Freddy Bastone: Master DJ and Jack of All Trades
Diving into the nightlife business is way easier than climbing out. Waitrons need to score a rich husband, or land that career-making role, or finish school, or move up to management. Promoters need to become owners, or use their new-found connections to do what they learned in school. The “who you know” factor often kicks in and these types often enter the real biz world higher up than they would have if they had plodded up the corporate ladder. Knowing hot chicks, and having access to swanky clubs is good for gooses, ganders, bosses and clients. Some top tier ex-promoters now run things in that straight world. Bartenders must open a joint, become management, or land that role, or finish school, or start to sell those fabulous metal sculptures that they make in their spare time. Clubs put people through school, but are also a school of their own. Many make a good living in clubs, but many can’t get out, and find themselves too old to really be there. My path went this way. I was able to get to a top tier position, but then circumstances—that were in and out of my control—spun me out and into another direction. I didn’t have one more second in me at a club when I segued into other careers. I write this little column and am a designer of joints. My club experience gave me the tools I needed to get out. In the design field there are thousands of people who can choose fabulous woods, or simply gorgeous fabrics, but few—if any have actually ever sold a beer. I’ve sold lots of beer, and I know where bars should be and banquettes, and so on. I had an exit strategy and I tell everyone in the club world to devise one.
DJs are the rockstars of clubdom. The technology of the modern world makes almost every sound, twist, and remix available to every one of them. Their art relies heavily on their personality and love for the music. The best ones know how to listen to others, exchange ideas, and grow. Those stuck in their own schtick often get stuck in the mud, and end up spinning in the uncool parts of the outer boroughs, or not at all. The modern DJ has a suitcase packed, a management team, agent, PR, website, and maybe even a bobble head of his likeness. Freddy Bastone and I worked together back in the Danceteria days and beyond. He is still out there, strutting his stuff. I had the pleasure of hearing him play recently, and was amazed how skillful and relevant he remains. When I was doing fashion shows for a living, Freddy did my music. We made sure that the hottest new rags were accompanied by the hottest new sounds. I caught up to my old pal and asked him about how to survive and thrive in an industry where youth has almost as many advantages as experience.
Hello, Freddy. Good evening sir. First of all, thanks for this lil interview, and sorry getting back to you so late. I’ve been working 12 hour days, acting on a ABC pilot “Proof of Guilt.”
Great to hear from you, and it was great seeing you the other night. Great set. Tell me about your musical journey. What were you playing when you started? What are you playing now, and all the time in between? My musical journey started at home with my father who was a jazz musician. He and I had drum battles: me playing John Bohnam beats, and my dad doing his Max Roach. So I was surrounded by music, day and night. I put my guitar and drumsticks down in my last year of high school. I was fascinated by my Latin friends, and dance music, which was disco, and the very beginnings of hip hop. I was the only white boy playing parks and house parties, doing the disco and my partner doing the salsa, but I always had my rock ‘n’ roll ears going, so I always added the punk, or new wave to my sets. The Clash, Yello, Kraftwerk, The Jam. I continued that style of being able to mix all those elements flawlessly, which I believed set me apart from the rest of the DJs at the time anywhere in the world. You either did this style or that style. I remember starting to work in a club, no names, and the clique of DJs were like, who’s this kid think he is, mixing beats for new wave/punk into funk and disco? They got over it quick ‘cause they needed to learn the trade or they’d be out. I still very much enjoy taking people on a musical journey from deep house to soulful house to a old reggae into real rock and roll, without the dance mixes that are usually terrible. Back into electro to funk then go into classic disco. And when done, these days—even more than before—people are just blown away, because people expect the washing machine effect when entering a dance venue .
What clubs have you worked. The best? The worst? The best club to me, by far was Danceteria. It didn’t have the best sound system, but it was the atmosphere created by the people who worked there. Everyone had a following, from the DJs, to the bar backs, and everyone in between. The Palladium and Studio 54 were also huge to me, because I was playing live on the radio every Saturday night. That made me a good amount of mulla with the record companies at the time with remixes. The best sound system was The Hacienda, and Space. The worst has to be the two strip clubs I played at. You would think: what fun, but no. The girls do not want to be there dancing for these pathetic men. They’re mostly in the locker room fighting, and getting high to get through the night, very sad really.
Tell me about producing and how that started. I really started my producing by being the club ears of big name producers. They would ask me to come in the studio and want to know what would work and what wouldn’t. I learned a lot from them but I was like, wait a minute, I got to do this for myself! So I made my own label, I named it Metropolis, which was distributed by Emergency Records, who, at the time I was doing my second A&R job—my first with Profile Records. I had my first #1 record with my alias, Corporation of One “The Real Life,” which really made me a wanted man in the UK. I’ve always been someone to take chances and I think the UK is more receptive to that, which is probably why all my favorite music comes from there, and they like my thing. I have had many top ten records and many # 1’s. I’m currently working on the first 2 singles for P Diddy, also Cassie, and I’m doing a 2010 version of the Real Life.
What are you working on besides DJing? I’ve been acting the last 12 years here, and in the UK, TV, theater, films, all the major NY shows like the Law & Order, Sopranos, and I just finished a four-month run of a one man show on Lenny Bruce, which was directed by the wonderful and talented Susan Batson. I have a one-man show on Tennessee Williams coming up, and doing all this as a single dad. That’s funny they look after me more. Haha, no, they’re my kids, and my best friends, and they’re not kids anymore.