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A legend in the New York underground Andre Collins has been a prominent figure in the New York dance music scene since the start. A regular at the early gay clubs the young boy from the Bronx soon turned his hand to DJ’ing staring his lengthy musical career that over the years has seen him hold residencies all over his home state of New York and guest slots at clubs all over the world.
Recently Andre has been making more frequent trips to Japan, this time playing a national tour to an ever increasing number of fans here. Higher Frequency caught up with him on his latest visit and got the latest story from his life in the industry.
Interview by Eri Nishikami (Restir Magazine)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How were the gigs in Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka?
Andre Collins : The First one was at O/D in Fukuoka. I was very nervous and so the first hour was kind of rough, trying to feel things out. Then the second party was at Precious Hall in Sapporo, I played there before but there was a little bit of a figuring out too for half an hour but once I finally figure that out, so that was really good. And the last one was at the Grand Caf? in Osaka and that was just phenomenal. Amazing! It was a Tuesday night and it felt like it was Saturday. It was so amazing. Really really good. It wasn’t not only crowded but we were with each other. I was with them and they were with me.
HRFQ : I think it’s your third time in Japan. What’s your impression on the Japanese club scene?
Andre : I wish more of it was going on in NY right now, to be honest. I think it’s great, there’re a lot of people into the deep house sound.
HRFQ : What do you think is the reason that the people in NY aren’t into clubs as much?
Andre : I think there’re a lot of different reasons. You know, I was talking about it the other day. In the gay community, the club scene is indulged with hip hop and R&B, and so that music scene has taken over in the black gay community. And then you have people getting old who were in the forefront of the whole club scene. Some of them have moved on. They have families, kids and they don’t go out that much. So now we have to develop a whole new generation. We have to educate the new generation about the music and in order to do that you have to have venues. But unfortunately a lot of the venues are being shifted and the direction of the clubs is not about education, it’s about making money. If you want to make money, you want to do what’s happening for the moment which is hip hop and R&B.
HRFQ : What’s the reason you think that the house music or other club music can’t go beyond hip hop and R&B?
Andre : I think it has a lot to with the people who make decisions. There are people sitting in the offices who are directing the music on radios or directing what happens on MTV. They are marketing, and their strategies are kind of connected to what they feel the mass media needs to be informed about. If you are to just inform people about a certain style, certain way of dressing or behaving and acting, that’s what a lot of kids are gravitated towards because that’s supposed to be what they are being told is the thing to do. If you give them more information and have them have choices, and they have options. But people making decisions don’t want to give options. They want them to do what they want them to do. So, that’s think what’s going on. I think it’s up to us to try to make a change. I don’t even know how and am not very sure of what it is we are supposed to fully do. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do besides to be a DJ. Because we are not allowed on MTV, and in the United States, you don’t see any house music videos. We don’t have a market. Until we have a market besides Christina Aguirella or Britney Spears remixes which are horrible, we are a very small venue.
HRFQ : Do you find any difference playing for the audiences in Japan or in NY?
Andre : I don’t think so. You know, wherever you play, you have to feel people out. Sometimes people can be a little picky. And once you figure it out, you can’t experiment too much or you can’t play too many new things. It happens in NY too. I think the energy sometimes here is a lot higher though. It was really high in Grand Caf?. It was pretty amazing. I started crying! It was something else.
HRFQ : Have you noticed that the recognition on you among Japanese audiences are getting higher on every visit?
Andre : Well, that has to be credited to Ryo the one who’s booking me. He said to me that I should be really proud about all those people coming out on Tuesday night, as they don’t do that. And I said, “they don’t know who I am, so why do you think they came out?” But he said, “They are nosy. They heard about you”. So that’s due to him. Getting the words out about me. Each time I come, I’ve done one more place than I did before. People are getting to know me. Whatever made them come, I was happy.
HRFQ : What kind of message do you want to sent out by DJing?
Andre : Oh boy, you opened a can of worm! (laughter) Oh god, all right, I don’t want to say one thing in particular. I believe that people sometimes can’t even speak English but they understand lyrically what’s being said in some songs. And they can feel the energy, you know, to me playing, music is universal, No.1. So I believe that love is automatically transpired like an invisible thing that flows through the air. And people can touch on it and they can fell your love and get it back. The other thing is about being grateful for being alive and for experiencing. If we weren’t alive, we couldn’t have the experiences of living the moment, of being in the club, of hearing the song. So just honoring whatever you believe in, honoring god or buddah, and just embracing that and enjoying life for that moment. Because you know we only have that moment. Nothing is guaranteed to us.
HRFQ : It is said that you decided to be a professional DJ when you heard Nicky Siano at the Gallery. How did he influence you?
Andre : I’ve never heard anybody tell a story with records before. I’d been to clubs prior to that but that was the first time that I listened to the song he was playing and it seemed like he was talking to me. . It was like my personal experience. Of course it wasn’t but I took it as if it was and I related to what was being said. That’s what influenced me to become a dj because I had so much that was inside of me. I was 16 at the time and I realized I was gay. Well I realized it for a while but I really came in terms with the fact. I was going to state that I was. I had a lot of turmoil inside of me. I had a lot of pain and I had a lot of anger. I could express that through my music. Somehow, I could put the records together and musically I can release some of that stuff that was going on inside of me. And so that’s what my experience was when I heard him and I want do the same thing.
HRFQ : What was the difference between the two clubs? The Loft and the Gallery.
Andre : Well. The Loft was first and the gallery came after. They were private clubs. You had to have the membership. You had to know somebody in order to get in and you had to know how to behave. You couldn’t come in there and be lousy. You’d be asked to leave. They weren’t popular on a broad scale. It predominantly was a black gay thing. A lot of black gay males back then did not have a place to go and party. And David opened his home up to his friend. That’s how the Loft came to the existence.
HRFQ : You used to be a resident at the Warehouse. And how did you get the residency?
Andre : It was my second home, I played there for a long time about 4years? There were David Depino, Fred Pierce, Danny Krivit and Kim Terry as candidates. I fought for the residency. I wanted it real bad. And I got it!
HRFQ : That easy?!
Andre : No! it wasn’t like that easy. Things happened and I don’t want to go into the things happened but eventually the residency came to me. Other DJs didn’t want be too barged with the politics that went on and I was willing to deal with it.
HRFQ : In terms of the attitude of the audiences, what do you think have changed in the last twenty years?
Andre : Twenty years?! I started when I was 16, and I will be 46 this year, so this is my thirtieth year. But don’t ask me about thirty years! I think back then, things were a lot more raw. They were new. Fresh. There was an excitement in the air. Anything that’s starting off for the first time always has this excitement to it. There’s not much fresh and new anymore. Back then, there was always something special to look forward to. Like every time you walk into the Gallery, you never know what kind of evening you are going to experience. You never knew what you were going to hear or how the club was going to be set up. They’d do a balloon settings or they’d decorate the place on weekly basis. Sometimes they’d give us fruit. One day a cake. They used to give all these little variables that you don’t mind. You pretty much know now walking into a club who’s going to be there or what it’s going to be like. They don’t take initiative to make things exciting anymore. Just sit back and wait for the parties to happen and whatever happens happen.
HRFQ : Can you tell us about you recent activity on DJing side?
Andre : Right now I’m doing guest spots. The scene is really getting smaller and smaller. I’m going to be doing something starting next month at the place called Octagon in NY every other Saturday and I’ll be playing there.
HRFQ : What do you listen to at home. Do you listen to house music?
Andre : I listen to house music but I also listen to Jazz. I like Al Jarreau, Carmen McRae, Quincy Jones. I like a little bit of everything. When I want to relax, I listen to Pat Martino. He’s my favorite Jazz artist.
HRFQ : Last question. Do you have a message to your Japanese fans?
Anthony : Well I want to say thank you for supporting me and for enjoying what I love and for the energy, for screaming at me “play one more play one more!” and that we love you and I really appreciate the love. I’m ever so grateful.
End of the interview
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