Volume 94, Issue 84

Thursday, March 1, 2001


The relentless world of Misstress Barbara

Feast on European delights at Marienbad

My ego has finally landed

The relentless world of Misstress Barbara

Gazette File Photo
TAMPAX WAS THERE. Misstress Barbara keeps fresh and clean during her legendary DJ sets. Chgeck her out tonight at Rise, being held at The Core fx.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

From the start, DJ Misstress Barbara makes two things abundantly clear: "Misstress" has four "s" and spinning records has nothing to do with gender.

"This isn't about being a girl or a guy – it's about the music," she fervently declares, an air of frustration in her voice. "When people come up to me after a set and say, 'You're one of the best female DJs,' I'd rather they say nothing at all. I have to admit, I'm really strict with that."

In fact, Barbara refuses to appear on all-female lineups and compilations so as to avoid pigeonholding within the industry.

Misstress Barbara (the four "s" are word play) and her real world persona Barbara Bonfiglio was born 26 years ago in Italy. At age 8, she emigrated to Montreal with her family. Although she sometimes longs for the distinctive culture and mentality of Europe, she admits to having trouble relating to friends on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

"My home is not here, but it's not in Italy either. I'm too much of an 'American girl' for my Italian friends and I'm too Italian for my friends here," she admits through a warm Italian accent, seasoned with some Quebecois charm. After Italian and French, English is her third language.

But the language Barbara speaks best is music. She began playing the drums when she was 12 and found herself under the spell of classic rock and punk. These early influences soon gave way and Barbara eventually traded the drums in for turntables. She hasn't looked back since.

Misstress Barbara's particular form of techno, which she refers to as "drummy, funky, pumpin' techno" has catapulted her to a place of high esteem within the DJ community. According to her, techno is a huge blanket and covers a significant amount of territory. "The sound is techno, but you must say more than just techno."

However you define the genre, Misstress Barbara is renowned for her hard beats and anxious, percussive sounds. She has performed for audiences worldwide, including 35,000 people at a rave in Los Angeles, 4,000 in a cave in the Dominican Republic and about 800 the last time she appeared here in London. Needless to say, she has gathered a wealth of experience along the way.

But she shows no sign of stopping soon. With as many as 15 gigs a month, she lives a hectic life, checking in and out of hotels and boarding countless flights. When she's not on the road, Barbara is at home in Montreal, busily working in her studio, producing and releasing albums on her own label, Relentless Music.

While it is certainly an apt label for her pulsing beats, relentless is an equally appropriate adjective by which one could describe Barbara as both an artist and a person. She speaks with a hurried intensity and rarely takes time off, not even to pat herself on the back. "It's not healthy. I should take some time for myself," she begins.

"I have a lot of direction, but every time I achieve something, I'm already thinking 4 or 5 projects ahead. There's an insecurity – if I stop, perhaps I'll lose the thing that's coming next," she says earnestly.

Besides her insatiable drive, Misstress Barbara's passion for both the music and the audiences becomes evident very quickly. "I love the connection with people. That's what's behind me, keeping me so hard," she explains. "It's not about wanting to be a star – it's about testing yourself."

It's also about being tested by the audience. Though it hasn't happened on too many occasions, Barbara has had her share of boring crowds, but they just push her to spin harder.

"I let them know they're boring and there's no way to connect with them. Too much drugs makes you empty," she confesses, quickly adding she does not take an anti-drug stance. "Drugs can be good for dancing, but I can tell it's too much when people are sitting on the floor, massaging themselves."

As the conversation draws to a close, the ever-so-savvy Barbara makes a plug for her Web site and once again reiterates that "Misstress" is spelled with four "s".

"Relentless" may be a bit of an understatement.

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