EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: KENNY SUMMIT GETS DEEP
Kenny Summit, the east coast DJ and producer with international appeal is making major moves. Looking to take his career to the next level he recently embarked on a multi city tour, started a new record label named Good For You Records, and recently dropped his debut album ‘Not Just Talk’. Oh, and in the midst of all this he managed to uproot his entire life and move to LA!
Despite all this activity going on in his life and career Kenny was not only gracious enough to sit down with 1200Dreams and answer our probing questions but, in typical Kenny Summit fashion, he went above and beyond. See, nothing Kenny does is half-ass. He didn’t just answer our questions like some smug DJ too full of himself to speak more than one sentence at a time; Kenny goes in like he does in his DJ sets, deep. Not only does he provide a peek into his past spinning for A-list celebrities including tantalizing tales involving porn stars, and of course, up to date info on what he has in store but, you’ll also get schooled on this whole real vs. fake, mainstream vs. underground debate with one of the most insightful answers I have ever heard on the matter. And he can back it up, because while haters decry the commercialism of our dance music culture, their cries continuing to build just as EDM rises in the charts Kenny Summit continues putting in the work. And at the end of the nite, that is all that truly matters.
1200Dreams: After years of being an established DJ and having a successful party with One Night In St. Tropez, how much of a high is dropping your first album titled ‘Not Just Talk’?
Kenny Summit: The album project has been really eye opening for me; from the minute the guys at Mile End Records agreed to be the label that would back this project to the last hours in the studio putting the finishing touches on the tracks, it was fun from start to finish. A lot of work, a lot of learning, but a tremendous amount of fun. The One Night in St. Tropez parties were a blast. Not sure if that sort of vibe can ever be recreated, but I can’t say for sure if we will ever bring that party back or not.
1200Dreams: How long have you been working on your album, from deciding it was time to make one to release?
Kenny Summit: I finished a few of my earlier tracks with the help of mentors Scott Wozniak and Jay-J Hernandez and I decided it was time for me to do my own project. It took me about a month of nonstop work, 12 hour days in the studio, and eventually I had 10 tracks I was pretty happy with.
1200Dreams: Is there an overall message, concept you are communicating, every song a piece of the whole or does each song more or less stand on its own, each a reflection of a particular topic or emotion?
Kenny Summit: I wanted to make a well rounded album. That was definitely accomplished; I ran the gamut from tech to deep, vocal to dub and I really pushed myself to use sounds that I wouldn’t normally work with. I come from an era when you would sit around with friends, put a record on the turntable and listen to an album from start to finish. I wanted to pay homage to that era, to make a full album of songs that didn’t sound the same so it can be played from start to finish without leaving the listener with a feeling of monotony. I think I did pretty good. 🙂
1200Dreams: What do you wish to accomplish with this album, not just in sales but career wise, and personally even?
Kenny Summit: The biggest sense of accomplishment I got from that album happened one afternoon at Jay-J’s apartment in NYC; I called Scott Wozniak that morning, asked him to meet me at Jay-J’s, I played the tracks for both of them and almost in unison they looked at each other and said “did you help him with this?”. To impress your teachers is extremely satisfying. It’s my first solo project and it was a labor of love. All producers grow, we learn more with every session, and that album will forever be ‘my first time’ so to speak. It’s made with pure passion, a furious desire to get the ideas in my head translated into the music I love.
1200Dreams: You’ve been really busy lately, you recently moved out to California, started a record label, and your traveling seems to have really jumped up lately. What do you do to relax? How do you get away and shut down your brain, your body?
Kenny Summit: Well, I never relax. I enjoy what I do for a living and I look forward to every minute spent on music, on anything music industry related. I’m in LA now and it’s given me the opportunity to greatly expand my network both socially and business wise. I guess I get a sense of relaxation when I’m listening to classic rock and any kind of music with good story telling vocals. Good song writing can take you on a mental trip.
1200Dreams: Most memorable nite behind the booth? It could be from the crowd’s reaction to something naughty. Hey, we don’t judge.
Kenny Summit: Every gig is memorable in one way or another… but a few have stuck out in my mind over the years: Jenna Jamison’s birthday party at WMC one year was a blast. Envision the entire Vivid Video cast of porn stars in one room. My friend Donny Garzino put that party together and I don’t think I left with an inch of my body unlicked. Complete debauchery. Thank God no one was filming. I think we had the guys from Knee Deep spinning with me at that event. They put out some great House music over the years.
More recently I had the pleasure to spin at the Sullivan Room’s 10 Year Anniversary party in NYC along side my friend Rob Keith, Bonzai, and Sullivan Room’s one and only Serge, a man who built one of New York City’s most respected house venues from the ground up. That was a fun gig and was just a pleasure to play with people who take their craft seriously. And then their are the parties like One Night in St. Tropez that were legendary in their own right; seeing people like George Clooney and every Sports Illustrated cover model dancing their asses off with people like Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Camron Diaz, Jon BonJovi, it was something that will never be recreated. Technology has made parties like that obsolete; with the risk of cell phone pics leaking out to the public, celebrities can’t let their hair down like they did at the One Night in St. Tropez parties.
What was more awesome was the fact that we were spinning pure House music and not once did anyone at those events question our selection. We were breaking records back then and I think the honor of ‘breaking a record’ to the public is no longer in the hands of the DJs. I can’t tell you how many movie producers approached us at the One Night in St. Tropez parties asking for song identifications and then a year later I would hear those same songs in movies made by those same movie producers who were up in the DJ booth with me at those parties. Looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of them, now that I’m in LA.
1200Dreams: It’s a hot topic right now so I have to ask: where do you stand on the whole “real” DJ vs. “fake” DJ, vinyl vs. digital battle and even the pop vs. underground one? What is valid, what is people just being asses? What camp do you fall in?
Kenny Summit: I think this question speaks to different ages and experience levels differently. I’m sure if you ask New Yorkers like Ray Vasquez or Bobby Morales (both 30 year DJ veterans), they’re not going to give you the same answer as some 19 year old kid who never owned a single piece of vinyl.
Obviously being from a turntablist background, I respect those who know how to spin without the aid of a computer. Not saying that this new generation, who will never touch a CD or a piece of vinyl, are going to be handicapped in any way. If anything, the technology boom in our industry has spurred a massive interest in EDM, and that will in turn mean more fans for me.
The discussion I would like to have would be about people who claim the title “DJ”. The amount of posers carrying the DJ flag today is very scary. Log into Facebook any given day and you’ll read a thousand posts on your news feed from people claiming to be a DJ, but in reality they have a 9-5 outside of the DJ industry. They’re doctors, lawyers, waiters, advertising people, etc. they’re NOT making their living as a DJ yet, they make ignorant comments about the state of things as if they have any clue what’s going on just because they go to a local party or two every week.
You gotta watch who you listen to, know their credibility and if they’re not full time DJs then just don’t listen to them. If you DJ as a hobby, then you really shouldn’t be making claims that you’re a DJ. If you read medical journals as a hobby, that doesn’t make you a doctor just because you bought a stethoscope.
The amount of people who tell me ‘they’ve been DJing for 20 years’ and they’re not happy with people like David Guetta or Avicii being at the helm of the EDM world instead of someone like Jeff Mills is astonishing. I can respect the fact that many purists are feeling some level of disdain that the forefathers of our industry (like Jeff Mills, Frankie Knuckles, David Morales) are not the ones getting paid $40k for a gig. But if these fans/purists had a clue about how the industry operates, they wouldn’t be making so many ignorant comments day in and day out on Facebook. There are a lot of posers out there perpetuating ignorance via their lack of knowledge of how this business works. These people are a cancer to the House music world. Nine times out of ten they are jaded bedroom DJs who haven’t accomplished anything in the DJ or music world, and yet, every chance they get they make posts and comments about how those on top suck, don’t deserve to be on top, and just blast people who have real careers.
If you don’t like Deadmau5, fine, say you don’t like him. But before you hate, think about what you’ve done for House music, think about what you’ve done for the Techno world. Unless Techno pays your bills, any comment you have to offer about Techno should be taken with the same weight one would put on a Yankees fan talking about the Red Sox.
If I fall into any ‘camp’, it would be the camp of those who know, inside and out, the business side of this industry. There are tons of blogs, magazines and other outlets that make for some great educational tools for people in our industry. It’s a shame these posers would rather hate instead of picking up a magazine and educating themselves on what’s going on in our industry. One of my favorite blogs is written by a long time music industry head, Dusko Justic. KNOWLEDGE IS THE KEY to advancement in any business, be about it.
1200Dreams: Of course, the Internet has changed the way we find music, create it, well, pretty much everything but, when it comes to how you go about DJing and producing what is one thing you continue doing the same way you always have?
Kenny Summit: Again, I think this question has a lot to do with my age and experience level; I miss the days of spending the day walking around Manhattan from record store to record store, digging in dusty crates, listening to every record and finding a few gems that I may or may not ever spin. I miss walking to Dancetracks to see Phil, then heading over to Rock N Soul to see Roger, then head back to the village for some pizza and see Stu. These guys ran the record stores, knew what each of their customers liked and the minute you walked into their shop they would pull 30 records off the shelves, set you up with a turntable and some headphones and you’d find your music that way.
1200Dreams: What is your first experience with the Technics1200? Can you tell us about that moment? How magical was it?
Kenny Summit: My first set of turntables came from my dear friend Anthony Ligas. I don’t know if magical would be the best adjective to describe my affiliation with turntables at that time. It was more of an obsession. I’d run straight home after basketball practice and just rock out until my mother would yell at me some time around 10pm. We were living in Linden, New Jersey at the time, still in high school, still had farfetched dreams of playing pro basketball, lol. My dream was to get paid to play basketball. Given I’m not playing ball anymore, but I do go to the studio in shorts every day, lol.
Never really knew DJing would pay my bills, but that quickly became my full time gig. I actually still have that first pair of Technics. Before I left for Cali, I got them tuned up and had the grounds taken off by my dude DJ C-Reality over in New Jersey at DJ Phillie Blunt’s crib. Phil is with the illvibe Collective and he’s the go to guy for anyone who wants to get their decks tuned.
1200Dreams: Favorite piece of gear and what gadgetry do you have your eyes on now?
Kenny Summit: I just got these limited edition white Pioneer CDJ 2000’s with the matching 900 mixer. They’re gorgeous. The pearl white finish is nasty. I’m gonna bust them out at a few of my backyard BBQs in LA this summer fo sho! I dig the Pioneer effects that are featured on their mixers. They make a quality product.
1200Dreams: Will you be bringing back One Night In St.Tropez or perhaps start another party?
Kenny Summit: Since the One Night in St. Tropez party stopped, I’ve been extremely busy; I was working with Sorin Abraham, Michael James, David Sarner, this asshole named Dave Marvesi, and the legendary John Blair on the reopening of New York’s most infamous club, the Limelight. We reopened it as Estate, then Jon Lyons bought Estate and turned it into Avalon, then Bruce Willis came on board and the Spider Club was notched out of Avalon’s (Limelight’s) Geiger Room. Nightlife impresario David Sarner brought me into Rehab on Lafayette and Great Jones which was one of the most exciting nightlife projects in the history of New York City, followed by the hugely successful Pink Elephant nightclub (which recently reopened).
I’ve been blessed to be a part of some amazing projects during my time in New York City. The last party I did was called Dirty Blonde with my friends Garvey, Rubi, and Master Switch which featured all local NYC talent and although that was short lived, if there is a party I would like to bring back, I think we would start up Dirty Blonde again. But seeing how busy I am with Good For You Records, I’m not sure what kind of time line I would put on that idea.
1200Dreams: What can we expect from you this year and beyond?
Kenny Summit: I’ve got a bunch of big releases coming out: ‘Why Me’ with Darryl D’Bonneau is my next single and features a coveted ‘Director’s Cut’ remix from Frankie Knuckles and Eric Kupper. I’m sure the Director’s Cut remix will help get some much deserved press for Good For You Records. It’s always a plus to have Grammy winning producers backing you.
Recently, I partnered up with Eric Kupper to be my full time production partner. The amount of musical and production knowledge Eric has is immeasurable. I learn so much during our sessions and I’m really lucky to be working with one of the Godfathers of the genre I love so much.
We have some major projects under way and this summer is going to be very big for me. Be on the lookout for releases featuring the one and only sultry House singer YASMEEN, also a bunch of awesome singles from GFY in-house producer Justin Schumacher; Justin is definitely one to keep an eye on.
I’m sure I’ll do something with Scott Wozniak this summer, maybe something with Benji Candelario, my buddy Parag and I are brainstorming on a project right now, Manny Ward and I just reconnected and we will be doing something soon.
I just moved to LA in the beginning of May and since then I’m dealing with a 15 city tour, building out my 6000 square foot loft in LA, running my label and creating more opportunities whenever I see a chance. I’ve got a lot of my plate. I’m also doing something with Cha Cha Records head honcho Juan Hoerni and whatever it is we end up doing, I’m sure it’s going to be pretty big as Juan doesn’t do anything on a small level.
I like to keep busy, so you can count on a slew of releases from me from now until my creative juices run out. And remember, I have a lot of exciting things on the horizon with the Sunny Daze band; and 8 piece acoustic band that I’ve teamed up with Hip Hop legends like Grand Puba, The Artifacts, and negotiations are in the works with the likes of Rakim and Redman to participate as well. I’m putting in work and hopefully it will pay off. If there is one thing that I’ve learned in this business it’s ‘work recognizes work’.
Kenny Summit – Sittin On Ken Kenny Summit @ Sullivan Room 10 Year Anniversary
For more videos from Kenny Summit check out his YouTube page.
Also bookmark his official website Kenny Summit and of course find and BUY Kenny Summit music at the following digital stores!