Where are you based?New York City.
Is this your hometown?I was raised in Philadelphia, during a really violent time, “The Frank Rizzo years”, in what was a very tough neighborhood. Concurrent with that though it was a tremendously rich city musically, great radio: WRTI the temple university Jazz station, WDAS a black owned independent Soul station, WKDY Drexel University’s station, great Punk and New Wave, a terrific show I remember on there was called ‘Mark of the Devil”, WMMR Free Form Rock and Prog.
Dennis, somebody could Google “Frank Rizzo”, but could give a personal account of how his terms as Police Commissioner and Mayor effected the City?As excoriated by Gil Scott Heron in the “H2O Gate Blues”, Frank Rizzo was a high school educated police chief who became mayor, an office for which he was terribly underqualified. He was voted in by a lot of racist working class whites. He polarized the city, raided The Black Panther party while they were asleep and gave the police a mandate to round up and beat whomever they wanted. There was an atmosphere of hate in the city. It was race driven, and he was a major source of that hate. He certainly empowered the cops to act without concern for peoples rights. It was one ugly incident after another. Growing up white and poor, having black, latino and asian friends it was crazy seeing what was going on. It made everything tense, a walk to school, going down the wrong street, getting home at night, etc.
What is your first musical memory?Probably records on my parents Hi-Fi, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Sinatra. My Dad singing at parties. I remember my Dad took me to a parade when I was 4 or 5 and I couldn’t believe how loud a marching band could sound. The way I felt it in my chest freaked me out.
What was the first record you bought?I`m pretty sure it was “Revolver” by the Beatles. My Grandmother took me to Sam Goody on Chestnut Street. I got my first pair of Adidas Shell-Toe’s that day as well.
What was the last record you bought?I just picked up a clean copy of Giorgio Moroder’s “Son of my Father”, and a nice 12’ of the Isley Brothers “Can’t you see”.
What inspired you to start DJing / making music / the label?I grew up around records, so it was never a fetish, it was just what we did. As I grew into my teens getting a pair of decent headphones and my own stereo setup really changed my life. It became a world where I could escape the horror of the mundane. I liked sitting in the dark listening to a whole range of sounds: The Temptations, The Stones, Pink Floyd, and also James Gang, Gato Barberi, Grover Washington, and then Salsoul, Profile, Gambel & Huff, then The Clash, Television, and on and on. I liked getting a new LP, checking the artwork, reading where it was recorded, reading lyrics, etc. I started DJing at school. I had some OK records and it seemed way better than making small talk.
How long have you been DJing / making music / running the label?I started to play records out in college, but I never thought of it as a big deal. I did a little when I moved to NYC, I was also painting full time, probably around 94’. I was growing disillusioned with the art world so I began spending more time with music. I started working consistently at small spots and never really stopped. Production work grew out of years of DJing. I was always noodling at the keys, making sketches. It was something I did as a child as well, I kept a “song book” and a “drawing book”. Some things never change! I started Disques Sinthomme and Ghost Town in 2007.
You mention that you kept a Song Book? Do you still write actual “songs”? Do you play any instruments? You mention noodling at the keys?Yes I love the idea of songs, as opposed to tracks and I like to listen to great songwriters work. I try to get somewhere with only mixed results so far. I can barely scratch away at the piano, enough to coax a melody. Like a monkey at a typewriter.
What was it about the art world that you found so nauseating?Sometime in the mid 80’s criticality gave way to profit. Neo-expressionism fit well with junk bonds and Reagan’s America. Dealers like Mary Boone started showing some really bad work, but the hype took over. You had hacks like Julian Schnabel and Eric Fischl blowing up, people like Rene Ricard and Robert Pincus Witten essentially functioning as gossip columnists not critics. It was lame, bombast and new $ over thought. It was a major turnaround from the criticality and idealism of the `60s. What is great is that there are people out there who really do care and make serious work, but the Art Basil/celebrity chef like culture that surrounds art, the creepy people who buy it for sport / investment, and some truly jive practitioners soured me on it’s viability. Culturally it is common trope that when something gains a certain vogue it draws in all these people who’s intentions are less than genuine. It is also true of dance music culture these days.
How would you describe your sound / the label`s sound?It is hard to pigeon hole an approach in a few words, but I am proud of the variety of sounds we have put out. There is a difference between Apollo Heights, and Cosmic Metal Mother, and Visitors, but they are also very much related on these different levels. The label represents a complex mix; subtle, soulful, intense. I like those words. I’ll use the same 3 to describe my sound or at least what I try for. I feel like a great deal of what gets released these days is more about commerce, or some careerist agenda than the actual music. There are sooo many releases every week, most of which have no depth and fade after a few plays. Easy and disposable. I want our releases to be distinct and to hold up well over time.
I think I first became aware of you with the release of “Kane`s Spanish Home” on Moton. How did you hook up with Moton? I am pals with Darren (Diesel) and sent him the track just so he had it. He loved it and wanted to put it out I was good with that.
I think it was rumoured at the time that they had signed you up for 9 edits. What happened?The record did well, and then some joker wanted to throw a release party for it in NY and scheduled it on a night when I was already playing! Too funny! The whole thing was a disaster and left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think Darren had anything to do with it. He is still a great pal. He just did a tremendous set for the podcast. I would always work again with him on any project.
Regarding Ghost Town, how did the Jerry Lynn Williams release come about?I loved the song, and Ryan (The Beat Broker) did such an amazing edit. I had worked with him before so it was an easy arrangement, then some character came out of the woodwork saying he was going to put out a “Legit” licensed version and blah blah blah. Ryan is peoples so I told him I would contact Warners. I had already spoken to Jerry’s widow and youngest son. I was lucky to get in touch with former Warner’s VP Bill Bentley, really that was a great bit of fortune. Bill is an amazing person and was my sherpa through the labyrinth of Warner’s. When I wrote them for the rights they got back to me saying “Did I mean Jerry Butler?”, they had no idea who Jerry Williams was. It took about a year to sort, and they made life difficult but a nice record came out of it, and I got to talk a lot with Bill Bentley, who really is one of the legends of the LA music scene. Check the piece I did on him for Magnetic Mag.
Regarding Disques Sinthommes, how did you meet and get to work with Sal?Sal and I met through our mutual friend Jason (DJ Spun). We got on well and have had a great working relationship. I recently went through a divorce and Sal was a huge support and help. In addition to being a great musician, he is a great friend, and a great chef!!!!
Which production / release / remix are you most proud of?I really like how “Night Fever” came out. I heard that and the Liz Torres remix both at The Loft the other day and they sounded great.
Which production / release / remix would you most like to have done?I am always appreciative of the “Blade Runner” soundtrack. There is so much emotion and mood in it. What a great project, and such an amazing film. I’m shocked that Hollywood did something that well.
What are your favourite places to play / hang out in?When it first opened I really like playing at “Love” in NYC, it was a GSA system. Sadly the club outside of the system was a mess, but I loved that booth and the warmth of the sound. Cielo has always been such a tightly run ship, and they are always upgrading the system. The acoustics of the room make the sound really lush and the layout is terrific. It is a very easy and comfortable spot to play at. Darshan and I did Tuesdays there for 2 years, then I had my accident, I was out 6 months, and they moved us to Fridays. They were always good to me. Love had Gary’s soundsystem and nothing else. It was a mess. The owner had serious issues. Harvey and I did the last real party there and the monitors were fucked, the custom Urei Gary had installed was gone, The system was in bad shape, it was disheartening, Gary put so much of himself into that place.
Usually if I am not playing I rarely go out. The Loft is one consistent exception. I take my son. I have so many pals there that it feels like a family occasion. The mix of young and old, black and white, latino, asian etc. It is a beautiful mix. There’s even room for hipsters!!!
Dennis, what accident?I was run over by an 18 wheel fuel oil truck and almost bought the store. I had 2 years of rehab, ugh.
When did you first start going to The Loft? David moved the party in the `80s to a space between B&C on 3rd, my first time was at that space. There was also a party called The Choice. It was great time for that neighborhood and to me both those places stood out. I moved subsequently to B&C on 2nd. I really met David through a record shop called Dub Spot, where he would hang out. I always enjoy talking with him and sharing records. It is really impressive what he has achieved, the party has such warm family vibe, and it transcends generations. It has become a major event for me and my son, he helps with the balloons and really looks forward to it. There is a genuine sense of community there.
I haven`t been to New York for about 5 years, but when I was there you had a night at APT. Is that still running?Apt fell off. The new owners sort of let the place go. I was lucky I was there for close to 10 years. It was a good run, and then I moved on to Cielo and Love. I have been fortunate I have had a number of great systems to play on.
What is your favourite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?I like being in my studio in LIC. It feels tucked away. I bike there and work through the night. I can get a cheap Indian takeout down the street and just work. Some nights I’ll bike over to where my pal Spam works in Wburg and have a drink with him after his bar closes. It’s nice to have a cold beer in a suddenly quiet bar.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?Things are so fragmented now, but certainly day to day I feel like I have a crew I roll with. Sal Principato and I talk daily, often about food! We both love to cook, Darshan, Spam, Jason (DJ Spun), Brennan Green, Bruce Tantum, Justin Strauss, Alex Young, Sean, Yuji, Tariq. I feel lucky that there is also a sort of worldwide crew. Richard Sen, Phil Mison, Alex Pewin, Joel Martin and Gerry (Rooney) in London. In LA, Heidi Lawden, Harv, Glenn Walsh, Scotty Coats, Jeff Overton, Tony Watson etc. Thomas in Miami, Alex in Zurich, Chris, Hugo and their crew in San Diego. Paolo in Berlin, Ryan in SF, Max and Ryosuke in Japan and so on. You do your work and you meet some really great people. The people that I get to enjoy are the reward. There are so many narcissistic assholes in the music scene, just monied ex latchkey kids full of entitlement, self promotion, attitude and little else. It can be exhausting, but if you know enough soulful people it really diminishes that nonsense. As Richard Sen says, “Keep it Kojak not Harry Potter!”
Who does the label`s artwork?For the most part I do. If I don’t always do the graphic, then I will have done the art direction. The same for party fliers and posters etc.
Is a visual identity important?It is very important, it’s all content, the name, the graphics, the imagery, The name Sinthomme is a word made up by Jaques Lacan for his lecture on James Joyce, The Sinthomme was a third node of existence he classified after the neurotic and the pathological, he felt the Sinthomme/artist could reverse the symbolic order of culture and find a new plateau for consciousness.
If so which (visual) artists would you cite as a source of inspiration / influence?Jean Luc Godard has always been an inspiration, his films are so complex, and also so moral, the outrage he feels, the desire for a better world, and the style of his graphics are always an essential part of his projects. Godard films for the most part are so low budget, Ron Howard probably spends more on his films catering and trailers,(and his films are awful), but Godard’s films always look amazing, the sound is always tremendous. Caring and effort go a long long way.
You also maintain a practice as a visual artist, what inspired you to get started?Like I said, as a kid, I drew, played records, and read books, it was a way to escape. I hated school and Catholicism. I was always super stressed in the home and on the block, art and music were portals. To spend a day painting and drawing, insane. I remember doing my first drawing of trees by the Schylkull river, behind the art museum, it was 30 minutes from my home and shitty neighborhood but a different world altogether. Then to go inside the museum and see a Cezanne! Mind blowing. As a teen we would sneak into the garden of the Rodin Museum, we would hide beer in ice under the trash cans, then go to the back of the museum, drop the wall and be in a corridor of trains heading to 30th street station. We would paint a train. It was an unpoliced area, the trains seemed like big sleeping cows. We would take our time, come back, smoke and drink, philosophise on the fact that our tags would be traversing America. We sat there in the quiet, and eventually it dawned on us idiots to look at how intense these Rodin sculptures were. Us, drinking beer for weeks in front of Rodin’s “Gates Of Hell”.
How long have you been doing art? Did you study it formally?Yes I started school for Literature, then switched to Art and Theory. I did my graduate work at The Graduate Center in NYC with Yves Alain Bois, Rosalind Krauss, Robert Morris etc. I liked that the Center had a bar on the top floor. I worked in the day hanging sheetrock and plastering, then would make class at four, leave and read and paint through the night, back up at 7 to get to the job. Oi! That grind will knock you the fuck out and I did it for years.
What media do you work in? And what would you cite as influences?Really whatever services the idea. I am in no way formalist about art, it should all flow from the concept. I’ve used photography, and silkscreen, now painting and drawing, but software plays a huge part in developing a sketch, photoshop, illustrator etc. A few artists over time really made a big impression, Marcel Broodthaers, Paul Thek, Sigmar Polke, Larry Johnson. Art now, for better or worse, is just another form of entertainment. For the most part it’s very lame, but if you dig a bit, you find people doing amazing things. Jonathan Berger is a good contemporary example, his show on Andy Kaufman was impressive, but for every one of him there are a hundred jackasses: look at me I’m doing paintings with stockings, look my graffiti scrawls are now in Conran’s tones for the home. Ugh it is a pretty sad state of affairs. The art world needs a “Spinal Tap” movie treatment.
Do you see a connection between your visual work and music production / DJing?Not in any specific or thematic way. Certainly on a deeper level it is all about a response to the context and condition you find yourself in. The idea should be to try and be specific, stay true to your ideas and resolve the works as joyously as possible. I find as I get older I’m more down for fun than ever.
After reading the interview with Flaunt, I wanted to ask about the difference between your art and your DJing. Your art is quite dark in theme, while DJing, obviously your aiming to help people enjoy themselves. Do the two activities provide you a balance?I don’t see one as dark or one as light. They are two very different modes of addressing people, but ultimately the goal is the same. Meaning accrues differently in each but hopefully it is still there and I want the viewer and the dancer to both have a really rich exchange / experience.
I was wondering if music still provides an “escape”?Feeling blue? Put on some James Brown, or go to the club and get the fuck down! When I show up to play I feel like my job is to take everyone to the good place, to make it rock and be celebratory and provide relief and joy. Within that there are a ton of things you can bring to the proceedings. As Public Enemy said: “Party For Your Right To Fight”.
Which musical artists are you currently working with?DS007 coming up is Jose Manuel with Charlotte LaRouge, with remixes from Cosmic Metal Mother and myself. Richard Sen and I have this old school House track we are going to rework with Corneilius Byrd on vocals. Darshan and I have some things in production, and I sent Sal P a sketch for a new Visitors jam this past weekend.
Who would you most like to work with?I really like the people I work with now. I’d love to score a film at some point, and I notice any time I work with a great musician, Mark Dann is an example, it always blows my mind how much they add to a project. A few words of direction and they have it. David Lynch said when he started working with Angelo Badalamenti that it was like getting on a jet and taking off.
Does playing and making music pay the rent?It has, right now things are pretty perilous. NYC has less going on since I moved here in `84, and there are a million people calling themselves DJs these days. It is a constant struggle, and has been my whole life. Obviously on a more commercial level people are seeing big $, I’m not mad at that, it would just be nice to see people doing more independent stuff get compensated as well.
What sites, if any, do you regularly check on-line?The NY Times is my homepage, our label site dsgtnyc.com, facebook. Truthfully I am trying to spend less time online. I find it can really dull me out, music sites, porn, whatever, it kind of all gets grey. If I am super stressed I watch Anthony Bourdain on youtube.
What was the last book you read?I am reading “The Rifles” by William Vollmann and I just finished re-reading “La Maison de Rendez-vous” by Alain Robbe-Grillet.
What is your favourite book?“Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon
What was the last film you saw?“A Band Called Death”. It`s a documentary about the Detroit based punk trio DEATH. I highly recommend it.
What is yout favourite film?I find I watch “JLG by JLG”, and “Hail Mary” a lot. Also “Eloge De l’Amour”. All amazing works by Godard.
Classic cinema is clearly an influence on your Art. Does modern cinema continue to be an influence?Lots of contemporary art, film, and music impacts me. I love Clair Denis’ and Bela Tarr’s films, Julie Mehretu’s and Sam Durant’s art, The Idjut Boys’ and Terre Thaemiltz’s music, Bill Hick’s and Jim Jefferies’ comedy and on and on. It’s always important to remember how many cool people are out there doing it, and doing it well. It gives you some hope in the blizzard of mediocrity and careerism.
What is your favourite piece of music? If that`s too difficult, what`s your current favourite piece of music?Often these days I don’t listen to music, perhaps after working on it all night / day, I like quiet. At home making dinner with my son I usually have some old Jamaican dub or soundtrack music on. I like soundtracks of the 70’s and will throw a bunch of tunes together from them, “The Hot Rock”, “3 Days of the Condor”, “The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane”, etc…
Can you name 3 records for sunset / sunrise?Here are 3 Italian gems for Sunset:
Stefano Torossi / “Walking In The Dark”
Puccio Roelens / “Northern Lights”
Crystal Bird / “Tunnel”
Can you name 3 records to start a party?
Curtis Mayfield / “Tell Me Tell Me (How Ya Like To Be Loved)”
Arthur Adams / “You Got The Floor”
John Gibbs with the Jam Band “ J’Ouvert”
All original artwork courtesy of Dennis Kane. Dennis has also kindly given us a couple of exclusive tracks to stream, his forthcoming “Last Exit” remix of the Phenomenal Handclap Band, taken from their forthcoming album ‘PHB LOVES NYC’, and an as yet unreleased “Guitar Dub” of Liz Torres` “Your Love Is All I Need”. Big thank you to Dennis, the artists and the labels involved, Tummy Touch and Luxor.