December 01 2015

Ron Trent: A Giant Dance Step

New York-Le Bain
We chat with the Chicago House godfather Ron Trent before he plays Giant Step's holiday party, Monday, December 14th.
LE BAIN: You were a Giant Step resident DJ in the late 90's at Shine, on Canal Street, in the pre-9/11 New York... 
RON TRENT: Though it doesn't seem that long ago, it was 16 years ago that we set out on the journey of the Giant Step weekly sessions. New York was different then. You could still feel the surge in artistic and revolutionary power from the streets. 

Those parties saw Giant Step shift away from the music they were known for and into a Deep House sound. Was it a natural evolution?
Giant Step was synonymous with Jazz, Hip Hop, Breaks, and of course Acid Jazz. Maurice and Jonathan, the owners of Giant Step, are major music heads. I'm also a Jazz Funk enthusiast and I collect a lot of music. When we got together, the idea was to take all of that and put it into a dance formula. NYC is a dance city, if not the capital city for dancers and dancing.
Ron Trent Jazz Funk Freedom
You produced and remixed a lot of Giant Step's records...
We implanted those ingredients into our weekly party and into the music productions we were A&R'ing at the time. It became one of the top dance music-oriented events in the city, for sure. We created something special together. It was great to see it develop and ride the waves of creative ups and downs. When it came to a somewhat of abrupt end, it was disappointing and disturbing. The city was devastated and everything changed. In light of it all, we survived, and it's still special that we can get together again and share in great memories.
Ron Trent The Afterlife
I’ve been listening to your interview for RBMA and it’s fascinating. Could you tell us about psycho-acoustics in dance music and how it’s connected to the history of club culture?
The best answer I can give is to say, it's the knowledge of how to play music and what the music does to people, sonically, that created the platform for what dance music culture is today. DJs from the early days knew exactly what they were doing. Time, study, and experimentation were put into play when it came to the delivery of music to a dance floor. Psycho-acoustics and how the body reacts to frequencies is just one aspect of what a real DJ would have to know to leave an impression. This was the main ethos of groundbreaking DJs and their venues. 
It’s not all about what you can hear but what you can feel and sustain.
You say “When you hear music on a real soundsystem, you really feel like you’re experiencing God in a lot of ways”...
Music and dance is a way of connecting to spirit, our own spirit and the ethereal. In most ancient spiritual systems, this is the case. Nothing has changed, it is still so. Now we do it on dance floors and gatherings. When there is the presence of a well created high-fidelity sound system and the proper acoustical environment, you most definitely can bare witness to music as it should be evoked.   
Ron Trent I Feel The Rhythm 
Do you believe the art of the sound system has been lost in our digital age?
Absolutely. I appreciate the technology and how clever things have gotten. I also appreciate the efficiency. The problem is that digital is reproductive matter. We are organic and we respond to analogue naturally. So it’s not all about what you can hear but what you can feel and sustain. I can go on and on about this topic, but the bottom line is our bodies and minds respond naturally to certain stimuli...whether it's synthetic or the real thing is the question. 

You said the DJ does not only play a record and 'tweak some knobs,' but he does a ‘presentation’ of the record...
It's the job of the DJ to break the music. I think this is a philosophy that has been smothered by stardom and the idea of stardom. There's nothing wrong with becoming famous for your work, but when the idea of why you are working, and what put you in the position to work, becomes an afterthought, here lies the problem. 
Ron Trent Altered States

Could you tell us about your love for the movie Indiana Jones?

Ha, Indiana Jones. Growing up, I loved the study of history and social studies, and I still do. I thought I might be an archeologist one day, along with my interest in architecture. Of course, I wound up traveling the world and creating musical landscapes, who knew? Indiana personified my thirst for world history—childhood hero for sure. 

You recently relocated to Europe, Berlin to be exact. What inspired you to move there?
I am still based in the States. I just set up a creative space in Berlin. I was inspired by Berlin’s growing scene and youth culture. I, too, as a Artist need the inspiration, so it's good to be in that type of environment—much how New York used to be in earlier days.  

Monday, December 14th, Le Bain presents The Giant Step Holiday Party featuring Ron Trent. Doors 8pm. The Standard, High Line.