Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Part 3b - Editing, Remixing, Eddie, Jeff and the Reel-to-Reel - 1985

in NY in 1978, 92 KTU was the radio station that I listened to. At 11 years old, I listened to Paco every day and at lunch time he played "Paco's Supermix." These were very special medley's of songs mixed in a way that there would be beats from one song underneath another song, then another song would come in and blend over that....sort of a weaving of music. 92 KTU also played special Re-Mixes of familiar songs. I also listened to 98.7 Kiss and 107.5 WBLS. These 2 stations were a bit more urban, (KTU played more Poppy Disco) Both of these stations also played their own special remixed songs. This is the style of Djing I was used to and this is how I wanted to DJ.

I didn't have the equipment needed to DJ like this, it required a "Reel-to-Reel" tape deck which allows editing of 1/4" tape to physically remix a song. It takes talent, alot of creativity and someone with a reel-to-reel. As I said earlier, I became friends with the original DJ from Wheels, Eddie Feraca. He was a good DJ because at Wheels he would play HIS remixes of songs and short medleys like the big radio stations here in NY, and since we were friends and he had a reel-to-reel that meant I had a reel-to-reel!

Eddie came over to see me one day and brought his Pioneer 909 reel so he could show me how to "edit" tape. We hooked it up and he gave me an editing block, razorblade and a china marker (grease pencil). He explained how to mark the edit point on the back of the tape then to pull it down to the edit block, cut it and tape it to the next's a very labor intensive process and it takes forever BUT it's the only way to do it (what's a computer??) and it will get me to where I want to be! He left me the reel that night, well he left it there for a year, and I went crazy editing and I got pretty good at it.

It's 1985 and I was ready for my first real mix to be played in the club. I did a medley of "Alisha" songs..."All Night Passion" "Baby Talk" and "Too Turned On" This mix was hot and ready to be played. On a saturday night at Streets, before I got the friday night job there and only DJ'd the early part of the night, Eddie announced on the mic "This next mix is Engineered by Eddie Feraca, and Mixed by Vinnie Campisi" OK that whole line was a bit sketchy, but it was his idea to do an Alisha mix, and he did teach me how to edit and it was his reel-to-reel, so alright, he engineered it. BUT more importantly, this was the first time ANYONE has ever heard my name at a club and it was a big deal for me.

Eddie had a friend Jeff Gebica. Jeff was a NYC DJ and DJ'd at the Funhouse. He would use 3 turnatbles and he had all the toys in the booth to do some crazy stuff. This is when Dj's had real talent and had to proove themselves to the crowd and the club owner every night in order to keep his job. So I meet Jeff (I still talk to him almost every day) he heard from Eddie that even though I was really young in the DJ world, I really did know what I was doing. As it turns out, Jeff used to do some of Paco's Supermixes on KTU which was very cool to me AND he did my favorite remix on the station - "Keep On" by D-Train.

Now I have Jeff showing me a few tricks as well as Eddie. Yes I was lucky to have these 2 guys, but by this time I was DJing for about 5 years and already worked at 2 clubs, and friday nights at Streets, and that was all done by myself......... Jeff remained with a few friends in the NYC Clubworld. He had one at WBLS radio in NY. He brought my Alisha mix to the station, and it wound up being put into rotation a few times. Yep I was on WBLS in 1986 at the age of 18. This is also when "Another VINMIX" started, it was printed on the Alisha Mix Reel and I still have the Reel.

Eddie and Jeff taught me a big part of my DJ technique, music selection, and how I run a dancefloor. Still to this day I watch the bar as well as the dancefloor because Eddie taught me that "At a club it's about money. The bar makes the money not the dancefloor. You have to have a way of switching the dancers with the drinkers and back again to keep the bar AND the dancefloor packed at all times"

Part 3a - How My DJing Moved Up To The Next Level(s) - Hoops and Streets, 1985

It's 1985, I just graduated High School. Roller Disco is done and Wheels Skating Rink is closing down after the summer and being remodeled into a big nightclub. At this time I'm djing at Wheels friday afternoons, saturday mornings and afternoons, and the big saturday night session which is skating from 8pm to 10pm, and then dancing from 10 -12. So by djing for dancers, I'm really starting to learn the club world.

There was a club in Mt. Vernon, a town or 2 over from Yonkers, called "Hoops." This was a medium sized club but extremely well known. They lasted through the Roller Disco Craze and now that RD is dying down, dancing is coming back and so is Hoops. It was a saturday afternoon and a guy (forgot his name) comes into Wheels. A bunch of people are wondering why he's there. I had no-clue who he was but I was told that he was the owner of Hoops. It didn't really mean too much to me - I just figured he was there with one of his kids. At the end of the session, the guy is talking to my boss Trevor and then they both come over to talk to me. Unknown to me, this guy has heard of me (??) and was coming to ask me to DJ at Hoops, I couldn't believe it! He invited me to to come by Hoops next friday night.

I went by next friday. At this point the only club I was ever in was Wheels, which as a club was huge so being at Hoops and seeing a dancefloor smaller then a skating rink was weird to me but who needs such a big floor when no-one is skating. I had a few records with me so I could check out the booth, and that was it. I was hired to DJ at Hoops every friday night. That was great but short-lived because of the next story.....

During this Wheels stuff I became friends with a DJ named Eddie Feraca. He was the original DJ at Wheels and before I worked there I used to hang out there with my best friend Harry, and DJ Eddie was our idol. He was very very good even by today's standards. So I'm friends with Eddie, I'm 18 years old, he's close to 30 years old and djing at a club in New Rochelle called Streets. At that time New Rochelle was loaded with clubs and bars and it was simply the Hot-Spot in Westchester. People went there from all over. Eddie invited me to come by on a saturday night. Since Wheels was closed and I only DJ'd at Hoops on friday nights, it wasn't a problem going to Streets. This led to me going there every saturday night to hang out with Eddie and soak up everything I could by watching and listening. I don't know how it happened, but Eddie started having me mix a few records in the beginning of the night and eventually i would do the whole early part of the night, about 9pm to 10. Keep in mInd, Streets was packed and known for playing the best and newest music, and the best DJ's in New Rochelle - This was THE place, and I was djing there, early, but I was there - and I was the youngest person in the club by about 10 years.

One night about 11pm, Eddie was djing but he asked me to put on a couple of records so he could use the bathroom. For some reason he didn't come back. Now it's 11:30 and he and Al, the owner, are sitting at the bar hanging out, watching and listening to me. Eddie saw I was getting a little nervous because up to this point, I never dj'd for 1200 people. About midnight, he came up to the booth and said "Hey, don't you get it? This is your shot, now shut-up and do it" Eddie went back down to hang-out with AL, and by 4am, Al offered me every Friday night! This was HUGE, and eventually I dj'd every saturday night too. At the time Streets was the coolest and best known club in Westchester NY.....known for having the best music and DJ's and at 18 years old, in a world of 30 year old dj's and club goers I was one of the top guys. Eddie later introduced me to a few of his other well known DJ friends and "Light Guys." One in particular is Jeff. He Dj'd at Funhouse in NYC. As an 18 year old DJ I had the respect of and was on the same level as dj's with many more years of experience.

Part 2 - How I Started DJing Clubs - Wheels, 1983

When I was 15 in '82, I said I was done with private parties, what a big-shot I was. I was doing parties every friday night, saturday night and alot of sundays for years and I felt it was time for clubs....but i was 15 and all the club dj's were around 30 years old or older.

When the Roller Disco Craze hit in the late 70's and early 80's, a new skating rink opened in yonkers called Wheels. It was a Roller Disco, Big Sound and lighting and it was the ONLY place to be. I went there every saturday night with my best friend Harry (he was my best man at my wedding in 2005) and we were nuts about this place. We became friendly with the manager, Everett. Older guy, good guy. I told him I was ready for a shot Djing there. Long story short, I screwed up and didn't get the job. On the day of my tryout I was in school with a 102-103 fever - I had to go to school because if i didn't then how was I well enough to go to Wheels that night? When I got there I felt like crap and was completely overwhelmed with the sound and lighting and everything else (i was 15!). I didn't do good and Everett felt bad, but I knew that I just didn't "have it."........that time.

So I'm 16 now and I was again done with private parties, but i wasn't very comfortable going to Wheels to ask for a job. Since me and Harry still went there on saturday nights, we became friendly with the new manager Trevor Watson. One september afternoon, I was out with my friend Nick, he was a little older, had his license and he was a big dude. I didn't know where we were going, but we ended up at Wheels and since I was weirded out about asking for another tryout, Nick physically dragged me out of his car and carried me into Trevors office and simply said "He wants a job here." To my surprise, Trevor gave me a shot. As it turned out they were hiring dj's and rink guards and had that night coming up in 2 weeks, time to practice.

My day was here, I went from school, all dressed up - catholic HS - and when I got there, there was a bunch of much older guys getting ready for their shot too. It was me and about 10 other spanish, white, black, columbian jamaican....I remember thinking "What the hell did Nick get me in to!" Trevor gets up and says "OK, Who's First?" and as expected, they ALL pointed at me and collectively said "HIM!" Well that was it, no turning back and forget about the last time I tried this. I walked up to the booth with my crate of records and put Madonna's "Borderline" on the turntable and just let it go from there. When I was done, Trevor said good job and all eyeballs were on me as i walked out of the booth and across the rink to the pay-phone to call my mother for a ride home.

Well, my mother came and got, my crate of records and a job at Wheels, out of all of the other DJ's there trying to get a job, I was the only DJ hired that night. I was hired to do Friday after school and 2 sessions on saturday. After about 6 months I became Head-DJ and took over Saturday nights 16 years old in 1982 this was un-heard-of. I was on my way.

Part 1 - How I "Invented" Beat Mixing - 1981

So I didn't really invent "Mixing on Beat" but since I didn't have any DJ help I FIGURED IT OUT for myself. In '81 I started Djing, I was a freshman in High School. I had 2 Toshiba Belt-Drive Turntables with speed controls (Pitch controls - needed for beat mixing but I have no clue at this time), of-course amp, speakers and a mixer. I did a few private parties and I knew enough to know that the mixes that I did didn't sound right, so I would simply fade one record out and put the next one on to avoid crappy mixes and I assumed I would figure the rest out soon enough.

Anyway, I was hired by my grade school, St. Bartholomew's in Yonkers NY to do the next Teen Party which was on a saturday night. I spent alot of time, as I still do now, preparing for the "event" which was a big one for me because I still knew the 7th and 8th graders there, not to mention MY class (now in HS) and the grades above me who would be coming back for the party, so needless to say, I wanted to do a good job.

The weekend of the party is here, its Friday Night, cousins, aunt and uncle are over my house and my Uncle Bob is checkin out some music with me and messin around with the turntables. Here's how I "Invented" beat mixing.....................I used to roller and ice skate at Murray's in Yonkers. The dj there was "Rockin Rick" He saw my interest in DJing and always took time to talk to me and answer questions. He told me about "Beats Per Minute" HUH??? But never explained what it meant,and i wasn't too sure he knew what it was either. Let's go back to that friday night with me and my uncle going over music. It was about 9pm, the night before the BIG Teen Party and I had "Planet Rock" on one turntable and "Numbers" on the other. I noticed that they were very close in speed (beats per minute?) and they would stay on-beat (sync up) BUT one was a tiny bit faster sooooo....... since i had a speed control on my turntables i just slowed the faster one down. THAT WAS IT! It all came to me that night, Beats Per Minute were how many down and up beats each song had per minute, and I had to find songs with similar BPM's, and adjust the Pitch Controls on the turntables until the songs "sync up" That's how you mix on beat.

After everyone left, i stayed up in my room lights off, headphones on, and using a stopwatch, I counted and labeled the beats-per-minute of every record that I had at the time - about 300? I practiced mixing and finally went to sleep around 5am only to wake up the next morning to practice alot more.

I remember the night of the Teen Party, I was 13 years old, mixing records on-beat and no-one could believe it. I was nervous as hell, but not even the dj's that they used to hire for the Teen Parties could mix, and they were much older and DJing alot longer then my few months. I mean no-one could mix on-beat only the pro's on the radio.....and me, a 13 year old dj, who invented it for himself.