Love Unlimited: Joe Claussell

Join us Tuesday, February 14th at Le Bain as we celebrate Valentine's Day with Giant Step and the one and only Joe Claussell. Last time he played, we sat down with Joe to talk about nostalgia, artistic freedom, and his love for music. Enjoy!
LE BAIN: What kind of nostalgia do you have for the record stores that have closed around the world, and especially yours, Dance Tracks in New York? 
JOE CLAUSSELL: Well, if I must echo the obvious, it was a different time for music, period. I miss many things about my days of running Dance Tracks. Two things are at the forefront of my thoughts: one of them is my direct connection to and serving the customers who were hungry for the music. These days it seems that people are tuning in for all the wrong reasons, and as a result, I believe that we're less connected as people. I seriously miss linking with like-minded devotees who, whether conscious or subconsciously, understand why it's important. And second thing: Dance Tracks, hands down, to this day, was my favorite place to express myself musically. I was free and completely honest.

Joe Claussell at Le Bain (photo by Neil Aline).

You used to play music at Dance Tracks after closing on Friday nights and François K convinced you to do your first "public" set before joining Body & Soul. What do you think has been your contribution to Body & Soul?
I never really think about the role I play in any of what I’m involved with, and it’s no different when it comes to Body & Soul. I always saw us as a unified unit. But I would have to say that besides my coming into the party with a style of play that's considered to be unique, with it came an energy that was raw and honest. Becoming a DJ professionally was never on my radar, which I guess was one of the reasons why it took three months for me to finally agree to join Body & Soul. Out of the three of us, however, I was the new jack with no prior experience or reputation associated with being a professional DJ. I can’t speak for them and I could be wrong, but I think that the aforementioned allowed me a certain mental freedom that both DK and FK who were the veterans in the scene didn't have. Again, I was free.

Danny Tenaglia once told us: “It might be very easy to become a DJ today, but it’s not easy to be an entertainer.” For you, DJing is not so much about "entertainment," but more about an "art form." Art versus Entertainment: isn’t the DJ right in the middle of it? 
I think that Danny Tenaglia is absolutely right. Where we may differ is on the fact that I believe the entire DJ experience has become almost entirely one gigantic entertaining experience. The art form of being a DJ and working the crowd organically has almost become extinct. More cases than not, it’s no longer about the DJ connecting with the audience. It has become all about a million dollar production that includes a crazy light show and monstrous movie screens - sprinkle few thousand patrons who are stoned out of their faces, and you have the perfect recipe for what helped to make EDM become so huge. Thankfully, there are still DJ’s like Danny Tenaglia who came from the days of knowing how to work a crowd with both passion and a true love affair with playing music.

Bolla Afrikan Basement's "Makussa" 
(Produced by Joaquin Joe Claussell)

What art has really entertained you recently? 
I am a huge fan of visual arts. A few weeks ago I checked out and enjoyed Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Unknown Notebooks show at the Brooklyn Museum. I believe that art, like music, has the ability to connect people, which is why I not only gravitate towards it so much, but wed art and music with most of my releases.

You were raised in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Do you have any memories of Prospect Park that you would share with us? 
It’s difficult to conjure up old memories of a park that I still visit frequently and adore, but for some reason, it’s hard for me not to forget my experience of walking on the icy lake one winter night when I was around 14 years old, and falling through it. Obviously I made it out alive, but I remember it being both freezing and scary. Other than that, we always regarded Prospect Park as being our huge back yard because we were there so often.

You're returning to Le Bain with Giant Step. As a producer and a DJ, if you had to make one giant step ahead, what would it be and where would you go? 
To have enough resources to open music schools and learning centers around the world that people can freely attend. One of my dreams is that one day, there will be as many of them as there are religious churches.

This interview was originally published June 2015.

On Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Le Bain and Giant Step
celebrate Valentine's Day with Joe Claussell
The Standard, High Line | 8pm 

Header photo by Neil Aline

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