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On “New York, New York”, Nina Hagen’s 1983 ode to Big Apple nightlife, the cosmic shiva name-checks some of the city’s hot spots of the time: “Pyramid, Roxy, Mudd Club, Danceteria.” A key player in that scene was Mark Kamins, a Danceteria DJ who famously produced Madonna’s “Everybody” and introduced her to Sire records’ Seymour Stein. Kamins went on to work as a producer, and A&R guru, working with Talking Heads, Sinead O’Connor, Beastie Boys, UB40, Ofra Haza, and many others. Toward the end of his life, Mark became a music professor at Escuela de la Musica Fermatta in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was there that he died of a heart attack on February 14th.
On April 17, some of Mark’s dearest friends and peers came together to pay tribute to his influence. The night featured performances from Konk, Indeep, Lady Miss Kier, Coati Mundi, Strafe, Crystal Ark, and DJ sets by Justin Strauss, Kim Ann Foxman, and Francois Kevorkian to name a few. At one point, Sal Principato busted live vocals over Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.” We caught up with Konk, Gavin Russom, Sal Principato and promoter extraordinaire “WoldWarWalter” Durkacz to get their thoughts on the evening and share parting thoughts for Mark.
Mark: When did you meet Mark, and when was the last time you saw him?
Richard Edson (Konk): I met Mark Kamens in the earliest days of Dancerteria. I was playing with two bands at the time, Konk and Sonic Youth. Each band played the first two weekends of the club. Mark was the DJ and also producing at the time. He seemed was one of the sweetest guys around, and he had great taste. He gave me an expectation about people in the music business that was sadly not reinforced by reality - that you didn't have to be a slimy, double dealing cheat and liar to be in the music business. RIP Mark K.
Johnny Sender (Konk): I met Mark both though Danceteria and through Madonna. I knew all of her dancers. Bagz was a waiter at the restaurant at Danceteria, I was living with another dancer, my friend Erika who was my girlfriend at the time. Another dancer David Svitzer was one of my best friend's from High School, we were all really tight. We would go visit Mark while he was working. I also heard him spin at the original club on 37th street but I didn't know him then. I had started DJing at the Pyramid so I was always interested in what he was playing. The last time I saw Mark was in the mid 2000s when I was still in NYC. It was great to see him, but it was pretty brief. I remember, he was doing an online radio show that I checked out a few times.
Sal Principato (Liquid Liquid): Well I mainly knew Mark Kamins as a resident DJ at Danceteria, where the band played many times and I played around in even more times. Mark and Danceteria embodied the joy and dynamism of early 1980's: diverse, curious, a real spectacle even my folks, when they came to see Liquid Liquid perform, had a blast listening to the music and interacting with the many characters who peopled the scene.
Coati Mundi (Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Dr. Buzzard’s Savannah Band): I met Mark in the early 80s, he was a DJ at one of my fave hangs Danceteria. He was a big fan of Savannah Band/Kid Creole and he loved my solo stuff also. He recognized me one day and wanted to pick my brain about how the music was created by the various bands and recordings I had been associated with. I especially loved going when he played cause the music he played was eclectic and enjoyable to listen as well as dance [to].
What were some of the challenges in putting this event together?
Walter: Connecting the dots and convincing all or one that this was worth putting aside the present and past. Keeping it more a party as Mark would want it, and away from simply being a Danceteria AARP reunion of sorts brought together by a friends death. I wished to create an atmosphere of good people that spanned across generations. It’s never easy having to plan and run a show of this magnitude on your own with minimal support and then also trying not to micromanage everything. The challenge of those who were made aware but prefer that their stone remained unturned. Let them mold in their bitterness, insecurities or fame is what I say.
Richard Edson: Showing up was the hardest part of getting together again with the other members of Konk. The band started with great promise but ended in great bitterness and disappointed for me. I didn't want to go back, especially because I don't play trumpet anymore. I couldn't make up my mind and started listening to our old material. I found a new appreciation and respect for what we had done and, with that, I figured doing this gig was an opportunity to let go of the past and bring my present musical interests (conga and percussion) to the show (encouraged by one and all). The great thing with KONK was that we were always able to put our personal difference aside and tear it up when we got on stage... and this is exactly what we did twenty five long (or was it short?) years after our last gig.
Johnny Sender: I flew over from France where I've been living to make the gig in New York. I had to make arrangements for my kids since I get them off to school and take them to various activities during the week. Geordie and I had discussed doing gigs over the years but It just fell into place this time. Everyone was just ready this time. Walter made it possible for me to fly over. Geordie Gillespie, the drummer and Richard Edson were going to be in New York. The rest of the members currently live in NYC. We were all part of a community and we wanted to come together again to remember and celebrate Mark Kamins. Konk performed at Danceteria more times than I can count. After our sets, I would always go up and visit him, dance and check to hear what he was playing. I also spent many nights at Danceteria when Konk wasn't doing gigs.
Scott Gillis (Konk): My arrangements were not to difficult as I live in NYC. I
haven´t seen some of the guys for 25 or so years, so that was the important reason to play out with them. In all honesty, I didn’t think this would happen when I was told about it. It was still in the planning stage when Dana called me and said it was really on. Some of the guys made it to the practice at the 11th hour. It all came together then, like no time had passed. I had to relearn all the songs, as I hadn’t played any of them for about 25 years. I even had to use visualization techniques on some of the songs to get something back. Even through the practice I wasn’t getting a rhythm down until the day before the gig.
Angel Quinones Jr. (Konk): I was the last one to be found. Thanks to a dear friend, Kier (or "Lady Kier", as some of you may know her), the band was able to call me at my job 2 days before the event; but I only found out about it the next day, Tuesday, as I hadn't gone to work that Monday. Stunned and intrigued by the messages, I returned calls and discovered the band would rehearse that same day from noon to 5pm. I made arrangements to leave work early at 1pm and meet the band by 2:30pm for a performance the next night. Rehersal: two hours, five songs, after more than 25 years.
What was the best part of the evening for you?
Walter: Well after a tense start of definitely being "in deep" and leaving one pissed off diva waiting on my door step for 40 minutes after her arrival at JFK, it all finally working out beyond my dreams, [culminating] in the highest honor a DJ could ever be bestowed: playing and singing the classic (lyric) "not a trouble that I cant fix" during her performance of “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life". And when it was all over, feeling proud and happy for Mark that people had enjoyed the night, that I actually pulled off getting Konk all back together and that their show was a revelation.
Richard Edson: The highlight of the evening – beyond seeing people I haven't seen in forever and all of them being in the most generous frame of mind – was the way we tore it up. It seemed so effortless, relaxed, poised. It was beyond my widest imagination. Clearly, we all still have a love for music, especially KONK MUSIC.
Johnny Sender: Playing with the band again, finding our conga player and vocalist Angel twenty four hours before the gig. It really didn't feel like any time had passed as we were playing together. Seeing so many people I hadn't seen in years. Also, Mike Pickering's DJ set was amazing, I was really happy he made it to the memorial as well.
Scott Gillis: The highlight of the evening was when we first took the stage and we were just all making like a victory noise and then Dana came on top with the horn line from “Soka Loka Moki”. The audience started yelling with approval. That was a major high to me. The other highlight was the unplugging of my guitar, after I saw Johnny unplug his. It meant that it was really over, and despite the forms of the songs sort of falling apart, we had done an amazing job with what we were given.
Angel Quinones: For me, it was the enormous amount of energy of love around me throughout the night. It was on stage with my comrades; off stage with friends and musicians; and on the floor with our fans, new and old. Many were individuals I hadn't seen in 25 years or more. Whether we know it or not, we are one enormous family. It was as though it was yesterday.
EDM News: Rest in Peace Mark Kamins, NYC Says Good By To Nightlife IconWhat is the connection to Mark Kamins for you?
Gavin Russom (Crystal Ark): I became aware of Mark Kamins through Justin Strauss just after he passed away. Of course when I checked out his life's work I knew and loved many of the things he had worked on, and am close to some of the other people he's worked with. He feels like an ancestor even though I didn't know him. He blended and crossed a lot of worlds, musically and socially. I relate to that and clearly people like him paved the way for what I do.
Why did you decide to participate?
Gavin: It seemed like it would be a lot of fun and it feels good to connect what I do, especially with The Crystal Ark, to the larger and longer history of New York music and nightlife. I was honored to be asked and included in that.
How did his work / era influence you creatively?
Gavin: Mark was part of an era in New York where all kinds of lines were getting blurred and crossed and redrawn all the time, I moved to New York to be part of that and continue that kind of work.
How do you think Mark would have reacted to the event?
Walter: Smiling ecstatically with a raised glass and a blow on his whistle and more in appreciation that he was loved by so many and that his life was indeed divine. And humbled in appreciation that his achievements and legacy were ""good" enough in that even those who in never knowing him personally also came out to honor him and the period and legend of NYC nightlife that we both helped pioneer and foster.
If you could say one thing to Mark, what would it be?
Walter: Hard to think I would say only one thing, but among things I might say is
“Okay, Mark, so you know I had to do the ultimate extended 12 inch of a party for you or nothing else,” but also that I did it not only for him but like him, I did it for the love of it all. I felt he was with me that night while I was moving around the venue and the crowd but so busy it was if i was a blur to most there
yet hand and hand w/ Mark still orchestrating and instilling the spirit of something special back into NYC for a night that it wont easily forget and actually was in need of. But if we need to get down to being allowed to say only one thing to Mark I would probably just say, “You’re welcome, my good friend and don’t worry your tab is still open.”