It’s tempting to imagine two legendary downtown NY music types locked in a battle of wills and egos. But talking to Dennis “Citizen” Kane and Sal Principato on a summer night, an entirely different impression is rendered. They are so accommodating and attentive, it’s actually tempting to ditch the interview and just stroll down memory lane. Reminisces of disco days gone by and musings over East Village gentrification are punctuated by polite pauses – “You were saying…”; “No, you go ahead.” It’s like “Who’s On First” at a tea party hosted by Martha Stewart. On the decks and on stage, however, things get a little more down and dirty. Between the two of them, they have more scuffs on their boogie shoes than an entire club full of bottle-service starlets could hope to buy in a lifetime.
Kane started as a disco buyer at A-1, one of the most respected and few surviving good old vinyl shops in the city. He’s also been throwing some of the poshest soirees about town for nearly a decade. For over nine years, Kane held court at the The Deep End party at APT, with a little help from friends like Nicky Siano and Danny Krivit. He’s also co-host of the long-running Strobe Lodge parties with Metro Area’s Darshan Jesrani. In 2007 he launched his label, Disques Sinthomme, which quickly became a favorite among discerning disco dandies about town. All this activity despite a gnarly bike accident with an 18-wheeler two winters ago that still faintly haunts him.
This summer, Kane teamed up with Sal Principato as The Visitors for a one-off track called “Ledger”. Principato, often, inexcusably unrecognized by name, is unmistakable in sound – generations of hip hop and dance music fans have been sampling and repeating his “Something like a phenomenon” vocals ever since he and Liquid Liquid dropped the handbook to post-punk funk back in the early ’80s. A few years ago shortly after Liquid Liquid reunited for sold-out gigs, Sal was coaxed into DJing at Passerby. A relaxed Vegan and polyrhythmic percussionist, Sal has since been DJing more regularly around the world from the Primavera festival in Spain to the relocated pool parties at the Williamsburg waterfront, blending Afro-Latin, Rare Groove and deep disco cuts for the more knowing masses. When we caught up with them Dennis was in his studio, a stone’s throw from PS1 in Long Island City and Sal was at home, returning from a gig in Scotland. You can catch Dennis at the next Strobe Lodge “Adult Section” party September 10 at Cielo. Meantime, they provided us with a little insight to their collaborative process and an exclusive mix for our enjoyment after the jump.
URB: So what are you working on, Dennis? Can you tell us?
Dennis Kane: Lots of different things, but nothing related to this, so you’ll have to wait, but trust me, I’m keeping busy.
URB: “Ledger” is a great track, but where’s the rest? Is there an album in the works?
DK: The thing is that Sal and I started talking about 5 years ago. At one point he was doing a mix for DJ History and he asked me to help him with that. I was doing a remix of a Beat Broker record; we had done a remix of a Professor Genius record – so I asked Sal to play percussion on that. When I was writing “Ledger” I thought of Sal’s voice for the song. [To Sal]: It was written for you to sing. And that was the genesis of us working together. Other than that, we also talk about food a lot.
Sal Principato: The next thing we’re going to be tackling that we can talk about is a remix for a Nigerian artist called Solee, and he’s got some really wicked tracks that we feel we could really produce up in a way that they could really be hits on the dance floor.
DK: We’ve already done so much work to it, that we kind of let it gestate and edit – just budget some time and get to it. There’s another track I’m gonna bug Sal to play percussion on.
URB: This was never meant to be part of an album, then, with a full 10, 11 tracks?
DK: I never thought of it that way. It was a song that I wrote with the idea of Sal being on it. There are other things that I’m working on, but I don’t work in a very prescribed way.
SP: Dennis is really a 12″ kind of guy, in the best way.
DK: The idea of pursuing working on more things conceptually is appealing to me, pursuing things in a more compositional way from the perspective of a song. It’s something that’s been missing from most music lately. It’s part of the reason I’ve been really intro Country music a lot lately.
URB: You mean like contemporary stuff, or more like the old ’60s stuff like Patsy Cline, etc.?
DK: Yeah, the older stuff.
URB: Some of that is pretty universal and country music is very song/structure driven. So, it sounds like you guys are going to be working together for a while.
SP: Definitely, and we’re just hanging out. There’s no big ambitious plan. It’s just like, we’re here, we’re hanging, we’re working, we’re talking, we’re creating. Things are going to come together at various points on various projects – both reworked material and original material.
DK: I think it’s a good way to work. It brings your personal life closer to your studio life.
URB: Do you really need to flesh out an album these days anymore, or are you better off – more creative, more satisfied – just collaborating together.
DK: Well, like the novel, the album is just one idea, one way to get music to the people. At home, I just have one turntable because it’s nice to come home and just listen to something all the way through from beginning to end. I think a lot of albums aren’t really thought out, it’s just a bunch of stuff that goes well together and gets put into that format.
SP: Unless you have a coherent album, eight songs or so and a narrative in mind, it’s not really worth it. What’s the point of collecting a bunch of random tracks just for the sake of putting out an “album”.
URB: A lot of dance music sounds like it’s trying to squeeze into an old school ’70s AOR format. That doesn’t really lend itself to dance culture.
SP: When we re-released the Liquid Liquid catalogue, it was basically the original EPs repackaged with bonus tracks and a lot of people are into that.
URB: Sal, you’ve done DIY the old school way and now we’ve got a whole different DIY.
SP: We were using some of the earliest software back then – we had like 1 MG of RAM. The great thing about DIY is you have the freedom to let new things approach a new level. Say there’s some teenage girl somewhere and she starts making music and it might be something completely different. One thing that’s different is that people seem to be ashamed of the process, they want you to think that it came to them clean, pure, and perfect. I prefer that the process is inherent in the finished work.
DK: For something like Ledger, I did a vocal and took it to Sal, then we went back and forth. The engineer Mark helped with the bass. The record itself is live. The sketch of it happened one way, the execution the other.
SP: It was the first time I stuck to someone else’s vision of how I should be. If most people tell me to do something, I’d say no way. But this was written for me. It already sounded like me, and Dennis wrote it. I have an inability to imitate things. It was the first time that it was more like me.
DK: When you’re friends with someone it’s more organic, more of a conversation.