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Friday, January 24, 2014

On Icon, Splash, Clubland and Divas: Exclusive Dj Buddy Beaverhausen Q&A with Dj / Remixer Ian Ford

Ian Ford has been a dj for a long list of major New York City clubs and is currently resident at "Scandal," Friday nights at Nick Lion's Icon in Astoria. He has also joined Barbara Sobel and Sobel Promotions as a remixer. As mentioned in the below Q&A, Ian lives in Bensonhurst (where John Travolta lived and worked in Saturday Night Fever) and I live in Bay Ridge (where Travolta danced in said film), so we already had a disco connection between us. And so, it was a pleasure when Ms Sobel arranged the opportunity to interview Ian Ford, himself a contemporary club icon, to discuss these new opportunities, his background and his rich and fascinating career to date.

Image by Peter Lau

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Hi, Ian, and thank you for doing this Q&A for Queens Our City Radio and my blog, Leave It to Beaverhausen! I understand you have a new residency at Icon, in Astoria. What type of dance music can we expect to hear when we're there with you as our dj?

Ian Ford: Thanks for having me. I'm very excited about my new Icon residency, and when you're there, you'll hear a mix of current house and techno, some classics thrown in (hint: I love the 80's), and as always with a friendly club, some requests. 

You previously were dj at Splash, among other venues (Industry Bar, Webster Hall). What were your favorite memories of Splash and what were your not so favorites?
Splash and Webster Hall were both excellent experiences, steady residencies and often challenging. I had to be on my game at all times because these clubs are so well established. As with any gig, the good moments came when the dance floor was popping… but more than that, the owners of both often shared hard-earned business wisdom and experience. As for least favorite moments, it would only be in regard to those who stand in the way of others for no good reason.
I see you were born in Brooklyn (where I now live) and attended University of Florida. Where do you currently call home in NYC?
Brooklyn, specifically Bensonhurst. Great neighborhood, but I may be biased because I have my own driveway. Just kidding, its great. Almost everything I need is within a five minute walk of my place, including some of the best pizza in Brooklyn! 

What music did you listen to growing up and what made you decide you wanted to be a dj?
New Wave, Industrial, EBM, and Techno music were my favorites. Listening to Hex Hector's sets as well as some local Florida DJ's were inspiring. I also learned to work with "energy," studying Reiki and such things, and the contrast of working with group energy as well as individual compelled me to change this hobby into a career. There was a point at which I had to choose an ultimate path, so I left a sweet job as a programmer to pursue my DJ interests.
What do you think sets you apart from other NYC club djs on the scene right now?
I work comfortably in many scenes, because I enjoy them. I play Techno, House, Disco, New Wave, Synthpop, Industrial, Goth, Rock… and I have a unique way of tying styles together in one set that works with the crowd in front of me. Sometimes, however, its hard for me to make a targeted demo mix.
I had a friend, the late Louis Morheim (who ran the old Heartbeat Records on 10th Street) who was an occasional dj at Splash (among other venues). He told me how complicated it was to get from Splash's dj booth to the bathroom, so sometimes, when desperate, he peed in empty beer bottles he'd dump in the toilet after his set. How did you manage that feat at Splash ~ that is, getting to the men's room ~ and have you scoped out Icon yet in that regard?

Splash had a bathroom upstairs and behind the DJ booth in its later years, so that wasn't an issue for me. Icon is compact enough to allow quick passage to and from the restroom. So far, no issues. But I avoid going during peak hours because it has been packed. Downtime was another story, the only private bathroom was two floors down and one night I had the stomach flu while my light man was too sick to come to work… soooo… I strategically placed long remixes through the night and got through it.
What do you do outside the club/dance music scene and how do you like to relax?
We can relax in this industry??? Just kidding. Aside from Netflix, I study and teach PaKua Martial Arts and comparative spirituality. I guess you can say that I'm studying the nature of reality… or Dr. Who reruns…   When I travel for work, I like to take extra time to check out a new city, and sometimes its just nice to stay in bed and have food delivered.
What's your view of the club scene in NYC at the moment and of what's out there in terms of dance music right now?
New York City has taken a turn to the mainstream. The "hits' are overplayed in many places, to the point of hearing the same few songs three or four times in a night. As with any situation, however, I'm confident the pendulum will eventually swing away from this extreme.
Tell us what you think are the most annoying things people can say or do to a dj while he's working?
People talking or yelling in my ear during a mix tops the list, and it happens all too frequently. Insistent requesters are a close second. I enjoy taking requests, but it can't always be next and one person shouldn't expect to hear an entire list of inappropriate tracks. 
Surely, if you worked at Splash, you encountered dance-music divas. Who were your faves? Do you have any good dish?
When I moved to NYC, I never thought I'd meet so many famous people. Webster Hall and Splash both put me in the right places at the right times. Some of the stars were a bit rude, others quite the opposite.  I have some really good dish, [but] I'll keep my gossip positive. Ricky Martin helped carry his stage monitors, George Clinton was simply amazing to chat with. Meanwhile, at Splash, Liza Minnelli was just amazingly friendly, Cyndi Lauper can really get people excited. Ben Vereen is very quiet until he's on stage. Lady Gaga was just great to meet. NOBODY could keep up with Charo, she's incredible... and I love her more than ever after meeting her and found out that she is an incredible classical guitarist. Speaking of musicianship, Kristine W plays many instruments as well as sings. I met Dave Gahan and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) at Downtime when I was resident at Albion, that was awesome because they're personal heroes for several reasons. Despite all I've just said, I really don't get star struck anymore.

How did you become involved with Icon in Queens and become its resident DJ?
A mutual friend of Nick Lion's and mine put us in touch, we did a project together and we have amazing work chemistry. Nick gave me a chance at Icon, enjoyed my set, and they hired me.
Is there a difference between Queens clubs and New York clubs?
This is my first residency in Queens, but I do feel that the music format is more open than it has been at some NYC clubs. The crowd seems genuinely interested in hearing new music as part of the set.
You also remix. Can you tell us about your style?
My remix style has a techno focus, and that's such a broad category that I don't find it limiting. It's a style that binds my underground and mainstream tastes together and carries my "Ian Ford" sound across the boundaries. I like to keep it upbeat and moving, and I don't like long breakdowns, [plus] I also enjoy fusing an 80's vibe with a current "sound." 

Ian, I so look forward to meeting you the next time I visit Icon, which should be very soon. Anything you'd like to shout out to your fans and our readers?
Yes… HELLO! Now come see us and say hello back ;)

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