Interview with Dennis Kane

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You know who Dennis Kane is. You danced on his parties, know his 5 favorite records, read many interviews with him. He is our hero. So we asked him some not too worn questions and got some interesting stories to read, check it!

You used a moniker Citizen Kane, why? Do you like Orson Welles’ movie? Why do Americans love it so much (my opinion is based on some film critics’ ratings)?

In Well’s film the moniker “Citizen” is ironic, Charles Foster Kane as he accrues power violates the civic contract, he becomes driven to wield his power in an unregulated exploitive way. A thinly disguised critique of William Randolph Hearst and other Industrial robber barons (Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt etc.) Citizen Kane attempts to show the emptiness and intimate dysfunction of someone whose power is so corrosive. This is the dark side of the no longer existing American dream, a conservative lord who feels entitled to crush others and devalue workers. (Especially poignant now given the erosion of Roosevelt’s new deal and Johnsons great society–the Supreme Court essentially gutted the voting rights act last year!) People like the Koch brothers who fund the tea party want a society split into rich and poor with no social services. Life in America before FDR’s new deal was brutal and unforgiving, no Medicare, no social security, no public works etc.… but people like Hearst had unlimited power and wealth. The brilliance of Wells’ film is the way he examines how such pathology could develop.

I don’t really know if Americans love it – I think sadly most American’s watch garbage like “Glee”
Shortly after Citizen Kane was made The State dept. sent Wells to Brazil to make some pan–American propaganda film, always willing to bite the hand, Wells instead proposed a complex four part film (one of which would have had Duke Ellington as co-director and composer!) one of the parts “four men and a raft” focused on the exploitation of the jungadero fishermen of Brazil. (there is a documentary called “it’s all true” I highly recommend it) Well’s was an amazing genius and socially and morally committed to a progressive agenda. He made a lot of powerful enemies and in the end they brought him down. He was a broken and impoverished man at his death– tragic. At the end of his life he was trying very hard to get funding for a film version of “Cradle will rock” a Brechtian opera by Mark Blitzstein about corporate greed and the attempts to unionize workers. At the time Steven Spielberg spent over a million dollars buying the sled from “Citizen Kane” Wells went to both him and George Lucas for funding help and they declined. (Wells on his worst day skated circles around them.)
I was called “Citizen Kane” for years as a kid before I saw the film – also “Killer Kane” – that was a popular comic book figure, and Arthur Kane from the NY Dolls had that, I started using the name Citizen during the Bush era – it felt good to declare some civic right then, I have really dropped it since 08’ and just go by Dennis Kane.

What was your first experience as a clubber not as a DJ?

In art school in Philadelphia in the 80’s I had friends who were in bands, I would go see them, and once in a while play some records there. I grew up in a joyless, violent, working class, catholic neighborhood, so to me clubs were like “magic palaces”, (they still are), pretty girls in dresses, drinks, drugs, MUSIC, all manner of freaks – it was entirely captivating, the lighting, the sound systems, the whole apparatus – Christmas at night!

Who were the best DJs in your town? Who were your favorites?

At the time there were no “DJ’s” just bands, but when I came to NY, I soon got to clubs with DJ’s, also the radio was really important back then, Kiss FM and WBLS. The Funhouse had a huge impact on me, it seemed like he (Jellybean) was really having a ball mixing this wide range of music. I was really falling for disco at that moment so it was perfect timing. Prior to this I liked jazz and punk, soul ballads and old reggae, I liked avant garde sounds – was interested in The Loft scene Ornette Coleman had going with NY Times critic Robert Palmer, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Carla Bley, John Zorn, Butch Morris, Henry Threadgill, Steve Reich etc.….
I got to the Loft, I went to Choices, things changed, it all seemed part of a narrative,
I could go see Lester Bowie or Craig Harris early in the evening, then dance to Frankie Knuckles later on…. It was really an amazing time in NYC.

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What records every collector should have? Name some.

None really, your collection should be a reflection of who you are, why buy a record just because someone else has it? I’ve know some great DJ’s /collectors and have been influenced by their sensibilities, and been flattered to see others have been impacted by what I value, but ultimately it has to be what you love. There are a number of “must have” records that I am totally indifferent to. (granted there are also some I would give a back molar for as well) Some of the best collectors I know
(Keb Darge, Jeff Overton for example), they get stuff they love. I have Flowers’ ”Baby I’m for real”, but not to collect it – but because every time I have a few glasses of vin rouge I want to hear it. It gives me goose bumps (what a phrase) I wanted the Mbari LP for years, but really because I wanted to listen to it over and over…. I wanted a 2$ Bob Welch record last month because I remembered making out with a girl in high school to it. A friend of mine wanted “drifting” by Charles Earland, it was a pleasure to be able to give him a copy – to see his face light up – it was his jam – collect that way and you will end up with a better more interesting library.

Were you surprised by any project or name this year? What will be the sound of 2014 in your opinion?

Oh man what a question! Everything becomes about money and business in about 15 seconds now, it used to take a few years. So much of what presents itself, as “art” is now just malignant narcissism looking for the credit line of fame. It seems that Neo-Techno is following on the heels of Nu-Acid House, and Nu-Disco, but trends come and go. I just try to focus on good records and find a way to put them together. I like some of the harder tech things I heard this past year – I liked the TV Baby record. (Black Spun mix) on Rong Music, I loved the mix Cosmic Metal Mother did of Jose Manuel’s Les Regrets on Disques Sinthomme, both had a tough NY vibe. I think Velvet Season and the Hearts of Gold are doing some nice stuff, Richard Sen did a remix for Andrew Weatherall’s Asphodel project that was badass. Good stuff is always coming out, if you’re a real DJ you go and find it, and have the talent and sensibility to build personal sets with a variety of tools. I saw this hipster guy DJ’ing the other night, he was just horrible, playing trendy new techno too fast and too loud in a small basement space, no sensitivity, no sense of the crowd in front of him, just a teenage boy, (except he was in his 30’s) screaming “look at me!” Miles Davis once said going out in NY “you often learn what not to do…”

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What is the ideal party for you? What is the place and line-up for this ideal party?

Good sound, a nice room, a crowd that’s ready to rage, and let you take your time to get there…. it should be dark! With smoke! I have a party coming up with Rich Medina (of Jump n’ Funk fame) called “Black Heat”. We are doing the first one at S.O.B.’s in the city, it is going to be a dance party with a street vibe – it is going to bounce! We are also doing it down in Philadelphia at the end of the month. Basically working to get a mixed crowd for a more NY sounding jam, not some hipster simulation of it. I’m not mad at anyone, (well the state in general – and the idle rich – that’s another interview), but you go out in Williamsburg it is all white kids – they all seem well off – I know knocking W-burg is like shooting fish in a barrel, but as nightlife goes it can be very homogenous. I remember being at parties that were black and gay and then perhaps you would see some Graf hippies, or drag queens, some biker guys etc.…. not just a bunch of white boys standing around listening to other white boys playing horrible edits…. We are gonna push to get a better mix of people, and hopefully bring them to new places musically.

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Where does club culture go? What changed through your career in club culture?

Well, real estate has become crazy expensive worldwide, and “going out” has become a bourgeoisie enterprise, it’s less about a “scene” or an “underground”, but these things are cyclical and hopefully some new stuff will pop up. I also think scenes may develop in cities that aren’t exhausted by condo mania. (Detroit, New Orleans) I know a couple of people who have successfully opened clubs, Nicolas Matar with Cielo and Output, and Eric Tucker with Dewey and Chann and his Lift party in LA. It takes so much work and dedication to get projects like that up and running, and in Nicolas’ case to keep an established place going with a measure of care and high standards. A city like NY, at least in the Giuliani and Bloomberg years,
has been draconian in their harassment of any party venture. Part of what makes a city great is a rich cultural life, some real bohemia…. If it is all Ad men and TV executives you end up with a pretty horrific environ.

What are your favorite sports?

Who the fuck cares?!! Professional sports are the opiate of the masses! I like people who play sports though. I like old school boxing, Norton vs. Ali, Hearns vs Hagler, I boxed as a kid – a lot can happen to you in 3 minutes. It’s a shame the business side of it is sooo corrupt, a great fight is still riveting to me.
I’m a proud Dad, I taught my son to skate, he did his first Ollie recently….

We know you like cooking. What is your favorite dish? What is your “go to” dish as a chef?

I don’t have a favorite dish – I do get cravings though, I made curried oysters as an appetizer the other night – I serve them in the shell with a caper representing a pearl – fuck that was good. I was working at home alone on Sunday and made a simple spaghetti with garlic and olive oil and red peppers at about 2 am – that was satisfying. Making something delicious after you have had a cpl rounds of proper passion can be awesome… Bay Scallops with chanterelles and thinly diced potatoes…

What books or philosophical works influenced your view of the world? It was surprising to know your favorite book is Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”. Tell us more about your favorite books.

I was raised working class, but reading was always a big thing in my home, my Dad drove a truck, drank, and fought, but he always read the papers, and was a student of history, despite his racism, he was surprisingly liberal for an Irish Catholic – it was great to hear him call the church a “scam”.
I had great literature teachers, and a great library in walking distance to my home.
I remember reading Stephen Crane’s “Maggie a girl of the streets”, in grade school, that changed everything for me, it showed me how the working class and the poor were put in this box. A brilliant novella, that all young people should read. Then Hawthorne and Thomas Hardy, Fitzgerald, getting to Joyce was huge – then Beckett etc.… I studied theory and philosophy in graduate school – it was a very Frankfurt School and a post structural, deconstruction based curriculum. People like Fredrick Jameson, and Adorno, Derrida, and Deleuze and Guattari – “A Thousand Plateaus” is a great companion piece to Gravity’s Rainbow. Laurie Anderson gave me a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow when I was a painting student, she knew I loved Ulysses and was like – “um here”…. I was pals with a conceptual artist named Josh Stern, we did carpentry together, he studied at Cal Arts and was a bright and very funny guy and totally into Pynchon. We would hang doors and talk about Walter Benjamin and Joseph Heller. I never made distinctions in my mind about a reading practice and a music practice, or writing or painting, and truthfully, add cooking, design, sex, the whole 9 yards – it is all “the art of living.” They asked Duchamp, (after he said he was no longer “working” — he was though on “Etant Donnes”), what he did all day besides play chess, his response was awesome, “Oh there is always something to do, and you can always get better at it…”

Check Disques Sinthomme / Ghost Town website

Words by Artem Super Ikra & Sasha Tessio
Cover drawing by Sasha Tessio