It's odd to hear that someone as revered and influential as Joe "Joaquin" Claussell got into producing and DJing reluctantly.
But as our conversation progresses, it's apparent that this may be why he's been able to carve out a particular niche for himself.
He came to prominence partly through the infamous Sunday-afternoon party Body & Soul that he did during the late 90s New York with Danny Krivit and François K, both dance music veterans and icons beside the unknown-at-the-time Claussell.
You'd think he would have jumped at the chance to play alongside two figures who had such an influential role in early dance music, but the truth is that he turned down repeated requests before finally giving in.
"François K used to come into my record store, Dance Tracks, and try to convince me to DJ with them at Body & Soul when they first started," he explains over the phone. "I played at the store all the time, and people were always asking why I wasn't DJing in clubs. I was happy there -- I had a slamming sound system and people would come by and hang out. I didn't really consider myself a DJ, and still don't. When I was younger I'd go to the Garage and dance, but I was never really interested in DJing myself."
Eventually he played at an event celebrating Larry Levan (Paradise Garage's resident DJ) and subsequently agreed to become a resident at what became one of the most influential parties of the last decade. Body & Soul was a reaction against the hard, pounding direction club music was going in, and while based in house, was a place where you could also hear rock, disco classics, African rhythms and even some techno.
Open-format DJing might be an easier sell these days, but it's important not to forget just how freaked out people were when they first heard him play in Toronto. DJs were shocked that he would sometimes just let a record run out in order to change tempo, and would play something like Bob Marley in the middle of a house set, molesting the EQ rather than worrying so much about the perfect blend.
"The dancers let me do what I do. We create together, like a call and response -- they give me permission to play those tracks. It's got to be about the people, not the DJs lined up beside the booth. If I want to, I can play a set of all unreleased music, mix it perfectly and make the DJs happy, but you can't do both.
"What the dancers really care about is the song. That's what they remember. If you're not dancing, then I'm not playing for you."
These days, Claussell has been taking it easier and he's put his critically acclaimed label Spiritual Life on hold while starting a more experimental label, Sacred Rhythm, as well as a bi-weekly Sunday-afternoon party in NYC by the same name.
Look for some new releases this spring, and watch out for a possible revival of Spiritual Life.