URLOPOP – Hi Kenny, It’s a pleasure to meet you. We have read on the internet that you created dance music.
KENNY –I didn’t create dance music..ah ah (laughs).
URLOPOP – Well, let’s start from the beginning, can you confirm that you began your career in New York back in the 70s?
KENNY – Yes, you’re right, I started my career in New York, I was the light technician in a club for seven years and I used to play sometimes for the dj. I was discovered at a club called the Inferno in 1980 by the promoters of Studio 54 and hired to play there.
URLOPOP – Was that your first job?
KENNY – Talking about work I never really had a conventional nine to five job, I had a Job working for a Woman's Wear company from 1985-90 but basically I've never really worked during the day in my life..
URLOPOP – Where were you born?
KENNY – I was born in Bronx, New York, but I'm from Brooklyn. The reason for my Bronx Birth was because my Mother was at a Birthday Party for my Aunt and she went into Labor, They took her to Lincoln Hospital which was near my Aunt's home . So I tell everybody like I was born dancing! Dancing to the beat!
URLOPOP – Can we ask you something about your childhood?
KENNY – Well, my childhood was pretty rough, I have seven brothers and we come from a poor family, when I was eight years old my father left us, Remarried and started a new family. My Mom always told us that if she knew he was going to leave she would have left first. I never felt like I was wanted by my parents and there are not so many exciting things to say about my childhood – it was hard and I am lucky to have made it to where I am today, Praise God!
URLOPOP – How many years did you work as a Lighting Technician and when did you make your transition to playing music?
KENNY – I worked from 1974 to 1980 as a light operator. Let me tell you the story on how I started djing. I worked for five years in this club called “The inferno” in New York City doing the lights. The dj set at that time was from 11 pm to 9 am, you had to work ten hours, by yourself, with no opening DJ and only with vinyl. That’s the way it was for all djs in New York at that time, all the clubs were afterhours, so the clubs closed at like nine or ten o’clock. “The Paradise Garage” closed at 1 pm in the afternoon. Anyway, so around seven or eight o’clock the dj would always get tired, he’d already been working eight hours, no kidding and so he'd let me play the last part. Anyway, there was one particular night in October in 1980, the DJ asked me to give him a break and he went downstairs. when he left the promoters from Studio 54 walked in and they heard me playing, they came to hear Rene , but I was playing at the time. So they stayed for like thirty minutes and I played my best of course and when they were leaving they told me – we really loved your music, how would you like to work with us at Studio 54?-
URLOPOP – Oh really!
KENNY – Don’t forget I was the light man, so I said – uh, let me think about this for a minute...ok! – (laughs)
URLOPOP – So you accepted immediately!
KENNY – Of course I accepted, then they said ok, you got the job, you start next Saturday, That coming Saturday was my birthday, October 7th, so that was the first day I worked at Studio 54. What was really funny was when the dj came back from his break, his name was Rene, I said – I’ve something to tell you, the people from Studio 54 just offered me a job. Well, he didn’t say anything for like two minutes, and I could see his face going blue, then he told me – you call those people right away and tell them that that job is for me – and then I said – I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I can’t do that.- And that was the beginning of my DJ career.
URLOPOP – During all these years of your career, I imagine you’ve met lot of famous people. Can you tell us of someone in particular?
KENNY – A lot of people ask me that question, you know. I’ve met some famous people, I’ve met Diana Ross and I’ve met Madonna, Nile Rodgers, and Bernard Edwards both form Chic, and then there's Boy George, and that’s about it, I haven’t met too many other famous people.
URLOPOP – Did you meet Andy Warhol?
KENNY –Yes I met him with Calvin Klein and Bianca Jagger, but it wasn’t on good circumstances. The three of them club when I worked at Studio 54. Let me tell you the story from the top. When I worked at studio 54, the owners of the club were in jail for tax evasion, when they were in prison the club lost it’s liquor licence because they found two million dollars hidden behind a wall, loosing the alcohol was devastating for the club and they lost all of the high society people. My audience at 54 really didn't care about the booze because they were mostly black and Spanish people and this kind of heavy drinking was never part of their dance culture. For them & me it was and still is all about the music and not about celebrities.
When Steve Rubell was released from prison he came to the club with Calvin Klein, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol the four of them were in my small console. So Steve asked me to play a song I didn’t like called "Your Love" By Lime. I said - Steve I’m sorry I don’t have this song – then he said - Calvin Andy and Bianca are here and want to hear that song - so I said once again - Steve I’m sorry I don’t have this song. So he became angry and told me – I’m Steve Rubell! I own this place! and I want to hear that song right now! So play the song right now! I’m not the type of guy you want to talk to like that, I was being very nice with him, I don’t appreciate it when somebody talks to me that way. So I said – Listen I realize you are the owner of this club, but I do not work for you, second, if I had that record I would never play it, you know why? Because I hate that motherfucking record!! Calvin and Andy Warol could not believe what happened, because Steve was such a celebrity, nobody talks with him like that. So he got mad and they all left the club. The next week he hired the band called Lime and flew them from Canada to perform the song that he wanted to hear live at Studio 54 and when they were singing he came to the console and looked at me with those condescending blue eyes. He wanted to show me that he was the one and only power at the club but I was less than impressed. That is one of my biggest stories and I believe that if you let somebody disrespect you, no matter how you much you are being paid, if you let people disrespect you they will walk on you just like on a carpet, I don’t care how much money you pay me, I will not let you disrespect me.
URLOPOP – From your long experience of working as a DJ what can you say about how the image of the DJ has changed from when you started till now?
KENNY – When I was working during the 70s and 80s, I knew many famous DJ's, Some much more famous than I was, one in particular was Larry Levan, He played a big part in the creation and design of The ”Paradise Garage” and he was one of the most famous DJ's of that era. Larry wasn’t celebrated like some big DJ's are today and when the audience saw him, they were not screaming like like they do with David Guetta or Armin van Buuren, at that time, no matter how famous you were, if you did a bad job the people booed you if your music wasn’t good. At that time cameras were banned at most clubs and the only people allowed to take pics where the professional photographers, we didn’t have cell phones with cameras and when I worked in Studio 54, you couldn’t bring in a camera and take a photo of me or anyone else because you’d get thrown out for that, so as a result I have no pictures of me at Studio 54. Another thing that has changed is technology, we had the records and the turntables but there was no drum machines at that time, all the music during the seventies was all live recordings, live drums, live bass, live everything, you had to really know how to play in order to mix those records in. Because there was no bpm counter, you had to know how to mix one record into the next record with feeling and emotion, but now all of these new jack DJ's have got it easy, the technology does everything for them all they have to do is press play and that’s it.
Another thing... I think the computer is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Most producers and remixers use the computer to structure and arrange their drums but dancing with an electronic drum it’s not like dancing with a live drum, because an electronic drum does not change tempo and after two hours of the same bmp you get really tired, the brain is tired of hearing the same bmp But when you listen to a live drum or you listen to music that varies you can never be tired, you can dance for four, five, six hours, you’re never going to feel tired, but when I go and hear most young DJ's I feel bored after two hours because the music never changes.
URLOPOP – In your opinion, what is more important for a DJ the music he plays or his personality-charisma?
KENNY – My personal opinion. I don’t care about dj charisma, I feel like “get in there and do your job!”, I don’t care how beautiful you are, I don’t care how many countries you have travelled to, how many magazines you are in. Just make me dance! And you know what I believe? It is not the mix that is important, it’s the selection. The selection, no matter how you mix it in, the selection is always the most important thing. Because if I play a record now and I do a mix, and maybe I didn’t get the beat right, if the next record is fabulous the people are going to keep dancing. I never heard people on the dance floor saying – hey! I didn’t like the way you mixed that, the mix wasn’t perfect- they don’t care about that, they want to dance! In Ibiza there is a party in Pascia called “Flower Power” and the guy whose the DJ I think he’s the owner, well he doesn’t know how to mix but he knows how to play music and they all love it, it’s one of the most fabulous parties in Ibiza.
URLOPOP –Can you tell us something about your life recently. We’ve heard that you live in Rome, is that right?
KENNY –Yeah I been living there for fifteen years.
URLOPOP –How did you end up living in Rome from New York?
KENNY –Well there are three reasons why I left New York. The first was George Bush, I wanted to leave when he was elected President. the second reason was the September 11th attack I believe the whole thing was a setup and a lie, I can't rest until I see someone brought to justice for these crimes.The other reason is that I’m afraid of flying, ok I have to take a plane sometimes in two weeks time I will go to Japan, I don’t work so much in America and for decades and my work has been mostly in Europe. I moved because I wanted to be closer to my work, I got tired of flying 8 or 9 hours from the States. But there was another reason I wanted to be in Europe, Most of my fans are from Italy and my mother told me once, wherever they’re paying you that’s where you need to be!
URLOPOP – I guess you often play in Rome?
KENNY –Sometimes. But the club scene in Rome is not good right now so I play in the north and south, all over Italy. The clubs in Rome now play a lot of techno, there’s no kind of soulful house scene now.
URLOPOP –Apart from Italy in which European countries do you play?
KENNY –I play in Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Japan, Greece and England of course. I just did a big party at “The Ministry Of Sound” a couple of months ago. That's one of my favorite venues.
URLOPOP-Can you tell us about a typical day for you, how do you spend your time?
KENNY- Well I like to go the swimming pool a few times a week because I have a problem with my back and I’m a member of a gym. Then I’m also a music producer too, I don’t know if you’ve heard any of my songs but I make music and I have a studio at home. So right now I’ve finished my remix of "Hero" By Mariah Carey (sings “Hero” and I've also finished a remix of "Careless Whisper" By George Michael. So, when I'm not working abroad I'm in the studio and the gym.
URLOPOP-You can separate the video from the audio? And then I guess you can do remixes?
KENNY-Yeah! I've found a live version on "Hero" and I was able to extract if from the video with my music pogram. I do the drums and my musician lays the base and the chords for the song. it’s going to be simple to wrap it up. One, two, three baby! I like these types of songs that make you think about why I play it, the reason, I wanna dance with someone right now, you know, not tomorrow. That’s one of the things that’s missing in today’s music, right? The djs in the 70s we used to speak with the people, I could talk to you with music, I could tell you that you are beautiful (sings “You are so beautiful”).
KENNY- So, if I’m playing and I see some boy that I like, someone I wanna take home like, maybe I’m gonna play that song “You are so beautiful” and when it's playing I may look at the boy he'd understand I’m playing this for him. Or when I’m angry I may play "I’m Mad As Hell" , Or, there’s a song that goes "I’ll Beat That Bitch With A Bat". I think that one of the things that’s missing today in the clubs, there’s no interaction with the club and the DJ. The audience has no feeling about the DJ, but back in the 70's I had a relationship with the crowd, sometimes I’d play a song and make everybody cry, I don’t see that anymore now. Music was about messages, it wasn’t about what kind of star or celebrity dj you are. Nobody at my parties gives a fucking shit about that, they Just want to hear good music! So now I’m still djing but I don’t think I’m ever gonna be a celebrity dj, I don’t wanna be one . I wanna be someone who plays good music and makes you dance. I don’t care if people stand in front of me with a camera, I don’t wanna be with you and your boyfriend on Facebook tonight, I’m not interested in that but I want you to stay on the dance floor and dance and enjoy yourself!
URLOPOP - Do you play a musical instrument?
KENNY- No I don’t, but I’m a producer, a re-mixer and an engineer too, but I have musicians that work for me that play my music and I can tell when a note is good or bad.
URLPOP- So you have a good ear for music.
KENNY- I do, I have a musical mind and music it’s in my blood.