The following is an excerpt from Love Injection Fanzine #31. Purchase the zine in digital or physical form to read the full, 10,000-word interview here.
Let’s start with New York. I understand you had a formative trip here when you were just starting out. Can you explain why you came and who you met?
I travelled one day in New York very early, when I was maybe seventeen. Obviously, my first time in New York as a kid, I was like, Wow, it looks great. I was less than twenty-four hours, but I was quite impressed by the looks of it. ‘82? ‘81? New York was still a bit rough at the time. There was the roughness, but then you looked at the skyscrapers, and there was a bit of a wow factor. On this trip, I was a month in Miami, too, and they were playing a lot of funk. It was the year that Rick James’ “Super Freak” was out. For me, it was a big difference from France because you didn’t hear that stuff on the radio. I mean, you could find it, but you wouldn’t hear it. That was the first attraction with the black American side of music within America. Then, I decided I needed to come back there, to save and go back there.
I think the first time I went there on my own was ‘85. I don’t know how, I guess I’d learned of the New Music Seminar. The original iteration. That was basically Tommy Boy’s Tom Silverman’s creation, and it was a seminar in New York about new music, but new music that was mostly club and dance oriented. He was already doing good with Tommy Boy and Afrika Bambaataa, and those were the records I was buying at the time. I was buying a lot of electro-funk. All the music that I liked seemed to be produced in New York. I was really into Prelude, that was a New York label, and François Kevorkian mixes. Larry Levan. It seemed that all the new music I liked the most was coming out of New York, so, to me, it seemed essential to get to New York, to get more music and to find the stores.
You have to remember that we were getting this as imports and at that time, the dollar was super high. I think it was at its highest ever, compared to the French currency so a lot of those records were the equivalent of, like, twenty, thirty euros a piece here. I figured that if I went there, I’d find old stuff, new stuff, and it would be cheap. The New Music Seminar was the trigger because I had read that if you’d buy a pass, you’d have access for a week to all the nightclubs, so that was also a super exciting prospect.
I got there with a DJ friend of mine and we started going to the stores. Unfortunately, the Paradise Garage had closed just a few months prior. Do you know when it closed?
It was ’87!
Okay, so then it was June of ‘87 that I went there. I remember it closed it April, a few months before.
But we went to other clubs. I remember going to Better Days, I remember going to Area. I remember going to Limelight. I remember seeing Trouble Funk live. The same night as Trouble Funk was ESG. Same bill. I remember seeing Deee-Lite live at the Sound Factory… the original Sound Factory, not the Bar. For me, it was amazing. Everything was amazing. The first house records were coming out. I remember going to a D.J. International event at Area.
What really struck me more than anything else was the sound systems in the clubs. I’d never heard anything even close to the amount of power and everything. That’s where it all came from and it was not a myth. It was the real thing. And since then, it’s seemed like the style that’s made the most sense to me has always come out of New York. Even today, I like people like Eli Escobar, who has that sound.
Before I got to New York, I had this friend who had a cousin or an uncle living in New York, and this guy was recording cassette tapes of the Kiss FM shows, so he’d give me copies of Tony Humphries on Kiss, Red Alert, Shep Pettibone. I really made my education on mixing and programming listening to those. I mean, they would do those crazy long mixes. I remember Tony Humphries riding two tracks for what seemed to be forever. I was younger and I was easily impressed, but these were things you wouldn’t even know existed… and they wouldn’t exist for a good ten years in Europe! I mean, no one was mixing, no one was beatmatching. Maybe some people were doing it, but if they did it, it’s because they went to New York, and that’s where they learned it. The whole beatmatching, mixing-two-records-together, re-editing thing – everything started for me when I got there. I guess I kept that sort of, like, school of New York way of doing things. That’s how I learned and that’s how, if you name a city, it’s New York and nothing else.
Even in Chicago, where all the house came from, I was more into the New York type of house, like the early Paul Simpson and Easy Street stuff. I was more into those labels. Those electronic-come-soul-come-house labels, like Sleeping Bag. That really was my sound. It was always more musical than Chicago. Chicago was raw; Chicago was in your face. I mean, I remember not liking the first acid records. I liked them twenty years later, but when they first came out, I didn’t. Everything to me in New York was slightly more polished, or even if it wasn’t more polished in sonic terms, there was always a lot of musicality. If you listen to Patrick Adams, a lot of P&P records might sound like crap, recorded at wherever, the gutter, but musically, they’re strong. You’ve got people playing, you’ve got good arrangements. Maybe the mixing’s shit, but the quality was very musical, and I think that’s what sort of touched me.
I’m not mentioning Salsoul because, for some reason, I discovered Salsoul too late. When I got to New York, Salsoul… maybe it was already over? It was doing a lot of funk records or boogie records, and that wasn’t my sound. And I didn’t know about the early days of Salsoul—the Philly days of Salsoul. I discovered the Philly side of Salsoul after house music. I started digging after I discovered house—I discovered Philly after I discovered house because it wasn’t from New York. It was not the kind of records I would dig for. I was big on Streetwise, I was big on Easy Street, I was big on Prelude, those were my guys! I was a huge fan of Shep Pettibone, I was a huge fan of François, and Arthur Baker was my idol. And the Latin Rascals as well. That was the core basis of my schooling in music. And then I discovered disco and Salsoul, and I started digging. I discovered Tom Moulton, I discovered the other side… the earlier side of dance music. I started connecting the dots of those things quite late.
Let’s touch on your new compilation. Why Salsoul? Why now?
There’s a very good reason. I love Salsoul and have always been collecting Salsoul. Salsoul changed hands many times, and they were licensing the stuff to different labels, and, at some point, a Japanese guy called me up and says he’s working with EMI in Japan. They licensed the Salsoul catalogue and wanted to give me some edits with it, so they gave me some re-edits by a Japanese guy I wasn’t familiar with that were quite nice. He asked if I’d be interested in doing a compilation with Japanese DJs. They wanted to involve me in doing my idea of a Salsoul compilation. They wanted to call it My Salsoul, and it would be a series with me, Danny Krivit, and so on. I said, “Yeah, sure, I love Salsoul.” That was soon after I did Discover Forever, so it was a great opportunity for me to put together disco songs. And, of course, I could choose whatever I wanted from the Salsoul catalogue. They put it out and it was supposed to be only in Japan. It was a mild success that was doing good in the Japanese market, but it was impossible to find outside of Japan, but the point wasn’t for it to be outside.
Out of the blue, I get a call from Glenn Larusso, who was a lawyer and sort of, like, manager, but a super shady, Mafia type of guy. Old school guy. At some point, he was overseeing the Salsoul assets. He called me up and said, “We want to put your Salsoul record out in America.” I said, “Well, I have a deal with Japan. If you want to put it out, you need to give me a budget.” They didn’t have a budget, but he was like, “Screw you, we’re putting it out.” So they put it out. He changed the cover. Did something horrible with the cover. The worst thing is he put it out on vinyl, but because he didn’t have access to the masters of the re-edits that were released on vinyl in Japan, he stripped the mix CD and split it over four sides of vinyl. I was furious. People were asking me why I was doing this. It’s actually fading in and fading out! If you come across it, don’t buy it, but check it out. This is, like, 2002? I was so mad at him that I didn’t want to do anything for Salsoul for years. It had my name in big, bold letters. Everything was really fucked up in there, so I didn’t want to do anything for Salsoul.
In the meantime, it got sold to different people and finally got in the hands of BMG. Before BMG, it got into the hands of this really cool Japanese company called Octave Lab, and they started reissuing all the albums with really good bonus tracks and stuff, and I happened to know the guy who was putting them together. He was a friend of a good friend. I approached him because I wanted some of the CDs, they were selling out real quick and they were impossible to find and I told him I didn’t do anything for Salsoul because of Glenn Larusso, but he passed away a few years before that. I said I really liked what they were doing and that I’d love to do a compilation for them, so I did Salsoul Mastermix for Japan, and that was in 2015. That Japanese company had the rights to Salsoul up to the end of 2015, and my compilation came out in December of 2015, so they could only sell it for a short time. After 2015, the rights reverted for the world to BMG. Coincidentally, the guy who oversees Salsoul at BMG is the guy who used to work at Defected that I was really getting along with. We actually did a couple of Defected compilations together. I asked him if he was interested in releasing the Japanese compilation. He said he’d reissue the edits first, see how that [went, and then decide]. The edits sold out in, like, twenty-four hours, so his bosses gave him the green light to reissue the exact same compilation I’d done for Japan. That’s the story of the Salsoul Mastermix thing.
And you’re working with another band called Cotonette?
Yeah. There’s this record store I always hang out at that’s just, like, five minutes away from my home. It’s like a really small A1. You don’t have a dollar bin, everything’s expensive. But I go hang out, talk music with the guy. He’s friends with this band called Tonette, who’re kind of like a natural funk band. They’re like the Parian Dap-Kings. He knew them and wanted to record some jazz-funk stuff with them, so he did a series of three 12-inches, two of which are already out. I wasn’t involved with that, but he was playing the stuff and I was like, “Oh, those guys play really well. Why don’t you do a disco track with them?” He said, “Disco’s not really my thing, but maybe you should hook up with them and you can do it together.” He hooked us up, we did a couple of sessions, and two tracks came out of that. It’s all recorded live and… I took the recording and disco mixed it my way. It’s coming out separately from the three 12-inches soon.
One thing you maybe don’t know about is I’m going to finally have my own label, after thirty years of being involved in music. It’s going to be called Le Edits, and it’s going to be a label with my own remixes. I’m partnering with Above Board for it. It’s legit, everything’s properly licensed and the first release is coming out at the end of October. The first release is a remix of Odyssey, “Native New Yorker.” It’s actually the original version. There’s been a recut recently, with mixes from Ashley Beedle, but this is the original recording. I got access to the original tape from 1977. The B-side is my remix of Dan Hartman’s “Relight My Fire,” which you have from the Razor-N-Tape record. It’s a different take of that and has never been released. It’s the one I’m playing in the clubs.
Interview: Paul Raffaele
Transcript: Nik Mercer
Love Injection issue 31 available now. Click here to add it to your order (we will not ship this magazine on its own)