By Joel Silverstein
When Brooklyn DJ Mike Dextro was two, his mother and he moved from Moscow to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. But his father, Nikolai Chunusov, the drummer of the Russian rock band Kruiz, was forced to stay behind.
There was an archaic law still in place in the early 80s that required Soviets wishing to expatriate get consent from their mothers. Chunusov's mother was a member of the Communist Party, and refused to allow him leave of the motherland.
When Dextro was 17, an elderly woman knocked on the door of his home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where he spent his junior high and high school years. It was his paternal grandmother.
She saw Dextro, and she started crying and apologizing, Dextro said. But he didn't recognize her.
"Mom, there's a crazy lady at the door," he said.
Though he didn't see his father often growing up, both Chunusov's and Dextro's mother's musical influences are inherent in Dextro and his free-format but precise DJ style. Both parents attended the prestigious Moscow Conservatory.
"It's kind of like the Juilliard of the world," Dextro, 31, said recently, perched on a stoop next to Gimme Coffee on Lorimer St. in Williamsburg, where Dextro daylights as barista.
After coming out of a VFW and Legion Hall rock scene in Fort Lee that produced the punk band IDK among others, Dextro studied business at Stony Brook, and went directly from school to a finance job with now defunct hip-hop label, Rawkus Records.
Dextro shared an office with the head of A&R at Rawkus. While Dextro kept the books, His colleague would light a joint and listen to a new artist flow, looking to see if Dextro was bobbing his head.
Dextro got to Rawkus after they put out a single called "World War III" with a little known Detroit rapper named Eminem. But Rawkus decided to pass on putting out a full length album with the soon-to-be rap superstar. Dr. Dre swooped in shortly after.
"He'll take that one to his grave," Dextro said of his office-mate.
Dextro left Rawkus in 2002. And, after years of being a session drummer, he also started DJing and producing his own tracks, inspired by the DIY electronic movement in the early 2000s. He'd head up to Williamsburg from his apartment in Bensonhurst-it was the only place he could afford, he said-to attend parties like the roving "Danger" dance party and DJ Larry Tee's "Berliniamsburg" new wave party, which was held at the space now occupied by Trash Bar on Grand St. As Village Voice writer Elizabeth Thompson wrote in 2007, Larry Tees's parties helped "put groups like Fischerspooner and A.R.E. Weapons in the new new-wave spotlight, making Williamsburg into a hipster home base and setting the stage for downtown party mavens like the MisShapes."
Those parties, and clubs like Twilo hedged the way toward the acceptance of dance culture in the U.S.
"Dance culture is more accepted in Europe and Asia," Dextro said. "It has a bad rap for being associated with drugs. And for a time, it was."
But it has evolved, he said. Electro-pop has reached the top-40 charts, and popular rock bands like the Killers have gone electronic, too. "It's become more of an accepted instrument," Dextro said. Now, producers like Diplo and Tiesto play to stadium-sized crowds.
For a gig last week at Kenny Scharf's Cosmic Cavern in Bushwick, Dextro started his set with Yolanda BCool and DCup's new track, "We No Speak Americano" and continued on to a mashup of The Police's "Roxanne" and the Bee Gees "Should Be Dancing" that Dextro calls "Roxanne Should Be Dancing."
Dextro has produced remixes for artists like Lenka (track no. 5 on the SoundCloud above) and DJ Wool, from the Plant Music label, the owners of which once ran a bar called "Plant Bar" - the first venue Dextro DJed. Dextro is also working in a production capacity with former Smiths' bassist Andy Rourke and Ole Koretsky's new project, "Jet Lag."
And, aside from his exploits as "Mike Dextro," the DJ does "ghost production" under a pseudonym, producing covers of top 40 tracks for websites and record labels.
After nearly 10 years DJing and producing in New York City, Dextro said he may finally be able to live off his music by some time next year. But that's not unusual in this town.
"Most of the DJs I know that making a living off of (music) are over 30," Dextro said. Dextro seems happy to be where he is. He wouldn't change, much.
"I'm thinking of going back to vinyl," Dextro said last week , stepping away from his computer in Scharf's Day-Glo covered basement. "The girls love vinyl."
Dextro plays the "Heroine Chic" party at Rose Live Music, 345 Grand St. in Brooklyn, Tues. May 18 at 8 p.m.