Mark Kamins died of a heart attack at age 57. The legendary DJ and producer—who worked with David Byrne, the Beastie Boys and Sinéad O’Connor—was best known for producing Madonna’s first single, 1982′s “Everybody,” and helping sign her to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records. Around that same time, Kamins produced another popular single, the dance-rap track “Jam Hot” by Johnny Dynell. (The song was featured in the iconic 1983 graffiti documentary Style Wars, and its lyrics—”Tank Fly Boss Walk Jam Nitty Gritty/You’re listening to the boy from the big bad city”—were sampled in the #1 U.K. single “Dub Be Good To Me” by Beats International, the 1990s electronic group led by Norman Cook, a.k.a. Fatboy Slim.)
Dynell’s recording career was quickly eclipsed by his work as a DJ. For the last three decades, he’s manned the decks at every New York City club of note—Mudd Club, Danceteria, Limelight, Area, Tunnel, Palladium, Roxy, Crobar, Greenhouse, XL, Le Bain. With wife Chi Chi Valenti, he also operated the iconic clubs Jackie 60 and Mother, helping transform the Meatpacking District into a nightlife mecca. These days Dynell is as busy as ever: DJing four nights a week; providing the soundtrack to such gala events as the AMFAR Cinema Against AIDS party at the Cannes Film Festival; and organizing with Valenti for this year’s Stevie Nicks fan fest “Night of A Thousand Stevies.” We spoke over dinner at Café Orlin on St. Marks Place.
Sean Manning: Is it inappropriate to ask how old you are?
Johnny Dynell: Yes. Don’t ever tell anyone your age because they’ll treat you that way. [Read More]
By Words: Ethan Holben Photo: Francesca Tamse (XLR8R)
In advance of this Saturday’s Record Store Day happenings around the globe, XLR8R has put together a week-long series of features devoted to taking a closer look at some of our favorite record-selling outlets from around the world. Check out the entire series here.
In 1996, New York City’s East Village (which was then simply called the Lower East Side) was a much different place than it is today. What’s now one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the Big Apple, an area stuffed with high-rise condos, exorbitantly priced cocktail lounges, and an inordinate number of sports bars, was then a neighborhood on the edge. Marijuana was being sold out of bodegas, heroin addicts occupied the benches and bathrooms of Tompkins Square Park, and cab drivers would sometimes refuse to even take people there. This was the East Village where bookstore owner and flea-market vendor Isaac Kosman opened a new kind of record store, which he named A-1.
Some 17 years later, hundreds of record stores have both opened and closed in America, but A-1 is still standing—and thriving. “It’s Darwinism,” says store elder Jay Delon, who humbly refers to himself as the “senior guy,” despite clearly leading the staff. “We try to adapt, and not be purists, and stay curious about what people are into.” A-1 keeps things simple, which is surely part of the reason it’s become one of the best-curated record stores in the US. Originally envisioned as both a store for collectors and an alternative to the overpriced classical- and rock-oriented stores in New York’s West Village, A-1 quickly became one of the top destinations in the United States, or perhaps even the world, for jazz, soul, and rare grooves. Producers like Gangstarr’s DJ Premier, Pete Rock, The Alchemist, and Masters at Work were early regulars, buying stacks of obscure records for sampling and use in their own productions, which DJs were in turn buying and playing as soon they were released. Over time, A-1 continued to evolve, expanding its racks to include hip-hop, rock, disco, boogie, house, and techno. With each addition, A-1′s importance to NY’s music scene only grew, a notion that legendary rare-groove DJ Amir (a.k.a. Amir Abdullah, of Kon & Amir, and owner of the reissue label 180 Proof), lays out in more detail. “Hip-Hop owes a lot to A-1 Records,” he says. “Everyone from Lord Finesse to Midi Mafia shopped there and made some of their classic tunes from records they bought there.”
Since 1996, A-1 Records on Sixth Street has attracted countless vinyl enthusiasts to its bins of hip-hop, jazz, soul, disco, and house music. On any given afternoon, disc diggers discuss what white-label 12-inches they’re going to DJ, tossing out obscure names that are foreign even to the other die-hards flipping through the stacks.
Ron Morelli, one of the four employees at A-1, has seen dramatic changes in the city’s electronic music scene during his ten years of spinning vinyl. The DJ, whose discovery of punk and hardcore started him on his journey into underground music and culture, started the DIY dance music label, Long Island Electrical Systems, in 2009 to showcase gritty, analog-based techno and house. He’s also used L.I.E.S. as a vehicle to release his own music (along with co-conspirators Jason Letkiewicz and Steve Summers) under the moniker Two Dogs In a House.
The small-run 12” records that Mr. Morelli releases (many of which feature hand-stamped track listings on the dust jacket) feel intimate: it’s clear they’ve been lovingly assembled by hand. Early releases by Steve Moore and Professor Genius started the buzz that has collectors rushing to buy the releases before they hitDiscogs for quadruple their initial price.
Despite the sold-out events Mr. Morelli DJs in New York and Brooklyn and the label’s success in Europe, there’s a low-key presence to L.I.E.S. Rather than a lavish release party, L.I.E.S. artist Professor Genius first spun his latest 12″,“Hassan,” at Heathers Bar on a Thursday night. Recently, Mr. Morelli shared his thoughts on the changing face of New York’s electronic music scene and the state of record stores.
by Eric Duncan (The Standard Culture )
This Friday January 18, Le Bain welcomes two of the New York icons: Danny Krivit and Eric Duncan. While Danny has been part of New York club scene since the 60’s, Eric Duncan (of Rub’N’Tug) has made his mark on the underground parties of the 90’s. We asked Eric if he was up to interview Danny and here it is – Enjoy the trip to the Village, way, way back in the 1970s.
Eric Duncan: I have heard various stories about you over the years. Is it true you grew up in your family’s bar? When and where was this?
Danny Krivit: I grew up in Greenwich Village, New York City, in the 1960s and I literally was surrounded by music. My mother was an accomplished jazz singer and my father was the manager of legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker before he went on to open up “The Ninth Circle”, a Village hot spot on West 10th Street just west of Greenwich Ave, where I also worked as a boy. It was here that I met some of the most influential people in the music scene: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Mingus, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, amongst others. The Mothers of Invention lived down the hall from me, and Sid Bernstein (Manager of The Rascals) lived upstairs, the Rascals would regularly pop down to our house to practice most of their future hits on our piano. At school, a close friend and classmate of mine was Creed Taylor Jr, son of Creed Taylor, the production genius behind many artists who recorded on the VERVE, C.T.I. and KUDA labels. I remember always hanging out at his house with his father trying to introduce us to his musicians, people like Freddie Hubbard, Hank Crawford, and Stanley Turrentine… I was maybe 11. I didn’t really know who they were yet. [Read More]