MUSIC: Q&A with DJ Tommy Bones
2012 WMC EDITION Q&A WITH DJ TOMMY BONES
“Don’t follow what everyone else is doing. Think outside the box,” DJ Tommy Bones advises. Trust, the creative visionary speaks from experience and is wise beyond his years. Back in the day, you’d find this phenomenal dancer doing his thing at New York’s legendary mega clubs like the Palladium, Limelight, Tunnel or Deep House spots like Vinyl or Sound Factory Bar. More than 20 years later, DJ Tommy Bones still works hard at perfecting his craft and he plays even harder on the decks, relating to a loyal and growing fan base across the U.S. and internationally. Check out what’s on his mind, including an overview of the 2012 Winter Music Conference where he performed, in the following interview with Tania Fuentez Media.
NOTE: All photos courtesy of Carlos Funn for Funn Foto
TFM: You recently returned to New York from this year’s Winter Music Conference in Miami. Overall reflection on the event and its future. Did it meet your expectations?
Well, I don’t really attend the conference part. I just attended the events. To be honest, I don’t want to sound like a stick in the mud, but this was actually my 12th year. A lot has changed … Musically, I wasn’t too excited about what I heard. It sounded to me like a lot of the DJ’s were confused on what to play. There was a lack of solid songs, and when I say songs I mean a song where the music follows the melody/instruments and takes you somewhere. The musical side was missing. Nothing really hit me in the heart … Like wow! This song is amazing. It just didn’t happen. On the other hand, I was impressed again by the South African parties. As movement, I think it’s a great thing for House music, but I feel they are still finding their way musically. There is nothing wrong with that, we are all creating, but I guess there is a lack of musicality out there. As far as the Music Conference week, I felt it was a bit stretched out and overpriced. There weren’t many dancers because they couldn’t afford it, and the parties in the middle of the week seemed a bit light on the attendee side. I think the overpricing from the past few years has made people think twice about attending. Hotel minimum is $250 a night, drinks $16 for vodka cranberry. Add flight, cab fare, meals and you can easily blow two G’s entertaining your friends.
TFM: With a distinctive name and sound, you’ve gained a solid following since you began DJing in 1988. Are you where you’d like to be professionally? What steps are you taking to get there?
Again … I’m going to be really honest here. Today DJing is pop culture. It is now cool to be that young DJ. Before it was a different time period where If you wanted to play any major parties the promoters would only book you based on what you have produced musically, how long you have been DJing and if you have a following. They wanted someone with a history. I felt that at times I was overlooked. I mean when I was 25 I looked like I was 16. Then, add the fact that I was a dancer. I don’t think most knew I was a DJ. When they finally heard me I was young, hungry and passed out tons of cassettes. They actually ended up saying this kid is pretty good. Now that I’m older, losing my hair and have facial hair, people are taking me seriously… lol. We are talking 22 years of DJing. I think it is great people are finally putting younger DJs on … a lot have been in my shoes. Deep House is the only genre that has seemed to not help others get on. There was no support system. Thankfully, there are some parties now in NYC that are helping change that, and I’m down to support the movement. If we don’t change, our crowd is only gonna get older.
TFM: What do you miss most about the early days of House in New York City?
Ahhh, good one … I miss the feeling of anticipation. Waiting in line and finding a new venue to explore. Clubs were different then. I’m talking about the early 90s dance music explosion. When venturing out you had to dress up, and put on your club gear. Today everyone dresses the same, so there are no surprises with style. I think back in the days we were creating it. Music and fashion. It was raw and dirty. If you were a dancer, you had your backpack, change of clothes, sneakers/boots. If you were a girl, you had to create style, buying clothes at fetish stores all because they didn’t make skimpy outfits or platform heels. I used to go to the mega clubs, like Tunnel, Palladium and Limelight, as well as the Deep House spots like Vinyl or Sound Factory Bar. There was so much diversity. A lot of times the door person wouldn’t let people in based on their appearance. It wasn’t about guest list or VIP. That didn’t exist. It was about style. Also the sound … OMG the sound systems were wooden cabinets and the bass would kick ass. There was an overall excitement because you never knew what you would hear or what would happen. Add the energy of dancing with your crew. People actually danced … they didn’t stand there and pop bottles. That crap came in the late 90s. In fact, I can’t believe electronica is pop right now and there is no dance culture to go with it. To me, that’s just crazy.
TFM: You’ve been known to leave the decks for a hot minute and dash to the dance floor with some serious moves while DJing. What’s up with that?
Hahaha … I’m down if the moment is right. I mean who wouldn’t want to dance when that certain song hits you … Like OMG!!! I gotta cut a rug up in this joint. I think more DJ’s should get out there. Kinda strange they actually don’t!
TFM: What’s making Tommy Bones smile these days (OK, keep it clean)?
Lately, it’s been my productions. I’m getting my sound closer to where I want it to be. I have a new formulas for production, a sound that is going to draw in the listener. It’s a simple theory and it works … You’ll see, and it’s gonna make all of us smile!
NOTE: The following question may look familiar. It’s making the rounds for different perspectives on a timely topic.
TFM: I’m sure you’re familiar with the Moodyman track, ‘Technologystolemyvinyle.’ What survival tips would you offer DJs/producers who want to survive and thrive in today’s digital culture.
I think if you want to survive you need to stand out, stay hungry, learn an instrument and define your style that will separate you from the rest. Don’t do it for money. Do it for love and it will all fall into place. You also have to have strong common sense and ideas that actually work. I see a lot of tacky artwork, promotion and media presentation. Deep House is the only genre that doesn’t seem to have its shit together when it comes to media presence. There are way too many half-ass songs, documentaries and promotions. Get your stuff together, have a strong concept of what works and you will stay on top. Keep it simple, and in the long run you will survive. Don’t follow what everyone else is doing. Think outside the box. If you are gonna follow … twist the hell out of that shit and make it your own. Remember that you are the face of your music, and you are representing the future of what is to come.
DJ Tommy Bones: http://djtommybones.com
2012 Winter Music Conference: http://www.wintermusicconference.com/