Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, October 20, 2014

Profiles Of the best 60s / Mod DJs in North America: Special Edition - Dig Deeper's Mr Robinson

It's not every day that you get to have a DJ of Michael Robinson's caliber at your weekly Mod Club night. Mr Robinson, as he is often referred to, is the type of disc jockey I one day aspire to be. So it was quite the honour to share the turntables with such a knowledgeable record collector. At one point during the evening, I asked him what his "other" job was. He answered: "I work in finance. But that's boring. Let's talk about music." We sure did.
Photo by Ben Shirai
Your name / DJ name:
Michael Robinson / Mr Robinson
Just hit my 25 year anniversary in NYC, originally from sunny London.
How would you describe your musical style?
Amphetasoul with a healthy mix of r’n’b and popcorn added for good measure. Have always tried to focus on all but unknown tracks. There’s plenty of great records that rightly are considered classics but those never quite floated the boat. I have always loved unearthing something new to the scene, often tends to incorporate some combination of a blazing Hammond solo, a garage band with a horn section, an unreleased acetate that blows your mind or an alternate version of a song you thought you knew.
What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?
Ha! you know you really can’t ask this question and expect a coherent answer, close 2nd place would likely be a tie between Sonny and Mary Reed – Look Into My mind which has the most massive shimmering organ backing a killer Soul wailing vocal and the El Paso Drifters – Could This Be Love, storming impossibly great San Antonio Soul with a break to die for. But #1 will likely always be Tommy Dent – Soul Thing, from the opening drum roll and then the explosion of the music, it’s pound for pound the most incendiary piece of wax I have ever heard. The day we finally tracked him down and got to speak to him in person and tell him how much his recorded legacy meant to us was a moment I had dreamed of for years.
Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.
Patrice Holloway – Love Walked In – it’s an unreleased Motown acetate with a song structure / chords similar to Yvonne Baker’s You Didn’t Say a Word, don’t know who owns this currently but I’ll find you!
Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.
Dig Deeper – Brooklyn, together with Richard Lewis aka DJ Honky. For those who don’t know it’s not just a DJ night but more importantly at every show we put on a full live concert by an obscure Soul artist, very often one who hasn’t played NYC in literally decades. 
We just passed our 6 year anniversary so we have put close to 60 amazing singers on stage now. Every single one has been a “pinch me I’m dreaming” type night with countless songs having been sung live for the very first time since they were recorded. It’s been amazing. There are festivals that do this once a year or so, but no other Soul club puts nights on like these on such a regular basis. Mind you we always tell each other the same thing – if we knew how much work it is we’d never have started!
Your night is not a strict DJ night but also a platform to bring back Soul legends to the stage. Can you tell us of a few memorable moments?
The very first song in the very first ever rehearsal was Don Gardner singing Cheatin’ Kind. We just looked at each other and knew we were already hooked on doing this from right then. Actually the rehearsals are like our own private show, watching these singers unroll the years right in front of you and relive the exact time they recorded all of these songs is something special to be sharing with them that you can hardly articulate. There’s barely been a single show without at least one song being sung live for the first time ever and in some case that’s been true of almost the entire set.
It’s hard to pick out individual moments as there’s an endless list but special mention has to go to knowing Marva Whitney’s last ever show was for us and similarly to the memory of Lou Pride who’s also no longer with us but took the stage apart, hearing I’m Coming Home In The Morning from him was just epic.
I think a personal favorite story was how we started a show with Bobby Patterson. He’d brought along an unseen clip of him with the Mustangs doing Funky Broadway Ain’t Funky No More live on a local Texas TV show back in the 60’s. The venue had a big screen to the left of the stage so we aired it and the whole audience was watching it with Bobby and the band looking impossibly sharp in matching gold suits and putting on all the moves. Then the second the clip ended we hit the lights and there’s Bobby with the band on stage right in front of them instantly detonating into exactly that same song 45 years later with Bobby screaming his heart out and the band blazing. Peoples’ jaws just dropped. It was pure theatre.
Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?
1,000% yes. Only ever original 45’s with the minor caveat of collecting as many unreleased acetates as possible and get those copied onto 7” masters. As taking the only copy of a brittle 50 year old acetate out in a DJ box is likely going to end in tears eventually.
What is your favorite place to buy records?
Record fairs anywhere, love rolling my sleeves up. Allentown is a personal favorite but there’s plenty to choose from, have spent countless, countless days buried in places like Val Shiveley’s but also it’s hard to beat getting on a plane and heading to new places. Have had digging trips as far afield as Lima or Buenos Aires but near or far, the thrill is still there. After all, just spending a weekend in Montreal with you Pat, added an impossible local release to my box. So thank you for that!
 A trio of DJs: Patrick Foisy, Micheal Robinson & Ben Shulman admiring the Montreal skyline.

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