Thursday, December 11, 2008

EXCLUSIVE!! Interview with Nervous Records President Mike Weiss

Ok people, this is maybe the coolest thing yet for You Been Crushed: An exclusive interview with the president of Nervous Records, Michael Weiss. What is Nervous Records you ask? Just the label that put out Armand Van Helden's first release, signed Funk Master Flex, and basically defined NY club music (and had a big hand in hip hop) in the 90's and beyond.

The Interview:

Nervous records seems to be in the right place at the right time with the right artists. You started off doing East Coast house, then dipped in to Hip-Hop, then back into club music when hip hop went pop. Who's the magic A&R man behind this You?

I'm always behind the basic direction we're going in. Back in the 90's hip hop was hot in NYC, and that was the music I was into. There was a lot of talent rolling around. People would just jump on the mic in downtown clubs. It was a great time. I signed Black Moon. And having them on the label attracted like-minded headz who also liked east coast hop. A guy named Dru Friedman came to work at the label as an intern, and he quickly rose to being my A&R assistant. He then brought in Smif-n-Wessun. Having Black Moon and Smif-n-Wessun on the label made Nervous hot on the streets. KRS-One was impressed, and wanted to get affiliated. He brought in a new artist he had signed to his management company, Mad Lion. So it's always been a pretty organic process.

As you said, the real hip hop scene died out in the 90's, and then house/trance was hot in the clubs again. I signed some big club acts like Byron Stingily and Kim English, and having them on the label lead me to meeting a club guy named Kevin Williams, who became my A&R assistant. Kevin helped find big Nervous club hits like Charlotte/Skin, and Jonah/Sssst...Be Quiet.

Right now A&R is fully back in my shoulders.

Nervous is known for its logo. How was it conceived?

Standing in Vinylmania (12" shop on Carmine, now closed) on a Saturday afternoon in 1990. Pal Joey used to work there. He climbed up on one of the racks to get a 12" for someone who was at the counter. He tossed the record up to the counter, but it hit the guy in the head. I thought it was funny, came up with idea of a logo based on that.

I was a big fan of Funkmaster Flex back in the day. How did you discover and sign him?

I first met him when I was promoting a hip hop jam to Chuck Chillout up at WBLS. Chuck was the MC of the WBLS hip hop show. Flex was the DJ. He's truly one of the most proper guys in the biz. We met there, and he could see I was real ampted to get my tracks up and running. He told me he was deejaying at a hot spot named Club 2000 on 148 and Broadway on Sunday nites. I used to trek up there at 2:00 am on Sunday nites to give him wax,and he would test them out. He was the first dj in New York to play Who Got The Props. I had it on test pressing...he made me wait till 3:55, right before closing, before putting it on the decks. But he gave me a thumbs up after that one spin.

Exceeder was and still is a killer track. How do you find new artists and how do the blogs/internet play into that?

Exceeder is probably one of the three favorite Nervous tracks in the past 2 years - the others being Cicada/Things You Say, and Get Far/Shining Star. I go out least once or twice a week hitting afterhours spots....and know alot of dj's who will tip me when they hear something good. I also check out alot of the European radio stations on line.

You've developed and distributed a lot of music, and its all had one thing in common. The DJ. Whats your take on the current technology of djing in the mp3 era?

Pretty amazing how the internet has made music and sounds and vibe available to everyone. Used to be that you had to go to New York, Chicago and Miami to find hot producers. Now you look everywhere. And before the internet, who could have predicted that Canadian and Dutch dudes would be making some of the hottest tracks? So the internet has definitely leveled the playing field, and made it possible for people all over to hear the newest joints, and get their tracks heard by everyone as well. All this is good for a label like Nervous. Bottom line we need club music to stay fresh. I think the bar has been raised on what a dj/producer needs to come with if he/she is to stay at the top of the game.

Last question: You are currently promoting Nervous Nitelife: House Classics Remixed which is a compilation of a lot of Nervous dance hits remixed. This is curated (is that the right word?) by Marlon D who is closely associated with one of my personal favs Jellybean Benitz. Anything you'd like readers to know about this release?

Yeah Jellybean deserves props for staying in the dance game so long. (and yeah nice vocabulary - curating is a perfect description for the way Marlon put together these older classics!) For this project, I wanted to get a dj who was not directly connected to any of the projects. So that knocked out alot of the major players, cause virtually everyone with a rep from the 90's has had something released on Nervous (Masters At Work, Armand Van Helden, Cevin Fisher, Frankie Feliciano, Paul Van Dyk, Roger Sanchez, Todd Terry etc). Somehow Marlon never had anything released on Nervous, so it made sense for someone with a fresh perspective on the tracks to come with ideas regarding who should do the remixes, and how the comp should be put together.

Thank you SO much for taking time out to answer my questions. I really appreciated being able to bring something so close to the heart of NY dance music into focus for You Been Crushed.....
-Air Jared

No comments: