One-half of the deep-digging Brooklyn DJ tandem Kon & Amir, who’ll make their long-overdue Canadian debut at Revival Saturday (May 10) to preview the much-anticipated second volume of their Off Track (BBE) compilation series of rare groove, funky jazz and disco. www.myspace.com/konandamir.
You’ve used a couple of Canadian joints on your recent compilations, including the London Experimental Jazz Quartet’s Destroy The Nihilist Picnic. Have you been spending your Canadian vacations in record stores?
Actually, I’ve only ever been to Canada once, and that was for Caribana. I wasn’t consciously thinking about using records from Canada – they were just amazing tracks. This dealer in Sweden played me the LEJQ album, and when I heard it I had to have it. I remember it being very expensive, over $500, and the sad thing is, I don’t even own it any more. I had to trade to it to a dealer in California for this amazing private press jazz album that has a track I want to put on the next Off Track.
You seem to be getting into some funky West African business on your forthcoming Off Track collection, with a focus on the Afro-Latin sound favoured by Benin artists like Gnonnas Pedro, Black Dragons, Poly-Rythmo and Black Santiago. What’s the deal with Benin?
I had a friend who happened to be living in Benin who was interested in trading some of his African records for the funk and soul records I had. Now, if he was from, say, Nigeria, my side of Off The Track, Vol. 2 would’ve been very different, but this guy was living in Benin, meeting the artists and getting records from them. The other thing is that I grew up listening to Latin music all around me, so my tastes are heavily influenced by that.
Why did you get involved with a start-up label offshoot of Wax Poetics magazine?
Well, I ran Fat Beats distribution for eight years, so I did the whole indie hip-hop thing, and by 2005 I was burnt out on it. I knew Wax Poetics’ editor-in-chief, Andre Torres, because Fat Beats was the first to distribute the magazine. So when Andre was starting up a label, he gave me a call, and it turned out to be a great fit. I’ve always wanted to be involved with a business that’s continuously growing, and a lot of great things are happening with the Wax Poetics label.
Is the business of reissuing rare recordings becoming more cutthroat?
It seems that more and more people are doing comps every day. As soon as we decide what’s going on a comp, it’s a race to get the songs licensed before anyone else does. I don’t usually talk about what we’re working on next, because you’ll mention some great track you heard and the next thing you know it’s on someone’s mix CD. I’ve met a few people who’ve started putting out comps using MP3s they found online! How weak is that?
Has the fact that everyone with a laptop now thinks he or she can be a club DJ caused you to think about hanging up your wheels of steel?
It’s true that these days everybody and their mother is suddenly a DJ, especially in New York. Club owners are hiring kids in their early 20s who are thrilled to do a six-hour set for $50 or maybe just drinks. I mean, I just turned 38; there’s no way in hell I’m going to play six hours for 50 bucks. Because Kon and I don’t play electro-clash or mashups we don’t get offered the big-money gigs, so I don’t play here as much any more.