Chip Marccocia: Dishing out the beats to Philly’s gay scene
by Suzi Nash
Jan 10, 2013 | 782 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<b>CHIP MARCCOCIA</b> <i>Photo: Suzi Nash</i>
CHIP MARCCOCIA Photo: Suzi Nash
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For those of you who are missing all the hubbub and gala events of the Christmas season, it’s not over yet. There’s one last winter ball to put you in the party (and, hopefully, giving) mood. If you’ve ever seen Brian Sanders’ work, you know his company, Junk, is an amazing, cutting-edge dance company, one that’s been called “Philly’s most imaginative perpetrator of dare-devilish physical theater.” If you haven’t seen it, then it’s a crying shame—but you will be able to catch a special sneak peek at the company’s annual fundraiser, Snowball: A Unique Winter Ball. It’s an amazing party in winter white, and the DJ keeping it all going is Chip Marccocia, aka Chip Dish. DJ Chip has been dishing it out for Philly clubgoers since the ’70s and, next week at Snowball, he’ll once again get the floor jumping. We spoke to Chip about his life away from the disco ball and what he’s up to now.

PGN: Why do you love your job?

CM: I enjoy the energy I get from creating a vibe on the dance floor. It’s hard to explain, but the feedback I get from people having a good time is what drives me. It’s also a creative outlet for me. It’s how I express myself.

PGN: Are you a Philly native?

CM: I was born in Syracuse, N.Y., and grew up in Montgomery County. I moved into Philadelphia when I was 18 or 19 and I’ve been here ever since.

PGN: What’s your craziest snow memory from Syracuse?

CM: I remember golf-ball-sized hail coming down and going out with my sand bucket and scooping them up. I filled the bucket with hailstones. I also remember not being able to see over the snowdrifts and having to dig a path to get through. I was only about 6 when we left, but I have very vivid pictures of it in my mind.

PGN: What did the folks do?

CM: My father was a tool and die maker for General Motors when I was born and then he went on to open his own business. He just died last Easter. Mom was a stay-at-home mom. I’m the oldest of five.

PGN: What was the worst part of being the oldest?

CM: I got blamed for everything. “You taught your brother how to do what?” I was always like, “Hey, he taught me first!”

PGN: What was a favorite thing to do with everyone?

CM: Two years ago, my sister rented a 10-bedroom house in Cape May and all my brothers and sisters and all — their families, me and my partner and my three stepkids — all went to the beach for seven days and it was an incredible experience. It was just us, no parents, and I got to see all my siblings, including my one sister who now lives in Belgium so I don’t get to see her much. All together there were 27 of us and I was the oldest one of the bunch.

PGN: Best holiday memory?

CM: One year my mother got us up at 11 o’clock Christmas Eve and made us go with her to midnight Mass — we were brought up Catholic. While we were at Mass she had one of our neighbors go to our house and put all the Christmas presents under the tree. He lit all the candles in the house and put Christmas music on so when we got home, it was as if Santa had been there. It’s one of my favorite memories. We were so excited.

PGN: I remember when I started questioning him, I got a call from Santa assuring me that he was real. I later realized the kindly old gent I spoke to was probably my grandfather.

CM: [Laughs.] That’s so sweet.

PGN: What were you like as a kid?

CM: I grew up in the country so we were never inside. Never had shoes on during the summer. There were a lot of cornfields and woods all around so we used to go hiking a lot. We’d pack a lunch and go into the woods, build a fort and hang out.

PGN: When did you start to realize that you were gay?

CM: My parents were young and they always had all sorts of people over — black, white, gay, straight; we didn’t know what the difference was, every one was welcome. I didn’t know what it was at first, didn’t have a name for it, but by about 14 I knew for sure what I liked. Then of course, I had a dual life for a while: I had my gay life downtown and then my suburbs life at home.

PGN: But you didn’t take it as far as the married life?

CM: Oh no; my partner did, though. I have three stepsons as a result, ranging in age from 14-23. I tease him, “You didn’t figure it out by the first two?”

PGN: What’s his name?

CM: Gary. And we met when he was living in New York, so for the first two years it was a long-distance relationship. We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary.

PGN: What attracted you to him?

CM: He was very cute. And sweet. Since he came out late, in his mid-to-late-30s, he was unaffected by the “gay scene.” It wasn’t like a young person entering the scene getting caught up in it, and there was a ... not naiveté, but a freshness about him.

PGN: He didn’t have that jaded vibe?

CM: Yup. Now he does. [Laughs.] No, he’s great.

PGN: And what do you do when you’re not getting people on their feet?

CM: I work for myself. I do audio mastering and engineering. I used to have my own recording studio, which is now closed, but I still do production work from my home. I have a small studio where I can do format transfers and digitize records, clean them up, stuff like that.

PGN: What was a favorite project?

CM: I put out some records in the ’80s that we’re getting ready to release again. They were re-released a few times in Germany and are doing very well. There’s a specialty box set. I’m going to remix it again myself and put it out new again.

PGN: What was it called?

CM: It was a group called Experimental Products. I also worked with a lot of local bands in the late ’80s, early ’90s like Pretty Poison. I was the remix consultant for “Catch Me I’m Falling.”

PGN: Those were good years for the music biz. I read that you had a Kennel Club reunion a few years ago.

CM: Oh yeah, the Kennel Club was great. It was the first club where I had my own regular night DJing. I’d DJ’ed at Rainbows prior to that, which had been in the same space. Karen Young used to come there. I worked with her in the studio — that was crazy. I was actually hired at Rainbows as a lighting person and some of the DJs showed me how to spin, and when the club reopened as the Kennel Club, I got a job as a DJ. It was amazing; it was new, it was cutting-edge, it was the first video bar in the city when music videos were just coming into fashion. We got cool promos all the time and I got asked to DJ and VJ in New York a bunch, it was fun. I don’t think I was even 21 when I started working there.

PGN: Crazy club memory?

CM: We had a light system in place after hours because you weren’t supposed to be serving alcohol, but they did. The front door was on the street level and there was a long walk-up to get inside the club. They had a light switch and if the cops came in downstairs they’d flip the switch and bright white lights would go off at every bar. Suddenly the bartenders would come flying out from behind the bar. We had some wild times there.

PGN: What was your best?

CM: When I was at the Kennel Club, we did a party for John Waters when he released the film “Polyester.” It was premiering at the TLA when it was still a movie theater. He came over afterwards and we had a bunch of guys do a whole drag show for him in the Loft, which was the club upstairs that had been for men only, but that’s a whole other story. We lowered this one drag queen from the ceiling on this big platform and it was a spectacle. A great party, I got to hang out with John all night. He’s very funny.

PGN: What do you like to do away from the records?

CM: I like to do photography. My mother just gave me a big pile of negatives that were my grandfather’s. He was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and he was a photographer. I think he had some kind of top-secret job. So I have all these negatives that I’ve been scanning and cleaning up. It’s very cool, very cool.

PGN: What’s the best picture you’ve taken?

CM: A photo of my dog, Buddy. He’s a Jack Russell, 15 years old and as feisty as ever. He’s gotten mouthy in his old age! Do you have any pets?

PGN: Nope. No pets, no kids.

CM: Yeah, I wasn’t planning on kids either, but I’m glad I got them. They’re great. I had a talk with my youngest stepson this summer and asked him, “How do you see me? Am I the guy who lives in your dad’s house, am I a parent, a friend? How do you see me?” And he said, “Most definitely, I see you as a parent.” I’ll take that. They have no issues with any of that stuff, especially my nieces and nephews who live in Europe. They don’t understand why there’s such a problem with gay issues here.

PGN: What’s something I don’t know about you?

CM: I owned a nightclub named Voodoo for a while. Do you remember it?

PGN: It sounds familiar. Where was it located?

CM: 21st and Arch.

PGN: Oh yes! That was a fun spot. I spent many a weekend night with my friend Tibet cutting up the floor in Voodoo. I had some good times there. Great music.

CM: Yeah, it was a good club. [Laughs.] It was also a big lesson. What kind of business not to open.

PGN: How long were you open?

CM: Two years.

PGN: High and low point?

CM: High point, opening night. Low point, having to fire my general contractor and do all the physical work on the place myself ... in addition to writing the business plan, hiring the staff, doing the marketing and all the other crap that goes into starting a business. And then having to close it.

PGN: It must be fun, though, being able to invite friends to your club.

CM: It was. It was fun for a minute. I had partners too and they enjoyed it until we lost all the money, but they were cool. They were like, “It’s OK, we understood what we were getting into from the start. Don’t worry about it.”

PGN: What sign are you and what are the traits?

CM: Aquarius. We’re idealists. I get very frustrated with people when they don’t see the obvious. I’m like, “Come on! Don’t you get it? We have to take care of each other before we take care of anything else.”

PGN: So do you do volunteer work?

CM: Yes, I’ve done a lot of fundraisers. I try to help out with the William Way whenever they ask me to. I did the first Indigo-Go party, which was a huge success and, as you know, I’m doing the Snowball benefit for Brian Sanders on the 19th.

PGN: What’s a song you’re embarrassed to admit you like?

CM: Oh, “Walk on By,” by Dionne Warwick. I’m not embarrassed by it because it’s an amazing song, but it’s not exactly on most play lists.

PGN: “Fame,” “Footloose” or “Flashdance”?

CM: “Flashdance.”

PGN: Superstitious rituals?

CM: None, other than I believe that you get back what you put out, so I try to put out good, positive all the time. So far it seems to be ringing true. For the most part ...

PGN: Ever play on a team?

CM: No, sports weren’t my thing. I used to hang out with older kids and I was more into bands and art.

PGN: Play any instruments?

CM: Not formally. I mean I can bang myself around a piano a little bit but that’s it.

PGN: The bartender knows I drink ...

CM: I don’t drink. [Laughs.] I smoke ...

PGN: Best concert experience?

CM: About a year ago I saw Gary Numan at the Troc and he just blew me away. He was outstanding. The show was excellent. He’s known for that song “Cars” that was a hit in the late ’70s but his other stuff was great too. Did you ever see the movie “Queen of the Damned” based on Anne Rice’s book? It starred Aaliyah, the R&B singer who was killed in a plane accident. He did some music for that, which was really good. She was really good in the film too. You should check it out.

PGN: I will. What was the last song you listened to?

CM: Today? “Innovation” by Jaytech.

PGN: What subjects put you to sleep?

CM: Talking about health problems. I can’t stand it. Politics gets me worked up into a lather so I try to stay away from those discussions.

PGN: Three sounds you love and three sounds you hate.

CM: I love the sound of the door opening when my partner gets home from work, the racket when my dog barks when I come home and the sound of my JBL speakers. I hate the ring-ding-ding of the casinos. I can’t stand that. Trite pop music, ugh. And I hate to hear the last song of the night.

DJ Chip Dish will spin at Snowball, 8 p.m. Jan. 21 at the University of the Arts, 320 S. Broad St. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.briansandersjunk.com.

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