The Second Coming of Domino Kirke + Premiere of Her New Song ‘Ordinary World’

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For Domino Kirke, the concept of normalcy has been rather elusive. Her first foray into singer-songwriting as a teenager landed her on renowned producer Mark Ronson’s radar, resulting in a development deal that allowed Kirke to break out of New York’s coffeehouse scene and onto stages with acts such as Gang of Four and Lily Allen. As her band became more heavily engrained in the frenzied world of touring musicians, Kirke found herself on her way to motherhood, a juxtaposing circumstance that resulted in a rather drastic step away from the spotlight.

The daughter of Bad Company’s Simon Kirke, Domino had become familiar with the difficulties of balancing parenting and the equally testing world of Rock and Roll. After years of focusing solely on her son Cassius and working as a doula, Kirke found herself yearning for the creative realm she’d once thrived in. This time approaching project from a different angle than her singer-songwriter days, Kirke teamed up with Here We Go Magic’s Luke Temple to piece together a four-track EP that faultlessly personifies the phrase “short but sweet.” Independent Channel, which will be available on May 19th, boasts a musical advancement for Kirke, who’s begun incorporating electronic percussion and fragile, layered synths for a renewed sound that maintains Kirke’s characteristic singer-songwriter style.

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Kirke’s first single of the new work, “Ordinary World,” shifts back and forth between down-tempo beats carried by Kirke’s sturdy melodies and faster, nearly House-like percussion enveloped by layers of angelic vocal harmonies. Whether contemplating her own rock star father, sister Jemima Kirke of Girls, or the family she herself has started, the piece is Kirke’s study on what it means to live an “ordinary” life while balancing successful artistic projects, or other challenging facets of one’s life.

Take a listen to “Ordinary World” below, read our interview with Kirke, and make sure to see her play one of her residency shows at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right, this May.

I know you started music at an early age, but when did you decide to pursue it professionally?

Well I went to high school for music and then went to college and was like, I need to do more music. I had left high school as a music major and thought I wanted to get away from it, but then I was upstate and was coming in every weekend to play. So I didn’t really get to experience college, because I was too much of a New Yorker. I started performing as a solo artist when I was nineteen. And that’s what I knew that I wanted to only do that.

One of your first “big breaks” was working with Mark Ronson. Can you tell me about the experience?

Mark and I met in two different chapters. The first chapter, I think I was seventeen, and it was this whole pop outfit that they were presenting to me, and Mark was going to be producing. I think I was still in high school and I couldn’t…I wasn’t ready. I think the whole package was not for me. And I grew up around musicians, so I really understood what they were offering me. So I went away for a few years and then met back up with Mark. I had a band at that point and he saw us perform at Piano’s one night and offered us a development deal. We recorded an EP with him, went on tour with a bunch of great people, and then I got pregnant.

What’s the difference between being in a band and working as a solo artist?

I’ve had a few versions of it all. Since having my son, I’d gone back to the kind of singer-songwriter outfit, and then that didn’t feel like where I am right now. So I met up with a friend of mine, Luke Temple, who’s in a band called Here We Go Magic. I’m a friend and a fan. I just wanted to completely revamp my sound and he wanted to write with a woman. He wanted a female vocalist in his life, or a muse, or whatever you want to call it. So we started writing together and we just thought it would be fun to put out an EP that was a little bit more electro, ethereal, and synth-heavy.
I was so sick of the ego that came with being a singer-songwriter. I was just so bored of myself, and I needed to bring in the band piece again, or at least one other person.

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Can you tell me about the venues in New York?

I feel old now. The places I was playing when I was twenty-two, well it’s just not that cool to play there anymore. It’s interesting, I keep saying this but it feels like I’ve had to unlearn everything I knew about and the way I did things ten years ago and kind of relearn the industry. I mean, I’m sure a lot of musicians say that today. Because I’m a mom I can’t really go on tour for three years, so I’m just kind of trying to take a different approach.

There is a different pool now that I’m swimming in. When I first started it was like singer-songwriter’s at Joe’s Pub, Sidewalk Café…you know, pretty girl with a pretty voice, just doing her thing. And then I was lucky enough to get the attention of Mark, who just put it all together. So it feels like I’m kind of starting from scratch, in a way, which is great because it’s not really scratch since I know what I’m doing. Although there is a feeling of being a beginner again.

What was it like working with Here We Go Magic’s Luke Temple?

I know for Luke, he’s not used to writing with other people. He’s been in other people’s bands, but I don’t think he’s sat down for someone, or with someone, and written. He’s always the front man, and I’m always the front woman. So for two front people to come together and create a sound, I think for both people it was a huge learning experience. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know if he and I would gel because we were friends socially, and I just didn’t know how we would do in the creative space together. He’s a bit of a mad scientist and a genius songwriter.

For me, I didn’t know if I would get in the way of his process. I don’t think he knew what to expect from me, because he met me as a mother. He didn’t know me as a musician. It’s two different brains. So many people met me four years ago; they met me as a doula. I’m a birth doula, or a labor coach, for my day job. People knew me as a mom and a doula. They knew that I used to be a musician but that I don’t do it anymore. So it was like reintroducing myself to my community as a musician.

Did Temple understand how you spent your time outside of creating music?

It’s funny because I was there for the birth of [Luke’s] nephew, so he understood what I did. He finally went, “Oh, you don’t just wake up and write songs every day, or record music. You do other things that don’t involve being creative or yourself. It’s a pretty selfless job. It helped us I think, for when we were writing together, for him to understand that I wear so many hats. I went in as such a fan of his. Here We Go Magic is one of my favorite bands, and Luke’s solo stuff is bananas. So when he wanted to write with me, it took a few times for me to kind of calm down and to feel like his equal, because I was just in awe the whole time. But I think that’s good for the creative process, to be a little bit in awe of the person you’re writing with.

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Who came up with the lyrical content and subject matter on the EP?

It was just mixed. He would come up with a lyrical idea really more to show me a melodic concept he was coming up with, and then whatever came of that idea, I would run with it. I tend to go more autobiographical and Luke is very much a storyteller. He’s always like, “Stop talking about yourself!” That’s what I mean when I say I had to relearn. I had to fully take the way I wrote and toss it, and really get into this other uncomfortable space with someone I admired. The whole thing was like shedding the skin as well, because I hadn’t written a record that I was excited about before I had my kid and I have a lot more to say now, as a mother. I’m not the same twenty-two-year-old that does nothing all day but talk about myself.

How did the song “Ordinary World” come about?

“Ordinary World” was the last song we wrote. It was my favorite melody that Luke played for me. It was almost like saving the best for last. He sent me a batch that I thought were great and special, but this one really stuck out…It’s the only song where I did the vocals with Luke in the room, and as one of my favorite singers, I was like, “Oh god. Please don’t judge me.” He had so many genius ideas as we were going along for the layering and the harmonies. I think it was the most collaborative song on the EP. And it’s a bit of a weird song, but it’s kind of beautiful in its weirdness.

What does an ordinary world mean to you?

Luke presented the idea of “Ordinary World” and I was like, this is so interesting because I feel like both Luke and I are in this transitional place, where I’m coming out of the first phase of motherhood, having a six-year-old, and he’s having a little bit of a “what am I doing” phase. We both have kind of come into our own this year, and it’s funny to circle back and have kind of found him again and to be doing this with him now. Because I think we’re both kind of trying to figure out what is normal, as musicians who have both gone through a lot of family stuff. There was a lot of truth that came out this year, and I think we both met when we were trying to figure out how to land from various…everything.

It’s also just talking about not getting caught up in the chaos and letting it spit you out on the other end. It’s more about grounding and finding yourself, and sort of building a wall around you, which is why I wanted it to be thick with layers, and a lot of synth and a lot of whirly, trippy effects. I wanted it to be a strong melody, but I also wanted it to kind of spin you out, because that’s how this year has felt for me. And as a mother, you have to be so firmly planted in the ground while all of this stuff is happening around you.

I’m sure if nothing else, motherhood requires a type of stability that not a lot of musicians have.

You have to be stable, and I didn’t grow up with a lot of that stability with having artist parents and only knowing people in that world. I mean, they’re crazy people. So I tried to figure out what my normal was, and I’m still figuring it out. But the song is really about making your own normal, and what one has to do to achieve that.

What did you learn about parenting as an artist, having had a father in a famous band?

I think musicians back then were very different than today. But I did grow up kind of with the understanding that the lifestyle of a touring musician was really crazy, and very unstable, and that people can have multiple worlds when they’re on tour all the time. There’s the touring world, the band world, and when they’re home, sleeping and eating well. I think what I’m trying to figure out is if you can be in that world without the chaos. Because everyone I know who’s in a band has a hard time coming down from the experience, like finding their day-to-day and not being a total alcoholic and not being a total drug addict. They’re addicted to this adrenalin all the time because that’s what you get when you perform. I think I stopped needing that from people.

When I was younger, I was like, “Like me! Approve of me.” And then I had a kid and I’m like, “I don’t give a shit. I just want to sing.”
And the need to sing changed, and the need to write music changed. I have a lot of friends who don’t have kids who are like, “God, I’m so sick of myself. I have to sit and just write songs, and I get disappointed when people don’t like it, and it sends me into a depression.” And I’m like, “I can’t be depressed if I played a bad show or wrote a song that people thought was cheesy. I don’t care anymore the way I used to care. Somehow music is more of a pleasure, now. It’s just something for me to…it’s just therapy.

This Strange Weekend Ahead

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There is a consistent desperation in the voices of friends and promoter-types; the summer seems to be grasping for straws or gasping for air or fill-in-your-own-saying/proverb. Mark Ronson is at The Montauk Beach House tonight. I asked a honcho over there what the game plan was for rain on a big event at their big pool party, and was told "we don’t have one…it hasn’t happened yet.” I love that attitude. But what can be done short of enclosing the whole place in a retractable dome? At beach retreats, rain-outs are part of the landscape.

I’m staying in Brooklyn tonight…maybe. I might slip into the city for Frankie Sharp’s escapades at XL. He’s in the Lounge of this chic playpen with the amazing Lady Bunny. They have Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race and performances by Ebonee Ecxell and Epiphany Get Paid. Amanda Lepore and Marco Ovando are in the big room. As I keep saying: keep your eye on Frankie Sharp. He’s an up-and-comer.

I’ll probably stay near home in BBurg…maybe. I am totally psyched to attend the One Year Anniversary of Eight of Swords, 8pm to 11pm, 115 Grand Street, Brooklyn. There will be live performances by CornMo, Wi Hula Hoop Harlot Melissa-Anne, sword-swallowing and fire-eating by the fabulous Lady Aye, and my friends from The Love Show. The group art show entitled “Hitmen and Harlots” will feature work from "over 35 tattoo artists, photographers, graphic artists, and fine artists including: Diana Brozek, Diana More, Jess Versus, Karen Rockower Glass, Kati Vaughn, Linda Wulkan, Mike Suarez, Nalla Smith, Nyahzul, Sweety, Tasha Rubinow, Woodz, Wyatt Mills, Zoe Bean, Nash Hogan, Mia Graffam, Adam Korothy, D.C.Wallin, Dan Bones, Drew Linden, Fred Harper, Gerald Feliciano, Guy Ursitti, Jim Gentry, Joey Wilson, Liz Huston, Molly Crabapple, Sara Antoinette Martin, Sara Best, Sarah Rockower, Sophie C’est la Vie, and others."

I caught Top Gun at McCarren Park Wednesday night, which completely reaffirmed my love for the borough. We headed to Williams Candy in Coney Island to stock up on caramel apples and gooey cashew treats. Next week, it’s Empire Records. The week after: Raising Arizona.

What Happened Last Night At The Amy Winehouse Foundation’s After Party At The DL

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T.G.I.F…and F.Y.I: with half the known world M.I.A. (missing in action) in MIA (Miami) for the W.M.C. (Winter Music Conference) and the U.M.F. (Ultra Music Festival), there was a great music based party at The DL ( Delancey and Ludlow?, Down Low?, Designed by Lewis?) in the L.E.S. (Was that as good for you as it was for me?). Anyway… the after party for the Amy Winehouse Foundation event that happened earlier at The Waldorf Astoria was one of the most fun parties I have been to in quite some time. A gorgeous, mixed, hip and smart crowd gathered to hear Mark Ronson and a few other DJs (Disc Jockeys) spin. Mark, of course, produced Amy Winehouse’s glorious multi-platinum album Back to Black, and arrived with producer Danger Mouse for his 1am set. I did the opening set, followed by Andy Rourke (ex-Smiths) who is working on a new album. Lucas Walters, Gavin Russom, and Vikas kept the crowd till 4 A.M. (ante meridiem). O.K. (OKAY), I’ll stop.

I chatted with Mark who closed out the set with Amy and his Valerie. It was a sobering reminder of her early departure and why we were all there. It was great seeing him. We worked together at Life and other clubs I directed back in the day. Whenever I see him I am awed at how much he hasn’t changed. Despite being very successful, he remains the same accessible and straight-up guy he always has been. Terry Casey put the whole thing together. I am in the process of redux-ing The DL which has proven to be a wonderful adventure. 

The vibe last night was outstanding. The beautiful Taquana Harris turned to me mid-evening and remarked that the party was very reminiscent of the old days in club life that have seemed so far away and unattainable. I guess if one gathers immense talent for a good cause, people of substance will come out to play. None of the DJs played a set in any way similar to the others. The public, which is much smarter than the pablum-packed sets usually offered at nightclubs, embraced the eclectic mixes from all the genres offered. I must note that Marky Ramone and Paul Sevigny were also wonderfully willing to lend a hand with the event if we needed them. My day today is shot a good sign that my night was grand.

Beyoncé and Andre 3000 Cover Amy Winehouse for ‘Gatsby’ Soundtrack

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After weeks of new stuff from The xx, Florence + The Machine and the lingering memories of the first trailer with the weird Filter version of "Happy Together" still fresh, over the weekend, Mark Ronson premiered one of the most built-up songs from the soundtrack of one of the most aggressively hyped films of the year. Jay-Z produced the already-exploding soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming (less than two weeks!) adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and his partner-in-crime Beyoncé features on a cover of Amy Winehouse’s anthem of heartbreak, "Back to Black" with Andre 3000. 

Mark Ronson, who produced the original "Back to Black," premiered the new track on East Village Radio mixshow over the weekend, and you can listen to a (heavily tagged) full version below. Hollywood Holt of Chicago’s Treated Crew produced the track, marked by a squishy synth line that may leave some fans longing for the original—and no version of this song could touch Winehouse’s, despite the all-star team—but Beyoncé, as always, still comes away sounding fantastic. 

Boogying at the Borgata with the Ronsons & Duran Duran

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I’m in some small town in Virginia, parking with relatives until a business meeting this afternoon. It’s all pumpkins and fake cobwebs, as here, Halloween is all about kids and tricks or treats. We left AC to go to DC, and I don’t need any wise cracks from the peanut gallery. We are exhausted from our trip to the Borgata and its whirlwind ’80s weekend. Everything was sold out, and people who read my Friday article were trying to hustle me for hookups. There are a billion reasons why Borgata sells out on these big weekends. Basically, as the only game in town, it refuses to rest on its laurels and continues to book great acts, events and DJs.

We came down in a blizzard, completely obsessed with catching Duran Duran in concert. The snow and the late info that the Misfits were performing in NYC with Glen Danzig almost kept us home, but as I said, we were obsessed. We valeted the car and realized the weather was now irrelevant. There was no need to leave the sprawling Borgata complex for a couple of days. Food, entertainment, spas, pools and comfortable digs were in the cards. We ate ginormous steaks at the Old Homestead and then rushed to the show.

We weren’t expecting much from Duran Duran because we didn’t want to be disappointed. We thought it might just turn out to be a bunch of old geezers going through the motions—more Karaoke than concert. What happened was mind blowing: they were great. I had met them once back in ’88 and was impressed at the time how gentlemanly and accessible they were. They exude friendliness from the stage. They love what they are doing and the crowd sang along with every song and danced and cheered. Simon Le Bon just celebrated a birthday on October 27, which has him deep in his 50s. He was bearded and trim, and his voice was strong. He pranced and danced and engaged an audience that wanted to eat him up. Duran Duran was tight.

The songs seemed modern yet classic, a nod to new production and a new album produced by old friend Mark Ronson, who joined them on stage, guitar in hand. In an age where DJs are considered the new rockstars, Mark goes literal. Clad in a well tailored leopard print jacket and that impossible hairdo, he went toe to toe with these legends. This was the last show of a 25-gigs-in-35-days tour, and the first thing I asked management was when it was done was when are they coming through again? It was magical and I want to see it again and again. Simon thanked the crowd and everyone who hosted them in “our beautiful country.” He dedicated “Ordinary World” to those who for many reasons could not be there. Those that have passed were remembered. I admit I teared up; it was beautifully performed.

Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters came on for a number. She, as we, had traveled tough roads from New York to get there. “A NO NO…NOTORIOUS” sent the crowd into a frenzy. “Hungry Like a Wolf” blew the roof off the place. Judy from the audience was tasked to introduce Simon to the crowd after he had done the honors for everyone else. She screamed that he was the “hottest man in the world” despite the ugliest (except for mine) shirt in the world. His was a sort of Jersey Shore/Beetlejuice mash-up. They mashed-up “Wild Boys” with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s, “Relax,” and 2000 people sang along. They were loved, they were relevant, they were sharp and fun, and glad to be there. Rio closed the show and sent everyone into the Casino with smiles.

We headed to Mixx where Mark Ronson was set to DJ. Everyone was in costumes with a $3000 cash prize at stake. Mark walked in and rushed over to see me. He was my DJ of choice, back in the Life days. He was a star then and now he is a matinee and cover idol. I wondered if he would be the same, or if his success changed him. The smile and the handshake showed me he was the same Mark I have always loved. We talked and talked and caught up, and a million things were left unsaid but understood. He told me about something I had written here, and I was flattered. I have never met a Ronson I didn’t adore. Sister Samantha was nearby. She judged the Costume contest at Mixx before doing the same duty at mur mur and Djing there. She praised a hot Jersey gal in a Pocahontus costume before the lass corrected her. She was really an Egyptian Princess. After the cash was given to the Na’vi and the guy in the Gorilla suit, Mark went on. He showed why he was, and must still be, considered one of the top DJs around.

We went to check out Samantha with Borgata’s always dapper Greg Coyle. There, sweet Samantha Ronson groupies surrounded the booth. “They are here every time she plays,” said Coyle, which he says is about once a month. As we stood in the booth, the hotties begged me to introduce them, even as boyfriends hovered nearby. Opening DJ Doug Grayson, a smiling newlywed, explained the phenomenon. They love her and feel she is this celebrity who loves them and being there. Samantha blew them out. The crowd lives for her.

Borgata is unreal. The next night it was the incredible DJ Ruckus with Rev Run, and another big night. We laughed as they played classic ’80s hip-hop. This collaboration has legs and is a must-catch if you can. We dined at Michael Minas’ Sea Blue and it was divine. We never considered leaving the grounds as our in-room TV said it was 32 degrees out. We roamed around the Casino floor, checking out the vampires and the vamps, the pirates and the princesses. All came to have a great time. From time to time, I’d stop and say hello to a familiar face, a New Yorker with a similar mindset. I’m down again in a few to catch Jay-Z.

Fright Night: Gearing Up for Halloween in the City

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For the first time in memory, I will not be in New York to celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween. I will be whisked to Atlantic City for the Duran Duran concert and I couldn’t be more excited about it. As usual my hosts, The Borgata, have gone all out to make things great. The post-concert package includes super-duper uber DJ and former Blackbook cover Mark Ronson in their club MIXX, and sister Samantha Ronson in mur mur. That’s Saturday night. On Sunday, MIXX will be a blast with music by Rev Run and DJ Ruckus. On Monday, I will head to DC for the day to visit friends and family.

I will miss putting on my old fat Elvis costume and walking in the parade. Each year, my Elvis gets a little fatter, a little grayer, and a great deal more disgusting. Last year we added real freeze dried flies pin mounted into the wig, and this year a “walker” was going to be an accessory. I hosted and MC’d the Webster Hall Costume Contest one year (always the official Parade party, and always amazing); another year I sang Elvis tunes on the subway. I gave money to people for their trouble just before announcing that “Elvis has left the subway car.” I love Halloween and I hate missing it.

The thing about Halloween this year is that it’s a week long thing with great events every night. One of the better events that I can’t believe I will actually be on hand for is tonight’s Svedka X Yoni Goldberg Halloween soiree at Good Units. It will be off the hook. Here again that most fabulous duo, Rev Run and DJ Ruckus, will provide the music along with young stud Jesse Marco. There will be a live performance by Pete Wentz’ new band Blackcards and “the best surprise performance of the year.” Along with Damon DeGraff, Yoni is a partner in dGi management, the agents of change and prosperity for these DJ’s and a flock of others. This will be music industry and club royalty, and I will be there. I’ll shoot over to 15 Watts street afterward, where Bill Spector (what a great Haloween name) will be doing his thing with his friends Black Scale and Ssur. DJ’s Vibe and Yamez will do their thing.

Saturday I will unfortunately miss the 20th Annual Jazz Loft Party sponsored by Parmigiani Fleurier at Hudson Studios, 601 west 26th Street. It’s a red carpet affair and Danny Glover, Ronnie Spector, Michael Imperioli, and many more on hand to help the Jazz Foundation of America. Over 50 musicians will be featured at the event and there will be what figures to be a legendary “Battle of the Sax’s.” There will be a tribute to Amy Winehouse with Ronnie Spector and Lou Reed, Randy Weston, Tom Harrell Quintet, Ron Carter, and Dr. Lonnie Smith featuring Donald Harrison. Herlin Riley and the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band will be participating. For more info here.

On Halloween night, Roxy Summers, or Cottontail, as she is sometimes known, along with Ruddyrock will turn out Santos’ Party House with a film parody party called Loonies. She is pushing me on T Mills, which she thinks is the next big thing. Also featured will be Marz Lovejoy, Lil Friday Hoe, and Ducky, along with DJ sets by Fresh Direct, Haruka Salt 999, Mista Ian Jay, Brooklyn Dawn, and Musa Alves. It makes me think I should get me one of those clever DJ names. Amanda suggested Mr. Depends.

The holiday wouldn’t be correct if Susanne Bartsch didn’t throw a big bash. Her regular Tuesday night gig has been canceled for this one week so that she can do Halloween right on Monday. This ON TOP event will of course take place at Top of the Standard. It’s called Bloody Mary Bordello and everyone is involved: Amanda Lapore, Desi Monster, Kayvon Zand, Jeremy Kost, Jordon Fox, and Theodora, to name a few. Johnny Dynell, Will Automatic, Michael Magnon, and Alex from Tokyo will force you to dance. Well, if you don’t know them you just don’t know, and maybe now’s the time to get yourself educated. This is always the most colorful and fun Halloween event, and if you go you will thank me….but you have to really bring it. This is a stylish, fabulous gala for the off-center, future-perfect fashion flock. The costumes have been worked on for months.

I DJ’d last night, and here is my top ten Halloween play list:

1) Spooky: Lydia Lunch 2) Heads Will Roll: Yeah Yeah Yeahs 3) A Pain I’m Used To: Depeche Mode 4) No Tears (for the creatures of the night): Tuxedo Moon 5) Tear You Apart: She Wants Revenge 6) Werewolf of London: Warren Zevon 7) Bela Lugosi Is Dead: Bauhaus 8) Bela Lugosi is Dead : Nouvelle Vague 9) My Girlfriends Dead : The Vandals 10) I Put a Spell On You: Screaming Jay Hawkins

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Check Out Our Handmade Birthday Cards from James Franco, ScarJo, Diddy & More

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In case you didn’t catch Barack Obama’s presidential address last Saturday, this month marks fifteen years of BlackBook. We’re so excited that we published an entire issue loosely themed around it, and tonight, at the Olive Garden in Times Square, we’re throwing a party to celebrate it. (You’re invited!) But what would a 15th anniversary be without 15 former cover stars sending you 15 birthday cards? The answer is nothing! So with that in mind, here’s an exclusive gallery of birthday greetings from the 15 most thoughtful former cover stars a magazine could ask for.

Mel Debarge on DJ Dreams & Big Breaks

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The first thing Mel Debarge offers is a wide toothy grin and smiling eyes. He lights up rooms better than ConEdison with his charisma and DJ skills. I met him when he worked at Marquee, and seeing him there was always a pleasurable time. One day he was picking up bottles, and the next I looked up and he was DJing—and he was good. He is now managed by dGi, and they’ve taken him to places he might never have dreamed of. They don’t manage everyone. To be in their crew you have to bring more to the table than a crate of records or a serato computer program. dGi DJs have ability, personality, reliability, and respect, and that translates into big gigs and big money. Mel’s story is a dream come true in a world that often leaves people short.

When did you think you could actually make the transition from service to DJing? I remember being behind the bar thinking about what record I would play next if I was the DJ. I remember imagining how loud I would turn up my booth monitor speakers and day dreamed about how long I would keep a hit record play out. Of course this would all have to depend on the crowd’s initial reaction to the music on that particular night. Would I be worried about the record skipping just as people started getting into it? I constantly asked myself what record is this and how come I don’t know it? I simply remember always rushing to jot down names of songs or artists I hadn’t heard before. Notes to self on whatever I could find: my phone, a credit card receipt, sometimes my hand. Some nights I would pray for the beers in the bar fridge to run out just so I could make my way through the crowd towards the storage room and I could feel that energy, people dancing, laughing, having a great time. I knew what I wanted to do, and every night I wondered how I was going to pick up all the broken glasses in a way that would not hurt my hands, so that when my turn to make that night into an event came—in the way only a DJ can— I would be in perfect shape to do just that.

How did you come to DJ? Growing up in a musical home was a privilege. My mom loved salsa music, R&B, and anything with soul in it, like Celia Cruz or Stevie Wonder. My uncle was a Disco DJ in the mid 70s all the way through the 80s. I was around it all. I learned how to put a needle on a record at an early age. As I got older I slowly steered away from the charm of it all, maybe just took it for granted but it would be years until I fell in love with music again and found out what it really meant to me.

Did you catch the bug at the club or did you dabble prior? By the time I got to high school I was DJing school parties, but I realized that I did that just because I could, not because it was what I wanted to do, especially not as a career choice. It wasn’t until I left for college when I finally felt like I was comfortable with what DJing really was. I would be lying if I said that Japan (where I went to college) is where I decided I was going to deejay for a living. Japan was the first place I made money doing it. Well that, and teaching English to middle-aged Japanese women who loved American movies. As the school year came to an end, I would come home, year after year, and spend my entire summer working in clubs. Around that same time, I was fortunate enough to become friends with Richard Fleming, who now runs Marquee. As luck would have it, he was my counselor for orientation my freshman year of college, and also the person who got me my first club job in the Hamptons working at Conscience Point.

Tell me about your start in the glamorous nightlife industry. It wasn’t glamorous at all. I was just a sweeper and a runner, but it was at the hottest club in the Hamptons at the time. What did stay with me was the music, the bright lights and colors, the energy in the air, the smiles, how one person could make all these people in one space be in sync with each other to the sound of a record. I remember that moment like it just happened. I was in the middle of the dance floor and I looked up towards the DJ, then looked around at the people. At that point I knew that was it, I needed to find a way to get up there and do what he was doing. As time went on, I moved up in the club ranks and found myself delivering mixers (usually following a female who was always taller than me without heels, and who was always an actor/model/fashion anything) and cleverly maneuvering around the militant and detailed manager, Patrick, while I studied what was going. I realized I had a long way to go and a lot to learn, but somehow being in the presence of great talent night after night, I knew I would one day get there.

DJs in NYC are a community. Tell me about breaking into the ranks and making friends with them. Throughout it all, I was blessed to listen, study, and learn from true artists like Stretch Armstrong, Mark Ronson, and Cassidy. Stretch could make any two records work anywhere—it was like second nature to him. He kept me intrigued when he walked in with yellow manila envelopes filled with records. It wasn’t until much later in my career that I found out those were records in UPS folders sent by the record labels. Mark Ronson would play rock and hip-hop back-to-back, and not lose the attention of a soul. He also inspired me to look beyond the realm of what pop music was at the time. Mark was the first person I heard play not only the hit hip hop records of the time, but also the original it was sampled from. DJ Cassidy not only believed in my art enough to give me the opportunity to open for him numerous times, but he also showed me the importance of mixing and having a musical story to tell. All these artists have one thing in common, and that is the talent to bring out their art, their personality through the speakers.

How did you commit your career to it? It was not easy. There are always obstacles, but it’s always worth more when you go for what you believe in. I know it may sound like a cliché, but it’s the ultimate truth. There have been ups and downs, lefts and rights, those who doubted me, non-believers, and of course the occasional “I made Mel DeBarge who he is today” and “wasn’t he behind a bar last week?” All of these obstacles, quips, and doubts I have embraced with open arms and smiles. I cannot take full responsibility for how I ended up doing this as my career. I can say that I’ve worked hard at getting better at my craft, and also at accepting that some things are just out of your hands. It took me a while to understand that, but once I did, it made me a better person, and therefore a better artist.

What about your big break? Cassidy called me one Friday afternoon and said “I need you to work tonight upstairs at Marquee. I’m doing an event and can’t make it.” I of course said yes—Friday night at Marquee was all Hip Hop and a very ‘happening’ night. I prepared my Vinyl in my crates, all 6 of them (totally unnecessary). Arriving 2 hours early gave away my eagerness. Little did I know that that night was going to be THE night that was going to change my life. At around 2 am, when I thought the room was at the highest energy point of the night (rookie mistake), I get a text from Cassidy saying his event ended early, and he was bringing the whole party to Marquee. What I didn’t know was that the event that “ended early” was Beyonce’s birthday, and that Cassidy would end up bringing Jay-Z, Jermaine Dupri, and many others alongside the birthday girl to continue celebrating at Marquee. I wish I could tell you more about that night, but I don’t seem to remember anything else but that I forgot what order my records were in, forgot how to turn the volume up on my headphones, how I could not stop thinking that everyone was staring at me, and how I must have downed 5 Red Bulls in the span of 15 minutes. The only thing I do remember is that the next day I had come out with a manager, the start of a deejay career, and the respect of my peers.

Tell me about DGI A big part of what I’ve done thus far is not only due to my DJ abilities, but also to being a part of dGi Management. dGi has helped me grow immensely. Damon Degraff and Yoni Goldberg are the architects behind me career. The boutique agency has been a perfect fit for me because of what their target goal is: to let each one of their talents shine through in their own way, to look far beyond working “regular club nights,” and bringing together a slew of DJs with different talents and strengths. I’ve had a chance to share my art all over the world. Technology. Can anyone be a DJ? Every time I read a piece about a DJ or anyone in the entertainment industry, the same question comes up: “How do you feel about Serato? How do you feel about everyone becoming a DJ, celebrities and personalities included?” I don’t see anything wrong with it. The art is going to speak for itself. A program is not going to make anyone a better DJ, in fact, I think it’s the total opposite. Serato has brought a lot of changes to the art, but the thing I miss most is going to record shops and talking to fellow DJ friends and brushing shoulders with people who have an amazing knowledge of music. I hate that I don’t go to Rock & Soul, Bleecker Bob’s, or The house of Oldies as much as I used to. Serato has helped destroy that, destroy vinyl culture. I remember going to Rock & Soul and asking Music Mike about a record I had heard the night before. I didn’t know the name of the record, nor did I know the lyrics, but I could hum the melody and Mike always knew what the record was. Not only that, but he would also recommend a record that would go with it as well as the original it was sampled from. The very important, one-to-one learning part of DJing is rapidly becoming extinct. With that said, I would also add that musically, as a DJ, you simply must know every record on Off The Wall, know who Kurtis Blow is, and Kraftwerk. Otherwise your art will never be complete.

Have you succeeded or is there more to reach for? Regrets? A very wise person once told me “Don’t confuse fame with success.” I’m very grateful for what I’ve achieved this far, for all the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been. I’m grateful for all of it. My personal goals tell me there’s a lot more to do, a lot more personal as well as career growth to be done. The same wise man asked me if I regretted anything, and I answered NO. However, as I think about this, I think there is something I actually do regret, something I would change, and as soon as we’re finished, I’m going call that wise man and say. “You know what, I regret not documenting every little thing from pressing the Start button on that metal glassware washer behind that bar to pressing the Stop button on the Technic 1200 in the DJ booth at L’arc in Paris, this morning at 5:30AM.”

Thom Yorke, Mark Ronson, & Bryan Ferry Record Two Minutes of Silence

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If the singer of Radiohead, the former frontman of Roxy Music, and BlackBook‘s September cover star release a single for the UK’s armed forces, does it make a sound? In the case of “2 Minute Silence,” actually, no. Along with British prime minister David Cameron, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? actor Bob Hoskins, and tennis star Andy Murray, the trio of musicians will release the track to iTunes on Nov. 7. Rather than a 60-years-later response to John Cage, the single was conceived in commemoration of Britain’s Remembrance Day, with all proceeds benefiting British military veterans. “Rather than record a song, we felt the UK public would recognize the poignancy of silence and its clear association with remembrance,” explained Chris Simpkins, the Director General of the Royal British League. Totally genius or supremely lazy?

Packaged with the track will be a video of the “songwriters” staring into the camera silently. Watch the 11-second teaser below: