Industry Insiders: Alexander Dexter-Jones, Dancefloor Dauphin

At 26, Le Bain Wednesday night resident DJ Alexander Dexter-Jones has already been on the DJ circuit for 10 years, seen Foreigner 500 times (“not by force!”), and has achieved the impossible: getting the ultra-cool Standard Hotel‘s 18th floor crowd (whatever it’s currently called) dancing.

Dexter-Jones impressively retains both his education from Salisbury School for Boys (he occasionally writes songs in Olde English), and his celebrity family: “There’s your truth, my truth, Page Six, and then there’s the truth.” Surprisingly candid, he has no qualms discussing his early years spent as a roadie for Dad, or support from Mum (Anne Dexter-Jones), who would have liked at least one nice Jewish doctor in the family.

For those who can’t get past Le Bain’s notorious door, Dexter-Jones is currently working on his first album, where he’ll do triple-duty as “composer, producer, and performer,” due out this spring from Paris label Record Makers. He explains: “it’s strongly influenced by the fact that I have a father [Foreigner frontman founding member Mick Jones] who’s given me a large vernacular in music. I have a brother [September cover Mark Ronson] who’s done the same, and I really have a, not extraordinary in the arrogant sense, but an extra-ordinary taste and sense in music.”

He was playing drums at 5 and spinning at Bungalow 8 in its heyday at 16, and while he’s currently credited as the reason the beautiful people take a break from chain-smoking on the roof to get their dance on, he’s on a far more cerebral mission to “diversify your vernacular in music,” eager to share his expansive musical over-education. Just don’t request “Poker Face”.

Background:

I started DJ-ing when I was 16 yrs old in New York. I’ve DJ-ed in Miami, I’ve DJ-ed in LA, I’d DJ-ed all around the world. I started DJ-ing before Samantha, way after Mark. Samantha and Mark are seven and nine years older than me, respectively, and they got me my first gig. They got my foot in the door, and I wasn’t half bad at what I did. Mark was there for me, but Samantha was pivotal in inviting me to open up for her and things like that. She gained me a bit of respect because the music I play either makes you extremely happy or … “let’s go to 1OAK”.

On his upcoming first album:

I’m just in the middle of signing my first record contract, with Record Makers, in Paris. It’s the label that discovered the band Air, and they currently have Sébastien Tellier. They’re a small label, both members have come from larger labels and decided to be about the music. We’re just hashing through the contract now, so we’re hoping to have it out by spring 2011.

On Paris nightlife:

What I love about Paris is, I can go there, and I can play anything as a DJ, and people are incredibly open to it. Not only that, but people will start dancing at 10 o’clock at night. The dance floor will be filled at 10. There’s just much more of an understanding there for me. In Paris the women do not need to be drunk to dance. It startles American men.

On where he goes out in Paris:

Le Baron. Basically André Saraiva, who owns Le Baron, was part owner with Paul Sevigny in the Beatrice Inn. André is a classic character in the scene these days. He has the biggest nightclubs in Paris, as far as the less mainstream. I played there for Fashion Week. They have a club in Tokyo as well and I’m going to play a residency for a few weeks.

On the Manhattan club scene when he was 16:

I was working in a club called Veruka on Broome which no longer exists. Then I went and did a residency at Bungalow 8 a few years before it sort of petered out. I would do a one-off here or there, at Marquee, or birthday parties, but I really focused on private events and things like that.

On the music:

As a musician, and as a DJ as well, I became more geared towards playing the music that inspired me to write. And playing the Top 99 Jams of Hip Hop and Pop Music did not inspire me. If you see me behind a DJ booth you’ll see me dancing along with the music most nights, and another DJ came up to me one time and said: “How can you still do that?” Because I really love what I play. I try to get people interested by weaving less popular and deeper cuts into more commercial and acceptable music. It’s not like they’re going to say “Oh let’s call Richard Johnson [about it]”, but they might say: “That was different.” So it’s about finding that middle ground between whatever you listen to at the gym that gets you psyched and something slighter deeper and more dynamic that’s going to diversify your vernacular in music. By naturally having a Picasso in your art collection, you evolve by default.

On his current gig, Le Bain:

I choose to DJ at this place on a weekly basis because there’s something extraordinary about it. People don’t come downstairs [from the roof] for two hours, so until about 1 o’clock, no one’s down in the club, everyone’s up here smoking cigarettes, enjoying themselves. When people come downstairs it literally becomes like Le Baron in Paris. The co-owner and host of this club, Le Bain – which is inspired by Les Bain Douches, an old nightclub in Paris – Andre Saraiva and Andres Balazs, came together and said “let’s do something different.” And we have great DJs here. Mike Nouveau brings his own element, Rachel Chandler brings her own element, and I do my thing on Wednesday.

On his old gig, The Jane Hotel:

The Jane had some legal issues and they reopened. And I spun there for a while, but I had such a flighty schedule that I couldn’t keep a regular slot … but Matt Kliegman and Carlos Quirarte, who run the Jane along with Angelo Bianchi from the Beatrice do a fantastic job, and they are also very selective of who they have spin there and the crowd that they cultivate. You’ll have a very fun mix and they let their guard down. As far as I’m concerned this place and that place are the two of its kind that cater to that…liberal shabby chic.

On what he would refuse to play:

I’m gonna get myself in a bit of hot water here, but I was born in hot water. Lady Gaga, “Lady Gay-Guy.” She has perfect pitch, wonderful singer, creationist, ultimate. I love the idea of what she does. I wouldn’t have her at my son’s Bar Mitzvah.

On his early start:

I started playing drums when I was 5, I wrote my first song when I was 5. I was engulfed in that since I was a kid. I had no choice.

On support from his family:

All of us Ronson Dexter-Jones, there’s no conspiracy, we all just have a very shared, but individually specific idea of music, which has been thrust upon us by our parents, and the world that we grew up in. Although we share certain intimacies within music, we aren’t defined as a group. We’re not the Jacksons.

On mum:

My mum comes from a long line of Jewish doctors. She’s more rock ‘n’ roll than my father. She wouldn’t have minded if I went into the medical profession. But she’s 110% behind all 5 of her children, no matter what they do.

On sisters Annabelle and Charlotte:

Annabelle’s a phenomenal actress. Watch out for her. She’s done a couple of short films. You’ll be seeing more of her in the near future. Charlotte has her “I heart Ronson” clothing line. She’s in the tents at Fashion Week, she’s one of the three [of us] that graduated college. She’s a superstar.

On Dad, Foreigner founding member Mick Jones:

My father, coming from the band that he created, is not Keith Richards in the public’s eye. My father, to me, is a legend. He’s played with Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. He has an incredible background in music. He also is grouped into a genre with Journey and Boston and Chicago. Guys who didn’t leave Boston or Chicago, and never journeyed that much, until they got a record deal. My father came from England, from very humble beginnings. People don’t know him by name, as far as they know Keith Richards by name. And it’s a blessing, because I’ve had a chance to come forth as an individual, owing large amounts of respect and homage to what my father’s music has imparted on me. I’ve seen him play probably over 500 times. I’ve seen the Doobie Brothers 230 times. I’ve been to every state. I’ve worked as a roadie. And not by force. It blows me away every time. It’s very cool to be a fan of your father’s work, and not be overshadowed by being the “son of Mick Jones”.

On what’s to come:

I’ll be in Tokyo, in Miami at LIV around Art Basel, in New York I’ll be doing this as a residency, every Wednesday. I do a party at Le Souk on Tuesdays. Sometimes I do 1OAK. You’ll see me around Brooklyn Bowl, I’ll start playing live shows all over the place.

[image via Caroline Owens]

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