Alex Kayne was the legendary metal DJ at L'Amour Rock Capitol of Brooklyn from 1981 to 2004. Today Alex is still a very active DJ. He is the special guest at most of the big shows all over the New York area. 💿 Hi Alex, welcome to Hardrockheavymetal! We just said you are still very active. What are you exactly doing these days?
Hello guys! It’s great to be here on this awesome site. I just did Rammstein, Styx/REO Speedwagon, Muse/30 Seconds to Mars, and Alice Cooper/Deep Purple. I’ve got shows coming up including Doro, Accept, Raven, Diamond Head, Y&T, Manilla Road, Tom Keifer, Lynch Mob, Tyketto, Kamelot, and Udo Dirkschneider, among many others that I am very excited about and looking forward to. 💿 Among all the bands that you are seeing nowadays, what band impressed you the most (even the old names)?
Most everyone knocks me out, I always enjoy seeing all the bands I work with. UFO and Saxon were great! Richie Ranno with Ian Lloyd, big classic rock fun. Mr. Big was incredibile. Y&T were amazing, so was Yngwie. LA Guns, and Sebastian Bach put on a great show too. But I would have to say in recent memory believe it or not, I was impressed with Richie Kotzen, whom I had the pleasure of DJ-ing his show at BB King’s in Times Square New York. Richie is extremely talented. You can tell right away that he is a born musician. He’s a really deep feeling musician, who understands groove and dynamics. He is very sound-conscious, and once he gets onstage he is a tour-de-force. Richie saunters back and forth between playing the guitar and piano, and his rich vocals are loaded with such a free-spirited, soulful reckless abandon, you can’t help but come along for the ride. He strecthes it all out and takes us from solid, hard rock into bluesy laced statements accented with softer moments of spacious, moody delight. Kotzen’s delivery is phenomenal, deftly changing the color of his music, moving you through various emotions. He pours in just the right amount of blues into all of the rock and roll resonance that is his show. Highly recommended - do see him if you get the chance!
💿 What is the difference between being a DJ in the same club (L’Amour) for twentyfive years, and being a DJ in a different club every month even though the clubs you are working with now are more or less the same?
When you have a residency like I did at L’Amour that lasted several years, you connect with the club’s crowd on a very personal level week after week. I was a local Brooklyn guy, and the club was a Brooklyn club, so the rapport was perfect. I’d hang show posters up around the building, change the posters on the booth now and then. I spent a lot of time screening new music, and watching new videos to play. Being on the lookout for fresh new bands to book, auditioning bands for shows, building relationships with bands, their management, and their booking agents etc. Working with the owners and helping the club grow is something you can do with a residency. Working in different clubs there are different types of DJ booth set-ups and configurations of DJ gear. For example some clubs have monitors in the booth, some don’t, so I sometimes have to bring wedges. Varying room acoustics, different crowds, working with different staf, touring crews, different promoters. But you get used to it. You know pretty much what to expect after working a venue once or twice, so you are better prepared the next time you work there. I do miss working L'Amour though, nothing else comes close. 💿Since technology has changed so much did your DJ equipment change that much too along the years? Was it tough for you to keep up with it?
DJ technology has grown exponentially over the past twenty years, and my equipment has changed right along with it. At the same time, it’s come full-circle. Back in the 70’s/80’s the Technics SL-1200 turntable was (and still is) the weapon of choice for any DJ worth his salt. Turntable mixing is very hands on, and this often separates the men from the boys. Towards the early 90’s, CDs began slowly taking over from vinyl. I was one of the last to relent, being a wax guy for years. The first L’Amour booth CD set up was very crude. Two single, shitty comsumer model Panasonic CD players stacked one on top of the other and a Rane four channel mixer left over from the turntable deck. For awhile, L’Amour left both the turntables and the CD players set ups in the booth, so I would still bring my vinyl. Then one night I came in to play with a couple of crates of records, and they had taken the turntables out! So I was sort of forced to make the change. I didn’t like CDs at first. I remember poking fun at the other younger DJ’s prancing in with their little “CD booklets” with the silly shoulder strap that looked like they were carryng a pocket book, turning the “pages”, looking for tracks. At first I thought it was silly, because well, it was. I remember going up into the booth while one of the other young DJs was spinning. Jokingly, I waved a band-aid in front of him and said “Does your fuckin’ finger hurt?” Because basically all they were doing was pushing the play button. There’s no art or craft in that whatsoever. Then in 1994, Pioneer launched the CDJ-500, which was a CD player invented specifically for DJs instead of consumers. So that became the new DJ standard. But L’Amour didn’t go that way, in the 90s they installed one of those ridiculous double CD players with the separate tray deck, which really was the same thing as two single CD Players. It sounded like crap, and looked like a fuckin karaoke machine. The button-pushers thought it was cool, but I hated it. Plus I had to build a mirror collection of my records in CD format. Fast forward to today - full circle, I am able to use turntables again when its feasible. For the past 10 or 15 years, there are “digital vinyl systems” which allow you to spin vinyl on a turntable through a USB computer interface using digital music files. Pioneer’s flagship digital turntable, the CDJ-2000 Nexus decks are installed in just about every club in the universe, and if they aren’t, they’re on my rider. The technology is insane. You can store an entire weekend of music on a USB stick. So I went from dragging around several heavy milk crates full of vinyl in the 70s, to being afraid that I may have misplaced a USB stick in 2017 (haha). The tech leap isn’t hard to keep up with if you pay attention, I always go to trade shows and keep up with the technology advancements. However there are skill adjustments you have to make with each system. You have to practice with each set up. Because of the inherent characteristics, whether you are spinning vinyl, CDs or digital files, each mode of DJ-ing requires a different skillset. 💿 You saw several big bands back in their glory days and you are seeing them now. Since the rock metal scene has unfortunately changed, do they still act the same way they used to act in the eighties? I mean, has their attitude changed on stage or with the fans (better or worse whatever it is)?
I think there is a different perspective now, and you can see it in the musicians. In the 80’s the bands were very young and firing on all cylinders, running around, partying like crazy, jetting around the globe touring doing five shows a week for months and months, then back into the studio to record, it’s a whirlwind. I don’t even think they realized what was happening, and all that time was flying by. It takes it’s toll. The guys and girls I work with now from back then are much more appreciative now. Appreciative of the music, the fans, and of the whole scene. Now, they are even more grateful, and most of them feel very fortunate to have been able to do this thing they love for so long. They areextremely glad that they still have fans. There has been something of a resurgence, and the bands are happy that their music is still loved. It gives them a great feeling. They appreciate it more, and I see them give that feeling back to the fans. Instead of jumping into the tour bus and speeding away to the next show, most every band comes out now after a show to talk to the fans and hangout, some seem quite relaxed, sipping a glass of wine, taking pictures, signing stuff, and really engaging with people, laughing, making jokes with the fans, and conversing with them on a more personal level. Doro Pesch, for example, has been around for over 3 decades. She came out from backstage after her show to hangout and talk to her fans who didn’t have backstage passes. Doro made sure she met everyone who was there that wanted to see her and made them feel appreciated. Most of the bands from back then are all still very cool and friendly. I don’t think they have changed much, although some might argue that they have, because of money and fame, or whatever. To me, the bands overall all seem much more at ease. It’s nice to see. These days, some of them get to pick and choose when, and where they want to play. So for the most part, they no longer have to stick to that draining, seemingly endless schedule of decades ago. And contrary to popular belief, a lot of them don’t need the money, they’re just doing it for fun and for the love of playing music. 💿 Do the members of the bands who played L’amour still recognize you when they see you at the shows?
Oh yes! Most of them remember me, talking about the old days always brings a smile to our faces. Life seemed so much simpler then. A few won’t remember me specifically, as they have met thousands of people in their lives. But every one of them sure as hell remembers L’Amour! They always tell me how much they loved playing the club.
💿 Is there just one little thing that you regret from the l’amour era? One thing that you believe it could have been better? A show, a friendship….
People started stealing my records from the DJ booth, especially the signed ones. I should have protected my records better. It got so bad I started taking my records home, but the damage had been done at that point. It was the first time I realized that I couldn’t trust the staff, or people who said they were my friends. There was a lot of excess happening during the L’Amour era - drinking, drugging, smoking, etc., and I was a young kid who fell right into that turbulence. It took awhile to dig myself out of that, but I did it. I lost touch with a few cool people, but that’s the way life goes. 💿 We know you’ve been working on the l’amour book for so long. Any updates?
That’s all up to the publisher now. Having a publisher is like being on a record label. It’s pretty much a game of hurry up and wait. I have to let them do their thing. 💿 Are there any other interesting projects you are involved in?
There are several very cool projects that I am involved in. I am interviewed in the Hammerjack’s movie called “Encore” about the noted Baltimore club that is due to re-open in 2018. I am interviewed in a movie about the band The Fast, about the very infuential New York punk/glam foursome. I was the tecnical consultant for the L’Amour segment of the film “Who the f**k is that guy? The fabulous journey of Michael Alago”. Michael as you know signed Metallica to Elektra among many other luminaries in the music world and his film is a great look at his life, qthe love of music and the industry. I am producing/remixing some new music, I am also working on a few other things that I am not at liberty to reveal just yet, but hardrockheavymetal.net will be the first to know! 💿 Last year Kix released a documentary “Can’t stop the show: the return of Kix”. You released a great interview that we can find on the dvd. What kind of experience was that?
I was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to a band like KIX who have given me so much joy with their great music all these years. They really are the nicest bunch of guys you’ll ever meet, and they loved playing L’Amour which they did quite often and they were a big part of the club’s history. They understood the importance of having their records and videos played at L’Amour, especially in the beginning of their career. I’m a big KIX fan, so for me to be able to honor them and give back to them was a thrill. It’s a great film! I’m eternally grateful that KIX, their management, and the director allowed me to be a part of it. 💿 You have so many shows to look forward to. Is there one band you haven’t worked with yet and you would like to work with in the future?
There are a few! I would love to work with Silvertomb, Kobra & The Lotus, Halestorm, The Dead Daisies, Sons of Apollo, and Overlorde. I’m a big fan of all of these bands, I’d be honored to work with them. 💿 We know you own thousand of vinyls. Even if there are still some people (including myself) who keep buying cd’s and vinyls, it seems that record stores and rock clubs are sadly coming to an end (at least here in europe). I believe the two things (stores and clubs) are connected since the digital dowload has brought music to its grave somehow through the years. What do you think about all this?
Certainly, the digital download and streaming services have fundamentally changed the way we look for and receive music. I love the idea of a digital download when you purchase an album on vinyl, its somthing you could not get before. I think there is an ebb and flow to these things. I’ve been around this scene for 40 years. One record store closes, another record store opens. One rock club closes, another rock club opens. It’s all one, it’s perpetual, and the glue that holds it all together, the music, thankfully is eternal. I never stopped collecting vinyl, even though I didn’t use them professionally for a long time. Vinyl always has sounded best to me. I don’t care what the science is or the argument between digital vs. analog is. I have my own ears and they tell me what’s best. The stores and clubs have always shared a direct connection. Record shops will never go away completely because they were and still are for the most part, always the “headquarters” that you would venture to that kept its pulse on what was going on in the scene in the daytime when your favorite place to see a band was closed. Clubs hang their posters in the store windows and do signings ahead of a show. Zig-Zag Records in Brooklyn, was practically a L’Amour sponsor. Not only did they keep me knee-deep in promo records to play before they were released, they sold L’Amour show tickets, and did in-store meet and greets for a ton of L’Amour bands. Digging through rows and rows of vinyl, checking out the cover art, a bands photo, and perusing song titles, is a fun thing to do (for me at least). Sometimes, you take a chance on a record because of the cover art or the bands photo looks cool. The clubs (especially L’Amour) then brought those sounds to life for you by bringing those bands in to play live. I have nothing against the digital download, however by its very nature it is not a personal experience. You download a new mp3 or a wav file. It looks like any other file on your computer. You don’t know a lot about the artist. You can’t see pictures, you can’t read liner notes, or marvel at the outrageous packaging art. You have all of that with vinyl, and to a lesser degree CDs. It is a very tactile, pleasing, aesthetic, sensory experience that connects you to the artist in a more personal way. It almost feels as if they made this album just for you. I’ve always loved that. I think the slight resurgence of vinyl, even though it has only taken a small bite out of the consumer market, is here to stay because of all that it offers, and I think that the good record stores will stay, and the not so good stores will go. Cream always rises to the top. 💿 Alex, thank you so much for this interview. We wish you all the best. Please keep carrying the torch of metal \m/
We all carry the torch of metal together - may it burn bright forever!
Thank you Hardrockheavymetal!