DJ Spun had me at Hello. “Hello” in my case was Prins Thomas’ Diskomiks, and much later the remixes of James Chance’s “Incorrigible”, but the details aren’t important. Everyone has the same story, of the one record released or played by Spun that triggered a red-eyed love affair with House Music’s most eclectic DJ & dance music’s most unconditionally lovable label.
Chicago gets a rare treat this September 7th: a Friday night with DJ Spun & Samone Roberts at the Changes party at Beauty Bar (1444 W. Chicago Ave, 9pm). And there was no way in hell this was gonna go down without talking to the man himself.
Play records, program beats, eat, record shopping, more beats, Red Dog or some party, track, track, track, sleep, repeat!
I’m not sure if I saw you or just saw the name on rave flyers back in the ’90s, but that’s when I first came across what you were doing. At the time I think you were based in California? This is a nice way to ask how you wound up being such a fixture on the scene in New York – if you can take me from there to here.
Yes, I am originally from the San Francisco Bay area and helped start the acid house scene there. I moved to NYC ten years ago to be the curator for MoMA/PS1’s Summer music series, “Warm Up”, which was a great opportunity to move to NYC and throw some of the best outdoor parties ever.
I also played in Chicago several times in the ’90s for my good friend Mystic Bill at his Vibe Alive parties which really nurtured my love of House Music and Disco. I always looked forward to going to Chicago and doing nothing but nonstop record shopping and tracking out! Something like play records, program beats, eat, record shopping, more beats, Red Dog or some party, track, track, track, sleep, repeat! I fell in love with the city and so many people who love this music as much as I do.
I have to ask about James Chance and Rong Music’s release of “Incorrigible.” I’ve been a huge fan since (and this is very un-punk) my high school English teacher turned me on to him. A couple of years ago, I’m looking for a review of the boxed set that had come out and saw you’d done the most gorgeous acid remixes of a No Wave artist, and probably the only ones. I don’t think one just does that because they think it’s got a funky beat – when did you first come across James and what can you tell me about that record?
Growing up as a punk rock kid with an affection for anything weird and unusual I have been a fan of James Chance since I was a teen. We had a distribution deal in Japan with Musicmine and our label rep Goshi Manabe lived in NYC and was working closely with James on the box set and also trying to release some of his new material. Goshi and James really wanted to see some vinyl on the project as well as a different take on the sound, and saw us as a way to bridge the gap to the current dance punk sound, so they came to us with the idea.
Sal P. and Dennis Young of Liquid Liquid also did a remix with our good friend Brennan Green which came out great as well. We also licensed his track “King Heroin” for our “Notwave” compilation featuring mostly new bands with a more modern take on the No Wave sound, but we also wanted to include a few older tracks. Needless to say we were very honored to have a chance to meet and work with someone we have both admire and have been inspired by…
I suppose I want to ask the same question about Coati Mundi. I’d guess that any label run by any A&R guy with a decent knowledge of music would kill to get new material from Coati Mundi. How did that come about?
Wow! Coati Mundi is another huge inspiration and one of the most brilliantly talented, exuberant and hilariously funny “entertainers” that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Our artist Lee Douglas met Coati through friends and collaborated on a couple tracks with ELove and Coati. When we found out about this we had to put out the music!
The album met a fair amount of critical acclaim and we are so proud of it! But somehow I feel it never seemed to get the audience it deserved. I really don’t understand it. To me it sounded like a hit record. All the heads loved it but we couldn’t get it to the masses.
I think the major labels had similar problems with Dr. Buzzards and Kid Creole and the Coconuts so I guess in retrospect I am not surprised that with our limited resources we didn’t quite have the success we had hoped for but we are so proud of this album! I highly suggest you all go out and find it – Coati Mundi is Dancing For the Cabana Code in The Land of Boo-Hoo. It’s a great update to Coati’s sound and such a fun record with beautiful packaging designed by Doug Lee.
Would you say these two folks are indicative of your youthful inspirations? Who else (or what else) would be included in that conversation?
Skateboarding, Punk Rock, P-funk, Hip Hop, James Brown. Also my parents listened to a lot of Jazz and Fusion which had a much bigger effect than I realized at the time. You can hear a more mature take on a lot of the inspirations on the upcoming Originals CD on UK label Claremont 56.
How do you know the crazy beat characters from Fresh Meat/Loves?
I met Samone years not long after I moved to NYC while I had a residency at APT. She was visiting the city and was at the club checking out the sound and our friendship started from there. I think we have the same type of love for the history of all this music as well as a passion for the new, offbeat and different.
How long has it been since you’ve been back to Chicago to play and what are you looking to do at Changes?
The last time I played in Chicago was for Mystic Bill at his Disco party Roots. I’d say that was seven or more years ago!
I am really excited to be headed back to Chicago, it’s been way too long… I look forward to bringing together a little bit of all that has come before while creating something new and vital and in the present with you all… It’s PARTYTIME!