Thunder still Rolling

May 8, 2011 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Since we are celebrating 20 years of Mobile Beat, we thought it would be fun to check up on our very first DJ profile.
In MB #1 we interviewed Chris Pangalos of Rolling Thunder Productions, our of Charlotte, NC, and we were happy to hear that he is still very much involved with mobile entertainment. We contacted Chris and got an update on what has happened in the last 20 years with his mobile service, club gigs, and a variety of other topics.mb135-115

Mobile Beat: So, how did you end up in the very first Mobile Beat issue?

Chris Pangalos: …I think I kind of found them. Years ago, I read a book called Spinning 2000 by Bob Lindquist. I really was a knowledge junkie back then, trying to read anything I possibly could about the DJ entertainment industry, and back then there really wasn’t a lot of stuff. I found it very informative and really enjoyed it. Somehow I was able to contact Bob, and we ended up speaking on the phone for a while and sharing information back and forth.
And one of the things he mentioned to me was that he was thinking about possibly starting up a DJ magazine.
And I thought that would be fantastic, because like I said, it was really tough to get good information at the time.
So when he asked me my opinion, I said, “Go for it. Give it a shot. See what happens.” And so he did…I had offered to help out, to feel free to give me a buzz. And he did. He said, “I’m going to do the magazine and we’d like you to be the very first DJ that we’re going to profile.” As they say, the rest is history.
Here we are, 20 years later.

M B: I’m looking at a picture of you with your mullet, in all of your Don Johnson-ish glory. It looks like you were more into the club scene then… How have things changed for you in those 20 years?

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C P: Well, it’s changed a lot. That picture you’re looking at is probably late 80s/early 90s. Creative Loafing is the local entertainment magazine here in the Charlotte area, and they have some different awards every year…
One of them in the entertainment section happens to be nightclub DJ. I actually won that one three times.
So you’re right: Back then I was more into the club scene. I worked in all the major clubs here in the Charlotte and surrounding areas. But as time progressed I kind of moved more towards the mobile end of the spectrum; still having my hand in some of the clubs but really pushing more towards the mobile end…
As demand grew, I began hiring and training other DJs. And the company really grew to, at one point in the mid-90s, was the largest DJ company in the Southeast. And then in ’95, I kind of put everything on hold and did a crazy move.
Nobody could believe I did at the time, but it was always something I wanted to do. I signed up for the Marine Corps.
So at that time, I had most of the DJs booked for at least a year to two in advance…I spent four years overseas, getting out as a sergeant in the infantry.
I was a machine gun section leader for our battalion?s helicopter assault company and I was also a hand-to-hand combat instructor.
Came back in 1999, just in time for the big Y2K celebrations…They had a huge event planned here in Charlotte. I think it was called the “Uptown Downtown Countdown.”
They basically blocked off all of uptown Charlotte; had four major stages set up. Three of them had bands and then one had a DJ. I was selected to be the DJ for that, and ended up (through no fault of my own, but just I think the way people were into the mood that night) basically stealing the show…It absolutely rocked. There were more than 35,000 people there. It got so crazy, the police had to tell me to calm the people down. It was a great way for me to come back from being overseas…for me to get back into the Charlotte scene.

M B: Have you come back as a single operator? Have you ever hired any other people again?

C P: What I did when I left was kind of let everybody go do their own thing. I had a lot of really good DJs that have since gone on to do their own thing and have been very, very successful. So I’m happy about that for those guys.
I came back, kind of got Rolling Thunder back to where it was before I left, and pretty much started doing it mostly by myself. I didn’t really want to get into the big responsibility that I had before the Marine Corps.
I had been booking over 100 DJs up and down the whole East Coast of the United States. It was really a lot of work. Another reason…[was that] I took a job with a major pharmaceutical firm, and that took up a lot of my time.
So DJing sort of went from being my main income to being slightly more than part time…Now, I’m still working full time for the pharmaceutical firm. I do the DJing myself. I really don’t have to worry about training other DJs and being responsible for other DJs. It’s just me. And occasionally, at peak times of the year I do book some other DJs for events. But it’s pretty much just myself now…Back then, I was single and it was easy to just kind of go with the flow, have no worries. But now I’m married. I have three kids. There’s a lot of things you have to consider…insurance issues and college educations that you have to worry about. I’m happy where I am right now. I still have a great love of DJing that I don’t think I’ll ever lose. There’s nothing like going out and having people dancing and sweating and girls kicking their shoes off and guys taking their ties and turning them into headbands and people having a great time; and at the end of the night, having people come up and say, that’s the most fun I’ve had in years. I don’t think you ever outgrow that feeling.mb135-114

M B: What are you using nowadays for your gear? I mean, you’ve come a long way from Technics, I imagine.

C P: You know, as all old school guys like myself that started back in the ’70s and ’80s, we all grew up and cut our teeth on the old Technics 1200 turntables and using vinyl…For a while, there were cassettes in there. I don’t think a lot of DJs used cassettes simply because it was difficult to queue up music. You’d have to fast-forward, rewind, fast-forward…But tapes were good for making mixtapes, great for auditioning, for going to a new club and saying, “Hey, I’d like to apply for a job as a DJ; here’s a cassette of some of my mixes and me in action.”

The switch to CDs was a difficult transition because I just grew up with having your hands on the turntables.
Change is difficult for everybody. I felt that anybody could come along and push a button on a CD and call themselves a DJ without having to learn the skills of manipulating turntables.
But as more and more CD players became DJ-friendly with pitch control and the ability to lay your hands on them and scratch a little bit, I did make the transition over to CDs.
A lot of guys that I know have even gone further into the whole computer thing and going to their gigs without actually bringing CDs, but using personal computers and having everything loaded out of there and able to DJ that way…But I still have not gone that way, although I do bring computers with me. It’s more for looking through my music sources, because there?s probably 80,000 songs that you have, and it?s much easier to just punch it in and look it up on there. But I still am comfortable using CDs now, simply because, like I said, I’m at the point in my career where it’s not the full-time business. God forbid I ever lose my day job and I have to go back to DJing full-time, I’d probably make the switch from CDs to computer.

M B: Anything else you want people to know about you?

C P: I’ll just say that it’s been an absolute pleasure to do this for as long as I have been doing it. And who knows, 20 years from now? I mean, there are friends of mine that are in their 60s that are still DJing out there…
If you have a personality and you can relate to people, I think there will always be a place for somebody like that. Obviously you wouldn’t send somebody to do the latest all-night club gig at 50 or 60 years old…but for reunions, oldies gigs; something where that personality fits.
If you’re got a well-spoken entertainer who can relate to the crowd, I think you will always have a place in the entertainment industry. All you have to do is look at some of the great entertainers out there, not necessarily in the DJ world, but just entertainers as a whole, and some of these folks are still going into their 70s and 80s…Who knows how long you can keep going when you’re doing something you love? MB

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Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Issues from 2011, Profiles