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Joey Negro Interview: Sampling, remixing, and crap vinyl records

What influenced you to DJ predominantly disco music?

Just because I like it, obviously I’m pretty old, probably older than your dad maybe… I suppose when I was at school most other people in my class liked heavy metal. That’s what everybody seemed to like. I didn’t mind some heavy metal, I didn’t mind Whitesnake and Saxon or whatever, but I just loved disco music, it’s not something I can really explain in a way, I just like it.

At a guess, how many vinyl records do you reckon you own?

Err…20,000 maybe, it’s hard to say, they’re all in one room, I’ve got a few in storage, it’s hard to say, somewhere between 15-20,000 yeah.

Out of those waxes which are your favourite and which are your biggest regrets?

I’ve sold quite a lot over the years, I’ve never been someone whose sold records to make space or anything like that, but I have sold records I didn’t like. I suppose at points in the 90s I was buying quite a lot of records and getting sent quite a lot of records, and obviously some of it ended up “oh I don’t know why I bought this”. I’d never wanted my record collection to be full of records I actually don’t like, I want it to be full of records I actually like and I actually want to listen to, not just have loads of records for the sake of it. When I want to listen to something I can flick through, without thinking “what is this? I don’t even know what it is”, that can be exciting but not if you think that chances are it’s probably going to be crap.

What was the one I regret buying? I suppose the things you paid a lot of money for and find out you don’t like as much as you thought you did. In the early days of ebay there was quite a lot of bidding of options online, and sometimes it would be like “wow, I didn’t even know that was on 12-inch” kind of. Now, information is spread a lot more so you can just look on Discogs, but the first days of ebay I was hearing about records I didn’t even know existed. So there would have been something around that era, sometimes you take a gamble on something where you’ve got something on that label, but you’ve not seen this one before, but sometimes you’ve never seen it before because it’s actually pretty shit. So it never came over as an import because it wasn’t very good, now you can hear things with youtube, but then you couldn’t. So I took a few chances on things which depressingly arrived and were crap. In terms of my favourite…I haven’t got a favourite.

What is the process for when you choose a track and make a remix out of it? Where do you store all of your samples?

Well it depends, if I’m doing a remix like I’m doing at the moment where I’m doing it from the multitrack and whatever, I mean a lot of the thing is about finding the person who owns the track and seeing if they’ve got the multitrack. Which most of the time, with independent releases, that’s very difficult, and a lot of the time they haven’t got the multitrack. So, the major labels were better at storing their multitracks, but even then it’s probably only 50% of the song, 40% maybe, where they’ve actually got the tapes.

When I was starting doing some stuff with Sony, I went on Discogs and went through everything in the Sony catalogue, from like 1965 to 1985, and thought of any artist’s I might not have thought of, because it’s obviously Sony, Epic, Arista, there’s lots of labels and then I presented them with this massive list and they didn’t have quite a lot of it. So, once you find out they have got one, then you decide “do I wanna pay a few hundred dollars to get that digitised”. Sometimes you get the parts and it’s quite disappointing, sometimes it’s missing stuff like the lead vocals, the lead strings, or it’s got all the drums bounced down to two tracks so you can’t do the things you wanted to do or the piano has got loads of spill on it which sounds okay in the track but not if you come out with it on it’s own.

I’m using Logik Audio, what I normally do with a track is initially put it in Abelton and straighten it out to a level tempo, which would be wrong to do to some records, but if you’re doing it with disco records a lot of them are pretty level tempo anyway. The original might go from 116 to 119, but you’re maybe keeping it at 118, so it’s not like a free jazz record that starts off at 95 bpm and goes all over the place; if you were rigidly forcing that to a level tempo it would really affect the dynamics of the record. I suppose I’m deciding, listening to it, “Do I need to keep…”, some songs you keep everything, other songs you might think “oh that sax, I never liked that sax”. You’ll be thinking “I wanna make this different from the original”, so you’ve gotta get rid of something to make it different, sometimes you might wanna change the drums and sometimes you keep the drums. It really is a track-by-track basis thing, there’s not really a set rule.

What advice would you give to young DJs, who are thinking about doing the same thing as you, with the disco revival that’s going on?

Give up. “Forget about doing it, it’s not gonna work, you talentless fuck.”

No, err, what would I say? People often ask me “what advice would you give a young and aspiring…” and it just really depends on what that person is good at. Do it, and put 100 percent into it, but also be pragmatic and realistic about what you're actually good at and what you’re not good at, and don’t try and do everything yourself if you’re not good at everything. Also try and do something, which is much easier said than done, that somebody else isn’t already doing. You’ve got to create something that’s unique about you, if you want people to book you. So, you know if I was a young DJ now, I would do my own edits, it’s not bloody difficult. Put it in Abelton (link to the software), edit some records around, say it’s yours, put some edits on Soundcloud, do some mixes, put them on Soundcloud, promote yourself relentlessly, and make it look like you're successful when you’re not successful. Cause that’s what people buy into, “Oh that guy looks like he’s doing well’, they don’t know, you could be on the other side of the world, you could be in Malaysia, you could be in…do you know what I mean? They’re not necessarily gonna know whether your gigs are full of people going crazy, but if you project that sort of look that you’re doing well, then people will think that you are.

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