On April 15, 2021, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on WFMU, NY by Jim Dier aka DJ Small Change.
This guy knew practically everything about my professional career, even the more obscure recordings of my trajectory.
I think it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, primarily because Jim is so engaging and enthusiastic, but also because he has first-hand knowledge of my story, having followed me in all my various musical twists and turns since the ’80s.
Here’s the edited version of the interview plus the link to the episode archive which contains a lot of killer music that we both selected for the show.
Jim Dier of WFMU, New York
Jim Dier: All right, Mr. Joey Altruda. I don’t even know what to say. You’re one of my musical heroes. You know, I think you’re one of the reasons I got a fake ID back in the day to go to The King King Club.
Wow, that goes back some 30 years now. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.
JD: We used to go quite a bit. It was Wednesdays, right?
JA: Yeah. Jump With Joey every Wednesday night at The King King on 6th & La Brea, and I also hosted a Tuesday night Afro Cuban jam session there.
JD: Yeah. I think we went to one or two of those as well actually. You had a couple of nights. One was a little more Ska though. You guys always sort of mixed sounds, you know?
JA: Yes, exactly. One was a straight-up Afro Cuban Latin Jazz night. And the other one was Jump With Joey, that was Ska and Jump Blues. And then we really ended up infusing the Latin element into the Ska after a couple years, which was really cool.
JD: Yeah, like the Skatalites were kind of hinting at stuff like that with [songs] like “Latin Goes Ska” back in the day. So it’s obviously a lot of musical exchanges between the islands, you know.
JA: And a couple of Skatalites were Cuban. Roland Alfonso and Tommy McCook, were both Cuban.
JD: I did not know that. That’s crazy. And yeah, you played with them at some point?
JA: Yeah. Roland. Alphonso. I was friends with all of The Skatalites that were founding members when they were reunited and touring a lot. And Rohan Alfonso. Actually, the first time he played with our band was at The King King. We had been together for about a year, in 1990 and he came in as a special guest, and then we had a long friendship after that.
He came to Japan with us for a tour along with Ernest Ranglin, as a guest in the band and we did some recordings together. It was phenomenal. It’s such a great honor for me to be validated on a level where they were so pleased to play with us because we made it so easy for them to play their music, you know?
JD: Yeah, you guys really knew the music inside and out, which I think was something that even in my youth, coming up in the third wave Ska, some of those bands were fun, but you guys really brought the chops and a musical jazz history that The Skatalites themselves also had.
JA: Yeah. they were jazzers. Tommy McCook loved John Coltrane, for example. They loved all the BeBoppers of the ‘40s and ‘50s. But they were also very much into the modernism of John Coltrane, and they were hearing that and really doing their best to achieve that level of knowledge and chops.
JD: There’s a Studio One record, “I Cover The Waterfront” that’s almost like a sort of like a Jazz/Ska record in a way.
JA: There’s one called “Jazz At The Workshop” on Studio One. That’s with Ernest Ranglin in the band and several members of Skatalites. And also, “I Cover The Waterfront”, which is Roland Alfonso and a pianist named Cecil Lloyd.
They were also doing hotel gigs playing Jazz and at the same time, they were doing Ska music in other venues for a whole other audience.
JD: Exactly. I guess the hotel gigs paid.
JA: Right. Ernest Ranglin had a completely separate career as a Jazz guitarist, playing in hotels like the Playboy Hotel every week during those times of Ska, and it was a highly coveted type of job to have at the time.
Ska music was very frowned upon by the upper class. It had the stigma of something like gangsta rap or something. Ernest Ranglin didn’t want to jeopardize his employment by letting people know that he was making ska music, but a large quantity of those Ska records were under his direction and production. He was the first real person in charge of producing records at Studio One and Coxsone label. Although Coxon put his name as the producer, Ranglin was the overseer.
A little of my backstory
JD: I had no idea you were really steeped in music at a very early age, right? You started playing music when you were literally a kid, like four or five? How did you? Or did you kind of just start doing it? Remember that?
JA: I remember the moment. My parents had lots of musical instruments around the house. My dad was Italian and his best friend was from Germany, and they played mandolins, guitar, violin, piano, accordions. They like to play music of the old country, like waltzes and polkas and things from Italy and Germany; “happy music” and very simple to learn.
My dad had one of those little half-size accordions with the 12 button bass on it. As a child, four years old, I remember vividly, picking that thing up and my parents were watching me in the adjacent room through the doorway. I started to play one of the songs from one of the records they always listened to. It was one of the songs that my dad and his friend Otto always played. I was playing that by memory. I was playing it with the little keyboard part of the accordion, and my mom and dad were like,” He’s playing one of our songs! “How’s that even possible?”
They weren’t listening to the record at that moment and were marveling at how I had memorized the melody and was pecking it out on the accordion.
I had a natural knack for it but I did a lot of work over the years to learn how music is constructed, the architecture of it, and the ear training and things.
JD: It wasn’t just like that stupid book about the 10,000 hours or whatever?
JA: Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s all kind of silliness. But I definitely think you do need to put in work for it, and not everyone’s a 10,000-hour person. Some are 6000, and some are 25,000 hours, you know what I mean? if you don’t put in a substantial concentrated effort into whatever you’re doing, you’re never going to achieve a high level at it.
JD: What was the difference in playing versus writing arrangements and charts and production? What was more challenging for you or didn’t come as easily?
JA: Actually, playing Jazz music and understanding the more complex chord progressions and how to improvise a melody and a solo over chord progressions. That was one of the biggest challenges I ever faced in understanding because I was an ear player for years and played Blues, Rockabilly, Oldies, this type of stuff.
And so it was always a mystery to me of how to solo over chord changes and how to even hear it when you’re listening to an album. An equal challenge was, how to construct an orchestration; how to assign the different instruments to a group of players for it to be balanced within the different ranges of the instruments – bass, mid-range, high end; how to get them all to phrase together.
JD: It’s kind of like cooking it away because you have these ingredients that you need to have balanced otherwise it’s “too salty”.
JA: Actually, it’s exactly the same thing in that regard I’ve been collecting records since I was six, in 1969 – a lot of hand-me-downs and thrift shop records; a lot of random finds and a lot of duds. I was always fascinated with my parents’ old 78s so I started collecting those as well. By the time I was in my late teens, I started finding Bebop 78s, and certain arrangements on them were so cool. I had this burning desire to understand how to arrange music that was like that. It just opened up a Pandora’s box for me of sorts, you know?
JD: Yeah, and one of the things you mentioned in another interview that was interesting to me was about you being in high school and being kind of a Jazz nerd and getting made fun of by people who wore Led Zeppelin belt buckles and had feathered hair.
JA: I liked Bossa Nova in a time where it was probably at the lowest point of popularity for that type of stuff.
JD: And there was like a Bossa Nova craze in the 50s and 60s, and then by the 70s, it was probably more like Arena Rock or whatever.
JA: It’d be Rock of the late ‘60s, then you had Arena Rock/Soft Rock/Corporate Rock, but at the same time there were interesting things coming out in the later ‘70s like Aja by Steely Dan for example. It’s highly informed and crafted. Right at that same time, we had our first Punk records – Nevermind The Bollucks by the Sex Pistols and White Riot by The Clash, things that were like a complete overthrow of the Corporate Rock, which I loved.
I wasn’t that crazy about the music itself, but I loved its intent. And I loved the spirit of it, like Eddie Cochran because I loved people like Eddie Cochran. So I totally understood that. And I also saw that as a record collector, if you were to invest in buying these records, they’re going to be worth a lot of money someday, like original Sun 45s by Elvis or something.
JD: Sure enough, they’re worth hundreds of dollars, some of these. It’s kind of funny how it came out, like just on so many independent labels just throwing stuff together but then those actually became the records that people (collectors) wanted.
JA: Yeah, so funny, right?
JD: Yeah, I think what’s interesting is that you kind of come from a whole jazz background, but your first band was kind of more in that sort of Rock vein, right?
JA: It was a Post-Punk band that started in ‘81, called Tupelo Chain Sex. Right around that period of time, L.A. had had Punk since ‘77 when our friend Brendan Mullen opened the Masque. That was L.A.’s first Punk club. And there were a lot of very original, expressive bands. It wasn’t like hardcore mosh pit type Punk yet by any means. Everyone had their own thumbprint in their own style, their mode of dress, the sound of their bands.
By the early ’80s, it gave birth to an even bigger, wider palette of freedom of expression. You had the license to do anything you wanted and because of that, we got the Red Hot Chili Peppers, putting Funk with Punk right at the same time as we made Tupelo Chain Sex. And Fishbone, of course. What we did in Tupelo Chain Sex is what people now call Mash Up, taking anything you want and pasting it against each other or delving into three different sections of a song that had three completely weird, different musical influences and stuff, but somehow it worked.
JD: Yeah. And I didn’t realize you had Don “Sugarcane” Harris in your band for a while, so that’s pretty insane. I mean, that was one of the other things in that recent interview that kept coming back, is the people “leaping off the records”, like you collected these records for a long time and then over time, you’ve now worked with all these legends. That must be a real trip and kind of beautiful in a way.
JA: it’s such a trip and it feels like a pre-planned destiny of sorts like my story was written before I came here, or what people call manifestation, where it wasn’t conscious. I had such an honest, pure love for those records I was hearing and I guess it was what I was put here to do.
As a teenager, I was listening to Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria, and like I said, White Riot by The Clash was one of the first Punk records I heard. I was hearing The Specials with Rico; all these things. And I ended up like working with Joe Strummer 10 years later, having a great friendship and working relationship with Rico Rodriguez; I got to work with Mongo Santamaria, Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso, The Skatalite members – people like Lloyd Knibb [Skatalites drummer], and you know, even got to be friends with Esquivel; all these different things.
JD: Yeah, exactly. “What’s going on here?!” Most recently it’s Tom Zé. You have a single coming out. God I mean, it’s beautiful; it makes sense.
On Collecting Records Pre-Internet
JA: There was such a serendipitous joy about it in a way because it was like bumping into a light post with a blindfold on once in a while. You’d buy a record, just because the cover was intriguing, or a person at a record shop would see what you were looking at and they’d say, “Oh, if you like that, you’d probably like ‘this guy’ or ‘that album’ “. It was all analog. We would make cassette tapes of our friends’ records that weren’t available in stores, because they were out of print already, and hope someday that we would find our own copy of that record.
There was no internet, no way to find someone on eBay to obtain that copyright now or Discogs, There was none of it. There was no way to go to YouTube and see the entire body of work of a specific artist. There was very little written about a lot of music that we like. So by happenstance, you would meet someone who would have some information about the person (artist/band), who would give you some of their backstory. A lot of it was oral history for many years, especially Afro Cuban music. It was word of mouth; it was a whole different ball of wax.
And you know, one thing about having the limitations of that, and only the cassettes from your friends, or your limited amount of records, was that you digested those things. You’d listen to them relentlessly because you had less options for listening.
JD: That’s a really excellent point.
JA: I mean, you’d embody that thing. You’d put that cassette in your car, you took it to every party, everywhere you went, and listened to it endlessly.
Even to this day, I listen to records more often, not out of snobbery or anything like that. It’s because I’m actually digesting it. So I might be in my house, doing some housework or something and put a record on and be too lazy to turn it over and listen to the same side all afternoon. And so I’m really internalizing the music on the record.
And also, you know, I’ve had so many occasions where someone says, “Hey, give me a hard drive and I’ll load it up with 500 African albums for you” and I don’t want it. I tell them to just give me the top 5 or top 10 that are the most killer out of that batch first, so I can really digest and internalize the music.
My parents had a stack of 78s that they’d had since the ‘40s (this was in the ’70s) and they bring them out for parties once in a while, with their old-timer friends. It was so fascinating because the records spun so fast, 78 revolutions per minute. That format was outmoded in the states around 1959 and we weren’t raised with “new” 78s in my generation. There was something almost haunting about how fast they spun and the sound of them. It was like time travel as if someone was opening a door for you in the back of your head to look into what life was kind of like before your visit to the planet this time around.
JD: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, like you, I was listening to Jazz and a lot of music that was a lot older than me when I was coming up in the ‘80s. It’s kind of a trip, but it’s sort of like trying to get a window of how people even were, the kind of music that they were listening to. There’s something about hearing some of those original records,
JA: I do love that we have YouTube with such a plethora of the most obscure and hard-to-find music. When I found the music of Tom Zé for example, I went to Wikipedia, looked at his discography, and started plugging the album titles into YouTube in chronology so I could see what his trajectory was. Then I would find some reissues
I love music and don’t care whether it’s a reissue or an original pressing. Of course, it’s fun to find an original artifact that someone brought home from the store when it was a brand new genre. There’s something fun about that, and lovely. But even with a third-generation duplication of a cassette with a lot of hiss, you were just stoked to hear the music. And so I’m so grateful that we can just plug in a title of a song that you read about somewhere on the internet and go listen immediately.
JD: I could be spacing here, but didn’t you pull a prank with some fake Latin record back in the day on NPR?
JA: I was part of a publicity stunt but that would take us a whole other hour to actually go into it. But yeah, someone devised a funny publicity stunt with someone at an NPR station years and years ago. They used my music and it was portrayed as something that was old music, that was finally going to be issued onto a CD for the first time. The DJ didn’t even investigate it. He just bought it and acted as if he’s responsible for bringing this to the public.
JD: Like he broke it.
JA: Yeah. and there was a certain level of “competence”, let’s say, that he had that made him sound like he’s an authority speaking about it, as if he’d investigated and he found out this, that the other about the artist from the fake bio that he was given. It was fun and something almost legendary at the time.
JD: And there were also those records which I don’t think get talked about too much, but some of the stuff you did for the Pure label in the early ’90s, all the Funk stuff. I don’t know if you guys ever did a full-length funk record, but like The Fish and that compilation, “Some Other Kind Of Meat”. You are all over that record, right?
JA: Well, yeah. What’s interesting is that Pure label was a reissue bootleg label out of Paris, reissuing really rare Funk 45s and compiling them onto LPs. One of the guys from the label came to visit LA. We were mutual friends with a bunch of people, and they recommended him to me. He wanted to produce something new. He was telling me how much he loved Zigaboo Modeliste from The Meters, and I told him that my friend works with him, and maybe we could get him on a session, so we got him on a session.
Zig then got Leo Nocentelli [guitarist of The Meters] on the session and we made a couple of songs – The Fish and Shuvlin’, They were done in the style of the early Meters’ Josie label songs, instrumentals. It was me on bass, Mike Boito from Jump With Joey playing the organ, Leo on guitar, and Zig on drums. During the session, Leo and Zig said, “you know, this is a lot of fun because as we progressed as The Meters, our music got more and more sophisticated and it wasn’t like those first instrumental things we cut. And this reminds us of how much fun it is just to play those simple grooves.” The guy from Pure label actually had the intention of making a Joey Altyruda Quartet album with Leo and Zig but for whatever reasons it just never happened, after a whole lot of talk and pumping us all up about it.
About tom Ze
JD: Let’s talk a little bit about Tom Zé because you just wrote an article recently for Wax Poetics.
JA: Yeah, it came out a year ago in March , but you could call it recent. Have you ever heard of the band Novos Baianos by any chance?
JD: Yeah You know what’s funny is that name sounded familiar because you have a track on the playlist that we’re gonna play, and I have that record.
JA: Right. Acabou Chorare is the name of the album that they made in 1972 and Rolling Stone Brazil cited it as one of the topmost important albums in MPB (music popular Brazil) of the century. They were a band that came together in the late ‘60s. Two main songwriters of the band, Moraes Moreira and Luiz Galvão were introduced to each other by Tom Zé. Luiz Galvão, Tom Zé, and João Gilberto were all from Juazeiro, and friends for years before Novos Baianos. Moraes and Galvão went on to form the band, and in 1969 they made a really cool Psych Rock album [Ferro Na Boneca].
João Gilberto was a mentor to them. Luiz Galvão brought João to hang out with them. They lived together in this hippie commune.
JD: Yeah, I was going to say it sounds like some kind of commune living back in the day.
JA: Yeah, it totally was. And João Gilberto loved that. He showed them the book of Yogananda, “The Autobiography Of A Yogi” and it was profound for them. They played him these Psych Rock songs and he said,“That’s good but I think you should look within yourself more and put more of our culture into what you’re doing and use some Brazilian instruments, use some Brazilian rhythms and things”.
Novos Baianos went on to make several albums and by the late ‘70s, they disbanded, only because several of them went on to solo careers. By 2016 I was coming to be friends with a couple of Novos Baianos and I was invited to their rehearsal and to fly with them from Rio to Bahia for a whole weekend of concerts. I returned for a couple more visits and a couple more concerts in Rio and Recife. They really brought me in like family. It’s been a life-changing experience, such a deep, profound honor for me to be in the company of such loving people and such incredible, inventive musicians, each one having something really special to offer.
Novos Baianos aren’t really known in the U.S. hardly at all, only deep, deep crate-digger type people know of them, but even a lot of those people don’t know of them.
JD: Yeah, I had one of their records but I didn’t know their whole backstory or anything.
And I think that’s kind of cool that you went and interviewed them there and put it in English so that people can learn about this stuff.
JA: Yeah, Seu Jorge, who’s a great friend of mine, showed me a documentary about them from the early ‘70s and I was like, “Who are these people? Where are they? These are my people, I must find them”. It was like I made my statement of intention and it happened a couple of years afterward. And there I was, on a plane flying to Bahia with them on their comeback tour. It was a pinch-me-am-I-dreaming moment and honestly, I felt like there’s a reason why I’m connecting with these people. There’s a bigger reason but I don’t know what it is.
And then it occurred to me, one of the reasons is I need to show them to more people, people that don’t know about them. There’s zero articles written about them in English, if you look on the internet I don’t think there’s one. And, I’ve got an actual series on joeyaltruda.com. If you go there, into my blogs, you’re going to see an entire trajectory of five different blogs that start with How I Found The Girl from Ipanema, how I was a kid and ended up 37 years later working with Bebel Giberto, and how I found Seu Jorge who showed me Novos Baianos and then more and more the stories unfold.
The most recent installation is about how Tom Zé was involved directly with them. These are a series of blogs that contain some of the same material as Wax Poetics but further elaborates my personal experience of seeing it from an outsider’s perspective, which then led ultimately to the blog post about my own involvement with Tom Zé. I got to interview four members of Novos Baianos for the Wax Poetics article, and in so doing I got to ask Tom Zé some questions through email, to get more specific and fill in some gaps about some of the backstory.
He was really congenial and we continued a pen pal friendship since then. I had heard his song “A Babá” when I found a single of it in Brazil and I was like, “God this is so good. This would make such a great Ska version.”, so I just approached him about that.
He didn’t know what Ska was so I sent him a short description of what Ska was in its Jamaican roots, a few YouTube videos of some Skatalites, early Wailers, and stuff. His musical director Daniel Maia knows what Ska is because he’s around my age and he helped facilitate recording Tom Zé’s voice. Daniel put the guitar part down, and one of the chorus singing parts and sent me the ProTools session. I rounded it out with Oliver Charles (the drummer from Ben Harper’s Band) who was also in a Traditional Ska revival band called Ocean 11 in the ’90s. It was all done remotely and it wasn’t a COVID thing honestly, because I had been collaborating remotely for a long time doing home recording with digital software and such for years.
JD: You were kinda ready for this in advance.
Working Remotely to Produce a song
JD: How did that start in terms of doing the remote thing? Was it just because of geography and stuff, or what was it that was the inspiration?
JA: No. Sometimes it would just be building a song and I’d have some virtual drums on it temporarily, then have my buddy record drums for it in his drum studio and he would email me all the files for the drum kit. Just a convenience thing really.
We got Roger Rivas from The Aggrolites playing organ and piano on this. Marlon Sette on trombone who is Jorge Ben’s trombonist. Artie Webb on the flute, who was with Tito Puerte and Ray Berreto ‘70s. Plus, Kassin is in the vocal chorus; one of Brazil’s top producers for years now. Also, Dadi Carvalho who was the original bassist of Novos Baianos and Jorge Ben’s Africa in Brazil album in ‘75. I put the bass and the guitar on, and then Victor Rice did the mix. Victor Rice, you know, of Easy All-Stars…
JD: Yeah, I was gonna say his name looked familiar. But yeah, Easy All-Stars.
He’s been around for a while for sure.
JA: Yeah, he’s lived in São Paulo, Brazil for 20 years, so he did the mixing, and, oh wow, he just killed it. We also did a Stepper’s Dub version of the song with a whole different rhythm section treatment and Victor did some incredible dubbing on that. He actually gave me four different dubbed versions for each treatment of each song and each one has a deeper and deeper dub, and he sent me videos of his hands at the controls doing the dubs so…
JA: Nice. So, it’s like Scientist style on the fly type.
JA: Totally. And so I’m going to be dripping those out on my YouTube channel. If you go to the Jump With Joey Altruda on YouTube, you’re going to find the channel. Like, Comment, Share,
JD: Yeah, smash that subscribe button too!
JA: So those are going to be dripped out with an extensive interview of Victor Rice along with Roger Rivas, and a bunch of other fun stuff. The song A Babá is coming out digitally on a label called Avocaudio (avocaudio.com) It’ll be on all the streaming platforms and stores and such. Also, I’m going to make a special limited edition vinyl pressing 45 of this that’s going to be a pre-sell. It’s going to have a nice cardboard cover and probably be colored vinyl.
JD: Yeah I think I remember the El Diablo Ska on red vinyl back in the day.
JA: Yeah, which is like $75 or more on eBay right now. Quite cheap.
JD: Quite crazy.
JA: Yeah, that’s such a great compliment, ya know.
JD: I remember when that came out. We were like, “Jump With Joey” has a new record out, we have to go get it.”
JA: I made a waitlist. If you go to https://joeyaltrudabiz.com/tom you can get on the waitlist and once I get 1,000 people, I’m going to send emails to everyone. It will be a pre-sell and then we’ll manufacture it. It’s the best way actually to go about things these days so that we’re not dealing with record distribution and stores and everything else, ya know? And it makes it more exclusive for the buyer.
JD: Yeah, Definitely. That’s kind of the way to go now ‘cause it becomes a little bit of a boutique market. I didn’t realize until a few years back that you were DJ-ing. You had some nights in L.A., right?
JA: Yeah. I’ve had a lot of nights in L.A. I’ve been DJ-ing since 1987.
My Time as a Dj
JD: I didn’t realize that you were a DJ back then. So then maybe let’s talk about that before we get out of here, the difference in DJ-ing versus playing out like a pro.
JA: Oh sure, I would love to. You know, it’s interesting because The King King Club, before it was a club, was a Chinese restaurant called King King and it was kind of on its last legs, selling lunch specials during the day. A couple friends of mine were club promoters and they ended up renting this space out one night a week to do a Funk night, at a time when Funk was just starting to be revived. Before that, you couldn’t even give away Funk and Soul records at the swap meets. They weren’t valued yet. So they did this whole Funk night called Smokey Ho’s Funk Bar on Thursday nights. It became so popular that they added a second night of the week.
I would go in and DJ for a set and I was bringing in vintage ‘50s and ‘60s Afro-Cuban, like Beny More and Arsenio Rodriguez. No one was playing records in clubs like this. I was bringing in some obscure Salsa records and Boogaloo, Joe Cuba, this type of thing. No one was doing that yet. There wasn’t a market for collecting it yet and it was all relatively cheap if you could find it because It was all random finds, pre-internet.
But what happened was that people reacted so hard to this stuff that my guys gave me my own night there doing what we called Smokey Ho Guaguanco. It was a Latin-themed night. I also did a live band there, playing guitar with a band featuring Buck Clarke on percussion. Buck Clarke was with Eddie Harris & Les McCann for the Soul To Soul concert, playing for a million people in Africa. He’s had his own couple of solo albums on Argo label. He was a great friend so we just had such a ball doing that. And, I obviously ended up collecting Funk records because of everything that surrounded me.
Our Jump with Joey night… Our friend bought the club. It was the doorman Mario Melendez. He bought it in ‘89, converted it into The King King Club, and actually put me in charge of the musical direction creating…
JD: Yeah, I didn’t realize that you were the music director.
JA: Yeah, and I stocked the jukebox for them, and I stocked it with all kinds of fun records that would be like the “dream records” that you could find on a jukebox, like Eddie Jefferson, Lambert Hendricks & Ross, Skatalites, etc. I mean it was such a plethora of fun. I hired different bands to play on different nights, created house bands, you know, the whole thing.
Jump With Joey, before the actual band started, started out as a DJ night. I had friends come to sit in and it was just collectors, fun music, come bring what you want, ya know?
JD: Those are the most fun nights without a doubt.
JA: So through my trajectory as a DJ, I learned a lot. I learned how to be sensitive when selecting music, what songs should come next logically, how to build a story in a mix, how to go from one record to the next, how to make a nice, smooth transition from one song to the next, even how to match beats if it was apropos. How to control volume.
JD: Yeah, I think that’s one of those real key DJ things, just matching the volume. You know, if something comes up that’s too low or too high it can kind of effect the crowd. The crowd is sensitive to that.
JA: Right. Honestly, another “pinch me” moment in my life was my friendship with Sir Coxson Dodd, who created the Studio One record label. He told me that when he was a DJ, he started the night off at a soft volume and would increase the volume little by little as the night progressed. And, you know, that’s key because a lot of people call themselves DJ’s just because they who own records, and they don’t have any concept of the sequence of the records, or they want to play what they want to play right now, but they don’t realize that it doesn’t serve the audience. You know, all these factors… and they abuse volumes. Certain people just abuse volume and they just don’t understand the finer points of the psychology behind what will build the energy of a room.
JD: Right, right.
JA: You know, even how to read a room. It might be a record that you are dying to play but it’s not the right time to play it. So you’re going to play something else. Maybe something real obvious that everyone knows, and not some obscure thing in order to get everyone excited and throw them a bone so that they’re going to be excited. And that makes sense, you know?
JD: ‘Cause I know you were also playing on the patio at Funky Soul.
JA: I played the patio at Funky Soul for years whenever I wasn’t working on a Saturday night. I lived 5 minutes away so I would do that. Yeah, that was a ball.
JD: Another classic party… And you had like a soundtrack night? Because, you know, I would come back to L.A. to visit my folks, you know. I think it was like with Clifton Soft Touch.
JA: Oh yeah, sure. We did Shanghai Noir, which was the name of it, in Chinatown at the General Lee bar, which is an art deco bar. It was just so fun because we would play soundtracks but also good eclectic things like Latin sets etc.
JD: Yeah, because it’s like open.
JA: It was open, and we would always have a guest like Cliffton or Cut Chemist came through. A lot of different and great DJs came through. Daedalus, Roger Rivas, Señor Amor….
JD: Yeah, yeah. But just to kinda play a more spacey set. Is that kind of like…
JA: Exactly. You could bring records that you normally couldn’t play on your dance nights, for example. And there was a little dance floor which was fine, but it was really a social and a lounge, you know, Carlos Nino would come.
Carlos Nino, great people.
JD: Yeah, no doubt. Joey, It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you. You’re one of my heroes, you’re really nice. And uh we’ll get into this Tom Ze business.
JA: Thank so much Jim. It was really a pleasure.