A true pioneer of the art of DJing, Nicky Siano started young and burned brightly. His party, the Gallery, along with David Mancuso’s the Loft, set a template for what an underground dance music party could be. Created in a Manhattan loft space, the Gallery was an environment designed and built by Nicky and his brother Joe, an architectural engineer. It was there that Nicky pioneered beat-matching, blending and EQing to create new levels of sonic drama, and he did it on three Thorens turntables and a Bozak mixer (that means no backspinning and limited pitch control). He started going out at an early age and was by his own admission a “music fiend.”
“I was listening to Montavani,” recalls Nicky. “He was this composer and orchestra leader [who] had very lush arrangements. I was obsessed by his palette of sounds. I was also getting schooled by my brothers in the world of rock music. Laura Nyro’s compositions became a big deal for me.”
Nicky got his first major gig at a club in midtown called the Roundtable, where he would often DJ five to seven nights a week. [Read More]
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]
By Nickj – Lifelounge
Ricky Powell has lived the 20 years we all wish we had. He’s known the people we only get to see in the movies or read about in books. Our imaginations are his reality. From Cindy Crawford in the bathroom to Andy Warhol on the streets of Brooklyn, the born and bred New Yorker captures lives lived and lost.
Quitting his job at the Frozen Lemonade stall back in 1985, the iconic hip-hop/street photographer took his Minolta AF down a path of immeasurable proportions where celebrity and downright debauchery make him wonder today how he made it out alive.
Dubbed the ‘fourth member of the Beastie Boys’, Powell became their unofficial photographer during the late ’80s and early ’90s. He quickly gained notoriety for his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and for the photos that followed shortly thereafter.
His nonchalance shouldn’t be confused with irreverence but with his Jersey drawl, his ‘home-boy’ slouch and his womanising ways, he certainly isn’t a bashful fella.
Jasmine Phull takes a seat on the balcony of The Cullen hotel to talk about the ‘seven hustles’ with Ricky Powell – the self-proclaimed ‘Lazy Hustler’.
Jasmine: What’s that?
Ricky: That’s a transistor radio, baby. It’s my lifeline.
J: Do you listen to a specific radio station?
R: I just flip it around. Wherever I go I have a transistor. I need a soundtrack wherever I go.
J: It’s very ’70s. So this won’t be too much of integration. In fact, I think you may just come out of this alive.
R: You can ask me whatever you want.
J: Ok. Let’s talk about the influence of music. During the late ’80s and ’90s you were really ingrained in the music culture and your photos only highlight that. Describe the impact that the ‘evolution’ of the music industry has had on you and your work over the past 15 years?
R: To me, contemporary music just blows. Culture has just gotten toy. Generally speaking. You gotta look for the good stuff. The shit that’s force-fed from the media is weak. Terrible.
J: So has the focus of your work changed?
R: Yea. I don’t go out to clubs anymore. A lot of cornballs have replaced a lot of cool people. I kinda feel resentful about that. Not just cause they’re new people but cause they got a wack sense of self-entitlement. They have no substance. The neighbourhood that I live in, Greenwich Village, is full of that. A lot of the original people are gone and the people that have replaced them are ‘new jacks’ who think they’re cool because of the clothes they’re wearing. [Read More]
BPM Interview #14
It’s early in the evenings set at LOVE and I am playing a Balearic classic, a Mike Francis record with emblematic 80’s production, rich vocals, acoustic guitar and lush synthesizer washes. I just can’t believe how good it sounds, the warmth of the record, the fidelity of the mid range, the soft weight of the lows. I’m playing the record on a technics 1210 with a modified SME tone arm; it’s passing through a customized Urei mixer and emerging from an analogue sound system designed by this month’s interviewee Gary Stewart.
GSA (Gary Stewart Audio) has been a premier designer of club sound systems since the early 80’s. He has taken up the mantle of analogue sound design from its principle architect, the late Richard Long. In fact it was the result of an epiphany that occurred to Gary while poring over Richard’s late design notes: The supple and dynamic sonic range he wanted his systems to represent could be found in the modulation of an analogue structure. I recently sat down with Gary to cover his history and see what brought him to that revelatory point.
DK: OK Gary, how did you get to be the “Sound Guy” (laughter)
GS: I actually started as a musician; I had studied with a Gene Dell (a jazz guitarist) and was at the Manis College of music for trumpet, it was time for classical theory and the jump to the piano, and I made the jump to Studio 54. (laughter)
DK: A different kind of schooling…
GS: I would be there six or seven nights a week, the sound was so dramatic, it was a Richard Long system, they had the 3 way “Waldorf” horn loaded boxes, The “Levan” sub-bass horns, “Z” tweeter arrays and the “Ultima” stacks, with Richards 3-way crossover…it was like nothing I had ever experienced before, the records being played sounded so fresh, above and beyond the way I had heard them prior. Eventually I met Richard there one night, I was like “who are you”? The experience of that system changed the way I felt about music, it was really sublime.
DK: How did you transition into setting up systems?
GS: When I was about 19 I had started building Dynaco stereo products from a kit. I did it with my dad as a hobby, we weren’t that good, and invariably would have to take our stuff for repair, but I remember a service guy telling me my soldering work was very tight. I stayed with it, not really projecting a career but just enjoying it. I remember I once tried to test an amplifier with a toaster as a load, (laughter) don’t try that at home. I accrued more and more components over time. [Read More]
Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.) is exemplary of the private press label renaissance of recent years. Its releases largely draw upon the output of gifted friends and quintessences, are pressed up with few frills (and occasionally hand-stamped white labels), and have garnered rave reviews and full-throated DJ support with little or no promotion. Yet its founder, Ron Morelli, was initially reluctant to jump into the label game and shows no interest in seeking the spotlight. That hasn’t stopped it from finding him, based on the strength of records by Jason Letkiewicz (aka Steve Summers/Malvoeaux), Legowelt, Willie Burns, Steve Moore, Maxmillion Dunbar, and Marcos Cabral. He’s also introduced the world to the talents of erstwhile unknowns Terekke, Vapauteen, XOSAR, and Svenghalisghost, with more likely to follow. And while L.I.E.S. has hosted a range of techno and house aesthetics, an overarching punk ethos — via bruisingly raw and utterly human sonics — unites its first 12 records. LWE sat down with Morelli to discuss the label’s prolific last year and future plans, his straightforward A&R choices, and his feelings on New York’s contemporary club scene. He also contributed Talking Shopcast 15, an effortlessly diverse and eminently replayable mix recorded before his shift at A1 Records. [Read More]
BMG aka Electromorph recounts the stormy history of Detroits musical heritage.
Their name says it all – Masters At Work. ‘Little’ Louie Vega and Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez celebrate 20 years together, channeling dance music down new paths with their inventive production style and imaginative feel for different musical forms. The two native New Yorkers have amassed an overwhelming body of work including hundreds of original productions and defiantly mix everything they can find – house, hip hop, funk, disco, Latin, African and jazz – into a universal groove. XLR8R’s Shawn Reynaldo sits down with them on the couch during Red Bull Music Academy’s ‘New York City to SF Bay’ lecture series in San Francisco to discuss the start of their careers and dissolving the barriers between genres.
Lecture: Stretch and Bobbito (San Francisco, 2012) from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.
Pioneering college hip hop radio jocks Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito sit down on the couch for an interview with rap scholar Chairman Jefferson Mao, touching down on the beauty of unprofessional radio and the joy of igniting careers for countless artists like Jay Z, Nas, and Mobb Deep. The interview took place during the Red Bull Music Academy’s ‘New York City To the SF Bay’ lecture series in San Francisco. Oh yeah, and the whole thing is also pretty damn funny.
By Dennis Kane (MAGNETIC)
Six Cups Of Rebel, released today, is the new studio album from Hans-Peter Lindstrom. In addition to his prior effort, 2008’s (Where You Go I Go Too), There are the collaborative full lengths with Christabelle, (Real Life Is No Cool), and three with long time associate Prins Thomas (I, II, and Reinterpretations). Lindstrom also has a seemingly unending list of 12-inches, (including one under the moniker of Six Cups of Rebel), and remixes for a long list on notables including: Tosca, Bryan Ferry, LCD Soundsystem and Franz Ferdinand.
On the occasion of this new release Magnetic contributor and Disques Sinthomme/Ghost Townhoncho Dennis Kane broke out the iPad and had an extended chat with Hans-Peter about the new work, music and the vertigo induced by the iPad view of two moving subjects.
DENNIS KANE: YO, SORRY I MISSED YOU YESTERDAY, YOU GOOD? DOING TONS OF PRESS STUFF?
Hans-Peter Lindstrom: It is not so bad actually, I did some earlier, but things have quieted down a bit. Are you in NYC?
Electronic Beats sat down and had the opportunity to interview a Detroit Techno Pioneer, Derrick May. Derrick speaks about todays Electronic Music scene, how DJ’s come and go, Who’s responsible for todays “Circus”, and how he still active in the Club scene.
“Wherever the music comes from, if there is no focus behind it then it’s just noise” – Derrick May
Derrick recalls when two men confronting him asking “Ya man your into a Dubstep? So happy to see you play this shit man” and let’s them and everyone know he doesn’t stand behind no particular genre. “It’s Music man, i just dig it. I don’t know where the fuck it comes from. It’s just cool shit” and goes on by saying “It’s cool, i like it, i play it. I don’t care where it comes from. Im happy it is part of some particular movement and Im able to jump on board but i didn’t mean to, I just like Music”. [Read More]
By Jose Luis Benavides (Gozamos)
Thanks for your time Antonio. If you don’t mind I’d like to start off by getting to know you. Where you from? How old are you? and what’s one of your first memories of music?
I’m Puerto Rican. Born in “El Barrio”, NYC and raised in the South Bronx.
First memories of music were in my home and from neighbors and the community as a whole. There was always music playing in my home. My mother played records while she cooked, cleaned and even when we were just lounging. She mostly played traditional Puerto Rican music, Classic Salsa, Boleros (Daniel Santo, Los Angeles Negro, etc) and what I call ‘Jibaro’ music which is played by a guitar called a Cuatro (4 string guitar – I love the sound of it). In Puerto Rico, back in the day, they’d used these songs to tell stories of events that were happening in other villages. My brother used to also play all of the cool stuff like Osibisa, War, etc and some Rock including Santana when he first came out.
[KDJ]Ok..You got a stool or somethin’?
[GP]Do you feel it important Kenny to sort of cover yourself up and to play records behind screens and..
[KDJ] Yeah yeah yeah , most definitely
[GP]Wear masks and stuff
[KDJ] Yeah yeah yeah…
[GP] Why’s that?
[KDJ] Well people pay too much attention to the damn DJ , you know , the talent is sitting on the turntables , you know. My attitude used to be that so yeah.. I’m not there to put on no little bit of dancing – indecipherable] I’m there to present some talents on the turntable, not , you know, the cat behind the turntable.
[GP] So you’re kinda reluctant celebrity DJ, you’re just a selecta
[KDJ] Maybe take celebrity out..and you pretty much got it right.. You know, I’m doing my thing if you’re looking for a hot DJ I’m probably the wrong person to call. There so many hot dj’s , there’s so much talent out there. I didn’t get into all of this to do all that. But it’s a blessing at the same time, you got the opportunity to share to much with so many people at one time. [Read More]
by Alex R. Mayer - EDGE
“I never thought of myself as just playing records, but creating atmosphere.” – Nicky Siano
Think of today’s biggest DJs, the ones that everyone watches and listens to; the DJs of DJing if you will. Think about their tricks and techniques, the way they select and mix their records, and the energy and atmosphere they create on their dancefloors. Now, think about the DJs who came before them, such as Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan. Those DJs who influenced today’s
spinners, were guided musically and philosophically by a man who pioneered the art of mixing on three turntables, who first got audiences to sing records back to the DJ and who made everyone stop dancing and look up at the DJ booth of Studio 54.
Nicky Siano heard and saw something in the music and nightlife of the early 1970s that transcended the accepted norms of that time. The dance music community had come together out of a need for expression, and a declaration of their rights. The music reflected the many intense social and political issues of the time, including the Vietnam War and the Stonewall uprising. When people came together to dance, it was a safe haven, if only for the night. It was also a way to communicate collectively, something which DJs such as Siano and David Mancuso realized early on. [Read More]
By Bianca Von Baum- Halcyon
Aaron Davis (aka VDRK) and Joel Fowler (aka Free Magic), the team behind New York’s successful party Discovery, are obsessed with music. Barely two minutes into meeting the duo for a tête-à-tête, they’re already talking shop, dropping names like Chez Damier and M.K., humming tunes and playfully bargaining over a Kerri Chandler record. With this kind of banter going on, you know you’re in the company of good taste. Their shared love for quality Disco and House, combined with their strong bond and passion for DJing are the essential ingredients that have attributed to the party’s success. Currently a monthly affair, Discovery takes place in the Soho basement of Santos Party House where they pack out the place with an enthusiastic, and fun-loving crowd. The event boasts a history of strong headliners, from Detroit’s Deep House maestros, Norm Talley and Scott Grooves to Metro Area, Trus’me and San Soda. With their second anniversary coming up this September, the team is showing no signs of slowing down. Ahead of their monthly hoedown this weekend with headliner Eddie C, we caught up with the team and chatted about Discovery’s early beginnings, party monkeys, and dreaming of Disco palaces. [Read More]