Soul Man


A little over two years ago, the Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes brought musician and writer Jonathan Toubin to DJ on the South Williamsburg waterfront. It was the first gig of Toubin’s new career as a rock and soul DJ, a niche that has made him famous on both coasts. When in town, he can be found turning platters almost any night* of the week. His most popular party is the Soul Clap Dance-Off at Glasslands, where you can win cash for boogeying.

What’s special about Toubin’s nights is that he spins exclusively 45’s — and, 90% of the time, it’s a cut you’ve never heard before that you’ll love on the spot. Tonight he celebrates St. Patty’s at Daddy’s and later this week he brings his soul party to Texas with a 24-band, three-stage show at SXSW that includes Brooklyn acts Crystal Stilts and a second one with King Kahn and the Shrines. It’s one of many out-of-town gigs filling up his dance card lately (New York Night Train, his record label and site, details ’em all). Toubin talked to BB before hitting the road.

Why spin soul, and why 45’s?

I’ve always loved soul and, when I started dealing with these dance environments, either trying to get clubby people into raw immediate music, or conversely, rock and rollers into dance music, I found soul a great tool. It was never my intention to be retro — it’s just that I can’t find more exciting, better played, more soulful dance music than the kind made in the 1960s, and I haven’t heard a sonic medium that comes anywhere near a 45.

What’s your take on NYC nightlife right now?
The decline of mixing/scratching DJs and various electro genres, people’s weariness with the same New Order song, and the blandness of the newer hits have left a big void in the dance club economy. Nobody really knows how to fill it, so clubs are a bit more adventurous. This is a great time for change all around. I think that’s why I’ve gotten so many unusual jobs.

I live and breathe my records and expect the same when I see other folks. When I hear a bunch of tiny tinny mp3s of obvious music it breaks my heart. Nightlife needs to be more special. I’d also like to see more clubs, promoters, and DJs paying attention to the environment out there and trying to determine the needs of this emerging generation of party-goers — not only in terms of aesthetics, but also in relation to the economic crisis. (Perhaps the recent success of Soul Clap has something to do with the $3 cover, free beer and cheap drinks?)

There are a number of others out there who are also trying out new possibilities. Josh Styles, whose Smashed! Blocked! party has been one of New York’s finest for years, spends a great deal of time, money, and effort obtaining records that aren’t the least bit obvious…and I admire both Rebel Night and the Weird party for their subcultural spirit.

Any exciting new finds?
Today I got a copy of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel,” which is killer — the version that most of us know best is the Sonics’ cover. I also got Roger and the Gypsies’ “Pass the Hatchet”– an amazing New Orleans shaker that, like many of my faves, I learned from Crypt Records ages ago. And Johnny Jones and the King Casuals’ stellar cover of “Purple Haze.” And “Dis-nous Dylan,” a little 4-song, 7-inch EP by French freakbeat band Les 5 Gentlemen, which is some of the wildest floor-filling music of all time.

Where do you go record hunting?

Academy Records in the East Village, with an annex in Williamsburg; Eat Records in Greenpoint; Permanent Records in Greenpoint; Passout Record Shop in Williamsburg; Tropicalia in Furs in the East Village. And the Brooklyn Record Riot that happens every few months at Warsaw. I dropped five bills at that one a few weeks ago.

*Toubin’s weekly parties include New York Night Train, Wednesdays at Motor City, Boogaloo Shampoo, Thursdays at Beauty Bar, Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down, Fridays at Home Sweet Home, and afterhours Saturdays at The Shank (Yes, it starts at 4 A.M… Yes, the cops may come and break it up).

Sent by Nicole. Text by Leila Sales. Photos from top by Angela Weiland and Jackie Roman.

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