Putting the jigsaw together piece by piece
I’ve just been looking back at the first few posts I wrote when I started the blog in July. Back then, I seemed to have got to the stage where I’d already read all the books about the early New York house scene I could find. There were lots of interesting interviews and articles on the internet, but they were scattered far and wide without any easy way for me to go back and reference them.
I was going to start posting things up on Facebook at first, but then realised I might bore some of my friends to death with my new-found New York house obsession! Instead, I decided to work out how to use wordpress and started to write. I figured, this way I could keep track of all the articles and clips I’d found for myself and if anyone else happened to find it interesting too, so be it.
As time has gone by, I’ve got even more hooked and the blog has gone off in directions I never thought it would – I was even a bit dismissive of New Jersey’s contribution back in that first post, glad that didn’t last too long! Unfortunately, in the past few weeks I’ve also realised there are risks involved in the way I’m attempting to document such a rich and diverse music scene, spanning two cities and at least two decades. It’s seems like finding a new piece of an enormous jigsaw every week and never really knowing how much of it you’ve put in the right place.
This first started to really concern me a couple of weeks ago when I was pointed in the direction of an interview with Danny Tenaglia (thanks @hausmusic!). In one of my early posts I shared a few tracks that Richard Vasquez had listed on his short lived Choice Revoice blog – the sound of night he ran at The Loft. One of the tracks was a Danny Tenaglia remix of Susan Clarke’s Deeper, alongside which I recounted a story I had read about Danny’s days in New York prior to becoming one of the world’s most famous producer/DJs. I suggested that he’d been “scratching around in New York” trying to make it as a DJ and that his early remixes (such as the one for Dead or Alive below) weren’t exactly house music classics.
I probably got a bit carried away in my description and could have done a lot more research into the background if I’d had the inclination, but as far as I knew, the facts were the facts: Danny had not been able to really make it as a DJ in New York until the mid 90s. The interview @hausmusic had shared with me didn’t focus so much on the very early 90s, but the author (@shiveringgoat) later highlighted that “Vasquez had him thrown out of Sound Factory in 1992/3 so was formidable competition by then.” This got me worried – had I missed something important? Had Danny really struggled to make it as a DJ after returning from Miami in 1990?
My brother alerted me to another interview that went into the early 90s in more detail, this time with Resident Advisor. As I listened to the bits leading up to his return to New York, I started getting more and more nervous that I’d really messed up. I’d only written a couple of sentences about him, but in my mind that could be enough to undermine everything I’ve written in the past 6 months. If it turns out I have got those plain facts wrong, how much else might I have missed? What right do I have to write about all this anyway? I wasn’t there, I don’t know these people…
Luckily for me, it turns out I wasn’t far off the mark, at least about the DJing. Danny had made an impact as a resident DJ at Miami’s early Winter Music Conferences in the late 80s and this had given him the opportunity to start getting into the studio like his heroes Shep Pettibone and Larry Levan:
So I went to a studio; I brought a bunch of records that inspired me; I made song called Waiting For A Call – I called myself “Deep State” – and my first song got signed to Atlantic records. Right there they started hiring me to do remixes, so some of my remixes came out before my first record… Guys like Frankie Knuckles, Dave Morales, Masters At Work, Justin Strauss – there were so many people that were now getting hired to do remixes that there was a limited amount. So if they couldn’t get these guys – …Cliviles and Cole… – it was like: “Who we gonna get?” So that put me in a good place to say: “OK, it’s time for me to move back and start getting my feet wet in New York City recording studios” and that’s exactly what happened. My career blossomed as a producer/remixer, however I didn’t get a good gig in New York til 1996, at The Roxy. So I was in limbo as a DJ for 6 years but my studio career was flourishing.
That was a real relief – clearly Danny had more going for him than just having “been near a studio in New York” but at least I hadn’t got the facts wrong. I can live with that!
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of my concerns about the way I’ve been writing things up. I was also in the process of transcribing only the 2nd interview I’ve ever done with Ace Mungin. Ace was great, just as Gregg had been previously, but as I listened back to the recording I realised that at key points, I had started asking a new question just as Ace was about to tell me something. I was annoyed with myself; I wondered what interesting nuggets of information Ace might have told me if I’d just kept my mouth shut a bit longer.
Then, after I posted the part one, I found out that it wasn’t just the odd witty anecdote I had missed – I’d neglected to ask Ace about a key player in the development of Ace Beat records and New Jersey house in general: Shedrick Guy. Shedrick was listed on the early records alongside Paul Scott and Ace himself, but while Paul released tracks under his own name and Ace obviously had his label, Shedrick was not a familiar name to me. Both Ace and Shedrick himself quickly brought it to my attention that a piece of the jigsaw was missing from the Ace Beat story – it had been Shedrick that brought the studio experience that was needed to successfully produce those first records.
After co-producing Paul Scott’s Off The Wall and Blaze’s Yearnin, Shedrick went on to release tracks with many of the Jersey artists for labels like 4th & Broadway, City Beat and SBK Records. He worked extensively with Guy Vaughn as The Fly Guys and even released a couple of house tracks for one Taylor Dayne under the name Les Lee before she went on to make Wedding Bingo favourite Tell It To My Heart.
The more I keep digging, the more appears – each piece of the jigsaw shows me another bit of the picture I never knew existed. Hopefully I’ll get closer to that complete picture over the weeks and months and as I get a bit more experience I can do without pissing off too many people at the same time – hopefully it’s worth the risk.