The very first Dubspot Podcast of 2012 is here! This one is a ridiculously good live mix from record collector/vinyl archivist, writer, artist, one of the original kings of diggin’ Amir Abdullah. As part of the legendary crate digging duo Kon & Amir, he’s spent the better half of the last two decades salvaging some of the greatest music you’ve never heard, and presenting them on critically acclaimed mixes, compilation albums, and 12 inches. Originally from Boston, when he relocated to New York, he joined fellow record collectors and DJs including Ge-Ology, The Twilite Tone, OP!, Jon Oliver, and I Love Vinyl founder Scribe to form the all star, dynamic sound system behind the beloved I Love Vinyl parties. Bringing the music directly to the people. Listen to the podcast and check out our interview, in which Amir talked about everything from growing up in a musical household in Boston (he’s the son of a jazz record collector; his also mother played gospel and soul music, while his siblings listened to disco and boogie) to moving to to New York and joining the I Love Vinyl collective, touring Europe and Asia with his music partner Kon, appearing on the Gilles Peterson radio show, and much more.
Title – Dubspot Podcast 027: Amir (I Love Vinyl / Wax Poetics) – Live Boogie Mix by Dubspot
DUBSPOT INTERVIEWS DJ AMIR
Dubspot: Please introduce yourself.
Amir: My name is Amir Abdullah a.k.a. DJ Amir, originally from Boston, but I’ve been in New York for seventeen years. I grew up in a musical household. My father was a Jazz record collector, and my mother listened to gospel and soul. My siblings listened to jazz and disco. These are some of the things that influenced me to do what I do today, which is collecting records and DJing.
Dubspot: How long have you been collecting records, DJing, and working in the music industry?
Amir: I have been collecting records for for 30 years and DJing for 10. I worked in music industry as an executive for fifteen years. I’ve been able to see both sides of the music. So music is my life.
Dubspot: Let’s talk about the mix. You recorded this live, right?
Amir: Yeah, I did it live. I was at this party called I Love Vinyl. We have it in Brooklyn at Southpaw but we also sometimes have it in Manhattan Le Poisson Rouge. It was during CMJ yeah.
Dubspot: What made you focus on that specific sound?
Amir: I chose that particular mix of songs because, well, at every I Love Vinyl, I try to play different stuff. I try not to play the same stuff. So at that time, in October I believe, it was still warm in New York, so I was playing warm type of music. Since I was going first, I wanted to warm up the party with some soulful music and get people dancing. I played a lot of soulful boogie music. It still felt like summertime just the tail end of summer.
Dubspot: Tell us about I Love Vinyl.
Amir: It’s been going on for two and a half years. It’ll be three years in May this year. The concept was created by this guy DJ Scribe, He came to me and the other four DJs and said “Hey, I have the idea of doing this all vinyl party” and it just worked. I was a little hesitant at first because there are six of us, and I wondered how we were going to pull off a party with six people. Also, having to drag vinyl crates along was crazy since it’s heavy and can be worn down. But it just worked.
Dubspot: Before I Love Vinyl, what other parties were you playing?
Amir: I’ve played all kinds of parties. I’ve traveled overseas a lot. I’ve been to Asia four times to DJ, and I’ve been to Europe almost 30 times to DJ. I’ve DJed everything from festivals to small club venues, to big club venues. I play really deep disco and funk and soul and latin- music that is just timeless and it feels good even if you don’t know who it is.
Dubspot: How do you balance the push and pull of what the crowd wants when you play out versus what you want to play?
Amir: Well, I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve not been in too many situations where I have to play something that I don’t want to play. For the most part, when I’m playing in a club I’m playing what I want to hear. I feel like I have a good feeling or a good intuition of what people like or what will make people move. Even if you don’t realize it, it gets you into a mood to dance and to have a good time. I’ve never really had to deal with people coming up to me like “Hey, can you play Lady Gaga?” I’ve had that happen to me before and I just politely say it’s not that type of party and I show them the flyer. It’s just soulful disco or whatever, usually people will understand but you know obviously sometimes you have people that just are not hearing that and they just want to hear what they hear on the radio and I have to say go home because you can hear that stuff for free on the radio. But I’ve been fortunate enough to not have to deal with that too much.
Dubspot: How do you introduce crowds to new types of music?
Amir: You try to mix it in with well-known records. You can’t just play a party with stuff the audience have never heard. You start with something familiar and then you slip in a song they’ve never heard, but it’s in the same kind of mood, the same kind of key, and it’s still danceable. Most people will respond to that. They’re going to respond to like the music that’s moving them. You see it in peoples faces like “I don’t know what this is” but their body is still moving. You when it’s bad when they’re looking up like what is this and they’ve stopped dancing.
Dubspot: Besides your traditional DJ setup, do you use anything else when playing out?
Amir: I use two turntables and a mixer. And if it’s not vinyl, then I’m using Serato. I’ve only recently started using Serato, and that’s pretty much it.
Dubspot: How do you think the concept of DJing has changed over the past 10 years?
Amir: Definitely with the introduction of Serato and the greater influence of CDJs, DJing has changed a great deal in the sense that technology provides you with more access to your collection of music to play out. You can be more well rounded without having to carry tons of crates of records to gigs. And you can play a lot of stuff that were never on vinyl at all. You can play a lot of remixes and edits that you can do yourself or that someone else has done that you know so that opens up a lot of things. But on the flip side of that, I think that because of the technology and it giving you a lot of easier access to music, you definitely a segment of the population who think it’s easy to DJ and a lot of us make it look easy but there’s a lot of hard work to it. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s an actual job. And if you’re a serious DJ you take it seriously as a job that you go to 9 to 5 and you try to do the best that you can. I think with the advent of technology everybody and their mother think they can DJ now. And it wasn’t like that always. Ten years ago, there were still people that wanted to DJ but you had to have a lot of character to do the hard work of learning how to DJ because it wasn’t easy. There was at the least CDJs but when people were rocking CDJs, it still was something that only house DJs used and very few people were using it. Most people were still dragging their vinyl to gigs. It’s definitely changed. Sometimes technology can make things better but sometimes it can make things a little worse.
Dubspot: Where do you go to find records and what do you look for?
Amir: I look for it all. I look for new and old records, but at this point since I’ve been collecting for thirty years, and I definitely look for records for specific reasons, either records to DJ out or records to put on the next compilation. I look for jazz records that I don’t have that I can listen to at home to add to the collection. A lot of times I’m looking for records that I’ve never seen before and I’ve never heard of the artist or the label. It could be a genre of music I know nothing about, or could be music from Indonesia – funk beats from Indonesia or something like that. I always wanted to keep an open mind with music, and I don’t want to have a prejudice to any type of music.
Dubspot: What are some of your most treasured finds, recent records that you can’t get out of your head or can’t stop playing?
Well, there are a lot of those but I used to work at a record store called A1 Records, and there are just massive amounts of records in that store. Sometimes, I just can’t keep up. One day I was working there and there was a record just laying on the ground. It was not in a sleeve or in a jacket and a few people that were working there were so busy doing what they were doing that they were stepping on the record and I happened to pick the record up and it was one of the rarest disco 12” records out there! I cleaned it off, and it wasn’t too badly scratched so I bought it from the store for like a dollar because nobody there knew it so they were like you can have it. That was a gold find. I love that song and I always will. I wont play it out too much because I don’t want to ruin it or lose it so I have it as a file on my computer so I can play it out of Serato, but I’ll definitely have the original. But there’s so many records like that that I’ve gotten for free or close to being free just because not everyone is going to know everything about records. As much as you think you know about records, the more you learn about records the more you learn to know nothing. And that it’s just a continuous process- that you continue to learn.
Dubspot: Tell us about a record that you heard and didn’t like it the first time you heard it, something that grew on you?
Amir: Yeah, I go through that a lot. I might have bought a record like ten years ago and you listen to that record and you’re like “eh, I don’t like that record.” Then you listen to it now, and you’re like “wow, what was I thinking this track is incredible!” It’s all because what happens is your musical tastes mature. Like how you grow as an adult in life, and how some things that you didn’t like ten years ago “oh you know what it’s actually not that bad.” It’s the same thing in music, your music tastes change. You may have never been into disco, and you might be into disco now or vice versa. It’s all about your musical tastes changing and you evolving as a person, your music taste changes and evolves as well.
Dubspot: Are you surprised by any particular sound you’re into right now?
Amir: Yes, ten years ago I wasn’t really into Brazilian music, and I didn’t really care for it but over the past couple of years, I’ve really gotten into Brazilian music. I feel kind of bad because I got into it a little later than I should have been. I probably could have been playing Brazilian records back then but I didn’t really care because I was all into disco or breaks or hip hop or something else. That’s why you gotta be able to keep an open mind because you could be missing out on something really precious in music.
Dubspot: Any advice for up and coming DJs?
Amir: My partner Khan and I have been very blessed for the last fifteen years to do what we love and that’s to put out music whether it’s from a mixtape or an album or a compilation album, 12” edit or a remix 12”, touring the world, going on Giles Peterson’s radio show and touring with Giles Peterson. Things are great to me. It’s a blessing that I get to travel the world free, that’s an amazing thing and I would encourage people that are really into music whether it be production wise or DJing to really follow your passion because it can pay off in the long run. You just got to have the strength and the passion to follow through on them.
Like I said you have to look at it in the long term when you practice your craft and really take it seriously and try not to follow everybody else. Try to blaze your own trail so that you can find that niche for yourself or find a way for yourself to be successful. Being successful sometimes equals a lot of heartbreak. They’re a lot of times where you’re going to be tested and you might want to give up but you cant, you have to keep with it if it’s something you truly love. You got to have the strength and the character to get through these hard times. It is hard for everybody right now, but hard times bring out the most creative people and the creative juices in a lot of people to make great things that are culturally significant or add on to culture in a significant and positive way