TALKIN’ ALL THAT JAZZ
This week, Publish Brand Manager Bahram “Plann.B” Fattahi sits down with the globe-trotting DRM, owner of New York’s subcultural wonder-label Bastard Jazz Recordings. When he’s not busy formulating releases and blessing ears worldwide with top-ranking tunes, he moonlights as a DJ, producer, party promoter and radio host. Yes, his plate STAYS full. But wait, there’s more…
B: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I don’t wanna get all “Brown Sugar” on you and ask you when you fell in love with music…especially since Taye Diggs couldn’t even recite “I Used to Love H.E.R.” in the right tune, but briefly tell us about where you grew up, at what point music began to influence your life and what made you want to start DJing.
D: I came of age on the West Coast of Florida, which was a real hotbed in the burgeoning American rave culture in the early 90s. I was really into the Miami / electro bass & funky breakbeat (then called “Florida Breaks”) mixtapes that were so massive down there since my teenage years. I’d listen to DJs like Scratch-D of Dynamix II, Icey, Baby Anne, Kimball Collins, Jam Pony Express, the Hallucination guys, Huda Hudia and a slew of others. Once I was actually old enough to start sneaking into these parties and saw how the music was contextualized, I was pretty disgusted by the whole scene…the whole raver aesthetic & style, the drugs, the pacifers, the unappealing white trash girls with huge jeans and visors, etc. That was kind of when Mo’ Wax, Ninja Tune and Hip-Hop entered my life in a big way…a lot of the records I wanted I could only really cop on vinyl, and I guess the rest is history.
B: I think I speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad you didn’t put on a sparkly tiger shirt and become a rave DJ. You touched on being exposed to quality vinyl releases…what was the very first song that you went bananas over, and what was the first record you remember purchasing?
D: Actually, the first piece of vinyl I ever purchased was doubles of “Sound Bwoy Bureill” by Smif-n-Wessun on Wreck in ’95 I think…at the tender age of 15. Damn. I actually brought one of those out with me in the bag a few weeks ago!
B: Usually, there’s a specific pattern that DJs tend to follow when it comes to the music game. It goes something like Music Enthusiast > DJ > Producer > Retired DJ > Mid-life Crisis Victim > Airport Security. Okay, so I’m kidding about the last two; but more often than not, the journey ends at the producer stage. Break down the thought process behind transitioning from DJ to label owner…why and how was Bastard Jazz established, and at what point did you decide to take that leap?
D: Well, it’s funny…right around the same time I started buying records, I started getting into music production. I’d been getting to know some other producers in the US through e-mail lists…a bunch of them had tracks out on a now-defunct label from New York called Shadow Records. Without getting into detail, a lot of these guys weren’t being treated properly by Shadow, and their stuff wasn’t getting put on wax. I did a remix for a guy named Blend (who is now 1/2 of Palov & Mishkin). Shadow got a hold of the remix and put it out on the Hed Sessions 2 comp without telling me, paying me, or even giving me a free copy of the CD. That comp sold over 10,000 copies. It was the first time I had anything out and it was a total burn. That was more or less the catalyst to start my own label, with a bunch of these guys from Shadow on the roster. So I approached a killer designer and DJ I knew from Orlando, Jay Marley, about being involved as a partner and art director for the label. Shortly thereafter, I moved to New York City and that’s exactly what I did.
B: From the early days that you just described until today, one of the many reasons I’m such a big fan of Bastard Jazz is that you’re still pressing wax. I’m such a huge proponent of labels that still manage to put tangible music into consumers’ hands. Nowadays, not many labels will incur the cost of physically producing and packaging a record, or even a CD for that matter. With download outlets such as iTunes and Amazon, it’s simply not a necessary expenditure in today’s climate. As far as the business side of your operation, how is vinyl doing in a digital world?
D: Well, I really view Bastard Jazz as a boutique label. Our releases trickle out slowly throughout the year and there’s a lot of love put into the design, printing and manufacturing process of the vinyl; not to mention the time put into music…so it’s kind of an event when one drops. We’ve been putting out vinyl for so long, and that’s what we’re really known for doing. I’ve got a contingent of folks all around the world that are completists with our catalog. They buy every single release on wax and I’d hate to let them down!
Seriously though, I have a lot of commitment to the medium of vinyl. I think the kind of music we put out sounds great on vinyl, and there’s not a lot of folks left still doing what we do. I believe in running this game as a marathon and not a sprint – that means sticking to my guns through the good times and the bad. Things are changing, yeah…we put our records out digitally, do an occasional digital-only release and have had to go deep into publishing and licensing to grow this whole operation. That’s a massively important part of staying above water. But as long as people are still buying vinyl we’ll continue putting it out. To be honest, sales have been up the last couple of years and we’re selling almost as many records as we did back in 2005 or 2006.
B: Obviously, you now have a huge consumer base in the states, Europe, Asia and countless countries all around the globe. When Bastard Jazz was still in its infancy, did you ever anticipate that people on nearly every continent would be listening to your releases someday?
D: I remember seeing our first 7″ for sale in Satellite Records in NYC and just thinking it was the biggest coup in the world. I obviously hoped that one day we’d grow to the point where we are today, but I’m not sure I could say that I believed it was something that was going to happen.
B: Speaking of dropping tunes worldwide, a couple of years back, you flew down to LA to spin with myself and the Soul Sessions crew…and speaking from first-hand experience, you know how to party. I’ve also heard from more than a few of our mutual acquaintances that you’re “that dude” every year at WMC and the other music conferences. Break down for us right here, right now your craziest gig experience ever.
D: Yo! Let me first say that you motherfuckers REALLY know how to party, in the weirdest and most awesome way. I drank 300 pints of a GLOWING BLUE DRINK at Soul Sessions that I DIDN’T EVEN WANT IN THE FIRST PLACE, but they just kept getting handed to me! Not to mention eating a whole box of Fanny May chocolates on the sidewalk with you at 3am, followed by gigantic portions of chicken feet and pork toof sandwiches in LA Chinatown, all concluded by mad drunken Garfield jokes in the back seat of a BMW. WTF?!
I’ve had more than my fair share of outrageous shit happen to me on the road. Craziness seems to follow me like no one else I know. I literally have hundreds of stories. My craziest gig experience EVER though happened in a town called Cluj, which is the capital of the Transylvania region in Romania. I love telling this story and most of my friends & colleagues have heard me tell it multiple times. It’s a little too long to type out here, but the long and short of it is:
I was in a car that flipped over three times in Romania, THEN I almost got mobbed by a group of angry club goers who were pissed I showed up hours late (because the car flipped over), THEN gypsies stole my headphones, THEN I was in the middle of a fire in the DJ booth that the club owner tried to extinguish with a bottle Jagermeister (which instead, almost burned the place down), THEN i got punched in the face in the hallway of my hotel by a gigantic fat coked up Romanian guy in his tighty-whiteys, THEN he came to my door 2 hours later trying to fight me AGAIN (but was knocking on the wrong door), THEN I had to go to the Transylvanian Police Station at 9AM, THEN I literally had a full-blown, honest-to-goodness panic attack. I busted the fuck out and got on a train to Budapest. When I got there I holed up in a hotel room for two days just trying to figure out WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED TO ME. I almost died THREE times in one night…probably more like four.
***At this point, B takes a 15-minute laughing intermission. When he finally manages to regain his breath and his face shifts from blue to his normal flesh tone, the below questions are asked.***
B: WOW. Uhh, we need to discuss that one in detail the next time I see you…over a lot of really strong cocktails. Speaking of parties, touch on “Wheel Up!” It’s already regarded as one of New York’s freshest affairs; how was it born and when can we expect the next installment?
D: Wheel Up! is a party that Erik The Red (Director of Music Marketing at Giant Step) and I created basically as an excuse for us to get together once a month on a Friday and get shitfaced with all our friends at a great spot in Williamsburg (Trophy Bar), play whatever we feel like and put on our out-of-town DJ friends. It’s a straight up bar party at its finest. I unfortunately haven’t been able to be there much in the last 6 months because my travel schedule has been so hectic, but we’ll be celebrating our 2 year anniversary in February together and I cannot wait.
B: You also keep busy with Bastard Jazz Radio on Brooklyn Radio. Coming from a DJ mindset that lends itself to performing live in front of an audience and interacting with hundreds of people when you play, how was the transition to bringing that vibe into a studio setting?
D: Bastard Jazz Radio is something I do with another guy whose been involved with the label since almost the beginning—Steve Marchese aka DJ Sema4 (who runs the great mp3 blog Scissorkick.com). Steve and I connect on a pretty deep musical level and Bastard Jazz Radio is a chance for us to really kind of spread our wings and play things we wouldn’t normally get a chance to play out in a DJ set. We drop a lot of brand new stuff across the board as well as plenty of old favorites. We basically do it “radio style,” which means not a whole lot of mixing. We get on the mic and talk about the music, have some stupid banter, talk about food, etc. It’s a lot of fun to make and has proven to be a great formula for us. It’s actually one of the most popular shows on Brooklynradio.
B: I can attest to that, I’m a regular listener. It’s honestly a masterfully programmed show, kudos to your both. Lastly, tell me about some upcoming releases that you’re particularly excited about, when they’re due to drop, and how folks can cop ‘em.
D: We just had a Digi-EP drop called “Hear No Evil Volume 2” with 5 joints from a handful of friends and old Bastard Jazz vets. It’s some really dope shit, if I do say so myself, and is fairly different from a lot of new electronic sounds being dropped these days. You can grab it from iTunes, JunoDownload, Amazon, Beatport, or wherever digital music is sold. It’s also available for download on our webshop – which you can visit at bastardjazz.bigcartel.com. You can preview the release (and download other free mixes & tracks) on our Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/bastardjazz .
Publish would like to thank DJ DRM for taking time out of his hectic schedule to chat with us. For more information on DRM and Bastard Jazz, please visit: