Music News

Ba-Ba-Barbara

In club land, Misstress Barbara, the best-known alter ego of DJ Barbara Bonfiglio, is renowned for decking dancers with the hardest of hard techno. But on Come With Me..., her new (and very entertaining) mix disc on the Uncivilized World label, she's softened up out of what she sees as necessity.

"There's really nothing going on in techno right now," Bonfiglio says in a spitfire voice whose accent is colored more by Sicily, the land of her birth, than by Canada, where she moved at age eight. "Up until a year ago, yes. But since then, there are no releases that are exciting, that are interesting, that are new." For this reason, her latest recording is built upon what she calls "old-school, acid-y house, minimal stuff, experimental click tracks -- just a mixture of really danceable, groovy music."

As for "I Love You," one of two Misstress Barbara compositions featured on the CD, it's pigeonhole-resistant by design. "Can you call it house? Can you call it techno?" Bonfiglio asks. "I don't know how you can call it. But it's good for dance, so I don't care."

Those who've followed Bonfiglio closely since her mid-'90s emergence shouldn't be surprised that she's inserting some unexpected squiggles into the Misstress's signature sound. The self-described "techno queen" has always allowed herself to spin off in different directions, especially during marathon sessions. "When I would play for eight, nine, ten hours, never was I playing ten hours of techno," she maintains. But as time wore on, Bonfiglio says she began to feel limited by "ka-chunkety-chunkety-chunkety" rhythms -- so she invented a new persona, Barbara Brown, to specialize in house. In the end, though, this division of labor was too confusing even for her. "Perhaps I should play under Barbara Brown when I play electro-house," she allows. "But I'm like, 'You know what? Just leave me alone. Fuck you.' Because it's too much of a headache."

Of course, pulling herself together, in a manner of speaking, has been pretty tough, too. "People around me maybe believe in me more than I believe in myself," she concedes. "They tell me, 'You're Misstress Barbara, you just play what you want.' So I do, but then I come back from playing some huge party on the weekend and check the new messages on my website, and there might be one saying, 'What the fuck did you do with Misstress Barbara? And what's with all this washed-up house you played us? Why didn't you write Barbara Brown on the flier? I want my money back.'"

Bonfiglio admits that such gripes represent "just one guy out of 2,000, and the rest of them had a great time. But I always seem to remember the bad comments instead of the good ones -- and at the end of the day, I'll go crazy if I follow those people." She laughs before adding, "I'm not saying I'm in therapy, but maybe I should be."

Why not? After all, the three Barbaras could share the bill.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts