Downtown Orlando club night Discothèque is celebrating one year of presenting audiences at Barbarella with creative and cutting-edge DJs across generations with an iconic Florida party-starter: DJ Three. Though DJ Three (né Christopher Milo) now calls New York home, he helped jump-start the dance music scene in Florida in the 1990s with a spirit of DIY adventure that saw him notch milestones like throwing the first one-off raves in the Southeast, bringing Moby to Florida, and playing countless house and techno sets in Orlando and Tampa clubs. Not one to rest on his historical laurels — though there are many — DJ Three still regularly spins at clubs the world over and runs tastemaking record labels, the latest being Hallucienda. See history repeat (and rewrite) itself this Friday.
Orlando Weekly: Leaning a bit into your history of playing Orlando, tell us about some of your favorite shows you've played over the years. You've played for everyone from Q-Burns Abstract Message for his Club Queso nights and DJ Icee at the Edge to your own nights at Firestone in the 1990s and recently for Infiltr8:Celebr8 at Iron Cow.
DJ Three: Wow, so many memories from smaller venues to full-on massive clubs. I think my years in the mid-'90s at Firestone conjure up the most vivid memories because the club was done on such a grand scale. It was a monthly collaboration with their in-house promoter where we did everything possible to present a vibe that wasn't necessarily what was getting the most hype in Florida. We'd have more house and techno-oriented guests like DJ Duke, DJ Sneak or artists more known for their music than DJing, like Dobre & Jamez from Touché Records, and nights where I'd play extended sets. Robbie Clark and DJ Daisy played an incredible gay night until 2 a.m. and then it seamlessly transitioned into late-night with these kind of lineups which made for an amazing mixed crowd.
The promoter would buy set pieces being sold off by Disney so the club would always look even more incredible than it already was — one night it looked like a tropical rain forest between the props, the lasers and the club's silent dry-ice curtain. Musically speaking, sometimes we'd pull different sides of the scene into each other and book acts like Planet Soul to play live, but with me DJing before and after pushing house and techno onto the breaks crowd, making some really special moments. It was an incredible couple of years there.
OW: You've been credited with throwing some of the first one-off rave parties in the Southeast ...
DJ3: Dance music of the "house" persuasion was already happening at clubs, of course — not least of which in Orlando, but I'd gone to Los Angeles for a couple weeks for NYE 1991 to see firsthand what was happening with American rave culture. I came back fueled with belief and cardiac passion, totally determined to do some parties like I'd experienced there, which were one-off events in warehouses or rented spaces with only a phone number or multiple map points to let you know where it was day-of-show. In late 1991, we did The Raven in a warehouse in St. Petersburg.
We had things like a blacklight room with paint pens for people to draw and paint. Myself and a pre-Rabbit in the Moon David Christophere performed music we'd been working on, and we invited other key DJs from around the whole of Florida who were also pushing this music to really try and bring everyone together. Then in March 1992 we were the first to bring Moby and Doc Martin to Florida to an event that had a virtual reality machine and "smart drinks." Those two are the most notable, I think.
OW: You were very active in the Tampa area for many years. Can you talk about the scene there and your involvement in it?
DJ3: Well, it's where I came up in my teens and 20s. What we just spoke of covers the earliest '90s and those things lead to DJ Monk and David Christophere founding Hallucination Recordings, Rabbit in the Moon, and then there were other factions of people sustaining a thriving party scene throughout the decade. As for the scene claim, when I moved to New York City in 2002, I started a night in Tampa called Snatch that I'd fly in for as part of my monthly touring. Basically, I wanted to make sure the DNA of where I came up in and around Florida would still continue to have something happening that was also in tune with what was going on in my DJ travels.
So I'd fly in as a guest and we'd also bring DJs like Felix Da Housecat, DJ Harvey and Laurent Garnier. The way Miami has become for more underground club music in the last 10 years is what Snatch was like in the '00s. Eventually, we did the night twice a month to accommodate and elevate the thriving local DJ scene, which included people like Öona Dahl and Joint Custody. From 2002 to 2012, Snatch was a perfect storm of the Hyde Park Cafe as a venue, a dedicated crowd who would drive in from all over Florida and some incredible friends and DJs — Grumptronix, DJ Matty and Brian Busto were the residents over those 10 years. Having been to and DJed at most all of them, I can say it was one of the best small club nights in the U.S. for that 10-year period.
OW: What do you have planned for the anniversary show? For you to play this event establishes a sort of lineage between generations of DJs and scene-makers.
DJ3: There's never a plan really, I just try to connect the crowd to my musical whimsy. I'm really happy to be the one-year anniversary guest for Discothèque and it's at Barbarella, no less, which definitely brings a lot of feels! I agree, the dots connect and it's always better when they do. In Tampa, Brian Busto picked up where I left off with Snatch in 2012 with his Serious Soul events and he's opening for me at Discothèque. This notion of lineage applies to the other Orlando nights you mentioned earlier, as well.
I feel very lucky to have those roles with parties in Orlando and really anywhere in Florida I've been able to. It's most important to me this music thrives anywhere it can in Florida, because this is where it all began for me.