When Covid 19 Lockdown was announced worldwide, I had many gigs both in the US and internationally that cancelled. My parties The Selectors followed and we had to cancel those bookings too. This is what I do to make my income and just like that everything came to a halt. I felt stuck and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I applied for a few jobs and didn’t get any response back even though I have a strong resume.
I’ve always wanted to have my own record shop. With time to get creative and being put under pressure to figure out the next steps, the idea came about at home in a conversation with my wife about about selling records again. I used to be the dance buyer from 2008-2015 at the 2nd halcyon the shop in Dumbo Brooklyn that was right under the bridge. I had already a wide extensive knowledge about records since I started collecting dance 12″ records in the late 90’s in NYC to DJ with. Halcyon definitely expanded my knowledge even further and I am grateful for the 7 years that I worked there and the experience I gained.
The new project is called T-bag Records and is based out of Miami. I relocated from Brooklyn about 3 years ago and currently reside here. Since the beginning of April, T-bag Records came to life. I procure 12″ vinyl records with a focus on dance music from new, rare, and used titles. I stock house, techno, dub techno, electro, breakbeat, acid, rave, industrial, progressive, dnb, and ambient. Whatever sounds good to me I buy because I know what will work for DJs. There is no physical space, I sell online currently on my discogs page but my main forte is curating record bags for DJs, collectors, kids that are just starting up to DJ and kids who are starting to play records instead of digital.
-How have you been dealing with clients? Tell us about the process?
With my past experience for over 20 + years buying records, being a buyer at a record shop, I’ve been keen at remembering a lot of records. I miss the days of going to shops where they would have buyers and they would study you and figure out what kind of styles you would like. This is very important vs going to a record shop where for example someone who is just starting off doesn’t know where to look and could be overwhelmed with all the records in a shop. These days you do not see it as often. I would love going to the shops in NYC and around the world where the buyers knew exactly what you wanted. I would go on the new arrivals days or even when the dance buyer would specifically work. These are the people that stocked the shop and got the right records into your hands.
When I worked at halcyon the shop as a buyer, that’s what I did. I learned how to read people and decipher what music they liked. People would tell you some descriptions and you would hand them a few records to figure them out. Some people were new and didn’t know where to look. It was my job and passion to educate customers with new records. After years of experience buying and selling records I’m back at it during quarantine and look to continually do so.
Procedure is simple, I do a consultation when a clientele is ready to make an order and I go over how a T-bag works with them. I select an order based on what they are looking for, or sometimes people just trust that I will curate a package that consists of music specifically chosen for that individual based on energy . It’s been going great so far and I am grateful to be able to do this new venture using knowledge and acquired skills.
-How far have you digged for a record?
I dig everyday for records. There are even times when if there is something I cannot find, I truly believe that I will find it and I do. I always have. There is no end for digging because everyday
you find something different and that appeals to you that you may have missed. There are so many records coming out these days you really have to be on top of it to keep up. I love it.
-How many records do you have?
My personal collection is up to 7000 records now. I used to have a lot more. Each year I condense it and take out items that I grow out of sound wise. For T-bag Records that are for sale, I have now almost 2000 records and that is still building. Those range from collections I have acquired, new releases, records that were from my collection, friends labels and records they sell etc. My utmost goal is to have a very well curated dance music shop.
-Tell us about your first gigs in the electronic music industry? What do you think shaped you as an artist and as part of big lineups with big names? In other words, how much hard work is there prior to your sets played at gigs?
Many people have a notion of thinking becoming a DJ is somewhat of a quick fix. I think what is most important for any DJ is to figure out their sound. What can make you stand out differently. Your first gigs are your learning steps. The more you play on different DJ booths and sound set ups in clubs, trains you to become a better DJ. It also teaches you sound dynamics and levels in a club.
The more you play with other artists also gets you to hear other different styles and techniques. I would say if it wasn’t for the clubs in NYC in the late 90’s that I got to visit and hear DJs on those insane analog sound systems, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. I’ve gotten to play with many DJs over the years both in the U.S and international. Either warming up for them, closing after them, or even B2B with them.
When I lived in NYC it took a very long time to get noticed as a DJ and to play events. It felt like many of the people that were in the scene or doing events wouldn’t give the opportunity. Very few promoters did. You are looked at like an outsider. This was one of the main reasons I started my party Blkmarket Membership (now defunct) in 2006 and did it for 12 years. I don’t like chasing after things, if they happen naturally that is best. By having my own platform, programming the lineups and playing on them, it gave me a way to express myself and show my identity, who I am, and what I am capable of doing. This opened more doors and created new opportunities for me in the nightlife industry. You gain respect and cred.
I can say I experience this too in Miami with feeling like an outsider at times as I am still new to the city. I have lived here almost 3 years. But I don’t let that discourage me. Keep doing what you love and work hard at it. Push and challenge yourself with no limitations. Don’t let anyone or anything bring you down. Do you and not try to be like someone else.
For my sets when I prepare, I pack my records and tracks always in different scenarios. One being the way I think the party is going to happen and the others if the party doesn’t pan out to how I thought it would be. Because it’s happened
on a few occasions where the party goes different than you thought it would be. A DJ has to learn how to read the crowd. Many make the mistake of playing for themselves.
-In your opinion, how does one start a vinyl record label?
If you are starting a vinyl record label, you want to have it stand the test of time. You want to really sit down and plan a release schedule with the right music. Don’t start a label for the sake of putting out mediocre tracks or releases. Plan a schedule for 10 releases coming up. Focus on timeless music. This is something that has stuck with me and will always when putting out releases on my label or productions that I have worked on. You don’t want to rush it. You want to find the right distribution for you. Some will tell you it’s not for them, others will want to. You have to also know what kind of music they are distributing also. Or you can go the other route and do it DIY sylte and do it yourself. I used to run my old label Blkmarket Membership for 2 years until 2017 and learned a lot from the 3 releases that were put out on it. When you work with more people on a label, it can get a bit more complicated with agreeing on releases. When I launched my new label Blkmarket Music in 2018 I really felt more comfortable in working on the label as I had total control over releases I wanted to put out and believed in.
Really think about starting a label as it will be your baby. Choose if you want artwork, if you want to stamp the records, the weight of the record, your release schedule timeline and how you will distribute it, how many copies you want. You want it to stand out.
It’s a great feeling when you see the final product and have it at hand for something that you have created.
-What is your genre of choice? The one you cannot live without.
I play versatile as in I like to mix techno, house, electro, breakbeat, tribal, progressive, mnml, tech-house and rave stuff all in one. So for me those are the genres and sound more interesting when playing them together in a set. So those are my genres of choice.
-How do you think post covid-19 is going to affect the music business?
It’s a very interesting time in the world our music industry has been affected drastically by the whole Covid-19 pandemic. I wish for the industry to get back on it’s feet again as soon as possible. A lot of my friends who work in the nightlife business, throw parties and festivals, own nightclubs, who DJ and travel have no work at the moment including myself. I think it will be some time. The good thing that will come out of this is that I feel you will start to see more of the local scenes and DJs be the center of focus in cities and clubs focusing on their own homegrown talents. The DJs that do get massive fees will see a decline as clubs and promoters will not be paying those huge fees. I do really miss seeing friends and travelling abroad for shows. But right now is a good time for everyone to re-evaluate what they are doing and re-evaluate themselves. I don’t think anyone wants to go through this again where the economy shuts down and so does their line of work.
–What is your process as a producer?
I’m a big fan of collaborating with people in the studio more so than solo. You learn so much more. The key is getting all the elements and textures for your tracks. Getting the right sounds and thinking about how you will arrange the track. For me I like tracks when they are not done so perfect. When they are surprises, or there are unexpected elements that happen, when they are slightly off. When a track is
done too perfect it loses its quality for me.
-What is your favorite and least favorite thing about being an independent artist?
Being an independent artist means you get to do it yourself. The more you try things and methods, the more you will learn. You will make mistakes along your path, but these only make you grow as an artist. Keeping an open mind about things is key. Don’t live inside your own bubble. See what else is out there too. And never compare yourself to someone else. It only fucks your head up.