The REHAB Record Party: David, Pauline & Ben / Keeping Vinyl Alive
werd: james niche
I have been looking forward to my meeting with the good folks involved with the REHAB record party for some time now and it is a pleasure to share this interview with you all.
REHAB was started as a record party at the Bug Jar under the former name of Art School, a project from the mind of Rochester’s own indie genius, David McGinnis.
This party was started last August as a monthly rehabilitation clinic to loosen the audience from the weekday stretch and to also promote the consumption and appreciation for vinyl records.
Music today is quickly becoming more and more impersonal with the onslaught of thedigital mp3, so David has sought to make it his personal mission in this city to raise awareness to the fundamental roots of DJing and the art of digging.
I have never met a more thoughtful and deliberate artist in the DJ community unless you want to mention EWUN aka, aka, aka….
Monthly at the record party, David gives away a piece of vinyl to one lucky dancer, as well as roughly twenty CDs to those other lucky patrons. He spends the month combing the airwaves for new music, and carefully selects the perfect tracks to bring to your ears at the party. He also combines these tracks with live sampling and production to add a fourth dimension to the mix.
I was welcomed with open arms to talk with David and his partners and spent some time with them in the basement of the Bug Jar before their show. Now, I have never been in the basement of the Bug Jar, but as the music fan and nostalgic guy that I am, it sent chills up my spine to think of the memories and people that have graced this space. I was honored to have this opportunity.
I introduce David McGinnis, Pauline (DJ Tanner) and Benjamin Harrington: REHAB
ACT:LIVE: So tell us a little bit about yourselves, where you’re from, what you’re history is here, etc..
David: “I’ve known Ben for about fourteen years, since he was a youngin’. I kinda got him started playing records…another apprentice, I’m trying to pass it on.”
Ben: “I grew up in Livonia, NY, but moved in 2002 to Florida. I then moved to Savannah, GA only to move back here in March and re-connect with everyone. David had REHAB going on, I came and checked it out, he booked me to play and it went from there. It’s been evolving ever since.
I originally started playing breaks, then drum and bass, so this is a totally new sound for me. We’re doing something different though, we’re incorporating a lot of different sounds and it’s fun for me because I can throw in some dance stuff in and some other pop stuff, but still have that electronic edge. I really, really enjoy it because I don’t think we alienate anyone with our songs. It’s open to everyone.”
ACT:LIVE: So what’s going on?
Pauline: “I’m good, how are you?”
ACT:LIVE: Good, so where are you from?
Pauline: “Well, my name is Pauline. I’m from Caledonia, NY. I grew up on punk rock.
All of a sudden I met David, maybe six months ago and he was like, “Hey, heard you have a lot of records.” I was like, “Yeah, I like to play ‘em.” So, after that we just kind of got together and started playing records.
I like the fact that I can play songs that he’s never heard, and he can play songs that I’ve never heard, but somehow it just all melts together. Everyone knows it all just music and they can dance to it and get down to it. We get to expose people to new music every month and it’s so nice to know everyone can come and just have a good time. It doesn’t matter what you’re listening to, as long as you can shake your ass to it.”
ACT:LIVE: I really like that I can come in and hear some really obscure punk rock right on top of some old school jazz record, the diversity is inspiring.
ACT:LIVE: So, how about you David?
David: “My name is David McGinnis, I grew up in Rush. I’ve been in the city for many years now. We won’t go into my age. (laughs)
I’ve been playing records for about fourteen years now. Back then it was a lot different, back then there was only four or five kids in the city that were playing records. Old school guys like Rob Morley, John Slater. Those guys I used to go see when I was like eighteen, nineteen years old.
Those were guys that got me stoked to play records. Back then you couldn’t even find Technic 1200s to buy; you had to be in some secret club or something. It was really underground.
SkyeHigh was like the only place to get the vinyl you wanted, or the Bop Shop. SkyeHigh was on the forefront of the DJ scene with their weekly parties and record collection at the shop.
I know Pauline really likes the Bop Shop.”
ACT:LIVE: So what happened recently to revive this passion and art?
David: “Well, about three years ago my roommate, Myah Farone, started doing Wednesday nights here at the Bug Jar. She wanted me to come and DJ, but I didn’t really want to bring my drum and bass, so I started bringing a lot of indie records. I’ve always been a big fan of indie music and have been a big collector of it. I was playing indie electronic stuff at the time, stuff like The Postal Service, when that was new. That had a really good response because no one was really playing it. It was either electronic or rock, no in between, like with mashups today, or groups like The Postal Service.
So, I did little parties here and there, then, last summer really wanted to create a night of indie, dance, pop, fusion, punk rock, just an everything goes type of party.
And now today we are really the only party in the city that plays one hundred percent vinyl with no digital filter. No one does it anymore, which is kind of sad to me actually.
I take a lot of pride in it.
It’s expensive too. I mean, we have to go out and actually buy our own vinyl, pick each record, wait for it while it comes in off a special order and hope it makes it in time. There’s no downloading, we have to actually get out and dig through the crates.
There’s nothing like looking through the records, holding that special one up and being so excited to drop that for everyone at the end of the week. You can definitely connect with the crowd more. There’s more thought into the message.”
Ben: “It’s nice to have those four weeks to prepare and find those special records.”
David: “Another cool thing I have noticed is a lot of young people, not just DJs, are heading to the record stores to pick up vinyl because they are interested. I think people are starting to discover it all over again.
I hope that DJs will start to follow that trend, because really, there’s nothing that sounds better than a loud record at a club.”
ACT:LIVE: What’s your thing Ben?
Ben: “I’m kind of the new kid, but since I’ve been on I’ve been able to play all kinds of breaks, drum and bass…everything.
I can get up there and play straight rock and roll and people move to it, it’s awesome. It never gets boring and it keeps people listening to new things. Hopefully it gets people going home and digging through their parent’s record crates.
I hadn’t been buying records for a long time, so this opened my eyes back up to a fresh new world again. I’m so excited to go out and find those records again.
ACT:LIVE: I wanted to ask you, David, about the record you select to give away each month. How do you go about picking that?
David: “Well, every month I make twenty CDs of music to hand out. They have a mix of new songs for the month, songs that I will feature in the set. On the CDs is a number that I call out and if your number is called you get the record that I selected. I like to give everyone something to go home with, but I would really like people to see the records and get inspired to buy a turntable of any sort. I hope people appreciate it, because I really appreciate it when people come out. It’s really flattering.
People actually come up to us after the show and are like, “What was that track you played?” DJs never get that anymore.
As far as how do I pick the record, well, I pick a record that I have enjoyed or something really new. Tonight is a newer record that’s only been out for a few months, by MGMT.
They are formerly The Management, but due to some weird conflict with another band they changed their name to MGMT. The guy who produced it is a guy by the name of Dave Fridmann, he’s actually from Fredonia. He’s awesome, he does stuff with the Shins and the Flaming Lips.
I have also been finding that record labels are putting out a free mp3 download code with the records so that those without a turntable can get the music.
Mp3’s and digital music is great for speed, but there is nothing like holding the artwork, touching the record and being able to look at cool pictures or posters. You can’t get that through iTunes. Digital music isn’t tangible, which makes the audience disconnected to the music, potentially.
Bottom line is I usually pick something I like.”
ACT:LIVE: So you won the battle of the bands? That’s sounds hilarious considering you’re not a “band” per say, how did that happen?
David: “When the Art School project was going, my friend Myah took a CD of ours with a song called “Memorize” on it, and submitted it to a contest on WBER. We had no idea she did that because we never would have let her. We would have been like, “No way!”
Well, then we made it to the top ten, which got really exciting. Then, luckily we ended up winning. That got us on regular rotation for a year. It was really surprising and it really helped.
DJ Fixx is going to remix our song “We Got We” soon, that’s just another way things have branched out.”
ACT:LIVE: Where did the name REHAB come from?
David: “The reason I went with REHAB is because I thought of rehabilitation from life and the work week, and all those stresses that everyone can have. So, you could come here on a Friday night and forget about everything. You start over.
It’s a refreshing time and rehabilitation from digital music.”
Ben: “Yeah, in case you didn’t get it, we really like vinyl.” (laughs)
Ben: “I feel like people get so bummed out in Rochester. People always say,”Aw man, I gotta get out of here, there’s nothing going on.” That’s bullshit because there is so much going on here. This project is another way to prove that point, and we’re going to show people whether they like it or not.” (laughs)
ACT:LIVE: From my experience, if you just look through the papers you can find an endless sea of activities.
David: “I can remember years ago, I could go out any day of the week in the summer and find a couple hundred kids dancing to music at every different venue. I think it’s really coming back with things like ACT:LIVE, RIPROC and the parties that are being thrown within those networks.
That last big party at Pearl was a perfect example, which was unbelievable. It was like the old-school days. I know Jake (EWUN) is doing a lot to make that happen here, but he’s also gone a lot. He also plays different music, he plays a lot more drum and bass, but he’s become much more diverse.
ACT:LIVE: I thought the story of how you (David) met Pauline, was pretty cool...the part about how you used to come into the sandwich shop and recruited her to DJ.
(Pauline worked at Open Face on South Ave., David found out she has a huge record collection and coaxed her into learning how to play them and mix them. From what I have observed, Pauline was born to be a rock star and she has grown tremendously over the wheels of steel. It may have been a match made in hell (because heaven’s no fun), but regardless, Pauline plays with a real passion and animation, kudos. She is also very visually interactive with the audience through her body language. You can tell she has a real passion for the music she's playing.)
Pauline: “Well, we have a mutual friend, but he stalked me on MySpace.”
David: “Yeah, I stalked her.”
Pauline: “I never played a record before though, besides personal listening.”
ACT:LIVE: Are you having fun with it?
Pauline: “Oh, yeah.”
ACT:LIVE: One thing I admire is the intention behind each record you play, if you listen to the songs lyrics, more often than not, there is a message in each song.
David: “That’s the problem with the whole digital thing, there’s so much out there that it gets overlooked a lot. A lot of great messages are being missed. If you listen to DJs today the songs are sometimes chopped down to about thirty seconds too, so you miss that touch from a song. It can just pass right by.
That’s what we do down here; we try to take you different places emotionally. I mean, music really takes me to an emotional place, that’s the beauty of it. We’re not just playing random crap for you to hear; we’re actually playing records we love.
When you have to wait three weeks for a record because it’s on back order, and then you get it, that record is the best. The feeling is the best. Even if it’s not new and it’s an old-school classic, it actually means so much more to you.
If it’s in your computer, it’s just there; you can’t hold that or touch that.”
ACT:LIVE: How has the DJs role changed today, aside from the gear?
David: “Back in the day, people use to go out to clubs and parties to hear new music. Period. The radio was playing music, but playing the same songs over and over. If you went to a club and the DJ was playing the same stuff that you could hear on the radio, people would want to kill the DJ.
Dance parties were a place to hear new music, the only place.
What’s cool is now, I can play some obscure track from the nineties at the club and kids will come up to me after the show asking all about it like it’s the hottest thing out and he wants to get it. That’s really flattering, because these kids need to know about this music, they need to know the history.”
Ben: “It’s an awesome feeling when somebody says, “Hey, I have that CD!”, and you’re like, “Yeah, well I have it on vinyl.” For some reason, it trumps everything.”
ACT:LIVE: I noticed that you have been using some new gear on stage, are you also improvising live with drums and samples?
David: “That’s another thing I have been introducing, again, something that’s different about REHAB parties.
I bring a drum machine out; I bring this cool thing called an omni-chord, an electronic harpsichord thing. I have this cool little thing from Korg too, a little portable synth.
I bring those to add a different element when like Ben or Pauline are playing, I’ll actually add effects or loops over the records they are playing and it adds a new feel to a song you may already be familiar with. It’s something that DJs do today with different software, but I do it manually. I love it.
Playing music for people, especially if they like it and get turned on, is the greatest feeling in the world.”
ACT:LIVE: I’m going to wrap it up quick here, but I have to ask about your apartment for rent…are you still looking for roommates in your house? I saw an ad online and the rent was only like, $155 a month!
David: “Yeah, I need two roommates. 93 Monica St. Two Rooms. I need good people, and somewhat responsible. (laughs)
If you like playing music, you’ll love my house. I gotta find someone soon, in the next couple of months. No security deposit, just move right in. I’ve been renting this house for the past seven years, the owner lives in Arizona, so I take care of it. It’s nice.”
It really was an honor to sit down and speak with Dave and the crew for this interview, I want to thank them for their time and thank the Bug Jar for always keeping it real.
I hope everyone out there can have a better understanding of what is going on out here and what’s happening from the artists’ eye view as well.
REHAB is scheduled for July 11th at the Bug Jar kiddies, we’ll see you there.
Right now we're listening to:
The Beastie Boys "The Negotiation Limerick File" ("Hello Nasty", 1998, Capitol Records)