Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Can You Dig It? Vol. 22: DJ Apt One
Name: DJ Apt One
Claim to Fame: I guess my claim to fame is a series of parties I do with my boy Skinny Friedman called Philadelphyinz. I grew up with Skinny in Pittsburgh and he lives in Brooklyn now. We do production and take our show on the road. We rock two turntables and trade off back and forth. Beyond that my claim to fame is that I have a ridiculous mustache. People can pick me out of a crowd pretty easily.
Representing: I grew up in Pittsburgh and I’ve been living in Philly for about eight years now. The name Philadelphyinz comes from Pittsburgh slang. Yinz is like ya’ll in Pittsburgh. When I started that party I was doing it with a lot of people that I knew from Pittsburgh who had moved to the east coast. It sort of made sense as a name because it reps the two cities that I rep.
Years in the Game: I’ve been record collecting and DJing for the same amount of time. I started messing around with both when I was 16. I’m 25 now. I was talking to DJ Selecta recently and I realized that because I started out so young, I was one of the last generations to get under the bar before DJing went so digital and a lot of people started DJing without collecting wax first.
When you start with records there is a whole visual vocabulary that goes with it. You don’t get that with digital stuff. With vinyl you see the record, the label, the sleeve, and the names of the people who produced and played on the record. A lot of how you dig for records is visual. A lot of times people think things like, “I’m just digging through this big pile of shit and I’m going to find a label that I’ve heard one record on before that I like. It costs a dollar and I’m going to buy this record completely based on speculation. There’s no record player here, I’m just going to buy it.”
It could be that super secret gem that nobody knows about and you end up being the only person in your circle of music with that track. That just doesn’t happen with digital stuff. It’s an experience that is disappearing, but if you’re aware of the fact that it is possible, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can go digging and collect music the same way that everyone else does who is on a strictly digital level.
A lot of what I play is stuff that I’ve ripped from wax. I use Serato, but I feel like I have an excellent data backup with all my vinyl. The government is actually trying to backup some of their records with analog. Let’s say you’re an alien archeologist and you land on this planet in 1000 years. It’s much easier to find a record and reverse engineer a turntable than it is to find a CD and reverse engineer a computer. They’re sort of looking out for the future by going analog. You can retrofit a devise to play something much more easily, which I think is kind of cool.
Best Digging City or Town: When I tour around I don’t always have the time to go digging, so outside of Pittsburgh and Philly I’m not really an expert. Philly is a great digging town. It’s losing some of the newer vinyl shops like Armand’s that have always been around for new wax, but there are a number of really excellent used record shops. The Philly digging scene is full of really crazy characters that everyone kind of knows. Val Shively is a legendary guy, and everybody knows this guy named Stinky Steve. For some reason lots of people know the half dozen dudes that live in some random neighborhood of some random suburb and have like 15,000 records in their house. It’s really interesting.
Pittsburgh is also a great digging city. Jerry’s Records is probably the best record store that I’ve ever been in. It’s insanely affordable and it was on my walk between high school and my house. That’s one of the reasons I got into this whole thing. Cosmo Baker played with us last Wednesday and he was like, ‘Dude, you gotta take me to Pittsburgh so we can go to Jerry’s.”
Jerry’s has quite a reputation because it’s huge. It’s shrunken a bit in size, but Jerry’s at its peak had something like five rooms. Each room was bigger than the record store that your average person would go to. There were rooms with alphabetized 45’s stacked up to the ceiling that you had to get on a ladder to get to. There were two rooms of that, and every 45 was three dollars no matter what it was. These days, Jerry’s is surviving. DJ Selecta runs a record store called 720 Records, and Jerry invited 720 Records and an indie video store to move into two of the rooms to cut down on his rent. It’s kind of like ground zero for media nerds.
Also, everybody I know who lived in Detroit for a period of time has amazing records. The next time I’m up there I have to go digging, because my guess is that the records up there are just awesome.
Most Prized Piece of Wax: I definitely have an affinity for some of the 45’s I found in high school. At the time, the idea of coming across a rare record was really appealing to me. I have Dennis Coffey’s version of "It’s Your Thing" by the Isley’s on this 45 label called Maverick from Detroit. When I was in high school I loved that record.
I also collect old timey Country records. It’s the only kind of record I collect that I don’t spin or sample. I definitely have an affinity for some of those records, like old Bob Wills and Hank Williams. I don’t listen to them as much as I would like to, but honestly, the only kind of live music that I really get amped to see anymore is people playing old timey folk and blue grass. I’ve been producing music and playing guitar for a long time and a lot of it has been de-mystified, so its hard to get impressed sometimes. But there’s so many elements of old time country music that I couldn’t play if I tried. If music is my job, I guess listening to old country is my musical hobby.
Favorite Album Cover/s: Pretty much anything by the Ohio Players kills it.
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes is one of my favorites. I love the way it folds out into a six panel gigantic Isaac Hayes that you can put on your wall.
E=MC² by Giorgio Moroder is another one. My buddy Ian took a picture of me holding that record. Both of us have these absurd mustaches and it’s almost like me holding a picture of myself. It’s a dope cover because he’s wearing a swishy, white, Miami blazer with no shirt. But instead of showing his chest, there are all these really poorly airbrushed robotic wires and buttons and shit. People must have totally thought that shit was the future when it came out.
I love those kinds of covers. I was talking to a friend of mine from my neighborhood that runs a record label recently. He’s going to stop putting out everything but vinyl, and when you buy the vinyl you can get a coupon to get the MP3’s from his labels website. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said that “On top of everything you can say about how vinyl sounds, it’s a piece of art, so much more than a CD. You can hold it in your hands and you can put it on your wall.” That’s the one thing about old records. They’re like snapshots of people’s stylistic sensitivities frozen in time. You can look back and say, “Ray Parker Jr. thought it was the hot shit to wear a white riding suit while sitting on a couch. That seems ridiculous now, but I bet he was pimping it then.”
Dollar Bin Miracle: Here’s a funny story. When I was back home in Pittsburgh for the summer a couple of years ago, I went to this flea market in Washington Country Pennsylvania. I think it was in the parking lot of a horse racing track. I went with a few buddies of mine, and I was pulling awesome stuff. Some dude sold me a shoebox of dope 45’s for $10. I kept finding all these dope records, and none of my friends were finding anything.
I was digging through a cardboard box of records with my buddy Shannon. He was digging in a box next to me and looking for old school rock and stuff like that. I found a copy of The Stooges first album. I knew that he wanted it way more than me. If I kept the record for myself, I would buy it, listen to it a handful of times, file it on a shelf, go about my business, and not listen to it again for years. So I ended up giving it to him. This was five or six years ago, and I have never seen an original pressing of that album again for anything I can possibly justify paying for it. Every time I see it I think, “Shannon, you cool, but I shouldn’t have given you that fucking record.”
Total Records Owned: In Philly I have close to 2,000, but I really don’t know how many are in my parent’s basement in Pittsburgh. There are probably another couple of hundred in there.
Best Digging Story: I was 19 years old and I played a show with Peanut Butter Wolf. I played the show, went home and crashed, and got a call at ten in the morning from him. He was like, “Are we going digging or what?” I borrowed my girlfriend’s car and went to pick him up. I’m 19 and I’m about to go digging with Peanut Butter Wolf. I couldn’t believe it. When we started digging I said, “You’ve been doing this since I was in short pants. Any record that you find that you think is ill, even if you think it’s dumb obvious, give it to me.”
I must have bought $300 worth of records that day. I followed him around and he handed me cool shit. I handed him some things I thought he might know and managed to surprise him with a few things. I got some disco tracks that I still play on a semi regular basis to this day. I’ll play them and people will go, “What the fuck is that?” with admiration.
That experience totally blew my mind. It was a total head rush because I was so young. He also blew off a meeting with Madlib and Melvin Van Peebles in New York because he didn’t want to stop digging. Melvin Van Peebles was mad because someone from Stone’s Throw had sampled something from Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song and he was talking about filing a lawsuit. We were just digging and PB Wolf was like, “You know what? Fuck that” and kept on digging.
If you ever get a chance to interview Peanut Butter Wolf for this series, ask him about the story of Grand Master Lover. It’s a great digging story, but it’s not my story to tell. It’s about his favorite record ever. He bought it sealed in a dollar bin somewhere in St. Louis. He ended up chasing the guy down to try to re-release it. But again, it’s not my story, so I’ll have to let him tell it.
To learn more about DJ Apt One and The Philadelphyinz, visit DJ Apt One's MySpace, the Philadelphyinz MySpace, and the Philadelphyinz Website.
Also make sure to check out a Heavy In The Streets favorite, Apt One's Dollar Bin Jams.