Mike Brillstein, better known in the music universe as Thee Mike B., has enjoyed several decades of playing music that he loves for like minded people... but it wasn't always destined to end up like that. DJ AM played a role in Mike's resurgent DJ career through their friendship and partnership in the now infamous Banana Split Sundaes at LAX.
We got a chance to connect with Mike B. and get some insight into his career arc, Banana Split Sundaes, stories about AM and what he's up to now. Hope you enjoy!
When & how did you meet Adam?
Tell us about this early 2000s photo:
That's Me, Riggs Morales, Alchemist, AM and Jus Ske from left to right. This was taken outside Cafe Habana in NY after an epic lunch. I remember we went to Beat Street Records after and Adam bought like 50 records. He was in town to play for Bill Spector at Supper Club and I was opening. It was a big deal because Shecky, Mark Ronson and I had been talking about how amazing AM was so every big DJ in NY came out to judge. I remember being on the stage behind him with Stretch Armstrong, DJ Riz, Sizzahandz, DJ Soul, Eclipse, Spinbad, Chris Landry, EMZ and a few others. Everyone was just bugging out on how next level he was.
What was some of the music that both of you guys shared a love for and bonded over.
I gave him my mixtape (Brooklyn Basement w/ DJ Redd Rokk) and he took it on tour on him with CrazyTown. Months later I would run into him at Hamburger Hamlet in Beverly Hills and he told me how they would bump my mixtape on the tour bus, specifically the track Mac Man by Beanie Sigel. We stayed in touch and over the years to follow we would bond over a mutual love of rap, rock and especially old school rave.
When Adam got to Vegas every week, things really started to blow up for him on an even bigger level. We highlight that ascension in "As I AM" and I think you refer to it as the beginnings of "superstar time" which was definitely spot on. Do you have any specific memories from that time period?
I remember I ran into Adam at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and we were on the same flight, I'm not sure why I was even going to Vegas. It was the first Friday open to the public at Body English, his legendary residency. They gave him "The Bachelor Party Suite" as he called it, but he left on the first flight out and never stayed in the room. So Shecky, our friend S-County and myself held the room down and got mad blunted!
You worked on a TV pilot called "You Don't Know Me From Adam" with AM. Tell us some details on how that came about.
I, along with some partners, had a film and tv production company at the time, which was 2006. AM was in business with Paul Rosenberg and LV (Deckstar) and we all came together to produce an idea for MTV who wanted to work with Adam. He was very adamant about it being a show that didn’t just glorify him and his lifestyle. He wanted to make sure it made a difference and would ultimately help others. It was a docu-drama about his life trying to balance his career with his sobriety and his tumultuous upbringing and family life.
I remember having a conversation with you on the patio at LAX in 2006 and you were still doing commercial DJ gigs at the time and you were telling me that you thought it was a wrap for you in terms of DJ'ing. You just weren't into it anymore. I'm thankful that wasn't the case. What changed?
Banana Split is what changed that. Literally. I was doing TV and movies, about to get married and I was bored with playing music for the Hollywood crowd. I became a part of Banana Split and agreed to play for free because this was to be my first/last chance to play the new cool dance music I was excited about with and for my friends. Once that took off and people started booking me all over the world to play music I loved, I promptly quit tv.
How did the name Banana Split come about?
Through a group chat on AIM... I actually was not involved in the chat but Adam sent me this screen shot after.
How did the Banana Split music format develop and what did that night mean for you personally?
We were all excited about the new music coming out of Paris and the UK as well the resurgence of Baltimore Club Music and other underground dance music. Steve Aoki and Adam were new friends at the time. I had known Steve through Stretch Armstrong and we had traded music a bunch. Steve was already playing some of that stuff on Tuesday’s at Cinespace and he and Adam wanted to start a new party based solely around dance music. Adam and I were discussing where he could throw such a party and I mentioned to him that he owned a nightclub and that it was closed Sunday Nights so... the rest is pretty well documented. That party meant everything to me and people still bring it up to me at malls and supermarkets... lol.
Any particular Banana Split memories stand out?
Honestly, nearly every night was memorable. But, in particular, I was proud of the combos of heavy hitters you’d see together in the DJ booth. For example: Paul Oakenfold, Samantha Ronson and us. Or like MSTRKFT with DJ Premier and Eli Escobar. Those were moments that personified what we were doing. Bringing all the big wigs together through the excitement of the music we were playing.
Looking back, how influential do you think Banana Split itself was for the music production & culture that followed?
I would say very. I would see BEP in there while they were working on that album that would be huge. I watched LMFAO get birthed out of Sunday nights. We did the first LA shows there for AC Slater, Wiz Khalifa, Santigold, Lady Gaga, Kesha and countless others. What happened at that party would dictate the sound of nightclubs and radio for years to come. Even now.
((You can view the full Banana Split flyer archive here))
No conversation about Banana Split is really complete without diving into some of the tunes that gave it life and made a huge impact on what followed. The mix below from Mike B. is from 2012 and aired on SiriusXM to celebrate AM's birthday posthumously. It features bangers from the Banana Split era along with the classic AM joint he sent to friends "Paul YoungBloodz" at the beginning (he always did stuff like this to get a laugh from the homies):
To correspond with this special interview with Mike B. we are also dropping a previously unreleased DJ AM Banana Split mix from 2009. Mike believes it might be the last time AM ever played Banana Split. You can check it out here.
In your opinion, what made AM so special as a DJ?
What made him so special was that like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, he was just better than the rest of us. But not like some DJs are better at scratching and others are smoother mixing, etc. He was better than anyone at every kind of DJ'ing imaginable.
Describe what friendship with Adam Goldstein was like.
Being friends with Adam was constantly amazing. You always had his undivided attention and he was always fully involved in the conversation. Like really constantly present. Which, being as popular and busy as he was, always made me feel special.
What do you think is AM's lasting legacy as a DJ?
I would say almost too much to name. But the way we DJ, digital DJ'ing in particular really stands out. He was the one who taught us how to do it and showed us how far we can take it. He set the price points and sonic standards that still exist now.
Tell us about the events and projects you are doing now.
In addition to still making tons of music under a bunch aliases and as myself, I’m also partner in a bar called The Friend. We have locations in Silver Lake and Venice and I’m still DJ'ing a few nights a week all over the place.