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Interview with DJ Jonathan Peters
New York City
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
March 20,2007 Bookmark and Share

He’s the man who owns 46th Street.  Though he grew up in the West Village and paid his dues as a deejay at Save the Robots in the East Village and at Iguana at Park and 19th—it’s 46th Street that will long remain linked to the name Jonathan Peters.  Just as Junior Vasquez owns 27th Street, so does Peters own 46th Street—and both because of the club named Sound Factory. 

It was the Sound Factory’s second coming, in 1997, which put Peters on the club land map in a big way—and kept him in nightlife’s brightest spotlight for the next ten years.  Initially playing Friday nights, before taking over Saturdays, Peters helped turn the formerly shaky Sound Factory 2.0 (now Pacha) into one of the city’s legendary clubs.  With his marathon sets, sometimes stretching more then twenty hours, Peters earned a reputation for parties that were as transgressive as they were massive, drawing upwards of 4,000 people.  Over the course of a seven-year Saturday night residency at Sound Factory, Peters’ crowd became intensely devoted—indeed nearly fanatical—in a way associated with deejays such as Vasquez, Larry Levan, and Danny Tenaglia, and it was perhaps not surprising that, in 2006, Peters was voted the Number One DJ by DJ Times magazine. 

Flash forward to Valentine’s Day 2008, when the Saint-At-Large announced the line-up for this year’s Black Party—and there was Jonathan Peters listed as headliner.  It’s a first for Peters, as well as a first for the Saint-At-Large and Black Party—and it seems there’s plenty to discuss and so we sat down with Peters and got right to it.

EDGE:  There must be something about Valentine’s Day that shines favorably on you.  Wasn’t it Valentine’s Day 1997 when you debuted at the new-and-improved version of the Sound Factory—and then this year, the Saint-At-Large used Valentine’s Day to announce your headlining Manhattan’s most notorious party. 

JONATHAN PETERS: Wow.  Yes, this is true.  Funny, I thought I was the only one who remembered [the date of] my first night at Sound Factory. That was the beginning of some wonderful times for me.  [Having] deejayed in NYC every weekend for more than a decade, I knew that Sound Factory was one of the most respected parties since Paradise Garage.  So when Sound Factory came to me and asked me to do my party there— 

EDGE:  It was a seven-year love fest, wasn’t it?

JP:  Obviously the theme for that [first Valentine’s] party was love—and that’s what set the tone for the next seven years.  And that’s why during that time I went after records from Whitney and Paula [as well as releasing] records on my label, Deeper Rekords, like “Your Love Is Taking Me Over.”

EDGE: And now Black Party is taking you over. Have you been to Black Party before?

JP: Yes. It was just about ten years ago at Roseland.  I was standing in the middle of the dance floor with my hands in the air saying to myself, “They are never going to let me play this party.”    

EDGE:  That’s too funny.  Because, actually, given your reworking of classics, often into ten- and twelve-minute aural journeys, and the reputation that your Sound Factory parties had for being over-the-top, you seem a natural fit for this neo-Druidic ritual.

JP: I am thrilled to play at the Black Party.  As a deejay playing for twenty-one years in NYC, [I say], Let the fun begin!

EDGE:  This year’s Black Party theme is The Dangerous Black Party for Boys, based on the best-selling book, The Dangerous Book for Boys, which, more or less, advocates a return to the more thrilling and risky adventures of life, rather than those faced in front of a computer screen.  Would you argue that playing Black Party is something of a risky adventure for you?

JP:  The only risk I see is [in] not wanting to go home.

EDGE:  Good answer.  One of your friends once said that one of New York’s worst kept secrets was that your legendary Sound Factory parties were something of a cherry picker’s delight.  Or, in other words, there were a number of “straight” boys there with their “boys” downstairs, while their girlfriends were upstairs.  Care to comment?

JP: It is what it is.

EDGE:  That’s New York for you.  Those parties at Sound Factory certainly had their share of male eye candy—and often drizzled with chocolate.  There was a very strong sexual vibe at those parties.  Can you take credit for that?  Was that something you sought to promote with your music? 

JP: If you’re looking at it like that, I guess I was part of the orgy.

EDGE:  Perhaps even the ringleader.  You’ve been quoted as saying, “The single most important thing for a deejay [is] creating the vibe.”  What kind of vibe are you planning for Black? 

JP: I don’t plan my vibe; I create it.

EDGE:  There’s an aphorism for life.  You know, in looking at some of the YouTube tributes to your residency at Sound Factory, it’s obvious that some of your most devoted fans are female.  What might you tell them about their desire to attend Black Party? 

JP:  “It’s going to be an awesome party.”

EDGE:  No argument about that.  And speaking of girls, we hear you have one—named Samantha.  Can you talk a little about Samantha?

JP: Samantha is my deejay booth that I created so I can be in my zone when I play, no matter where I go.  [She] also allows me to remix and produce anything live.  When we make love, you will be screaming!

EDGE:  That’s a YouTube clip right there.  Too bad about the no cameras rule.  What else can we expect from your play list for Black Party? 

JP:  I would rather not ruin the surprise. But, I will say, the old and the young will rejoice.

EDGE:  One of your biggest original productions was of singer Sylver Logan Sharp’s anthemic “All This Time,” a song whose lyrics seem to resonate not only with your Sound Factory fan base, but also portend an increased visibility amongst your gay fans.   

JP:  Wait until you hear my new single by Sylver called “Mr. Man.”

EDGE:  The title says it all.  It’s perfect for Black Party.  You know, as someone raised in the West Village, you’ve been quoted as saying that you were also raised in the gay clubs of the period. 

JP:   I always [partied] at Shelter and Sound Factory because that’s where I was happy.  That’s where the music, vibe, and lights were on point.

EDGE:  One of the things that people so often cite about your parties at Sound Factory was the diversity of the crowd—and the way in which Paris at the door, and everyone else involved in the club, created a broad demographic of club goers—people of all persuasions, in other words, getting along for the night. 

JP:  I thank God for that.

EDGE:  You once said, “One of the reasons I’ve been so successful at Sound Factory is that I try to make it a journey.” 

JP: A lot of deejays stick to one sound.  I don’t.  To keep people dancing for twenty to thirty hours, I always try to create a musical journey.

EDGE:  In the numerous years you’ve been deejaying around the city—and by that, we mean New York, of course—have you noticed a change in the demarcation of club crowds?  Do you think there’s been a shift to a more amorphous kind of gathering—one less acutely segregated between gays and straights? 

JP:  It depends on where you go.  With the younger generation, yes.  Not with the older generation.  New York City is a much more gay-friendly world nowadays.  I’m not saying horrible things don’t happen, but it’s a different time.  And [inside the clubs], it’s more about the music now.

EDGE:  As you surely know, you’re one of a few select straight men, amongst them Mark Anthony and Victor Calderone, in the pantheon of Black Party deejays. 

JP:  Love to know where you got your info.

EDGE:  Oh.  Whoa.  Snap.  Point taken.  Moving on—  Given your remixes of Whitney, Christina, Amber, Chaka Khan, Paula Cole, as well as other female singers, it seems you love your divas.  Would you say you revere the vocal—or do you view it as but one element in a mix? 

JP: Honestly, it’s never the same.  It depends on the song.  It’s always different.  But, with a great song—of course, it’s all about the vocals.

EDGE:  Back in the day—way back—when Larry Levan was the man that many consider you to be today, music fans would leave a club on Sunday morning and line up outside the record store Vinyl Mania—to buy the songs they’d heard the night before, and on Monday, the radio stations would start playing what the deejays had played all weekend.  Can you comment on the role of dance music today? 

JP:  Since 9/11, I’ve seen the music industry, on a whole, take a tremendous hit.  Thank God, we are pulling out of it.  Dance music will be stronger than ever in the next couple of years.

EDGE:  You’ve been quoted as saying "A big part of being a great DJ is having a great club—bottom line.”  Do you still feel that way?

JP:  I feel you can have a great party anywhere, but to create a loyal weekly following you need to make the fans feel at home, which takes a great club.

EDGE:  You’ve certainly seen that incredible seven-minute YouTube testimonial about your legendary residency at Sound Factory.  What comes through most clearly in that clip is the devotion of your crowd to you and the club, as well as that sense of all of you growing together—one moment in time.  Is that something that’s still possible in Manhattan nightlife?    

JP:  Yes, it’s just harder.

EDGE:  You’ve said that Richard Grant, the owner of the Sound Factory, created a Broadway show each night at the club.  Similarly, the Saint-At-Large works really hard to make Black Party a transporting experience, something above and beyond just another Saturday night at a club.   

JP:  This is one of the many reasons why I am excited to be a part of the Black Party.

EDGE:  And as you can probably tell from the vibe on the street, we’re all anticipating an incredible performance from you at Black Party.  We wish you all the best, JP—and we thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. 

The Dangerous Black Party for Boys
Music: Stephan Grondin (Montreal) & Jonathan Peters (NYC)
Encore: Joe Gauthreaux (NYC)
10 pm Saturday, March 29th, 2008 until Sunday afternoon
Roseland Ballroom, 239 West 52nd Street, New York City
Featuring Strange Live Acts
Dress: Heavy
Advance Tickets: $125 through Day-of-Event, $140 at the door


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