Interview With DJ Spinna ~About The Tribute Party, His Passion For Records And More~

Yayoi Kawahito

DJ Spinna has been captivating fans from all over the world.

Based in Brooklyn, NY, DJ Spinna’s DJ style is an eclectic fusion of hip hop, funk, soul, R&B, jazz, and dance/electronic music. He made his first impression on listeners while producing the instrumental tracks for his group “The Jigmastas.” Following his success, he went on to work with an array of musical giants such as Eminem, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and De La Soul. DJ Spinna has remixed Roy Ayers, Michael Jackson, Mary J Blige, and Stevie Wonder as well. His dedication to his local and global community is notable: he’s the official DJ for Spike Lee’s Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson, Purple People Party, and also for his own parties, Wonder-Full and Soul Slam.

We had a chance to meet with DJ Spinna at Human Head Records located in Brooklyn, where we talked about music and community, and also asked him to select $100 worth of top choice vinyl records—as our personal record buyer!

――How important is it to you to be involved in the community in Brooklyn?
It’s very important that I continue to do parties, gigs and other events that specialize in keeping the original Brooklyn party people together. Because a lot of us have been displaced, meaning we’ve moved to other places. Other cultures are moving in and it feels like we’re losing our sense of what makes Brooklyn unique. Even though I travel all over the world—I was born and raised here—I am an old school “Brooklynite.” It’s important for me to stay grounded with my Brooklyn people too! That’s why I still do intimate parties and community events, especially now since I’ve been working a lot with Spike Lee.

――How did the Michael Jackson vs Prince, Stevie Wonder Tribute Party begin and what was the original intention behind it?
All of these parties started off small and then grew to be bigger. The people that originally came out to these were my friends and followers. After some time, the event kept getting bigger and I noticed that the people who were coming were the people that had been coming since day one. It’s important to still have people who were there from the beginning to still come out and enjoy these type of events. Now I see the crowds getting younger and younger in the past three, four years. Like I said, things are changing a lot, so I tend to see younger crowds that don’t quite understand the true essence of what a real party is. At the Tribute Parties, I give a space for the older and younger generations to mix and exchange understandings.

――I noticed at your parties, no matter who, everyone is dancing with real raw and heavy vibes, why is that?
I come from real party roots that’s why!

――What’s on your mind when you dj?
I think that I've mastered the concept of energy. I pay attention to what is happening in the crowd and making sure that people are engaged, dancing, moving and singing. If the energy drops, I know that I have to change the direction, vibe, and move the energy up. That’s when I play stuff I’ve already thought about four or five records earlier. Sometimes I might change my mind last minute. Depends on the feel of the crowd and what kind of reaction I want. I’m always concerned about being ready for the demand.

――Which genre do you search for when you buy records?
I try to keep my ears malleable by listening to everything. Today, I have a friend visiting from Brazil, so I’m feeling like Brazilian music would be the right theme. By the way, I love Brazilian music, but on a regular digging session, I would be nose deep, sifting through house, disco, funk, soul, blues, jazz, reggae, caribbean and Latin music.

――When you tour in Japan, do you visit any record stores, and what’s the first thing that catches your eye?
Of course! What catches my eye really depends though. One time I went to a record store in Kyoto—it looked like a store not too many people went to—but they had so many 7-inches! I also found that the Japanese pressing had really good picture sleeves  for ‘70s funk and soul—really cheap! In Tokyo, a lot of stores are more expensive though.

――Are there any records you are looking for currently?
At the moment, rare disco, boogie and funk records, but today I didn’t expect to see all these Brazilian records and that changed my mission automatically! I’m a vinyl junkie, so if I see something rare that I know I won’t see anytime soon, I only focus on that.

――Why do you still prefer to use vinyl when the mainstream has gone digital?
Having the record itself—you won’t lose it quite like a digital file—unless it’s stolen or your house is on fire. Also, there’s a deeper connection to the music. When you pick up a record, it has artwork, and when you open up the sleeve you can find liner notes and song lyrics—it’s really intimate. To go even deeper, I’ve learned how to identify all the dynamics parts of a vinyl record in the grooves of the records. I can see a lot of drum breaks by just looking at it. Pure audiophiles believe that records and songs were meant to be the way the artists recorded them. I learned from them a lot, just from pressing records and going to mastering sessions. [Picks up a stylus.] This very tiny needle traces the lines of a record. Those vibrations go to the cables, traveling through the speakers where we get sound. That’s why your speakers move the way they do. Also, I’ve been listening to vinyl records since I was a kid.

――Do you buy reissues? What’s your criteria, if you do?
Reissues are great and it serves a purpose. I’d buy reissued records because I simply want to hear music—period. A lot of times, reissued vinyl might sound better than the original. Original pressings though, are for hardcore collectors that want to raise the value of their record collections. But if you care for music—it doesn’t matter.

――What is your next move in the near future?
I’m bringing my house label “Wonder Wax” out for 12-inch releases, and just completed an EP song with producer Hugo LX from Paris; set to be released in the fall. This summer, I’ve been busy on tour and doing parties, but I’ll be back in the studio soon to make more music. Especially, to stay connected with the young hip hop kids.

Go to Part2 of DJ spinna's interview!

DJ Spinna

DJ Spinna
DJ Spinna is a DJ, producer, and remixer, originally from Brooklyn, New York. DJ Spinna gigs all over the world, and he rocks various parties in the New York club scene. His music crosses over many genres: house, funk, jazz, soul, R&B, hip hop, dance—creating a unique ambient. As an accomplished producer and remixer, DJ Spinna has worked with many renowned artists and has quite an extensive catalog.

by Yayoi Kawahito
Photos by Still 1
Location at Human Head Records

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