“What’s in that trunk?” DJ Prestige on fleamarketfunk & the art of digging
DJ Prestige has been around a few decades and has sifted through some of the rarest records known to humankind. His collection is a few thousand strong, although he’s very modest about it. Hailing from New Jersey’s Asbury Park, he’s not just been searching out vinyl gems in his neighbourhood but has also travelled the globe to blow dust off hidden vinyl treasures. He’s been a DJ since the 1980s, grew up with music from the Golden Age of hip hop, reggae, funk and soul and anything else he could get his fingers on. If you’re ever in New Jersey, pop in to see him spin in an old bowling alley at the Asbury Park 45 Sessions or visit his blog fleamarketfunk, fresh indeed and excellent mixes on download. Enough said, read more about what makes Pres tick: including Turkish funk and Liverpool FC…
What’s your age?
I’ve just got into my 4th decade. That’s 40 years young.
Which part of New York are you from, where do you live? Are there any good record spots for digging in your neighbourhood?
I’m actually from New Jersey. I live in Asbury Park, NJ, a city that is about an hour out of NYC. It’s rich with music history, dating from the 1940s to present. One section of the town boasted up to 40 Jazz clubs during the 1940s and 1950s. All the big Jazz cats played there: I wish I could have been around for that. You might also have heard of some singer/ guitar player, Bruce Springsteen? Right now we have a great music scene, and I do my part by keeping the Funk and Soul music alive one 45 at a time. As far as digging spots, there are a few, but I have one main spot that I go to. The bulk of the records I review and make mixes with on Flea Market Funk are from that very spot.
There’s an art to finding out rare records, but what’s your personal tactics – have you got a special mode of operation?
I’m not an expert on records, and I’m sure I’ve passed up on some gems, however, I do know what I know. I have become familiar with labels, producers, and the like, and sometimes I get a little intuition about certain records. Most of the time I’m right, but sometimes I’m way off base. My portable Fisher Price record player I’ve had for over 10 years has been a great help, that’s for sure. My special mode of operation is this: Get up early. Get there before the next guy and get to those records. Also, I don’t pay a lot of money for records, hence the Flea Market Funk philosophy.
What are some of your recent vinyl finds that you’re especially proud of?
My biggest score this past year was a copy of Lou Courtney’s “Hey Joyce” on Popside for a dollar. I’ve been searching for that record for years, and got it finally.
How big is your collection, have you had to rent an extra apartment to store all your vinyl?
My collection is a few thousand LPs and 12”s, plus around 750 to 1000 assorted 45s. Not a huge collection by any means, but it’s meaty.
Any greatest misses? Has someone ever snapped away a record that had your name written on it?
Oh the records I’ve missed. It’s funny because at the moment, due to DJing on Friday and Saturday nights, I don’t dig as much as I used to (also the weather plays a big part because it’s winter here). I’ll see some of my digging buddies and they’ll be like: “So and So got a record they sold for 2 grand on E Bay, or there was some private press Jazz found. I can’t have all the records, ya dig? If I’m at the place at the right time, I find the records. If not, well, the next guy gets them. Such is life.
What was it like DJing when you first started at college, any funny moments/memories?
College radio was great. It was cool to be around so many other music people, and I was able to learn so much about different types of music. There was one show called Sure-Rock Holmes and the Detectives of Dance Music. His DJ was this cat Marc Asbury. These guys were playing all the Golden Age Hip Hop and original samples, just killing it. I used to listen to them, but I wasn’t allowed to sit in on their show. They were secretive about the records. I did eventually find a lot of those records they played. Unfortunately, Sure-Rock passed away a few years ago. He was a great guy.
Your most recent party, the Asbury Park 45 Sessions, has been around for close to two years. How’s that going?
Actually, this is our third year, and it’s going great. The Sessions the other night (January 15th) was the 3 year party. I have a really cool crew of DJs: Larry Grogan from Funky16Corners.com, producer M.Fasis, DJ Bluewater, DJ Prime Mundo and DJ Jack the Ripper. Plus we have had some great guests over the years: Cool Hands Luke, Dave Withers, DJ Save1, Vincent the Soul Chef, 45 Killer, Conn Shawnery, Connie T. Empress, Jay Boxcar, and Primitive Sound System. Forgive me if I have forgotten anyone. It’s really the only party of it’s kind in New Jersey. The only thing closer is in NYC. The venue we hold it in is unique: an old bowling alley converted into a music venue, the Asbury Lanes. People can bowl, drink, eat, dance and do whatever they want while we’re spinning Funk and Soul 45s. I’d say it’s one of my most favorite nights to do.
Do you record music or play an instrument?
The only instruments I play are the turntables. I actually used to be in a band as a DJ on Atlantic Records a few years back. I aspire to learn to play the Hammond organ though, or maybe the bass.
You’ve been spinning at live shows for G Love & Special Sauce and The Goats from Philly, eventually doing your own Soul, Funk & Hip Hop nights. What’s the audience like in New York, are most people very open-minded when it comes to DJs and live music, has NY still got a thriving 45s scene?
I’m actually fortunate to have opened up for some really great bands. This past Summer I opened up for Joss Stone here in Asbury Park, and I got to do an opening all Reggae set when the Bad Brains were in town. That band is a band I really look up to and respect. I also opened up for the Budos Band for the third time in Brooklyn. That was a night put on by Truth and Soul Records. I’ll do a night like that any night. People were really open to the stuff I was playing. It’s great to see younger people dancing and getting down to this kind of music. I’ve always had good experiences in NYC and Brooklyn spinning my music. People just open their mind a bit more to things. It’s great because you can sneak some unknown stuff you dug up and they will be receptive to it. I’d say NYC has a thriving 45 scene, but I’m not really a part of it. I do a few gigs a year in NYC/Brooklyn, but the guys at Bumpshop at APT had that locked down. That party is over unfortunately. They would always have the best DJs coming through: Kenny Dope, Cut Chemist, etc. The guys from Dig Deeper in Brooklyn also have a tremendous party going. They get the older Funk and Soul artists to come perform. Everyone from Reynaldo Domino to Lee Fields. I have a lot of respect for what they do.
You’ve probably been digging in shops across the globe, is that right? Are there any obscure finds that you can remember, some Afghan goat shepherd music with a kick-ass break on maybe?
I have been digging in a lot of places: all over the US, Canada, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the best records I’ve found have always been here in New Jersey. We are known as the Garden State, but I’d like to think of it as the Vinyl State. A lot of music was made in New York City and Philadelphia, and I’m equidistant to both. Everything from Gritty Funk to Jazz, Soul, JA Reggae pressings, and early Hip Hop has turned up at my spots. The jukebox companies were always unloading their records, so when you get into a load of those records, say from Newark or Philly, it’s always a good time. I wish I knew more about Turkish Funk and that would turn up here.
What else do you get up to when you’re not behind the decks or digging?
When I’m not DJing or doing DJ related stuff, I do enjoy writing for FleaMarketFunk.com. I’m big into graphic design, and I’m self taught, so I love to mess with Photoshop designing flyers, posters, t-shirts, stickers, etc. I learn something new every day. I’m big into English football too, so I’m mad about following my team, the mighty Liverpool FC. Besides that I love to relax with a good book. This is sounding like a dating ad: Bearded Soul Lover is looking for Liverpool Supporter who enjoys graphic design, books, and Photoshop.
And finally: why are you a Liverpool FC supporter, have you got any connection to the UK?
I am a Liverpool supporter because I had an old roommate in the mid 90’s who got me into football and LFC. It’s the team I was introduced to so I stuck with it. We’re having a rough season this year, riddled with injuries and some confusion on whether to sack Rafa or not, but that’s football. You take the good with the bad. I have given up on American sports and only follow football. I’m that mad about it. When I visited London in November, I went to most of the football grounds, and saw a live match at the Valley. Charlton v. MK Dons. So much fun. I hope to get to Anfield this year to see LFC play.
Any last words, shouts?
I’d like to shout out all the DJs from the 45 Sessions Crew, my man DJ Andy Smith from the UK, DJ Skills, DJ Un-G from LA, photographer Eilon Paz, my family, and all the people who have supported the DJ nights I’ve done over the past 15+ years. It is much appreciated. As for last words, here’s some from Thelonious Monk that have always stuck with me: “I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public want — you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing — even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years”. Words to live by. Keep Diggin’.