Monday, August 10, 2009
idjut boys (and dimitri from paris) interview version 2
Part Two of my Idjuts interview, stemming from my Skype chat with them and Dimitri From Paris that ran as "Paradise Garage Regained" in the Voice a minute ago.
When’s the last time you were all in New York City?
Conrad: That would be last World Cup finals.
Dimitri From Paris: We were together.
Dan: It was great. We finished the day with some French people and Alex from Tokyo, in a little Italian restaurant. It was fairly amicable. There was a fair amount of liquor drunk and music poorly put together.
When you think about NYC at the time, as opposed to London and Paris, what separated it musically? Why did disco happen here rather than in another urban center?
DfP: As far as I’m concerned, my whole musical influences started from New York. I was a fan of all the dance music coming out of there when I was 17. I always lived in Paris, that was in the early 80s, where I started noticing that all the music I was liking was produced by some New York guys. The first time I went here was in 1986, I was already collecting music and Djing in ’82-’83—so I was just hoping I would go there and see how it was. It did play a very strong part with mythical clubs and mythical producers. I didn’t go to Paradise Garage, the one I would’ve like, as it closed down sadly a month before I first went to New York. The rest are legends I read about. But I experienced Better Days, the Palladium, Area. So the first time I went to clubs in New York, I realized just from the technical point of view, it was just another world. It actually sounded good, people were there for the music, they were dancing, there was a whole different vibe. It made sense with the music coming out of there. It did live up to the New York of my mind. I met Arthur Baker, Shep Pettibone popped in, The Latin Rascals. For me, I was a kid in a candy store. There was a real energy you could feel.
Idjuts, you had a chance to see Larry Levan in the early 90s.
C: Same thing as Dimitri, I guess, digging a lot of music of that era in the 80s and then years later finding out more about it. We never went to any of the clubs. The music that was popular in the clubs there that crossed over here, things were happening even though the clubs were very different. The gay scene of New York was integral in that. In a similar way to Dimitri, in the music we played and the music we make that aesthetic, New York was an influence on that and the obvious ccharacters from that. We’ve seen Francois K. play years ago in London. That was mind-blowing, seeing someone with a reel-to-reel. We went “Wow,” that’s a different way to DJ.
D: Maybe that the ethos of this music, it being drawn from many different sources and put into a melting pot, I think that’s what’s lasted from then till now anyway, the fact that ---even though I’ve never been to the Garage—it wasn’t the pounding kickdrum all night, the music would be varied and go different places. We were into Harvey and his parties and musically they were like that. We got to see Kenny Carpenter and Tony ____ when they came to London. That’s how I got New York from the DJs. The freeness in the music if anything else really.
So many ethnicities and minority parties come together. Maybe New York could foster it where other places didn’t.
DfP: I don’t really know what was so special about New York and why we were so influenced by it. We didn’t know anything about the city, we were only getting the music. Dan mentioned Francois Kevorkian. On record labels I was reading his name and every time I listened to his production I went “Wow, this guy is amazing.” And more than anyone else I would read his name. I had no idea who this guy was other than he had a French sounding name. I didn’t know he was a DJ. There was no information we could really get. It was primarily the music that made us like New York rather than New York made us like the music. It’s a big difference from how things evolved in clubs. Clubs became more of a place to party rather than a place to listen to music. I guess the music was of a quality that really appealed to us. It was diverse and creative, there was a lot of creative things. How those guys were DJing was like no one else we heard before. Same goes for me when I first heard Francois, and he still DJs like no one else I know. And he’s nearly 60 years old! Primarily, it’s the music.
How hard was it to come across these records? Before the internet and finding everything.
C: (Tittering) We ended up in a garage in San Francisco that was owned by a record rack. We spent two days in there amid piles of records.
D: Mid-90s. We have been to secondhand shops in London. Traveling around is a good way to consume music. You find different stuff in different places and that’s always been a winner.
C: The music that was popular in New York was bought, imported, it was all here secondhand, lots of it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, it seems to be endless.
DfP: I agree on this.
C: You’d know, man. It’s easier now, man.
DfP: There’s eBay now. A lot of people just got into selling records because it was a lucrative business. There are good and bad things about the internet. Traveling was a huge chance for us to buy records. Wherever we were, or if there was a thrift store. I would wake up early in the morning just to go to record stores. We are really record freaks. It was just vocal exchanges of information. The first time we met, we just chatted about record “Do you know this? Do you know that?” And I went back home with like ten new songs I didn’t know. And then you start searching for that. People who thought alike would meet eventually and exchange what we know. And that’s how the information circulated.
Disco and dance music, it’s not like there’s this centralized knowledge or this canon. You have to go out, you have to see DJs play this record. Did any tracks surprise you when Dimitri handed you the masters?
D: It goes without saying, Dimitri has always been a source of great music. I didn’t know a couple of tracks. What was fun about it was that there were tracks we'd hammered, played lots over the years. It was nice to be asked to do it. Obviously, a lot of that music was dear to me. Wuf Ticket “The Key,” it’s difficult not to take that when you travel to DJ. There’s great tracks all over.
C: Serious Intention's “You Don’t Know,” I’ve worn out two copies of that record. The Rah Band we didn’t know.
D: We were Rah Band virgins.
DfP: That’s a good example. I owed it to this other DJ, P Wax. I used to hate that song. I really didn’t like it and then he started playing it and I went “What the hell is that?” I wound up liking something that I used to hate. That’s the beauty of remixes. That’s also why I put Wham! in there because everyone goes “it’s impossible, they cannot be good.” Just open your ears and listen for yourself. When some guy gets inspired by what he finds on the master tapes, you can just make magic. Rah Band and Wham are great examples of how you can turn cheesy pop songs into something that is really ground-breaking.
Why did you pick Dan and Conrad?
DfP: I did this compilation and while I love dub, I don’t play this as much as they would do it. I play clubs that are more “Saturday night” and I felt they did it much better than me. I knew from the history we had together that they would be into some of those tracks. I just asked them and it just happened. We had discussed it in a club in Japan kind of casually. Like Idjut Boys said, Serious Intention and Wuf Ticket indeed. If you do that, you cannot bypass those tracks. It is impossible.
Let’s talk about dub reggae and how it got infused with New York disco and the resultant odd mutation, those effects made to bear on this music.
C: Yeeeeah. We had a track we had done for something. Yesterday we listened to it without all the effects. We can really overdo it, and often do. It’s the element of space… and you confuse many different kinds and juxtapose sounds and genres together, and when it’s fed through delay and reverb, and it freaks the music out. And we like the freak, to be honest. I guess that’s why it stays.
DfP: We get some echo and feedback on this and it’s perfect.
D: Sometimes a man can turn too many knobs. Don’t play with your knobs too much. When you first encounter that kind of music, be it reggae or electronic synthesizer music, dub music, or the music here, when I first heard that in the club, sonically it had so much more resonance than some of the other stuff that was played beside it, simply because of the space the effects put into it, a drama accentuating various points on the record. Obviously, someone who is the master of that and as a DJ is François, if you want to reference how to do that, and he’s done that on all manners of music, not just on this compilation. He’s done it for rock bands and a lot of it. Obviously, since we’ve known Dimitri as well, a lot of his productions apply that. He does great edits and manages to do it but not do it excessively.
DfP: I would like to add about Francois… He’s been playing at Cielo every Monday. Every time I go to new York, I make a point to go there and sit down to listen to him. even if he plays music I don’t like, the way he plays it is striking. It’s like I’m getting a lecture in music from him. I love it. He’s like those old African tribal guys, who passes the history on to the younger kids orally. He’s one of those guys.
So how did you guys meet?
DfP: Paris is Burning. It was the second Respect party, in 1997. Respect did the first one with some annoying kids called Daft Punk and I was asked to do the second one. I think Daft Punk booked Maurizio. My choice was Idjut Boys, as I loved their U-Star label. It’s in Japan that people played them the most. They had that dub sound that I loved and I never heard anyone do it like this before apart form the original guys. They came to play Respect and we talked shop for hours and that was it.
You guys want to talk about the live mix?
C: Pretty much. We got BBE to hire a Pioneer mixer and two CDJs. To be honest it was interesting as we don’t play off CD, so it was a bit of a learning curve. We just wanted it to sound like playing records in a club. We did it at night in our studio and turned the lights down and had a few drinks and just went about it as if we were playing these records out. To be honest, that seemed the most appropriate thing to do rather than make it tight.
D: We played with Dimitri in LA a few years ago. We had our usual 15 bags of records. Dimitri shows up and is --if you didn’t already know— a fierce record collector and says “I only play CDs now” and proceeded to play seamlessly a load of disco to a big room. It’s only taken about another five years for us to get on the CD revolution. We still play lots of vinyl. A lot of places we go now, more clubs are geared towards CDs now. It’s easier than breaking your back toting records.
DfP: I wanted to add something about the mix. I was happy that they did it. I know I’m a little bit more anal and would’ve spent hours taking the life out of it making it perfect. They made it exciting and it goes together with the way those records were made back then. You had to do the FX as the tracks would go. That’s on the records we hear today because of that vibe and they replicated that vibe on the mix.
DfP: The whole club scene hasn’t been about music and hasn’t been in awhile. I think these are historical pieces that were only available as B-sides of vinyl 12”s. They’re not so easy to find but they’re not the most obscure either. If you are just a music lover, you’ve probably heard such things before. This music is quite influential now, like the Norwegian guys and snippets in the music of Metro Area and Justice and the new French punk-electro scene. I felt it was the right moment to show up with these and say “Listen to this.” Music is always repeating itself, but sometimes you don’t now what it is repeating unless you are a proper nerd. It’s something that non-nerds can enjoy.