top of page

Ilko Mihaylov-DJ Unkle Billy about smiles and life, presented as a music record.

"Be very persistent and ask for what you want to happen! If something happens easily, it is not good."

To the readers:

Dear fans of,

This article is quite different from the previous ones. The Northwest dialect forms used in this article are not meant to make you uncomfortable in any way :), but to preserve the unconventional rhythm that characterizes the music of the Northwest language, combined with traditional expressions and the subtle Northwest sensibility.

Wherever we are in the world, we remain united around our Northwest culture and philosophy.

With love to and from the Northwest...

Happy reading!

Maat: I'm glad one of the most smiling people I know agreed to participate in my series. Let's tell people now - Who are you?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: I'm very happy for your invitation and for the idea you've come up with. For you Montanans, I'm always ready to talk about my mother's milk too, because I have a lot of respect and love.

My name is Ilko Mihaylov and I'm from Vratsa, but I'm known on the music DJ scenes as DJ UNKLE BILLY.

Who am I? - A melomaniac, a filmmaker, a pUskal to everyone and everywhere on the most interesting and good places for quality underground music, which does not easily reach the mass audience. And it is wonderful and always there. As long as you want it, you'll find it, and that's how we'll meet...

I've opened for a lot of interesting artists in clubs in Sofia, Plovdiv, Tarnovo, Varna, Ruse, Sozopol, Vratsa, MontanYa and almost all interesting summer festivals in Bulgaria - Vola Open Air, Nature All Hip-Hop, Goloka Fest. In short almost everywhere, because of clubs like Terminal 1, Maimunarnika, Mixtape and Stroeja.

I'm lucky to have had the chance to look after names like GUTS, THIEVERY CORPORATION, DUB FX, THE ALLERGIES, A STATE OF MIND, Massive Attack, Onyx etc. 

And because I love Balkan music, I've played at Gucha parties before and after shows by Marko Markovic, Dubioza, Sars Balkan Beat Box, Pero Deformero...

Maat: When did you fall in love with music?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: When did I fall in love with music? I was introduced to it like all the other kids back in the day through MTV. Back then all the live music around me was listening to Metallica to the fucking core. Milena and Control's albums were out and it was a miracle...

In 1994 after a sea adventure on Duran Kulak my first encounters with hip-hop happened and it was Wu-Tang (36 chambers). When we came home from the sea, I always said it, I say it and I will say it, I have to be very grateful to my brother, he went to Videotona and bought up everything that was rap on the stand. Including Prodigy's first two albums and many more.

My brother used to buy cool - all the ICE-T albums on ICE Cube, Naughty by Nature, Lords of the underground, Gravedigazz, Cypress. 2 live crew, abe... whatever came out he'd buy it.

Then came electronic music. In November 1998 I had the chance to attend the Metropolis techno party with special guest Sven Vath. 12 000 people in the Festival Hall... it was crazy. I'm 14 years old and... kef and nema nik'vi yads.

And when we started... everywhere we went was interesting and gathered a lot of people. We went them all Westbam Jeff Mils Joe Beltram Ben Sims.

Because of the movie Hackers, I was really into, and listening to, the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Crystal Method, Leftfield, Moby - alternative electronic music.

I also had a company at the time where everyone was very much on the grunge wave. That's how I came across that style, which was a very cool wave and people for that time.

I seriously fell in love with the music already in 2003 by rediscovering Funk and trip hop music. I realized that all the cool hip hop was sampled and from there I started digging cool - figuring out what came from who, who else got it, but mostly funk drums and breakbeats. I was going crazy with kef, finding a track like that that was unknown to play, trip hop style... brutally heavy beats with gorgeous vocals. I love it! 

Maat: How did it all start and what made you become a DJ? What styles do you like to play?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: My brother was really into it and started putting out brutal Tribal House tracks by names like Danny Tenaglia Peace Division. And I used to just re-record cassette tapes for friends to listen to. We were all very into it...because that music was hard to find in those years.

I really wanted to start playing it too, but I didn't have any equipment. Then a friend of mine, Joe, and the boss of a bar (Tequila bar under the Vrachanska railway station) had agreed that I should start DJing. And I... have nothing. Then I made re-recordings of the CDs on cassettes, taking out the breaks and... I went with three cassettes. It became a super party :) there was a lot of music - from the Trainspotting soundtrack, to Red Hot and Skunk Anansie.... and everything I had interesting on a CD and could, I recorded it on a cassette. (Of course without taking away from my brother's music, because he would scold me if he heard me playing it.)

And so began a long period in Vrachansko, which I skipped, until 2006. That's when we had probably the most Gramdansk hip-hop party that took place on Vratsa soil. A lot of interesting artists came.

The organizers were Velcho, Toto and Sameca, with whom we knew each other well and were branded and stocked bg underground te rapare, I DJ. And they invited me. It was time to make up a name, because before that everybody was shouting. Then I came up with the idea of Unkle Billy - because I only wanted to play old skool stuff and underground stuff.

After a while I was invited to a party in Ruse, which was going to be very brutal, but my set took exactly 40 minutes, because the police came and stopped the party because of some fight. From there I met the XPRSN crazies from Yambol and they invited me to participate in the XPRSN party (350km) and then... it's history with them. Always together and very cool parties!

I used to go to a lot of break parties too. They started inviting me to put on competitions as well. I have a lot of fond memories from there.

And now 2012 when I got unleashed.... and started performing at all the mainstream hip hop parties or funk.... Non stop on the go - I had five performances a week, three performances at different parties in one night :) running for an hour every hour, then running for the other hour... total DJ madness.

And it's very hard to say about the styles I like nowadays. Over the years I've been into all styles of music because I wanted to do a set with anything interesting that really impressed me. To sum it up, I was originally into alternative music, then I went strictly boom bap hip hop funk and new funk, then I wanted a very Ninja Tune style K7 label Stones Throw Thru Thoughts. And nowadays I do a lot of salsa parties. I love a lot of Columbian Latino Salsa music. The Balkan parties we do at MAZE are incredibly cool and I recommend them. Lots of dancing, lots of drinking and a live orchestra :) 

In Stroeja on the other hand I only participate with heavy hardcore music. I'm very open-minded to all styles, but if its 100% Unkle Billy the party is mostly funky hip hop style with a slight hint of bossa nova drum and bass (Bossa Nova D&B).

Maat: How does the situation caused by the coronavirus affect you? What happens to a DJ in these hard times for all of us?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: I'm being brief here. Nothing interesting, whoever works - works, whoever does his thing - does his thing. The others - I'm getting fat, but I'm feeling good and pushing towards the future. But it's not the same. Lost the emotion. Once upon a time, we wanted other music more, not just the kind that's in the charts and views or what you get launched by commercial artists. From 2000 to 2013, it was super music. It was looking for different music. In the last two years, it's the one that's for a commercial mainstream audience that's sought. T'is a bit sad, but times are changing. There may come that melodyman period again, which I'm pretty well prepared for :) 

Maat: Let's let people know more about the "Drumset Vision" project.

DJ UNKLE BILLY: It's been a dream of mine for a number of years, to do a project with a DJ and a drummer together, and a vision of the party going on screen. The first time, it was a long time ago, the one with the party visuals I did it just from manga videos Akira NInja Scroll, with a friend Momchi break for a bar in Vratsa. Since then I've been thinking about continuing the development of this project.

Years later, I'd' wanted to try my conception with a drummer, I found myself first with Maxim. With him we made it and realized it in Bijou, but then his brother Yuli came out of nowhere. He was young and mega stoked. He was a real machine - you say give him jazz and it starts, give him dnb (drum and bass) and it starts, he caught the rhythm of everything. So... we started first with mix parties and a drummer. Then I wanted us to try the visuals.

Since 2015 I started to collect videos and search for tracks together for a cool show. A friend Tzoko helped us a lot with the videos and we decided to start. And it worked out really well. They wanted us to participate to warm up for Drum n Jazz HippieLandia. A lot of the underground hip hop artists we hung out with and warmed up - MD Beddah, Out In Space Keranov Live. I'm probably forgetting something else interesting, but we got laid.

Maat: What is it that has kept you going for so many years now? What makes you be constant?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: I love music, I love looking for all kinds of music. Even from the movies I watch, to find interesting stuff. I want to play these tunes, make sure they don't get forgotten. There's tons of good music that if you find it and provide it to people in a proper way, the party is always memorable.

I'll be honest, I've been wanting a bit of quiet lately, so music is in the background. I'm watching more movies, but I'll take the liberty of inserting an incident from three days ago here. The movie "Repo Man" is running on Netflix, which for me is the bahtty cool, stot' movie is very hard to find (and it's super fucking sai fai hardcore thrash crazy). Let's Go?":) I went crazy and shuddered. 

For example. This music has been a non-stop part of that style and lifestyle. Gengaria and salsa parties are like chalga parties but with a much... cooler sound and dancing. They have nothing to do with our Bulgarianness.

So that's what I'm standing for. I'm mega hooked and I want to know everything that is musical!

Maat: What do you believe in? What advice would you give people on how to stay motivated?

DJ UNKLE BILLY: Nowadays, I believe mostly in my family and being well. Everything else is white stuff.

I would first advise people who are into DJing. You need a lot of music, non stop searching and listening. You have your favorite style - ok, but search for others. Styles change with the years too.

And something very important: - Listen to the music of the movies - listen to the soundtracks! You wouldn't believe how many gems you can find if you listen to what goes on as background music in a particular scene!

Be very persistent and ask for what you want to happen! If something comes easy, it's not going well. If you're being gassed and squashed, and it's making you want more of yourself, then you're on the right track and your moment will come.

From the author: Huge thanks to Ilko Mihaylov for the friendship over the years and all the fun times shared together! Respect! - Gabriela Kardashlieva



bottom of page