Monthly Archives: July 2011

Is that a French name? It’s funky isn’t it? Only the funkiest of names can belong to such a man. I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know this DJ via my favorite bar spot in the Lower East Side, Home Sweet Home. On Friday nights, my friends and I have been known to muster up the energy out of nowhere to make it Home Sweet Home. Why? Because it’s rad. And also because Jonathan Toubin knows how to make people dance like it’s the 1960s. In a society where bumping uglies on the dance floor is totally the “thing to do” Jonathan manages to bring us back to our roots, with pure dance moves. I’ve seen some amazing dancers at Home Sweet Home, and then some not so amazing ones. But hey, at least everyone’s trying.

NY Night Train Soul Clap Classics Vol. 1 – Jonathan Toubin

The reason is because he picks all these tunes that are straight soul funk rock. That’s what I’d call it. I don’t think I have the right to call it anything else, because 1) I wasn’t born in the era during which it was most popular, and 2) because that’s what it sounds like to me in my head.

I am so constantly fascinated by DJs who reinvent the dance floor. To me, that’s what being a DJ is all about. I think it’s because I secretly want to be a DJ, and I’m always thinking of how I can personally create a unique experience for people. It’s an art form, where the music serves as the cause, and the beautiful bodies on the dance floor are the affect. Jonathan has mastered this to no avail. But he tells me that music has always been an object of love and desire throughout his life. He got his start early, playing in bands throughout high school and then continuing through as he grew. By the time he was in college, he had regular gigs as a musician in night clubs, going on tour and making records. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that he began his career as a DJ.

“I never took many classes in music because I really never respected that many people who went to music school – plus as I had been obsessed with rock and roll since I was a kid, felt I needed to be better rounded – so I got an English degree with a German cinema minor…” Jonathan said. “Years later, when I was in graduate school for American studies at CUNY Grad Center, my mentor Ellie Hisama was from the music department and taught me a lot about musicology as an academic discipline, and got me published in an academic hip hop writing anthology.”

I wanted to get an understanding of what a typical night of DJing consists of for Jonathan, so he explained that every night is really different based on themes.

“When I had my first DJ gig at Motor City Bar, I played every genre imaginable and was very concerned with reminding everyone of how enormous the universe was while also expressing my diverse taste. Over time I started compartmentalizing: Wednesdays at motor city is punk, garage, and other rock and roll; Fridays at Home Sweet Home is what I call, ‘maximum rock and soul,’ which is technically an early rock’n’roll/R&B (R&B, rockabilly, wild blues, doo wop, garage rock, girl groups, British invasion, etc.)”

Those were just a few of his nightly themes. When you think about it though, it’s kind of incredible to be able to DJ to all of your own needs and everyone else’s as well. For Jonathan, he gets to not only show every side of his personality through different themes on different nights, but it really shows how flexible he is.

The future for Jonathan looks great. He says that for him, the biggest conern is branching out in terms of the types of parties he throws. He likes to stir things up and offer people something fun and unique to do at night.

“While this was my initial purpose when I started doing this for real, I often lose sight of that in the crunch to keep growing as a DJ and making a living,” Jonathan said.

The best way to really get an understanding of who Jonathan is as a musician and a person, is to try and make it out to one of his dance parties. Find a complete schedule HERE. You can also follow Jonathan on Twitter and Facebook.

Like everything else, music is a constantly evolving and ever-changing artform. Over the years, while many schools and other institutions of thought focus on preserving the art in its original form, there are a handful of creative minds attempting to break free from conformity, and take the music into the next generation. One of the young leaders in this arena is, Austin Peralta, a twenty-year-old pianist just recently signed to Flying Lotus’ record label, Brainfeeder. Wait…a “jazz” pianist that’s signed to a label that produces Electronic, Experimental, Hip Hop, and laptop artists? Exactly.

AH   How old were you when you started playing the piano? How long have you been playing for? Do you play other instruments?
AP   I heard a Mozart symphony when I was in kindergarten, around the age of 5.  Shortly thereafter I asked my parents for a CD of it.  Then I started playing air piano and conducting the music.  I then asked for a piano and a teacher, and they gave it to me.  So that’s basically 15 years.  I began playing soprano sax about five years ago.  I’m starting to sing more, something I never thought I’d do.

AH   Was piano something that came through naturally?
AP   I suppose you could say that as it was something that I started doing so young.  It was like a second or maybe even a first language for me–completely integrated with my being and everything else I did from the very beginning.  At that age, besides swimming in the ocean, playing piano was mostly all I did.  I loved and breathed it.  It was an outlet, as was the ocean, that I could connect deeply through and transcend ordinary reality.

AH   What was the first piece you learned to play?
AP   Haha.  A silly piece for the right hand using only 3 notes called “My Little Pony.”  I haven’t thought about that in years!  I’m surprised I remembered.

AH   How do you feel about the way jazz music has evolved today? How do you contribute to that evolution?
AP   I’m a bit disenchanted with the traditional “jazz” world today to be quite honest.  In the sense that the rehashing of bebop which is so prevalent in what many consider today’s jazz scene isn’t really as much an evolution as a stagnation.  And this isn’t to denigrate jazz music at all–after all, it is one of the closest things to my heart in the world.  But in traditional instrumental jazz, most everything had been done by the end of the 60′s.  At that point the doors opened and Miles went electric, and things changed.  The word jazz itself to me means everything, so I feel like today’s evolution is to encompass anything and everything, be it hip hop, electronica, classical, whatever… This is happening today with artists that look beyond the limits of tradition and don’t get stuck in a box that says “here are the rules that can’t be broken.”  My contribution is to be open and push myself and sing from the depths of spirit I suppose.

AH   What are some of your favorite musicians? Why are they your favorites?

AP   John Coltrane, Frederic Chopin, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, J Dilla, Rachmaninoff… it’s impossible to include them all because there are too many.  I don’t know why.  It’s an inexplicable thing…I suppose we must be kindred spirits.

AH   Do you see yourself playing piano for the rest of your life? Or is there secretly another path you’d like to explore later on in life?
AP   Absolutely. I’ll be playing forever.  It’s been the one consistent factor involved in my life.  While everything around me changes, music stays strong.  Not to say I don’t have other passions that I explore, which I do and will continue to, but music will go with me to the grave.

AH   You were in school for jazz for a year. What made you decide to leave? Would you recommend that other college musicians do the same if they know the path they’d like to pursue?
AP   I felt suffocated in a music school environment.  The two words put together (music school) are kind of oxymoronic to me.  Music is boundless and limitless and a freedom no school can show you.  You have to live life in order to feel its spirit.  I would recommend it for musicians who are deeply connected to what they do.

AH   Do you have any advice for younger musicians?

AP   Keep the ears and heart open to all.  Don’t be afraid of new things, musical or otherwise.  Always learn and trust in music and life.

Austin Peralta, a twenty year old jazz pianist, was just recently signed to Flying Lotus’ record label, Brainfeeder. You can find his music on myspace, as well as on his website.

In the past couple of weeks, Dan Nallen has been greeted by an overwhelming amount of online attention in the blogosphere. While many believe that the mash-up DJ phenomenon has been overdone, I have to admit I totally dig D.a.N‘s sound. Yes, it is a little similar to Girl Talk, but he uses samples that are not as commonly used. I’m going to admit something that’s actually a little embarrassing though, mostly because I’m sure no one else remembers this…the first time I heard Dan’s sound was one summer in high school. We were at a friend’s house in the basement, and at one point he took over DJ duties, only to surprise us with some hilarious but totally rad mash-ups of what I think was Lion King music. I kind of knew at that point that Dan was not just dabbling in being a mash-up music artist.

Blow Your Mind by D.a.N

The mastering of mash-ups is one that can easily be achieved by many. However, to actually be good, is another story. Dan Nallen, a 20-year old Boston College attendee, was first introduced to the art of mash-up music in a magazine called Transworld Snowboarding.

“I had grown up playing instruments, (violin, guitar, and a brief stint with steel drums) so I always considered myself to have an ear for music. Plus I seem to be able to store a pretty big music library in my head, so I always have a few songs floating around at any given time,” Dan said.

That’s a great skill to have especially if you’re a mash-up DJ. My trouble with mash-ups, is that there’s only so many combinations that a DJ can put together, due to time signature constraints and such. While I can imagine the art of putting two or three songs together to make one funky dance tune is relatively self-explanatory, Dan filled me in on a little food for thought.

“As I began, I learned about all the different types of mash-ups out there so I had to hone in on one of the sub-genres and try to make my own sound. In the words of Girl Talk, my sound can be considered collage-music. Unpredictable and in your face,” Dan said. “My songs are extremely ADD and rarely have breaks. I find that this style keeps the listener active and always guessing which is something that you rarely find in pop music which seems to be very cookie cutter-esque nowadays…I would call my sound-in-progress, audio-synthesis.”

This is why I love interviews. I end up walking away with so much knowledge about something I probably had no previous knowledge of. Dan explained that for him, the song making process was just as surprising to him as it was for someone listening to it for the first time. When he created the first song, “Re¡ntroduct¡on” off his new album, Audiosynthesis, he wanted everyone who heard it to know that he was back, while simultaneously reintroducing his style to listeners.

Dan’s inspirations can be found everywhere, but the few that he named included Michael Jackson, Kanye West, Girl Talk, and many of the current DJs and producers who are big on the scene.

“I love to hear how other artists hear songs and cut them up and remix them. I guess my influences reflect my musical ADD that plays into my songs,” Dan said.

I gave Audiosynthesis a listen for the first time a couple weeks ago, and I was an instant fan. Maybe it was because I had already been a fan of his since the first album, but I have to admit, one thing totally won me over:

The sampling of Dave Matthews mixed with Twista. I mean, I’m a huge Twista fan in general, and then mixed with the violin and greatness that is Ants Marching…there’s basically no way you can go wrong. But I’m honestly playing up this whole curiosity card, because I know you’re totally curious right now! You are. And I want you to be. So give D.a.N a listen, you’ll dig it I promise. It’s just toe-tapping awesomeness.

You can download a copy of D.a.N’s latest album, Audiosynthesis here. And if you like that, then you should totally check out his first collection of mash-ups, Weapons of Mash Destruction.

Feel free to add him on Facebook, or check out his Twitter page, which is usually updated whenever he has some cool new music to share.


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