You grew up in the ’60s and ’70s in Greenwich Village around an explosion of pioneering artists and musicians. What was that like?
I think that it was a general artists’ scene, which included music. For a hundred years preceding it, Greenwich Village was a low-rent district. It wasn’t a straightforward society. It was off the beaten path, so all the artists and musicians and left-of-center people moved in. Right in the middle, there’s a clock tower on 10th St. and 6th Ave., and until around 1970, there was a women’s prison there. Having that jail kept the rent low, so not everyone was going to jump on this as a hot area of New York. Once that left and it turned into co-ops in the ’80s, it completely changed the neighborhood. Before then it was like the East Village is now, but it was much more untapped.
Did you know any of the bigger artists back then?
I met people in the Village, people in my building, but I wouldn’t say I knew them. I was just a kid, you know, and it was just a very musician- and artist-oriented place.
Do you have a lot of friends who are artists or designers now?
I think over the years I’ve had a lot of friends who are both, and even friends in fashion, but I think it’s all related because they like music. For many years I was a VJ, so I like the idea of being involved with music as well as the visuals. And then as far as the art and image of things representing the party or music, I like to be involved. All the records I’ve worked on, I’ve been very involved with the graphic art.
Do you have a favorite record sleeve, or artist that does record sleeves?
There isn’t one; there are so many. That’s why for the current party I’m doing, the 718 Sessions, I’ve used so much album artwork for the flyers. There are countless pieces that really captured my imagination, so it’s hard to point to one. I’m always finding new ones, too, or rather old artwork I hadn’t seen. Things are stirring for different reasons, too. For instance, there’s a big difference between album artwork and what’s on CDs.
How important do you think album art is?
I think it’s extremely underrated. I think that’s part of the industry’s failure, and the problems the labels complain about are often due to poor choices involving the album art. I love great art, but the thing is, if it’s on a commercial product then it has to do two things: It has to sell the product and at the same time be striking. If it only does one or the other, it’s failed.
Besides producing and DJing, are there any other forms of artistic expression you’ve taken a shot at?
You know, I probably tried to make art, but maybe I felt the same as with instruments: the sentiment “well, this really takes a lot of perseverance and practice to cultivate.” I probably wasn’t patient enough about it. But DJing came along pretty early, and I really felt like, “Oh, this is my outlet.”
You’ve traveled a lot for music. To where are you most artistically drawn?
The places I’m most drawn to are New York and Japan. Japan is my favorite place to play – all over, not just in Tokyo. It’s the culture across the board, the way I’m treated, the reverence the music gets. The kids seem to know more than they do here, than the people who’ve grown up around the kind of music I play. They know every bit about the music, the labels, the musicians. Everything.
What’s your signature dance move?
[Laughs] Nothing I’m proud of.