At the Grammy Awards this past Sunday, big name DJs posed on the red carpet with celebrity dates. They have become multinational corporations and major forces in nightlife entertainment. The expansion of club music from New York to Las Vegas has made Electronic Dance Music DJ’s rock stars.
Traditional House DJ's do not command the same celebrity or financial status. However, they do rule over a world of purists who flock to clubs and festivals to hear them spin. In conjunction with the Winter Music Conference, John Davis will present his 3 Kings of House Music party by the pool of the National Hotel.
The 3 Kings are Louie Vega, David Morales and Tony Humphries and the event is described as a “day of 90's House music floor stompers in the beautiful surroundings of The National Hotel pool.” This shows that House music is alive but there are more dance floors than ever before and finding quality DJ’s to spin for these floors is problematic for programmers.
Nightclub & Bar caught up with John Davis known for his Body & Soul parties, late afternoon soirée’s of classic House music, to find out if there is still relevance in classic House music in a world that’s gone mad for EDM.
Nightclub & Bar (NCB): Your Body & Soul parties set a precedent for what is now the modern day mega brunch. Tell us how it all started.
John Davis: I started in London in mid-90's working for a daytime party in London called "The Arches" party that started at 10am and went till 10pm. I helped as a security guard and promoter.
When I moved to New York in 1995 I decided to try the same format here on a Sunday Daytime party. I met with Francois-K and we teamed up to start Body & Soul. The first few weeks were tough with numbers and then on fourth week we did a tribute birthday party for the late Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan. That day approximately 400 people showed up. A few weeks after an article in New York magazine came out and the party took off from there. The party ran weekly for six years until the club shut down. We took a two year break and then in 2004 we brought the party back but traveling overseas and doing one-off events in NYC. We now still tour the world with B&S and do three or four special holiday parties in NYC.
NCB: What about your 3 Kings of House event?
Davis: We started the 3 Kings Party back in 2009 as a one-off 90's house music event with Louie Vega, Tony Humphries and David Morales. We did the party at Webster Hall and the place was jammed. So we decided to do the party more often but to take the party on tour as well. We have now done parties in NYC, Miami, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco and have plans to do Italy and other worldwide destinations.
NCB: The 3 Kings - Louis, David and Tony are all house legends. How do they differ in styles?
Davis: During the 90's peak era of deep house music these three were definitely the Kings of House. They still are but music style and tastes have changed. The 3 Kings are indeed legends in their own rights but yes they have different styles. Louie Vega is very into deep percussive productions with a flavor of his Latin roots. Being the nephew of Hector Lavoe he has a great tradition of family history in Latin music. Louie's production history is a who’s who of the music industry. When Louie puts music together its both sophisticated and electrifying in its intensity, he’s a true Master at Work.
Tony Humphries is the king of New Jersey House music. From his legendary residency at Zanzibar's and his Kiss FM Radio shows in the 90's, Tony put New Jersey on the map for dance music. David Morales is a true legend on this music culture and has evolved from his early Red Zone Days to the world stage of dance music. He has produced some of the most famous and floor filling House music anthems. Together with his stage presence and that buff tattoo filled body, David has kept people coming back year after year.
NCB: If there were to be 10 Kings who are the candidates?
Davis: My top ten would be different to others but I'm slightly biased to the first six.
Francois-K, Louie Vega, Danny Krivit, David Morales, Joaquin "Joe" Claussell, Tony Humphries and then I would add Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan (The Paradise Garage), David Mancuso (The Loft) and several others that I could insert into the tenth slot.
NCB: The big question…is House a classic art form and EDM a modern art form? Is House still developing, changing, progressing or is there purity in the old form?
Davis: The funny thing is we just did a 3 Kings Party in London playing 90's House music and everyone was telling me how there is a new resurgence for the older style House music. House music will always keep evolving. EDM is the flavor of the month now and next year it will be something else. I just know what I like to listen to and dance to and while there is still an audience for it I will keep producing the events.
NCB: Is Miami the mecca for events and festivals? Do events define it or does it have its own musical culture?
Davis: Miami has changed a lot since the early days of the Winter Music Conference. It used to be about the industry and networking. Now it's a money grab and all about the parties. It will always be a tourist mecca and is a good host for many festivals and events. Whilst, I don’t feel it really has its own culture of music, it really does have its own "Miami" style and crowds.
NCB: Demand for high priced DJs pays at the door. Have DJs priced themselves out of most clubs?
Davis: In my opinion yes. A lot of great big name DJ's are used to getting huge pay days and it's hard for them to work for small fees. However, in my part of the music world a lot of DJ's still remain flexible and will do the big pay days as well as the small intimate venues too.
NCB: Who are some of the up and comers, the princes?
Davis: Well there are many but as usual the key in my opinion to being a great legend is to produce as well as play. Nowadays everyone in their bedroom through their Facebook page is a DJ. For me it's still about the rudiments of music and showing that you can produce and put together tracks and songs that show your musical ability. I spent 12 years being taught classical piano and leaning to read and write music. That to me is where the skill really lies. Being paid $200K to play other peoples music through your iPod and not using headphones to blend is a cop out in my mind.