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Kenny Dope on Dope & ‘F++Ked UP Deep House’ ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on June 14, 2006

“There are lots of producers out there today who are making records that don’t make you dance.I think they’ve gotten the term ‘deep house’ fucked up, because even the deep house that was out in 1986/1987 was still funky. It’s been stagnant for a while. What happened to the sound? What happened to the drive? With Dope Wax we are trying to bring that sound back, to bring out the beat more, to be more upfront and to switch it up. Because it just got too monotonous, too loungey.”


Lounging across a bed in his Park Lane Hilton suite, Masters At Work Latino house star Kenny Dope Gonzalez admits he’s unimpressed with most of what passes today as ‘house’. As he is with the attitude he continues to sometimes find when he’s out hunting for new tunes.


“I’ve walked into record shops thousands of times and the people working there have known who I am and what I’m about and still couldn’t sell me records,” he says


“If that happens to me, what happens to the average person just trying to buy an album or a CD or a ‘45? Think about it, you get on the Internet, you find a website that you are comfortable with, they have your credit card details, you shop, the record’s mailed to your house, you don’t have to deal with any attitude,” he points out.


A relatively late, though enthusiastic convert to digital he’s also now pretty much abandoned vinyl for DJing, referring 8 track and plastic cassettes as formats that have become obsolete.


“I remember coming to London years ago with twelve boxes of records between Louis and I. The overweight was ridiculous,” he laughs.


“You would waste a lot of money bringing records here, only to find out that two boxes didn’t turn up, because they were either lost, never turned up or were even stolen. If you are booked to play somewhere and you don’t have your tools, it’s messed up. Therefore I was forced to play CD’s. I would have never thought even in a million years that one day I would be mixing CDs, whereas now if I can’t carry them on the plane, I won’t bring them.”


Vinyl issues aside, he’s more committed than ever to applying Miles Davis dictum of ‘there’s good records and bad records’ currently reworking and re-issuing K Alexi’s Chicago anthem Don’t You Know and Kim English’s Nightlife on Dopewax as well as kickstarting his retro label Kay Dee Records.


Kay Dee’s mission statement is ‘to expose to the world the plethora of magnificient yet unknown music’ he and his label partner (Brit) Keb Darge have discovered though their years of Djing, which can be found on a new compilation CD ‘Kenny Dope & Keb Darge Present Kay Dee Records’.


“Keb and I formed Kay Dee together in order to release what we could find mastered;when I say mastered I mean mastered tapes,” says Kenny.


“That’s what we were really looking for; records that are obscure, but at the same time can be found. These tracks were mostly recorded between 1968 and 1974, which is a long time for a tape to be laying around. Often they are damaged; they have water in them if they were sitting in a basement for a long time for example. Once you have the tape, you mix it over first, then do new mixes, to give the collector a new version of that record that was never released before. Sometimes a group may have put out one or two ‘45’s. Next thing you know, there’s an album.”



Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You mentioned ‘68 – ’74, is that the particular era you’re aiming at?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “Yes, I would say ‘68 to ‘74 is the right time; it’s just the sound, the feel of what was going on then in different music genres. That’s what appeals to me.”


Skrufff: It reminds me of the Northern Soul thing , of people going through this period and finding a link. Is that very much the idea you are thinking of? Do you see this as having a similar potential?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “Yes, but I’m not just concentrating on funk. If we are able to get our hands on a hot soul record for example, we’ll release it through the label as well. I’m still in the process of learning though. Learning what Northern Soul is for example, when to me it’s just a great soul record.”


Skrufff: You’re always prolifically busy on loads of projects, what have you let go to give you time to do this?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “You have to understand that Louis (Vega) and I have been working together for almost fifteen years straight. Literally churning four or five records a week in a studio, doing remixes, our own productions and so on. In 1996 we took a break to pull off Nuyorican Soul. That took two years, then we went back to work on our own projects and that’s when all the rumours started, but it was just time for us to break off and work on our own separate ventures, as well as keeping our partnership going. It was a healthy break. He started his Elements Of Life, I started my Kay Dee and the Dope label, and doing mixes on my own, we just kept going.”


Skrufff: I read on your biog on the Kay Dee website that you’re not keen on the way the download is affecting the market . .


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “It’s just like everything else, I think it’s a question of adapting to another format. We’re purists, we come from the vinyl era, but you also have to acknowledge that cassettes and eight tracks, for example, are now obsolete. I remember when albums were on reel to reels. Yes, it’s another format, but at the same time we are able to reach a lot more people through the Internet. There are other pluses, for instance when you go to a record store and you don’t have the right salesperson, you get turned off. There can be many reasons why records aren’t selling and it’s not just because people don’t want to buy records anymore; people don’t want to be in a store where they are not being sold records.


I’ve walked into record shops thousands of times and the people working there who know who I am and what I’m about still couldn’t sell me records. If that happens to me, what happens to the average person just trying to buy an album or a CD or a ‘45? Think about it, you get on the Internet, you find a website that you are comfortable with, they have your credit card details, you shop, the record’s mailed to your house, you don’t have to deal with any attitude. That’s one way of looking at it. Then you have downloads, a blessing for all the DJ’s who travel; they could be in their hotel room, before a gig downloading songs from anywhere in the world. So times are changing and we are adapting. There will always be people who prefer to buy vinyl and that’s why we are constantly pressing, but the numbers have changed drastically. If you were pressing 20,000 of a single before, you are only doing 3 now, but you might have 3,000 downloads of that single.”


Skrufff: I did a Google search on Brooklyn’s Sunset Park,.it seems like it was a quite rough area, back in the eighties.


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “It was, you had gangs everywhere. My area was in the middle, bordering many other neighborhoods, so there were Italians, Jewish, Black and Hispanic all together. There were all those influences coming in, but at the same time there were all those different problems to deal with.”


Skrufff: Did you see any shootings?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “Tons. I grew up on that; one of the reasons why I got into music was because many of my people were either killed, stabbed, in jail or doing life for killing people. That’s what was going on, and if you were presented with certain situations you had to defend yourself. The kids I went to high school with didn’t have a career; they sold drugs, then they got caught up. I didn’t want to be just another one of them. I was always interested in music and that’s what I pursued, I stopped everything else to just deal with that. It all started when I put my money together and did the first party with the original crew name, Masters At Work, which was the sound system in Sunset Park. I kept it going from there.”


Skrufff: How did the gang guys treat you?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “I was young, I was fifteen when that was going on. Many of my older friends had their clique, and there were about sixty of them, so we were alright. They always looked out for the younger guys.”


Skrufff: I remember the Manhattan/Brooklyn difference. Did you have a thing of: I want to make in Manhattan?


Kenny Dope Gonzalez: “You know what is crazy, I know people who were born and grew up in those neighborhoods and have never been out of them. They stood in their area, they stood on their block, they did whatever they had to do in that block, and that was it. They never went to the city. I didn’t go to the city until probably 1987, to buy records, and that was it. I would go, buy records, and come back. I didn’t go out. I went out probably around 1988, when I started making records, to get them played in clubs, but besides that, I had no interest on what was going in Manhattan, because everything you needed was in your area, you didn’t need to go to the city.


When I started traveling to Europe I realized how different their culture is from ours and how Europeans are brought up to travel. They have school trips where they go to different countries to learn about different cultures. That to me was always interesting and I would have never known it if I hadn’t been traveling, so I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced that through music.


Another thing is coming out here and going to the South Port Weekender and seeing the jazz dancers and the jazz music and the funk music in another room and then back then they had the dance stuff alongside it. It’s obviously changed now, it’s hip hop and a house room and a soul and funk room or whatever, but that exposed musically as well. As a record collecto that just opens me up and makes me want to learn about more stuff and more music. Basically with the Kay Dee thing I want to teach the younger generation about what is out there. It’s not just what’s on television and the video.”


Skrufff: Regarding raids and clubs being closed down…. Are you DJing much in New York?


Kenny Dope: “To be honest, just to answer the question of raids, the big clubs were happening back in the eighties and nineties, then they got too crazy. Now we have lounges, venues that are more intimate, more comfortable. You can actually go out and chill. I play here and there, but I don’t want to DJ more than that in New York, it would just be too much. Between all the traveling, the studio work, and my personal life, there’s no way I even could. I don’t think people realize how much energy takes to do all these things and how fast time goes by. I could tell you the last fifteen years feel like it was yesterday. They just flew by me.”


Skrufff: Chicago’s authorities are backing a new house music festival this summer, recognizing house music’s contribution to the city, could you see New York authorities doing something similar?


Kenny Dope: “The authorities never really wanted big clubs to happen in New York, there’s probably three big ones left these days and the vibe has totally changed. Plus the music and people are fragmented into different genres; broken beats have a certain crowd, then you have the house crowd, then those who are into disco and stuff like that, but to be honest the ‘no more than 300 people’ capacity clubs are the most comfortable and the most happening now, because they’re intimate.”


Skrufff: DJing and clubbing have always been linked to alcohol and drug culture, how easy has it been for you to avoid slipping into those habits?


Kenny Dope: “It’s crazy because I’ve never even tried half that shit. I drink here and there, but I don’t care for stuff like weed. I don’t smoke. I guess I’ve learned my lesson early on; an uncle of mine died because he was into heroin. He was an incredible musician, had a band, but he was in and out of jail. I was ten or eleven when I witnessed this, later on, when I was sixteen/seventeen he started stealing from me, so I guess seeing how drugs took over the life of a generally good person gave me an early warning. I also had a friend from high school who normally used to do 60/70 vials of crack a day. That was the craziest thing, he would get high just to do it. Then one day he just disappeared; nobody knows if he’s dead, in jail or if he just moved. But how can you pick up and leave your family and just disappear? I was never into it.


I remember in the nineties when I first came to Europe and witnessing the whole E thing. Louis and I were playing at a London club when I saw this young good looking girl in the middle of the club, basically sleeping standing up in the middle of the dance floor. It was eight in the morning. We left the club at eleven and we saw the same girl passed out on the floor, swallowing her tongue. I never believed you have to get high to enjoy music, and I’ve made tons of music, worked with crazy musicians and sure, we drink, but not to the extent we don’t know what’s going on around us.


If you’re that wasted, you can’t even be out because you’re exposed. Like a boy of mine who just came back from Miami; he was sleeping in the lobby of this hotel with all his jewellery on, and I mean forty/fifty thousand dollars of jewellery, he was so lucky not to get robbed. That’s just alcohol. Drugs are even worse. I have seen people who have lost their marriage, their kids, their houses, their empires, everything, just because of it. People do it for different reasons and I understand that, because coming from where I came from, people deal with problems and issues differently. Sometimes you need to escape, thinking that will get you out of the situation, not necessarily. You’re only burying yourself deeper and deeper into a hole. I don’t think people realize how lucky they are to be born healthy, with legs and arms, with good hearing and sight. There are people out there who aren’t, so why ruin it? I don’t understand it sometimes, and just to do it because you are in a club and you think it’s cool ... nah.”


Kenny Dope & Keb Darge Presents Kay Dee Records is out now.


Jonty Skrufff (