When I was 10 and 11 I used to go to roller-skating rinks in Brooklyn. The main places were Roll-a-Palace, United Skates of America and Park Circle.
Roll-a-Palace was pure white Italian Disco heaven. United Skates on 86th st (which was the real birth of Disco in Brooklyn, was same. United Skates on Fort Hamilton Parkway was a mix of white, black and hispanic. Park Circle was almost all Puerto Rican and they were the most incredible skaters you’d see. There used to be crews that would battle (pre-Break dancing) and at same time as Uprocking was out (another street dance which existed before break dancing).
Music at all of these places was great. When I was 12, I went to my first proper “teen disco” called Patches which was right next door to Roll-a-Palace. I remember hearing Slave “Just a touch of love” as soon as I walked in. A great time for music.
As for radio. There was 99X which turned into 98.7 Kiss, Disco 92 and WBLS. All were very important to me. They each had their own style and format, and education was there. Shep Pettibone on Kiss, Latin Rascals, Dynamic Duo on Disco 92, Frankie Crocker on WBLS. You couldn’t get better than this.
Tell us about your time as senior director of A&R for Atlantic Records and some of the best-loved tracks you signed to the label?
I actually worked with hundreds of artists and signed only a few. I picked up an album buy this artist Princessa which was in the Warner family, I signed Kings of Tomorrow “Finally”, Dj Spiller “Groovejet” and a bunch of others. My favorite album I signed was Christian Falk (great album).
As for my A&R work: Everything But The Girl “Missing” is my biggest song internationally, Tori Amos “Professional Widow” was big, The Bucketheads “The Bomb” which is on my label Henry Street Music, was also big. My favorite song I ever A&R’d was Jordan Hill “For the love of you” mixed by Tony Moran. Tony killed it!
Your label Henry Street Music released many seminal records. How did the label come into existence and can you tell us about some of your favourite releases?
Tommy Musto and I were leaving Sound Factory Bar on a Wednesday night (when Louie Vega was resident) that club was like church. We were there every week – rain, shine. We left about 3:30 in the morning and while outside getting into our cars, Tommy and I shook hands and agreed that I’d start label through his distribution company (Northcott Productions), I’d A&R and do what I wanted and he and company would do pressing and distribution.
As for favorite releases. I love almost everything on the label. I was very picky about what I put out and still am today. Obviously the big names gave me crazy songs. Songs that I really love – Armand “Hey Baby”, The Force “Non-stop action” (King Britt), JohNick “Play the world”, That Kid Chris, 95 North, Robbie Tronco. There are so many and I don’t want to make anyone mad. Kenny gave me crazy stuff. I love Ashley Beedle’s ep which he did with Phil Asher.
How do you feel today’s dance music compares with the past – which producers excite you now?
Unfortunately, the music and the world today is a different place. When I started the label, records, stores, were all relevant. In this digital age it’s impossible to get a hold on what is going on. It’s all moving so fast and is it working? We need people to like our facebook pages?? follow us on Twitter??? what the fuck?? it’s actually ridiculous. I still try to find the right songs and producers. I’m actually still working with a lot of my old people. The irony is that my stuff is being very well received right now as I’m remastering and re-releasing it all digitally. So much of the stuff that is out, is stuff I put out but now sampled bad and some bad vocal on top. I’m not optimistic about where it’s going but I’m very happy and proud of what I have and built and intend on keeping it going as long as I can.
How did you choose the tracks for your new collection for BBE:Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms. Any standout memories from when you first heard these records played?
As for the way the project came about. Pete and I go back to the beginning when he started BBE and I always wanted to do this project. We discussed it for years. For one reason or another, timing wasn’t right. I do have to say that Dave Lee and others put together some great Disco cd’s over the years thru BBE so they covered a lot of what I would have. If I had it my way, I’d probably have 10 Prelude Records on this but for licensing purposes and demands from labels, it’s not something that is easy or makes sense financially. So my process was basically, I came up with a crazy list of about 60 songs and thru approvals and where my head was, I came up with the shell. I filled in here and there and came up with this list. At the end of the day, I couldn’t be more happy with the end result. I think for people who know me, they will understand it and expect the different styles. For people who don’t know, I feel this is a refreshing selection. I also did 2 different mixes which I also haven’t seen done before (1 for digital and 1 for physical cd).
Just about every song on here is personal to me.
Cerrone “Look for love” is the ultimate Disco song and a record which was supported by black dj’s playing James Brown funk and breaks so that story is nice.
Jimmy Bo Horne “Spank” was probably my most played song since I’ve been dj’ing. Between gigs, and tapes and radio, it always seemed to find its way on my turntables (hear that kids – not my hardrive, not my Traktor, not my Macbook, the vinyl was on my turntable!!)
Spencer Jones “How to win your love” was like a secret weapon song for me. Nicky P (my partner – JohNick) and I are the only people who play and played this record.
The System “It’s passion” is a great overlooked song which really was in a class by itself as it was post-Disco, Electro, I don’t know what you’d call it. It’s hot and mic is a personal friend of mine.
Ashford & Simpson “One more try” – I have been blessed to have produced their last album (hits, rarities and remixes) and became good friends with nick and val. I invited them to a gig I did in May and they showed up with brother Jimmy (possibly the best remixer ever) and it was Nick’s birthday and they left Quincy Jones at their club (Sugar Bar) to see me. That meant a lot. I always loved this song and its very valuable as a 12” disco single (selling upwards of $750 when you can find it). I’ll always remember the night i was doing my notes and thank you’s for this cd, my Blackberry started vibrating like crazy and I read Nick and passed. Whoa! That really fucked me up. He was such a talent and a great guy. I had no idea he was sick. When you sit and look and listen to what he and Val did together, it’s pretty hard to comprehend. I had asked Val early on about use for my comp and she told me yes and I’m very happy that they are on my first legit project as they have been part of my life since birth having listened to them on radio and tv just about every day. I remember one of my first shopping days for 12”s in 1979 I bought “Found a cure” from Colony Records on Broadway in NYC.