Sh-Sh-Shakin’ With Jonathan Toubin

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.

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