a graphic designer, making flyers and ads for The Proletariat, Danseparc, and Boys and Girls Club as well as most of the East End's larger live-music venues. A computer crash in 2006 coincided with a desire to find something creative to do outside of his graphic-design day job, and when a client offered to let him try a set a Proletariat, he jumped at it.

The gig went well, and he bought his first dual CD player a few weeks later. Closing in on a decade later, it's a rare month when he's not booked solid.

Home Base: When it comes to finding tracks to play, Castillo haunts the dollar bins and resale shops. He's a passionate record collector, but dislikes paying collector prices for albums. His preferred performance turf is Grand Prize Bar. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is unpretentious, which lends to a house-party feel. Boondocks is his second-favorite venue to play.

Good War Story: "Gear failure is the worst," says Castillo. "Skipping records to a crashed computer can make for a tough evening. The most stressful had to be the time my laptop crashed before Blondie/Devo at the Arena Theatre. Thank God for records. Second would be the blistering cold winds during IGLOO Lounge at Discovery Green last holiday season."

Music Scene Pet Peeve: It bears repeating until you understand: a DJ is not a jukebox or your iPod. That means they play what they want, and also, that you need to keep your mitts off the gear. Boundaries are important.

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
  • The Cure, Staring at the Sea
  • My Bloody Valentine, Isn't Anything
  • Ministry, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste
  • The Stooges, Raw Power

Best Show You've Ever Seen: "Smokin' Grooves Tour 1998 was probably the best hip hop show I have ever been to," he says. "Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wyclef Jean's Refugee Camp All-Stars and Busta Rhymes."

First Song You Fell In Love With: Bob Dylan, "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35" -- "I recall being four years old and bugging my mother to play the record for me constantly."

Mr. Castillo appears alongside Soft Metals, Disalo, Ceeplus Bad Knives and Calero Monday, September 9 at Boondocks, 1417 Westheimer. Event starts at 8 p.m.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

See who else has joined the Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.

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