His breaks might be funky, but for still-local and nationally renowned grooverider DJ Icey, nothing is as funked up as his label deal with London/Ffrr that bit the dust last year, yet another victim of the brutal shake-ups at the major labels.
In the ensuing corporate melee, Icey's record was lost in the shuffle, never to see store shelves. But as one of the founding fathers of Orlando's dance-music scene, one who carries a distinction as the premier DJ in the country for breaks (an uptempo dance subgenre that's heavy on drums), Icey presses on, having self-released his new Mixed CD on May 12.
His days as a resident club DJ are long over. He hasn't taken a regular house gig since The Edge closed some years ago, marking a significant turn in Orlando's house-music evolution. Around town, you are more likely to run into Icey at a restaurant than at a club, as the 34-year-old spends most of his time holed up in the studio making tracks for the world to move to, with only occasional live performances at select dance clubs and events, and rarely in Orlando.
That makes the upcoming double bill of Icey and Dave Cannalte Friday, May 26, at Hard Rock Live all the more special, as the revered scenesters ready for five-plus hours of needle damage.
Orlando Weekly: Talk about all this major craziness you've been through.
DJ Icey: I was signed to London/Ffrr Records `which` had a distribution deal through Polygram. Well, they were involved in this megamerger between Polygram/Universal/Time Warner, etc. ... It was major-label madness, and I was put in limbo for a year, not knowing where I would end up. At this point, I wanted to be dropped, as the guy who originally signed me was long gone, and I finally got my wish. So now I can make a fresh start with another label.
Tell me about the lost "merger" record.
The merger record was called "Under the Sun." It was recorded in early- and mid-1999 at various studios. It won't ever come out in its original form.
Do you spend a lot of time in area clubs checking out dance music?
When I'm in the area, I don't go out. I could much more easily give you a restaurant review. I like to go out and eat or chill and do nothing if I'm not working on a track.
What are you throwing down in your DJ sets these days?
I play 98 percent breaks `with` all the subgenres mixed-in -- bass, funky, electro, nu skool, trance, etc. Basically, if it's a song that I like, I play it. I am more interested in playing tracks that I really like. I do have a new straight-beat mix of "Drowning" that DJ Micro did that I love -- it's a full vocal, and I play it religiously.
You've been tapped for an upcoming edition of the prestigious "Essential Mix" series, right?
"Essential Mix" is a Global Brand started by Pete Tong in England. It is pretty exciting. They are new to America and will be doing all American DJs after the first one `Paul Oakenfold/Fatboy Slim`. I'm slated to do No. 2, with a late-August, early-September release.
Tell me about your hot-off-the-presses project.
I just put out a new CD on my Zone label entitled "Mixed." It contains a lot of tracks I have been making the last eight months or so. ... Between running my labels `Zone, Tree` and touring, it's a full-time job.
Speaking of your labels ...
I am still pumping out the releases on my vinyl labels Zone and Tree. Zone started in 1993 and is going strong. I'm working quite a bit with `Icon and Cyber Zone resident DJ` Baby Anne, putting her stuff out as well.
Tree was created for stuff that didn't quite fit on Zone. It's been home to the odd minimal house track or banging trance tune, in addition to running the gamut of breaks genres.
What kind of stuff are people going to hear at Hard Rock Live?
It closes at 3 a.m. ... I'm gonna play the last two to two and a half hours after my mentor, Dave Cannalte. I'm going to mix in some of my old vocal songs -- from back in the day -- mixed in with a lot of new stuff and exclusive remixes that I have done for my DJ sets only. It's quite an energy-packed set that moves along swiftly.
How has DJing changed over the years?
Being a DJ now is like playing an instrument in a band five years ago. If you go into any of the large music stores, they have an entire section devoted to turntables, mixers, etc. ... That was not there five years ago. DJing has really exploded as a profession as well as a hobby.
Who are some of the other Orlando DJs that you champion?
A lot of my old friends have done very good for themselves, and that's great to see. Kimball Collins is the biggest U.S. trance DJ in the country and is huge on the West Coast. AK1200 has done awesome. Chris Fortier is a great DJ and producer and internationally acclaimed. Baby Anne is now getting recognition across the country. MOT is a groove machine and was crazy in Miami at the `Winter Music Conference`!
Up-and-coming DJ Knightlife, who makes the best progressive vocal CDs, is one to watch for.
You know you're considered one of the pioneers of Orlando's dance scene. But who inspired you, personally?
Dave Cannalte inspired both myself and Kimball to start DJing. ... He is truly a well-respected DJ and I'm honored to be playing with him at the Hard Rock. Also Robby Clark, for having the vision and drive to open the first store `Underground Record Source` dedicated to this music. ... He really did a great job getting the records that shaped the whole sound of the city.
Do you look back fondly at the good old days at The Edge?
The night at The Edge I miss most was the Friday '80s night I did with DJ Rob Bates that lasted a couple of years -- we had so much fun. We had some amazing raves there, and it was nice to meet the DJs and bands from England.
My favorite was the very first one in 1992 -- "Hands to Heaven" -- nothing more than a Xeroxed flier from Kinko's, five bucks to get in and the entire Suburban Base Crew from England brought over by me and AK1200. We did about 1,500 people, and everyone remembers Rachel Wallace's incredible vocal performance.