Interview by Katrina Tarapovich
So we hear you had a pretty big event in LA over the weekend. How did that go?
Was great, a lot of work but great. “A Night at the Paradise Garage” featured two of the original PG residents Joey Llanos and David Depino, who both rocked it like no one else can. I put together the event to raise awareness for the upcoming PARADISE GARAGE: INSPIRATIONS compilation that we’re releasing in 2016 (on double 12″ vinyl). Had some nice partners involved: KCRW, LIVE NATION, XLR8R, VICE / THUMP, and DEFMIX, which made it that much more special.
The legacy of Larry Levan, the iconic Paradise Garage, that’s a rather large responsibility to be handed.
Yeah, I mean, there is a lot at stake with the whole history of the venue and the DJs involved. With the compilation, I have two end goals: #1 is obviously to properly honor the Garage, and #2 is to raise some much-needed funds for the GMHC who are the trademark holders of the brand which was entrusted to them by the late great Mel Cheren. I made a promise to Mel a long time ago that I would do what I could to help the GMHC if I were ever to be in the position to do so… and here I am over a decade later, finally able to put my money where my mouth is.
Quality music for a good cause, a one two punch. This is getting interesting. Very excited to hear what kind of classics you have selected for the compilation?
None. There have been a few Paradise Garage comps released over the years, all very “Larry focused”, all of them top notch, and to be honest, to release another one of those would be like beating a dead horse: it has been done (maybe one time too many). The focus of this compilation will be exactly what is stated in the title “INSPIRATIONS”: we’re going to feature tracks by legendary producers who were touched, dramatically affected by or greatly inspired by their experiences at the Garage. With cuts by Tony Humphries, Louie Vega, Frankie Knuckles, Eric Kupper and many more; we’re getting tracks by the people whose lives were changed by the time they spent on the dancefloor at the Garage.
This is something that has never been done and I expect it will increase the fan base of the brand by reaching a broader range of dance music fans. Also, I think it’s relatively easy to slap a bunch of crowd favorite classics on a compilation and call it a day, which would be the easy way to go about getting this done. BUT I have a goal for 2016 with Good For You Records and that is to release quality ART by people who are true artists, and every name involved with this project is a solid producer who has had some sort of effect on what we call dance music today. No fluff, no filler, just really great music by people who were there and had their lives changed by Larry.
How do you think the Garage faithful will react to this concept?
The die-hard Paradise Garage fans will get it. I’m actually happy you asked. For whatever reason, certain people pigeonhole Larry, they try to fit him into this box (or boxed set, lol) and make him out to be this guy who only played a select few dozen tracks that have been released on those previous Garage compilations, when that was not the case at all. He was extremely versatile, and I personally think he was at his best when he was playing straight up house sets. But that is just my opinion after years of listening to every known Larry Levan recorded set. From the stories David, Joey and countless others have told me time and time again, Larry was on top of the new stuff and was always pushing the limits at the Garage… and that is the legacy I would like to preserve.
People have to realize we’re blessed, we’re very lucky to have Joey Llanos and David DePino here with us today and they too should be saluted. But they should also be given the freedom Larry had when he was doing his thing. These guys have the tireless job of carrying the torch and to ask them to play the SAME tracks they played since 1977 is fuckin ridiculous and in many ways selfish. They are ARTISTS, they are the architects of this thing we call DJing and they deserve the opportunity afforded to all artists: freedom of expression. They too should be able to spread their wings and play whatever they want whether it be a brand-new track or a certified classic. Larry didn’t play the same shit week in and week out; he was known for breaking new tracks as were David and Joey, and I think it is really important they get to do that today. Sure, the authentic PG “reunion” events they throw will probably stick to more of the crowd favorites played at the Garage from 77′ to 87′, and those parties should remain “genuine”. But this compilation is about honoring the Garage from the perspective of what effect it had on many of the people who went there each and every week religiously and I’m excited to have Joey and David on board. The boys are going to mix the compilation which will be available digitally a few months after the double 12″ DJ friendly vinyl comes out.
Well I can’t wait to hear the compilation and I’m going to be first in line to buy the vinyl pack. Now, you are actually one of my favorite producers. I have at least 30 of your releases, including a bunch of what you call “re-rubs” and bootlegs that have become my go-to weapons of choice when I really need to get the crowd going. You have a certain practicality with your productions, a sensibility that is both underground classic house and somehow new at the same time. For instance, your Lou Rawl’s remix of “You’ll Never Find” is timeless. Is that record going to be on the compilation?
Timeless? Wow, that’s a massive compliment and I thank you for supporting my work. I’m always super grateful when I get to meet someone who actually likes what I produce. What I do is not geared to please everyone and I don’t always produce house music, so to meet a fan who is also a known house music historian is an honor for me.
No, the honor is all mine. Please, please tell me that Lou Rawl’s remix is going to be on the comp!?!?
Unfortunately no. But that track is coming out on Sony in 2016 and I believe it will also see a very special limited edition vinyl release. That was a collaboration with my best friend Eric Kupper and the late great Frankie Knuckles who I have the honor of calling a mentor and dear friend. However, we are going to include another track that Frankie, Eric and I worked on. But I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet. I’m kind of superstitious about this sort of thing.
That’s good news indeed. Our readers will be happy to hear about that. You and Eric Kupper have formed a duo called PROPER. What’s that all about?
Eric is my rock, my closest friend and is a combination of like Yoda and Ghandalf if they were producers. He’s been there with me pretty much since I started making tracks and the progression to us working together as a duo just came naturally. We bounce so many ideas off of each other it just came to the point where working together ‘officially’ as Proper was a no brainer.
Not a bad guy to have as a teammate. The first single you two released as the duo PROPER, “OVER HERE” came out on Classic Music Co about a month ago and literally skyrocketed to #1.
That was a complete surprise. The goal with the duo is to simply produce tracks of the highest quality that deliver the vibe we love, which is proper house music; it’s not deep, it’s not tech, it’s not progressive, it’s not minimal, it’s just proper house music. I have to thank Defected / Classic for the opportunity to work with them. I’m a huge Classic fan, as well as Defected, and when Luke Solomon told me he was interested in releasing the track I think I did a cartwheel in my living room. What a great iconic label to be affiliated with; the history, the classics, it’s been somewhat surreal.
What goals have you set for 2016?
I’m laser focused on production. That’s pretty much it for me. I don’t give a shit about what the next guy is making, I could care less about what the current or next trend is, I’m just thinking about improving my production, becoming better at all aspects of my life.
Yes, I’ve noticed you don’t exactly go after the “in” sounds as much as you’ve managed to carve out a niche all your own.
This past ADE opened my eyes to the dangers of chasing what’s hot. I’m interested in making records that stand the test of time and that is it. Hype and PR is not my shtick; I’m 40 years old, I’m not a kid anymore, and am not interested in changing who I am just to jump on board with the current status quo’s perception of what a DJ should look like. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy and you won’t catch me with a man bun haircut or a black v-neck shirt that goes down to my belly button in an attempt to be relevant to the brainwashed masses. I have zero interest in playing festivals and I’m more than content in packed 300-500 person rooms.
I’m really enjoying the journey right now and I’d rather bring in $10k a year making the music I love instead of playing and / or making candy coated pop bullshit for tweens. It all comes down to what you want out of life. For a lot of these DJs, it’s not about the music at all, it’s about money or pussy or money to buy pussy or drugs or whatever. It’s always just been about the music for me.
I have a sneaky suspicion that you’re going to be one of the biggest artists in dance music one day, (YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST FOLKS) and I’m sure 2016 is going to be a tremendous year for you and your label. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.
The pleasure is all mine. It’s really fuckin awesome to see more blogs and writers taking an interest in proper house music.