Danny Krivit grew up in the Greenwich Village area of New York in the 1960s and, encouraged by a very musical family, became a vinyl jukie and amateur DJ at a very early age. Introduced to DJing professionally through spots at his father’s clubs, Danny established himself in the mid to late seventies at venues like Trude Hellers and The Roxy. Taking inspiration from peers such as Nicky Siano at The Gallery, Walter Gibbons of Galaxy 21, Tee Scott at Better Days, Bobby DJ and in particular David Mancuso and Larry Levan of The Loft and Paradise Garage respectively, Danny became exposed to the world of the underground dance DJ, the record pool and the soundsystem.
The 80s saw Danny put this knowlege to good use at a series of large residencies at places like Danceteria, Red Zone, Save The Robots, Area and The Tunnel. It also saw the start of Danny’s studio career, as the aspiring DJ started to create his own re edits to play at his club nights. Appearing as record pool only releases or later as bootlegs, many of these re edits have gone on to become the definitive versions of the songs for DJs the world over and now, thanks to U.K. labels like Strut, are finally being given official releases.
The 90s saw Danny continuing to re edit as well as move into the more central role of record producer as he embraced the progressive influence of house and garage on soulful dance music. His DJing entered a new phase as his residency at New York’s Body and Soul party (alongside friends Joe Claussell and Francois Kevorkian) brought him critical acclaim across the globe.
He has gone on since then to guest at clubs across Europe and the Americas, Japan and Australia. Alongside his contributions to the definitive Body and soul compilations, Danny has compiled two fantastic albums for Strut ‘Grass Roots’ and ‘Edits By Mr K’, an ‘Expansions’ mix for NRK and for King Street’s ‘Mix The Vibe’ series.
Marc Rowlands caught up with Danny as he was about to take a quick look at a new club in New York and just prior to embarking on his recent crop of European dates.
Hey Danny. Why did Body and Soul move?
Well, we were at Vinyl for a long time and they changed to Ark. (sighs) It’s very Twilo, it’s not very condusive to the kind of club we do. Basically it changed in a lot of ways, the decor, the soundsystem, the attitude.
So if you take this new club on board when are you looking to reopen?
This club wouldn’t be Body and Soul. Francois is thinking of doing something there and he asked Joe and myself to come down and have a look at it with him.
Will you be starting Body and Soul again?
We’re still looking for the proper space.
Do you hold any residencies at the moment?
I’m doing a monthly in Brooklyn as well as a few guest spots around here.
Is there any particular reason behind your forthcoming crop of European dates, are you promoting anything in particular?
Mostly it’s for the new “Edits by Mr K’ compilation that I’ve done for Strut.
You’ve done a large amount of re edits in the past. How did you come to choose these particular ones to appear on the Strut LP?
It’s difficult for me to choose them, but I had some help from Strut. We were trying to get a good mix of things to go on there, but quite a few of the ones that made it hadn’t been available previously, so we wanted to get the best of those out. Some of them are the classic re edits I did as well.
With such a large back catalogue at your disposal, do you think it’s likely there will be another in this series?
I’m sure there will be another one from Strut. I’m also working on a Philly one for Legacy / Sony U.S. and there’s a Salsoul one in the pipeline also.
What is it about certain tracks that makes you think they would be a good one for you to re edit?
Generally it doesn’t happen that quickly. Most of the tracks aren’t just ones I hear and then decide to re edit, a lot of them are tracks I’ve experienced time and time again. Besides appreciating them a lot, I probably find that I like them so much that I might hear something that would improve it, or I think that’s it’s almost perfect except for this one flaw or there’s just not enough of it, it’s not long enough, things like that.
What would make you re edit a track rather than remix it?
Firstly it’s easier to re edit a track than remix because I don’t have to ask for anybodys permission or wait for anything, I just do it. The thing about re editing is generally the things that I pick, I’m already very happy with the mix, all I’m doing is just arranging a little. I’ve remixed some classic things in the past and I’ve ended up spending the whole session trying to equal or succeed where it had already gotten. It’s pretty hard work to try and get these things to sound classic. I prefer to remix records that don’t have such an established track record, so there’s less to compare it too.
Of your own re edits which are your personal favourites?
Some of my earlier ones are probably still my favourites, but of the more recent ones I was really pleased with “I Know You, I Live You” (Chaka Khan – Strut Rec.s). Also “Love Is The Message” (Montana/MFSB), “Rock The House”, Salsoul Orchestra’s “Runaway”, Brenda and The Tabulations “Let’s Go All The Way Down”. There’s been a few that I felt had a bit of finesse about them, ones I liked a lot, that were very simple, I didn’t think that the work I’d done on them was so remarkable.
You still re edit a lot of contemporary releases yet most of these are never commercially available. Are these edits done just so yourself and a few friends can use of them?
In general all of them are made for that reason. What happens is that some of them are getting played anyway and I find a place for them, somebody actually wants to use it, but the beginning point is purely for myself and friends.
Have you ever been tempted to start your own record label?
I’ve been tempted, sure, but I have a lot of friends who run record labels and when I see what a rough road they have, I say to myself, maybe I should just let them get the records from me, let them get the headache.
Do you think that the musical remit of Body and Soul changed over the course of the time that it was running. Can you see any change in the music you played, say, in it’s first year to what you were playing in it’s last year?
I think it refined itself. Towards the end we had a very particular crowd, a Body and Soul crowd and I think we played certain records that maybe didn’t exist in abundance previously.
Looking at the playlists from the earlier sessions it seems to me that the records earlier on might have been a bit warmer, more vocals whereas towards the end there were excursions into tech-y edged sounds, perhaps a bit harder, deeper and more driving house music. Would you agree with that?
Somewhat. I think that throughout the six years it had a lot to do with picking out what we thought were the best bits of the moment and that was probably to do with current trends. There were so many good vocal records available during the first year that I remember we had an exclusive on, so a lot of people would come down specifically to hear those records, because they couldn’t hear them anywhere else. Quite a few made it on to the first compilation. I remember the second year we were actually complaining that we’d been spoilt by these special songs and it was really hard to find them. Over the years we found them, but there seemed to be luckier moments at some points, where you had groups of them. Towards the end I think they were a lot more spread out so the time got filled by some more techy things.
You mixed the all house “Mix The Vibe” compilation for King Street/Nitegrooves. Do you mind playing sets that are completely contemporary or do you prefer the freedom of being able to play across genres and even tempos?
I think you know the answer to that already. I feel very constrained if I can’t play a variety. I really appreciate that King Street compilation, but it was a compilation of what they had in their catalogue. I was happy to play that, but it would be difficult to play that live. It’s just not my style to play one thing.
What is about playing across the genres that appeals to you?
I’ve been playing now for close to 32 years and it’s hard for me not to be able to use a bit of it all in what I currently do. I seem to have an aversion to how music is categorised these days, it’s labelled as either this or that. For me, music’s either good or bad, it either moves you or it doesn’t. For me, variety and stimulation is really important.
If older records like Philadelphia soul and records like Salsoul are so obviously relevant on todays dancefloors, why do you think it is that no one is still producing records like that anymore?
There’s lots of reasons for that and my complete answer to that question would be pretty complicated, but one reason is that in the 60s and 70s you had established musicians and groups that had perfected what they were playing before they even got near a studio. As time’s gone on, with the introduction of drum machines and computers, it seems like fewer people have the patience to learn music or even use real musicians. Today it’s all about short cuts, short attention spans. To get together a group of musicians such as those that appeared on the Philadelphia releases would be a huge undertaking and it’s one that none of todays producers seem to be interested in. People are more interested in making music fast and making money fast.
You’re a soul music fan, what do you think of todays R n’ B music specifically?
I think there’s a revolution due. There’s still good music to be found in all genres of music, across the board. But talk about treasure hunts, you have to dig so deep to find it. There’s so much crap being sold to you. In New York today the R n’ B/ hip hop that the public are most exposed to on the radio or whatever is completely disposable. The stuff that isn’t disposable doesn’t get the same push. I would love to be able to go somewhere to hear a guy play great songs, songs that I might still want to hear two years from now, not something that six months from now I’m going to think “that was then, I don’t want to hear it again”.
Which of the current crop of artists from that genre do you appreciate?
Jill Scott, Missy Elliot… it’s hard to think off the top of my head. Anyone who has a real message or a real vibe.
You used to play a lot of hip hop, do you still get opportunity to play that music when DJing?
Not so much lately. I always try to stick in something, perhaps a little more when I play over here or when I’m in Japan than elsewhere overseas. This year I played a couple of times with my friend Pal Joey, he had this nice little jazzy night going on and I played some interesting, jazzy, soulful hip hop there, the kind of stuff you might hear Gilles Peterson play. I had a good time there.
You say that you’re more able to play that kind of music when you’re at home in New York. Does that mean you feel restricted by European audiences when you come over here?
Definitely. It seems like everybody’s patience is on a clock. There is an audience over there who are willing to listen, but it seems like they’re not coming out to hear me. Unfortunately I seem to be stuck with house heads. Occassionally I play for a really openminded party and I go where I want to go, but the things I’ve done recently I didn’t think I could do that. I always test the water, but I wasn’t feeling it.
You’re playing one of the most openminded parties I’ve attended in the U.K when you visit Southport Weekender.
I heard that it was more like that there, more of a soul fest. Some of the people that I know over there who are real Northern soul fanatics play there once in a while, so I’ll probably have a good time there.