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The Pioneers & Innovators of Dance Music

Discussion in 'House Room' started by mondo, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. mondo

    mondo TRIBE Promoter

    On the final day of the conference, Billboard unleashed it's most dynamic panel yet with Step Back in Time: The Pioneers & Innovators of Dance Music. Featuring industry veterans Jocelyn Brown, Nicky Siano, Gloria Gaynor, Fran├žois K., Tommy Silverman, Mel Cheren, Jellybean Benitez and Nile Rodgers (only Tom Moulton was a no-show), this panel was rich in the history, success and knowledge gained from some of the most important leaders in the field. Moderated by Billboard's own voice of the underground, Dance Tracks writer Michael Paoletta, the standing room only crowd was treated to a unique exchange that featured gossip, innuendo, and conflict - all the things that make New York nightlife what it is! Here are the highlights?!


    Nicky Siano on the creative process and the current state of New York nightlife?



    Nicky:
    I think that what happens in a recording studio when you interact with other people is that there's an energy you share - it's a spiritual kind of energy. You join that energy together and create a project that not only has your energy, but it has the other person's energy [as well].

    I just did a remix of an old record of mine called "Tiger Stripes" and I was working on this track, alone, at my house on the computer. Then someone else came in [up-and-comer, Jon Martin] and they added their energy to the project, and it made it better - I allowed that to happen. You know, sometimes we get so caught up in our own ego and pride, that we don't allow other spiritual influences or other elements to come into our realm and to help us. I think that everything can really add to the experience?we should be open to letting the experience unfold rather than control it and make it what you think it should be. Sometimes, the thing you think it should be in your head, is not always the best thing. Keep it all open to the higher plan.
    [nicky siano]

    The experience I see is that everything has become more club-driven, than DJ-driven. I think that Studio 54 was the first place where that shifted - where it started to become about the club, and since then (well, Garage in the 80's), but what other party has broken through? Body & Soul has broken through. I hope we're making a mark with Twelve West [now defunct], but I think today it's more about the club in a sense. I think how we [can] take back our power, is by joining together - talking to each other. I encourage dialog. There was one thing back then?all my friends were DJs and we talked about what we were playing, where we got our records, how they could get a copy, and that kind of community I don't see existing here. I would love that... I'm very open to that.


    Radio vs Clubs for working a record - then and now - the heat rises?

    Fran├žois K: What radio?

    Mel Cheren: We were very fortunate in the 70's to have a radio station like WBLS with someone like Frankie Crocker; Mike Wells at KTU; and Barry Mayo at KISS -they understood the power of the clubs. Frankie, [who would come to the Garage] was up in the booth night after night. Frankie came in one Friday night, and he heard Loose Joints, "Is It All Over My Face", -- Monday it was on the radio. Today, you have to have a special dispensation from God and $45 grand. Today, radio is designed by people living in some other state or some foreign country and it just doesn't make any sense?


    FK: Yes, it does make sense!


    MC: Why?

    [Francois Kervokian]



    FK: Because advertisers pay for a certain ratio of listeners; they guarantee that they are attracting a certain amount of listeners so?

    MC: But Francois?

    FK: It's just a business, you should know!


    MC: But Francois?


    FK: Look, nobody is disagreeing with you, but the problem is that radio in those days was not run like a business. There was still an element of passion and interest left in it. Today it's run like a complete business. It probably will cost you about fifty-five million dollars to purchase an FTC license to broadcast in the city of New York. Then it will cost you an average of 20-30 million dollars a year to run a staff - all these things that it takes to run a radio station are in the way of programming the music you want. You are only going to play the music that your advertisers want you to play.


    Tommy: [Radio] really doesn't matter to me?radio will come and go. About two weeks after KTU - 92 KTU - started on the air, and within a month after KTU's first book (ratings report), the format went to #1. About fifty other cities around the country switched over from country to dance music. There was no market place for this and within six months, those stations stopped playing disco and happily declared disco dead. But you know what, by year-end, there were dance records in the American Top Ten. It never changed, it was just the consumer perception. Whether the radio plays dance music or doesn't play dance music, it has nothing to do with the success of dance music. Dance music is the shit! It was always the shit and it will always be the shit! Today, radio has nothing to do with passion.

    And then there was some gossip?
    [Michael Paoletta, Mel Cheren, Jelly Bean Benitez & Nile Rodgers]


    Michael: Nile Rodgers, a secret story about Diana Ross?

    Nile: Uhhhhh?


    Nicky: I have a Diana Ross story? at Studio 54, the record bins were built into the counter and Diana loved to sit on the records and overlook the crowd like the diva that she was. One night Ritchie Hazar was playing and umm?maybe I shouldn't tell this story...

    Crowd yells and begs for more

    Nicky continues... So Ritchie moved her forward to the dance floor which was about 30 feet below because he didn't want her to be sitting on his records. That was the end of that!

    Nile: I have a good Frankie [Crocker, now deceased] story, too. The good thing about working back in the day, at least for me, is we really chose our own destiny. Bernard [Edwards] and I, we picked the singles for the artist and the label, and we had to come up with the whole promotional campaign. You know, we came up with all the ideas and stuff so we knew that Diana's [Ross] first record was going to be called "Upside Down." And we also knew that second record would be, "I'm Coming Out". So Diana went off to dinner with Frankie, and she said "I'm working with these new boys from New York City and they wrote this song for me and I think it's really good." So Frankie listened to it and Diana came back into the studio, completely in tears and said that Frankie told her that Bernard and I had single-handedly, ruined her career. The thing that was funny about it, is that up until that moment, we really had bonded, you know what I mean? I still looked upon her as like, royalty. And the thing that was really funny, was all that I needed to console her was a drive in my car? I had this wild Porshe with like sub-woofers and stuff. So we got in my car, took off the top and went out to White Castles in Queens.

    We were in the parking lot of White Castles, pumping that song and people were coming around the car because it was new. We had just done ["I'm Coming Out"], and this was the rough mix. People were coming around the car and they were dancing and I said, ' Diana, this is how I figure out whether a record is a hit or not.' You give it to a DJ, they play it and in the old days it was just like this -- either the people danced or they didn't. Either you packed the floor or you cleared it. And that was it. We went out to White Castles and we packed the floor. Anyway, that was my story.

    Gloria Gaynor on "I Will Survive"?


    Michael Paoletta: For Gloria Gaynor, when you recorded, "I Will Survive", it was originally a B-Side, is that correct?

    Gloria Gaynor: Yes it was.

    MP: When did DJs start playing it?

    Nicky: Ritchie Kazar was the first.

    MP: Why don't you tell that story.

    GG: Well, it was originally for the B-side and when we read the lyrics, my husband/ manager and I, we thought, 'You're gonna do what and put this where?' Because we could read the lyrics and see that it was a timely tune. Anyone who heard the song would know that it was going to be a hit. The record company did not want to know; it was not something that they wanted. So I said we were going to do a show and let the audience decide. Let's take it to Ritchie?so we took it to Ritchie Kazar at Studio 54 where he played it and the audience immediately loved it. It filled up the dance floor. Ritchie was the one who played it, turned it on to all his friends -his DJ friends which is why we took it to him in the first place. We knew that he was influential and he knew what to do with this kind of record. And uh, the rest is history.

    Jocelyn Brown on "Push, Push in the Bush"?

    Michael: Jocelyn, when you were in the studio recording the Musique song, "Push, Push in the Bush", what was going on in your mind?

    (Everyone laughs!)

    Jocelyn Brown: I have to say something about this because this is a really important situation here? ladies having an opportunity to sing certain words that might mean something entirely different towards another person's ear, [but it's] not the way the words are interpreted from the lyrics themselves. Sometimes we get kind of stuck because we say certain things such as, "Ummm" or "She is so wrong". But it's not a situation about being wrong, it's about the situation of the lyrics of the song being that particular phrase. It's not that we are trying to be fresh or nasty, or unlady-like, but it's just that sometimes it causes us to do a holler, a scream, a screech or maybe a real long note to make something happen that's effective for that particular word. "Push, Push in the Bush" blew up when the singer said (singing), "You know we got to get down!" That was it - that was dope! So, don't take everything for the worse.

    From the legends, their most legendary songs?

    Michael: For everybody up here, what song has most turned your life around? Starting with Nicki?

    NS: Love is the Message. David Rodriguez and I were sitting in Dawn's office at Columbia and she said, "I only have one copy of this." So I said, 'You only have one copy of this?', and David starts looking at me because there's a copy on the floor. You know, it was dark in there but we were DJs - we could see in the dark! Well, we walked out with two copies of that record.


    JB: Patty Labelle came by with a song, it was during a crisis time - her sister's death - a song called, "If Only You Knew". That song stood out for me and still rings in my heart.

    GG: Well if I say, "I Will Survive" everyone's going to laugh?but it certainly has done so much for me. It's taken me to more than eighty countries; it's gotten me some nice fat checks - bought me plenty of shoes. Basically, what "I Will Survive" has done for me is it's broadened my scope because nothing broadens your scope like travel, and no song has taken me further in the world than "I Will Survive."

    FK: Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. If I hadn't heard that song I would probably be doing biochemical engineering for a company.

    [Francois Kevorkian and Tommy Silverman]


    TS: I was trying to think of one because there are so many for me?but I think the one record or album that's really the most important for me is Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Whenever I hear that, I close my eyes and I am right back at the Garage. Another all-time favorite, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye or "Native New Yorker" [by Odyssey]? "There But for the Grace of God"?

    [Jelly Bean and Nile Rodgers]



    JB: My main one is "Love is the Message," the next is "Power" by Earth, Wind and Fire, "City, Country, City" by War.


    [NileRodgers]


    NR: When I narrow it down, one of the key records for me was a song that we wrote for ourselves, "Good Times." That record changed everything in my life on so many levels because it was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of hip-hop and any records that would have long breakdowns, everybody was doing their thing to it. We would go out to these different clubs in the Bronx and Queens and in particular, one called Leviticus. We walked in there [one night] and the DJ was playing this record and I paused - cause you got to remember back in those days DJs used to take liberties and if you had a nice breakdown on your record, they would start rapping and doing all sorts of things over it in the booth. I heard this beat that sounded like my record, but it was different. I thought it was the DJ doing it and then he told me he bought it up on 125th Street and I said, 'You did what?!' What it showed me was that, your music can touch someone else and they use it to create something else. People, for the first time in my world, started playing with my stuff and that was very weird for me - I didn't know how to take it.

    But the other thing that I have to tell you that was unbelievable for me, was when we wrote "We Are Family" for Sister Sledge - it really taught me something about my life and something about the power of the groove. When we wrote that, they had never heard the demo - they heard it in the studio for the first time. And Jocelyn will tell you, when you hear them doing that party talk and ad-libbing, that's really what they were doing when they first heard the song - when we were first getting to know each other. I was like 'Oh, My God!' You got to understand that this whole dance thing, this whole disco thing was starting to unravel in front of our faces and even though we thought we knew what we were doing, believe it or not, we were just experimenting. But I had to try and pretend like I had it all planned? that I knew what I was doing when we were really just finding out things as we went along. [But it was] that whole act of discovery, that whole process of sharing in other people's lives that was unbelievable to me. [undaground archives]
     
  2. luvslife

    luvslife TRIBE Member

    Wow. That's really cool. :)
    Really interesting to hear them talking about Diana Ross and Club 54 like I would talk about hanging with my buddies.
     
  3. Bloom! Productions

    Bloom! Productions TRIBE Member

    great post!

    it's so important to know our ROOTS.

    peace.
    deeno
     

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