After 35 years DJing, Tony Humphries has done it all. Twice. From holding down the legendary Zanzibar, from which much of the scene to come would find their inspiration, to KISS FM and some of the touchstone records of the last 20 years released on Yellorange and Tony Records – Tony Humphries has upheld a unique standard of excellence for DJs in the House Music scene.
We had a brief chat about what’s happening in the world of Tony Humphries – from playing with Louie Vega and David Morales as the Kings of House to forging new alliances with labels like Running Back and Soul Clap – ahead of Tony’s return to Smartbar this coming Friday June 24 2016 as part of Queen’s Pride kick off.
Where are you right now?
I’m at home! I’m at my place in East Orange.
Are you just ending a tour, getting on a tour or is life just a constant tour?
I actually haven’t been traveling too much at all. I’ve been staying at home in my backyard here – which is basically the opposite of what I used to do. It’s important to have yourself planted and take care of your home base!
It helps of course that Brooklyn has become such a hotspot in the last couple of years. It’s really starting to grow up with people moving in and new businesses opening all the time. There are some great places there and of course in Manhattan with David Morales and Louie Vega and my Kings of House brothers.
What are you doing in terms of production? I remember that Tony Records was one of the first labels to ever send us promos when we first started out 11 years ago.
Really?! Yeah, after Yellorange Records came Tony Records. Right now I’m working on a new album with Tony Varnado that we’ll be releasing under the name “T Times Two.” I also have Housework 3, the third of my Housework series, coming out. I’ve done a mix for Gerd Janson’s Running Back label as well.
Is that a remix or a DJ mix for Running Back?
It’s a DJ mix from their catalog as well as a few new things. I just did that a couple of weeks ago. And there’s a record on Soul Clap that I remixed called “Clap Both Your Hands.”
You’ve got that huge legacy of Zanzibar and running a legendary residency for more than a decade. Could someone create that kind of new and inspiring party today?
Well you can’t really compare two things like that, especially something as established and running as long as Zanzibar was. It wouldn’t be fair. It’s like in basketball – you can’t say one guy’s team is better than another!
Zanzibar ran for 15 years, and I think the longevity is because we started off by seeking a multicultural core. If you start with that – whether it’s a bar or a basement doesn’t matter, that’s what you can build on.
And I see this happening now. Places and groups are popping up, sometimes old groups with new names, sometimes entirely new people all together. Places in New York I go to – it’s shocking to see the diversity of the crowd. That’s what I think is key. Start by being inclusive, and not one dimensional or seeking one type of crowd. When you look back, the really iconic places all were multicultural melting pots. That’s the whole thing.
What are some artists that you’re feeling? You mentioned Running Back earlier – were you that familiar with their catalog?
I knew a couple of things but when I looked at the whole catalog – wow! It was great! I’ll find myself gravitating to the more soulful, gospel type stuff, the kind of stuff that Louie and David make. But getting into Running Back was really cool. I was surprised they asked me to do that, actually. Soul Clap too. I played their party in Miami, House of EFunk, and just at their place in Brooklyn – Black Flamingo – last week.
As far as new music though, I’ve been listening to Boof – that’s Maurice Fulton’s project – and some re-edits of some classics that Tony V has put together. There’s Jeno and the Wicked Crew, I like what they do. Mark E too. Louie’s new album – there are 28 songs on that and they’re all good, and Morales’ stuff takes care of the soulful side of things for me. Kind of half classic, revamped Brooklyn classics.
You played with David and Louie at the Frankie Tribute at Smartbar. What did that mean to you?
Oh, it was wonderful. When it comes to Frankie Knuckles, you know how we all feel. He was a God to us! I miss him. He gave me so many breaks and was supportive to people in ways that not all that many folks know about. He pulled me out of retirement from remixing and production for “Let’s Stay Home.” I’ll get emotional if I keep talking about it!
How do you like playing at Smartbar?
I really like the place, it reminds me of some places here in New York that are gone now like Filter 14 and Melons. The FK tribute party, the Queen Party – those were great. I mean I’m not advertising for a job for myself here but it’s the kind of place I’d love to be a resident at! I could see coming out once a month to play. Hey, it’s close! And I like the people that run it. It feels like home!
Get Inside: Originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #133 featuring Vincent Floyd, Karizma, Tony Humphries, David Marston, Doc Link, Deep Club Denver and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!