LWE Podcast 110: DJ Jus-Ed


Photo by Samuel Kessler

Some complain that the media (music related or not) focuses too much on constructed narratives, and in dance music one of the most compelling recent narratives has been the vital New York house scene. While many of the producers involved, from Levon Vincent to Nina Kraviz, have all gone off to do their own thing, they all share the same back story: they all came through Jus-Ed. The lynchpin of Northeastern deep house has jump-started many a career, as well as having a very impressive one himself. Unfortunately, not even dance music can escape the troubles of a struggling economy — one reason Ed recently brought Underground Quality into self-distribution. We got in touch with Ed to talk about the move, as well as the closing of Tape in Berlin, a club that has deep ties with the Underground Quality family. He also provided us with our 110th podcast: a special mix of his tracks (with some guest cameos) dedicated to the closing of the club.

LWE Podcast 110: DJ Jus-Ed (60:20)

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Tracklist

01. Ed & Fred, “Ed & Fred P. Project” [Underground Quality]
02. DJ Jus-Ed, “Joey A. Bass Revise” [Underground Quality]
03. DJ Jus-Ed, “Confussed Passion” [Underground Quality]
04. DJ Jus-Ed, “Trip To Hamburg” [Underground Quality]
05. DJ Jus-Ed, “Lost In Berlin” [Underground Quality]
06. DJ Jus-Ed, “Mr. Pete’s Crib” [Underground Quality]
07. DJ Jus-Ed, “Immortal Tape 2011” [Underground Quality]
08. DJ Jus-Ed, “Ed In The House 2” [Underground Quality]
09. DJ Qu, “Movements” [Underground Quality]

Underground Quality recently made the move to self-distribution. Why?

Edward McKeithen: Let’s see if I can put it in a nutshell. Okay, the way I’ve always operated is I’ve always pressed the records based on how strong I felt the record was; it would vary from 500 to 2,000 copies on the first run. Then I would write the individual distributors and see who’s interested. One distribution company had felt that they could sell whatever I pressed. So we had a mutual business agreement where they took whatever I pressed. I would never sign any contract to be solely distributed by one company, but since the company took the complete run, then technically they have exclusivity, you know? It just wasn’t in writing. It worked out well, but then there was a chink in the system, and there was a miscommunication and understaffing. On my end, I had three records ready to ship, and we couldn’t get together, and it was tax season, and I had a large amount of money that I had vested in pressing the vinyl, as well as a large amount of bills. They were unable to take all the records, which left me in a financial bind.

It needs to be stressed that there was no malice — it just was business. Something came up, and I didn’t have a backup plan or a cushion to fall on. So that left me with no choice but to hustle the records out, and I decided that I would just sell direct from now on to whoever could buy and ship the records. This way I’ll always have some income, as opposed to waiting on one person. My income was based on one company, and I couldn’t do that anymore. I have small children, and I have a lot of debt, financial debt, on me and I need to have money coming in. So that seemed like the best plan. I told them what I was going to do; it wasn’t like I took my toys and ran. I said, “Look, I’ve got to do this. I have to sell these records. I have to open the door up so that I can keep food on the table.” And they understood.

You also recently started a collaborative label with Jenifa Mayanja.

Jenifa is a much better producer than I am — you know, she actually makes “music.” My music is beats and grooves and they have some melodies and some vibes, not putting myself down, but there’s still so much that I need to learn. Unfortunately her name is not as strong or popular as mine. I reached a point in a career where I could put [out] a track that I would deem okay, but because it said “Jus-Ed” on it, the venues will stock it because I’ve had good reputation and good sales under DJ Jus-Ed or Underground Quality. The label has a such a strong reputation for quality music that a lot of customers take the records without even listening to them. And I remember I used to be like that with, like, Masters At Work and Ibadan. With Kerri Chandler, you knew that it was going to be the shit. This is what I’ve worked hard for since day one: to have a reputation like that.

Jen is — well, we’re not legally married yet, but this is common law; we say we’re husband and wife. She’s my wife, she’s my partner, she’s the mother of my kids, and she deserves a fair shake just like anybody else. But the industry is tough on women. And the women that are up front — they had to hustle. It can be difficult when you have two creative people and they want to stand on their own. You don’t want to be perceived as riding on someone else’s coattails. Like when Omar-S put out my first track on his label, he told me to wait until that run sold to put my record out. I had it pressed, but I didn’t want people to think that I was riding on his success or that I was claiming to be from somewhere I’m not. That’s why I’ve always put the emphasis on it: “I’m not from New York; I’m from Bridgeport, Connecticut.” This is who I am — this is where I live, this is where I make my music, this is where the music is from: Bridgeport, Connecticut. I’m very proud from where I come from.

You could put on all the artwork [and] packaging you want — that does count for some sales — but what really sells the music is the music. If the music isn’t good, it’s not going to sell. For Jen, she’s my wife. I mean, you would expect her to take liberties, which she hasn’t since we’ve been together. But financially, first of all, it makes sense. We should work together. That money is at home; it’s in our house. If one end is not hitting or being successful or whatever, then we should be helping so that the other end does continue to be successful. It’s the only way we’re going to make it in Connecticut, in this time, and in this economy. When you’re with a creative person with your partner, there’s a thin line that you do not cross. You have to wait and leave things alone until your partner is ready to make a move or work together. When you come together organically and the terms are met evenly, then it flows. It jumped off nicely with our first record, EDJ-001. We did a limited pressing. We knew that to a certain degree, that there would be X amount of copies sold right away just for the simple fact — for the novelty fact, that it’s a husband and wife thing. Oliverwho [Factory], I believe, is the other husband and wife team, right?

Right.

But it’s inevitable is that Jen will get the same platform — I mean I’ve done it for so many other artists. Starting out artists, introducing them — lending my audience to a new artist to broaden their horizons and stuff like that. You know, I’m here in the house, and I can hear these beats and these melodies coming out of the room. I’m like, “Jen, What is that? That’s you? Jesus Christ.'” I mean I’m good at what I do, but she’s really good at what she does. Producers always look at each other and we admire certain techniques or skills that make the producer special. What’s always the ongoing struggle with most producers is getting what’s in your head out. See, if we could get exactly what’s in our heads out, all of us would be paid, you know what I mean? It’s in our heads, but getting it out is a feat by itself. You know, producers like Charles Webster, Pépé Bradock, and Kaito — it seems like they were able to get in their head out based on the production, the way they told the story in the music. This is what makes it special.

How has the self-distribution thing affected the label? Do you think it’s a been a success so far?

As far as actually making money, yeah. As a result of this, it’s helped the label become more affordable to the retailer and the customer. When stores or wholesalers buy direct from the label, they are only paying the VAT and shipping fee. In Europe, the retail price was €11 to €14. But now, selling direct, my album is €16 (for the double). A year ago it would’ve been €20 and up.

Are you finding that you can get your stuff into the shops you want without distribution?

There are still shops that are unable to do shipping so they stay with distribution. I still sell to the distributors because with some record stores, that’s the only way the can get it. But now the distributor is no longer exclusively cornering the market on the records, so they have to make their prices more competitive because five or six other outlets have the record. So there’s no price gouging now, because of competition. It keeps the price right for the consumer. The more reasonably priced the record, the more it will sell.

It’s kind of tricky because the distribution doubles — some distribution companies double what they actually bought it for from the manufacturer. My records were so high coming from the distributor that the record store could only sell it for 11 euros, and after taxes and shipping, they were only making a euro on the record. So let’s say a record store has 500 euros a week as a budget. Even though this record that just came out from Underground Quality is the best thing out right now and everybody’s going to want it, I can’t risk buying 10 records and paying 70 euros when I could get 20 records for 70 euros. When I go shopping, if a record doesn’t possess at least three good tracks on it, I’m not paying 11 euros for it.

Yeah, of course.

Here in the States, I’ve bought imports for 18 or 20 dollars — two-siders. But they were absolutely brilliant. And I also knew that the masses are not going to buy it because it’s too expensive. But whoever made those records didn’t sell a lot. So there are a bunch of different variables, but I chose to educate myself on the street level. So every time I’ve traveled I always try to make it to the record stores, say hello, say thank you, ask them how much are they paying for the records, are they selling good here, [ask them] “What would make it a better sell for you?” And it’s always, “If the price was lower.” I say to myself, “Look, Ed, if you want people to keep buying records, you have to work out way so that the record store actually can make some money: sell direct.”

It looks like it’s working out pretty well. But again, it’s a hard push. Jen’s album, I think, for me personally, is way better than my album. Of course, I’m in a different genre of house music; they don’t compete with each other. But my album is for Jus-Ed heads, you know, Underground Quality heads that love the Jus-Ed sound. But hers is a proper album. Vocals, melody, there’s songs: this is traditionally what an album is supposed to be about.

You’ve done a couple parties at Tape, and you have one coming up January 27. These parties have always been a big deal for you. What’s your history with the club?

I got introduced to those guys through Ike Mueller. She is the one that booked me for Tape. She is a beautiful woman, and she is down with the underground sound 100 percent, and she’s booked a lot of underground talent at Tape. Then she moved on; she left Tape to pursue another promotional career somewhere — at another club. But I fell in love with the club, and the owner, Yoni [Margulies], and Tommy. Tommy is silent; his words are very, very expensive. He doesn’t have much to say, but he sees and hears everything. I love that dude. When you say “silent partner,” he would be the epitome of that. And Yoni is a die-hard house head and sound freak, you know, and all-out sweetheart. We hit it off, him and Uli. I said, ‘I want to come back here.’ In fact, this is — this is the perfect house club. This is the club that should be devoted for underground house music. Have you been?

No, I haven’t.

You really need to see that spot once before they tear it down. It’s like an oversized loft with a dope bar and a sound system that’s like headphones. Analog. So I said, “Yo, I would really like to do a label night here,” and we did. Me, [DJ] Qu, and Fred [P]. That was the first official UQ label night party — you know, a really life-changing experience. It was dope, we had a little over 400 people that showed up, and we killed it. I said in 2001 to Jen, “One day I’m going to be overseas, and I’m going to have my boys over there, and I’m going to be doing a party.”

In 2009 we did the big one. It was draining. Physically, emotionally, it was draining. Nobody actually believed in what I wanted to do. Lerato supported me, but she’s a promoter, and she has to deal with stuff that’s proven. So there’s a certain shadow of a doubt. The spirit was always there, and the support. Now, Yoni and his crew from a club owner’s sense, there’s always that mechanism of “It may not work.”

The club, rightfully, I mean they’re the ones providing sound systems, liquor, environment, security, and they need to make money to stay in existence, and what I was happy with was the fact that I was given an opportunity to take control of a club from the artistic standpoint. With six DJs it was tough, especially because it opens at midnight and, tentatively, it closes at six. You’re like, “How are you going to do that? I need a DJ playlist, I need a list of what order DJs are going to play in.” [I said] “There is none.” These parties are thrown based on the fact that it’s an Underground Quality event. It’s not artist based, and it’s the same formula — similar formula — that Berghain [and] Panorama [Bar] uses. It doesn’t matter what artist is going to be fuckin’ playing at that place. They didn’t build that club on the name of artists. They built that club on the name of the club. So the club will always exist because it’s known for having dope parties. The first thing that people say is, “Are you going to Berghain or Panorama?” And then the next question is, “Well, who’s going to be playing?” And some people may know and some people may not know; they just know that that place is the shit.

We started Underground Quality just for that purpose: so that when they saw the UQ label, they knew that it was going to be a good party. It didn’t matter what artists were going to be there or not. The other reason is that I also need to promote the new artists that come in — they need to have their platform. I’m able to introduce the artists as DJs. Therefore, the artists are — in maybe not so nice terms — they’re expected to give and play for the label. Not for themselves, not to make a name for themselves. This was the discussion that I had with the first round, with first six: Anton [Zap], Nina [Kraviz], Levon [Vincent], Qu, Fred, and myself.

I wanted to give to people who were earnestly supporting the scene — being a house head is a way of life. It’s a culture. There’s an underground house lifestyle that is being lived every day. And it’s not a fad — it only becomes a fad when the mass media decides, “Oh, we like it and we can make money off of this.” But after the hype blows off and all the posers disappear, there’s still that underlayment of people that actually live that way. Those are the people that you run into, like, you came to my house, and you’re like, “Yo, this looks like my friends house — ” because I got the turntables, I got the records everywhere, I got the CDs, I’m trying to show you the new music, this and that. We chill, we relax, and we eat. It’s the same kind of culture, no matter what country. Like Japan or Russia — you go to these people’s houses [and] they have their turntables, they have their records, they have their mixers, they have their CDs — it’s a culture. I’m like, “I want these people to come, that have been tossed about and abused and taken advantage of through the industry or marketing or just club-ism. I want them to come see me cause I understand, and I got what you need.”

Yoni and the staff are all house heads. So to get in bed with somebody who has the same ideology as far as what the experience should be, but is business orientated, it’s like, you know, you want to call your mom or your dad and say, “I found the perfect girl!” [laughs] My thing was that even if the event flopped, if nobody came, the press alone covering this at that time was so huge for the club that it helped establish them on the map. What else is brilliant is that a U.S. DJ/producer is going to throw a party in Berlin, where he can’t even get a residency in New York, in his own country. “Yo, this guy doesn’t even have a residency in the City, but he’s going to throw a label party in Berlin? What the fuck? Wait a minute, what is this label?” See? Curiosity. Got ’em! Now it’s poppin’. [laughs]

The other thing is is that the artists — I said, “If you give your best to this night for the label, you show your gratitude for that, everybody here tonight will be elevated.” And they will tell you straight off the cuff, “I didn’t believe half of the shit Ed was saying.” Levon will be perfectly clear about that. The first year we traveled the circuit together, we were in Fabric, and he said, “I don’t fuckin’ believe this. You know everybody. And they really like you! You weren’t lying; this is like your living room.” This is not by luck. It’s an honor, it’s a blessing. It is bragging rights, but it is something that’s cultivated. You can’t fake shit like that, when you reach out to people and you be genuine. People want to be around real people. They really do, you know?

So how did the party go, then?

You’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t bullshit or over-exaggerate shit — when I tell you there were tears, grown men with tears in their eyes because they were moved. I had tears in my eyes. I started the night on a 20-minute rotation. I played, and then so-and-so came, [and I said] “Okay, you’re up next. Go in, play. Okay, so-and-so, go in, you’re up next.” And so everybody played with everybody. We rotated that for, like, two — two or three hours. Everybody got to play. As the place was filling up, we were rotating. [People said] “Oh, when is so-and-so playing?’ Did I miss such-and-such?” “Yes, you did, but they are coming back on. The main thing is is that you’re here now! Next time get here on time so that you don’t miss anything.” That’s the way I always go to a party. I go to the party as soon as the door is available for me to enter, because I don’t want to miss shit.

So I was mixing DJs. I was mixing the artists. I let them do what they came to do, and then I would put on another artist. But when Fred came on, that was Fred’s breakout moment, at that particular Underground label party. Me and Qu were standing on the dance floor, and Fred came on and it just — I could see in Fred’s face — I was looking at Fred’s face, and he had such a calm, intense look. He played out all that shit that came out last year on his label at the party. Kerstin [Tama Sumo] was behind me, and her cheeks were red, and Achim [Prosumer] was at the bar, and then Fred just went into this zone that just fucking killed it. That’s when I dubbed him the Jimi Hendrix of minimal house. I remember I was politely rude to somebody, and I told them, “Please do not disturb me at this time.” I just wanted to enjoy what was going on right there. Everybody was so excellent. I sucked, actually. I came on at the end. There was nothing else to be said, musically. I was just so happy and elated that I was able to have a dream come true, and we were successful.

Can you talk about the mix a little bit?

First of all, I want to say thank you, once again, to you and Little White Earbuds for supporting the underground scene like you do. And for being accurate, you know? Whoever wrote that “two mules” line — it just totally tickled me. That was a classy, classy line. [laughs] The mix is an introduction to the Endurance CD, UQ-044. It’s dedicated to the closing of Tape. Some of the tracks — ‘Immortal Tape,’ ‘Lost In Berlin,’ and ‘Confused Passion,’ those I made, actually, in the club. I have keys to the club. That’s the level of the relationship between Yoni and I. When I found out they were going to have to close because of the city making moves, the best way for me to make an impact was just to give my talent. I thought it would be nice to have a commemorative disc out that also represents the last UQ label night.

So what’s coming up for UQ?

This year, you’re going to get a lot of Jus-Ed tracks, a lot of Jus-Ed records. Because last year, I didn’t put out a lot of EPs. I did the album, and I did collaborations and stuff. On the joint label between me and Jen, which is called EDJ, we have EDJ-003 that’s going to be coming out.

And that’s another split 12″?

Yep, and it’s better than the first one. You know, we keep trying to make them stronger or better as we go along. I’m also going to put out this year unreleased remixes that I’ve done, you know, like Jus-Ed edits. Also, I’m supposed to play the Boiler Room on Wednesday, January 25th. Then I’m doing my regular radio show (Underground Quality Radio Show) at one o’ clock in Berlin (7PM EST) from club Tape.

aybee  on January 23, 2012 at 6:50 AM

I Love You Brother…it’s that simple.

dj jus_ed  on January 23, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Thanks Cris for keeping it real.

gawagai  on January 23, 2012 at 10:11 AM

How come we never hear about Jenifa Mayanja? She clearly is amazing.

DJ QU  on January 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Smashing! Well Deserved ED!

Nick Turner  on January 23, 2012 at 12:51 PM

Wicked! Can’t wait to get on this!

jah  on January 23, 2012 at 1:05 PM

NICE! really do wish some of these UQ heads could have a residency in NYC

hakim m.  on January 23, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Ed and Jenifa, holding it down in Bridgeport, CT…

Scotty F  on January 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM

DOUBLE SUPER SOLID! St8 up p.i.m.p…

Lola  on January 23, 2012 at 2:33 PM

thank you Ed for always speaking the real! xx

propertrax  on January 23, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Ed speaking some real truths here. Especially the record price and way of life bits. True words! Keep it up.

Amir Alexander  on January 23, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Word Ed! You and Jen keep shinin’ Fam.
Peace

PeteBlas  on January 23, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Excellent one Ed!! You are the man!!!

Just showing some love and keep doing the thing bro!!!!!

Ste Neale  on January 23, 2012 at 6:57 PM

What a gent. Great interview & mix.

moe..  on January 23, 2012 at 9:30 PM

As always…Inspiration from Jus-Ed!

dbzz  on January 24, 2012 at 2:18 AM

I have to say you guys are on, i love this stuff with my heart and soul, lucky enough to catch Fred P late last year in Sydney and it was the most unbelievable set of house music I have ever heard, please please bring the whole UQ crew down to oz for a tour soon!

FilipTanimed  on January 24, 2012 at 3:47 AM

a fun interview to read. great memories shared by jus ed!

Niv  on January 24, 2012 at 4:12 AM

Fantastic set (as always), great interview

mr. bispo  on January 24, 2012 at 6:41 AM

much respect, ed. looking forward to your playing for us in san francisco.

nick craddock  on January 24, 2012 at 7:59 AM

such a sound fella. nice one, ed.

Jay Simon  on January 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM

interview is real. real insightful, real inspiring, and real genuine.

Nic Baird  on January 25, 2012 at 11:37 AM

awesome interview… maximum respect to what you and the UQ crew are doing!

Levon  on January 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Nice One, Ed!!!

dimitris  on January 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

live or on the net; the same underground quality Ed

gd  on January 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM

big up to colin for the two mules line!

Ksoul  on January 26, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Nice nice nice! Supporting UQ since the beginning! Hope to see you soon

Al  on January 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Great mix thanks

Armen  on January 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM

OH GOOD GOD!!!!! “MOVEMENT” IS MAKING ME CALL OUT FOR MOMMY!!! ON LIKE 10TH REWIND OF THIS JOINT. maximum respect

need to guy this . where?

Biggiesmalls  on January 28, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Great article once again LWE ! Ed is amazing, his take on the scene and love for such beautiful music gives inspiration to us little guys trying to make it !

UQ 4 LIFE !

park ranger  on January 30, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Great reading. Love the last split 12″! More please.

dj jus_ed  on February 4, 2012 at 6:53 PM

Thanks to all if you want to buy this got to underground quality . Com
Or Juno …vinyl in a few months 😉

Kevin  on March 2, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Absolutely Killer Ed. Wow. I’m Hypmotized!!!

falk dobermann  on November 13, 2012 at 11:43 AM

Dope MIX !!!! THX ED

Trackbacks

Mp3: DJ Jus-Ed LWE Podcast :: MedellinStyle.com  on January 23, 2012 at 5:41 PM

[…] ENJOY! […]

Mp3: DJ Jus-Ed LWE Podcast :: MedellinStyle.com  on January 23, 2012 at 5:41 PM

[…] ENJOY! […]

DJ Jus-Ed – LWE Podcast 110 « The Hipodrome Of Music  on January 24, 2012 at 12:29 AM

[…] interview Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a Comment Leave a Comment so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI […]

music | Pearltrees  on February 23, 2012 at 9:24 PM

[…] LWE Podcast 110: DJ Jus-Ed | Little White Earbuds Some complain that the media (music related or not) focuses too much on constructed narratives, and in dance music one of the most compelling recent narratives has been the vital New York house scene. While many of the producers involved, from Levon Vincent to Nina Kraviz, have all gone off to do their own thing, they all share the same back story: they all came through Jus-Ed. The lynchpin of Northeastern deep house has jump-started many a career, as well as having a very impressive one himself. Unfortunately, not even dance music can escape the troubles of a struggling economy — one reason Ed recently brought Underground Quality into self-distribution. […]

LWE Podcast 110: DJ Jus-Ed is archived this week | Little White Earbuds  on November 25, 2012 at 10:02 PM

[…] was a stellar collection of Underground Quality tracks mixed by label head, DJ Jus-Ed. Be sure to add it to your collection before it’s archived this Friday, November 30th. » Brandon Wilner | November 25th, 2012 […]

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