Dance music doesn’t need to do anything more than make people dance. True. However back in the early 80’s house music did much more than this, it brought together people of all races, genders and sexualities under one roof. I talk to Judy Weinstein, often referred to in the business as the ‘Eve of Dance Music’. She has seen it all come and go and change since, well, the very beginning. And I want to know what makes this great lady tick.
When Judy formed her legendary record pool For The Record in the mid 1970’s she could never have imagined that she would become an integral player in the birth and history of dance music. She was just having fun. It’s now been 28 years since Def Mix, the management and production company she created with David Morales began…and all these years later she is still having fun in the same industry that made her. So let’s go discover…
What brought you to earth?
My initial answer was “On the Starship Enterprise” – but I imagine you are looking for something a little more serious. At first I am sure my mission was to fulfill my parents’ dream which was to marry me off to the first doctor or lawyer that rang the doorbell. Unfortunately their dream didn’t take into consideration that I would hit the subway at an early age and spend most of my free time scouring the streets of New York seeking out the music underground and all it had to offer. After a time it was obvious that my calling was to nurse burnt out DJs back to the decks.
Favorite aspect of life?
Just living my life and taking pleasure participating in the success of others. Knowing that what we leave behind is not as important as how we lived.
If you had one moment of ‘all eyes on you’ what would you do or say?
It would be a moment in time when all of my friends and family who have passed away returned for just a few seconds…just to feel their arms wrapped around me and knowing that they were all proud of my accomplishments and that I did okay.
One epiphany that turned your world around?
Although not a religious experience, entering The Loft for the first time. This was the after-hour, private club owned by David Mancuso which was something completely new for this nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn. If you were lucky enough to have friends that would sponsor you, you were entitled to a membership. I had always loved music but overnight it became a personal tour guide for the rest of my life. I learned to listen to music from a different point of view; it simply became part of my being.
On your day off what music are you listening to?
My days off or on are no different. I love all music and listening to different formats is comparable to trying and enjoying a new dish. I am still a fan of good dance music as long as it reaches out to me on an intelligent or fun level. I despise boring, redundant club music that tells me what to do, for example: “Move”, “Don’t Move”, etc. I have spent the past two years studying Country music. I have added Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Eric Church just to name a few, to my everyday playlist. Moving along to another format, I am wild about the new Snoop Dogg album, produced by Pharrell. Almost every cut is reminiscent of the 70’s taking a journey into now. So my day off or on is filled with everything.
Describe a perfect day…
Waking up, having a great cup of coffee, watching the morning news. Looking out the window at the new construction being built across the road and coming up with ways to destroy it. Coming into the office and finding numerous requests for my DJs, checking the bank and finding that all of the deposits have been received – love those promoters! Having a good laugh at any time of the day. Meeting friends for dinner, returning home, turning on the TV to watch the soap operas that I have recorded and falling asleep hoping that tomorrow will be the same.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
I had opened the Record Pool in 1978 and celebrated our first and second anniversaries with performances by Stephanie Mills, Billy Ocean, Gloria Gaynor, Chaka Khan and many others. The host was Frankie Crocker, a very famous radio jock who was a good friend. We held these events at the Paradise Garage and the DJ was Larry Levan. There were at least 3000 people packed into that room. My parents were there, finally accepting that their daughter was not a bum, but a successful businesswoman. I remember tearing up when I looked out into the crowd, knowing that I had made a difference. I had made people happy.
Best travel destination to unwind?
I have been fortunate in being able to travel the world with my guys David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, Satoshi Tomiie and Hector Romero. Most of these journeys included club nights, although enjoyable – but still work related. I have to admit that I am not familiar with the term “unwind”. When you run your own business and take responsibility for others (clients) it’s very hard to “unwind”. But if this would be a dream sequence in the “Judy” movie, I would have to say Jamaica. I have friends that actually live there and could guide me to enjoy EVERYTHING Jamaica has to offer.
If you think back, what do you remember with fondness and what do you regret?
I’ll begin with regrets they are easier to remember. I spent the past 37 years taking care of others and not looking after myself. I am trying to do that now, hope it’s not too late! If I had a time machine I might just return to the past and add a child into the fold. I really can’t expect Morales to force-feed me when the time comes. As far as business is concerned, I would have kept the Record Pool open and had more confidence in the Pool distributing CDs, streaming, etc. Sometimes the future is not always clear, just ask the record companies, they were slow to recognize as well. Moving along to fondness, The Record Pool became a home for DJs. Every Friday night most of the guys would come in to pick up their records and sit around, talk, compare war stories – of which clubs screwed them out of payment, replacing them with a cheaper DJ, equipment needs, etc. Like a proud mom I would listen from the other room and feel so fortunate that I could provide a place for this. And most of all Def Mix, this is my family. From the moment David and I incorporated, I have been able to change the way DJs/Remixers have been treated, rewarded and respected. Def Mix is more than a brand. It is the heart and soul of the history of Dance Music. However, things change and, although Frankie has passed on, I can’t help but believe that he is in good hands, and his spirit will live on for eternity.