Sun-kissed and still buzzing from his first trip to Ibiza, DJ Dean Coleman has just returned to his upscale midtown Atlanta apartment. With only a couple of days to rest before jetting off again, the up-and-coming house DJ riffles through a thick stack of fresh color prints that show the spectacular sunsets he viewed from the villa he stayed in and snapshots of him lounging poolside with Timo Maas and John Digweed. The apartment has little in it other than a sofa, a hefty cache of vinyl, and the rig he uses to produce and remix tracks.
Coleman got his start doing mobile gigs at frat parties in his hometown, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I've always loved music since I was little,” he recalls. “I used to listen to my Walkman all the time while walking around my neighborhood. When I was working in a stereo store in 1993, I got a discount on two cheap turntables, but I eventually moved up to a pair of Technics. I started on turntables — not CDs or tapes.”
Coleman arrived on the Atlanta scene in 1997 and quickly made a name for himself from both his live appearances and his production work. In 1998, his bootleg remix of “Big Love” got a tremendous response when Benji Candelario and Danny Rampling spun it at London's Ministry of Sound. He followed this effort with his first official release, “Picking Up Promises” featuring Jocelyn Brown, and by producing several tracks for house legend Dajae. Recently he released several tracks on the Kid Dynamite, TNM, and R'Senal labels. In addition to his spending the summer spinning records in Ibiza, he's toured with Bad Boy Bill and Roger Sanchez, and in between gigs he works as a product demonstrator for Roland.
Coleman used to rely on record pools for getting fresh, new vinyl, but lately his interest in record pools has waned. “When I was in North Carolina, I was a part of the Dixie Dance Kings Record Pool, and I was a member of a record pool from Chicago. I got out of that because I felt it wasn't worth the money and they didn't suit my tastes in music. You spend $120 a month, and you can get some good records, but I think it takes away from your creativity.”
Now Coleman prefers to buy his records from shops like E.D.'s Gourmet Records, which specializes in Hi-NRG, progressive house, vocal/commercial house, trance, and pop. The store, which started out in 1989 as a bin of records sold in a local bar, is nestled in a low-profile strip mall in Atlanta. “We have some great record stores in Atlanta,” he says. “E.D.'s is a well-kept secret in the house scene. They always seem to have the best records. The same guys have been working there for a long time. They've been the first place to get every remix that I've worked on since I started. Now it's a tradition. Whatever I'm working on, before it goes to a label, they'll hear it first. It's like a good luck thing.”
When deciding what records he wants to buy, Coleman relies only on his ears: “When I shop for records, I don't necessarily go by the label. You can use the label as a guide, but you should always listen to everything.”
Inside of E.D.'s, Coleman grabs a stack of records from a nearby bin and listens to them over the store's sound system. Here are the discs that made the cut:
Twister New Media
This is a killer record by my production partner Vince LaDuca. It has a live flamenco guitar track that is the bomb and sounds like it came straight out of Brazil. There's a harder house mix on the flip side. Vince's main mix has live timbales mixed with this big Brazilian stomping drum that falls back enough to let the guitar lead. The vibe is totally out of the ordinary — the kind of thing I like to drop early in the night or if I'm playing a smaller room. There are also some tool tracks on here, including a live guitar part and light conga drums for overlays.
Kings of Tomorrow
“Finally” (Danny Tenaglia mixes)
This has a really mean house vibe that's also funky. Danny keeps his New York sound on the cut but also throws dirty drums with echoes all over the place. He gets this sound, this growl, with his synths. Danny has his own sound, but he still shows progress with every remix he does. I love that about his production. Danny beat the hell out of this mix, and it has the kind of vibe I like my crowd to feel. The vocals are so soulful and off the chain. Everyone is loving this vocal. This is so good that I'm going to get two copies.
“I Am the Drum”
Sandy Rivera and Ludicrous are just rocking it. They are influenced by Harry “Choo Choo” Romero, who engineered this track, and they're kicking ass on everything they do. This track has this pumping drum energy that they got by stringing guitar effects pedals together. It also has a low-pitch vocal hook with a weird resonance. When I listen to this track, I wonder how they got that sound. Everything that Harry touches is phat, and he is one of my favorite producers right now. Sondos is a straight-up underground label and I am really diggin' their sound.
“The Real Life”
This is one of the biggest records that I DJ right now. It uses the “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” vocals from Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Joey Negro did a really cool job on this remix. This track was all over the place at the 2001 Winter Music Conference and at Ibiza. Everyone was on it. There is a progressive element to this, but it still stays in the house genre. I don't really get into labeling styles, because I don't like to think about a record too much. If I like a record, I play it. This track sounds so good; the pressing is hot as hell and deep; and I love the sample.
Tommy Boy Silver
Roger Sanchez's “Darkstar Mix” of this song is just wicked. The kick has this big reverb on it that gives the kick an extra depth that you really have to hear to appreciate. This track starts off one way and ends another. It has a weird style that I love — deep, then hard, then funky. The female vocal blends in with a male vocal that sounds like it's from Star Wars. Sorry, Roger, but I'm sampling the kick off this. Thanks for spending so much money on compression!
Harry “Choo Choo” Romero
“Night at the Black”
This is one of the best records of the year. When you first put it on, you think, “Yeah, whatever,” but the breakdown with the live guitar is what does it to you. It's just too sweet. I am on my second copy of this record, and I am still burning it every night. The flip side rocks, too, but you can't touch the guitar breakdown. The guitar player deserves a Grammy. This is like classic jazz-meets-house music, and it's beautiful. I love that producers are progressing like this and doing odd stuff.
This is probably my biggest record right now. It uses a sample from Toto's “I Won't Hold You Back,” but Roger really did some neat stuff with the guitar. He had someone record new acoustic guitar parts, changed the melody a bit, and made the background vocal the lead. The sampling on this is brilliant. I was in Ibiza with Roger when this song went No. 1 on the U.K. pop chart. This record gives you a happy feeling, and the crowd goes ape shit for this track from the get-go. It hasn't broken big in the States, but it will. The rest of Roger's album (First Contact) is off the hook, too.
7 AKA Cevin Fisher featuring Ramona
“Keep It Coming”
This track is classic house with a hard, funky edge. It's a good example of the sound I'm getting into right now. I love the bass lines on this record. One bass line is done down under like a live bass, and the other track is made grungy with a filter. The moaning vocal dub has an unstoppable groove that carries the song. I am sampling this kick, too, because it's huge and stands out big-time! The keyboards are light and they stick to the background. This is a different sound for the Nitegrooves label.
Ovum has been kicking ass this year with SNS Project, DJ Dozia, and G-Pal. This is going to be a really big record. It has a classic house bass line, and it can set the vibe for your party. It's a really good record to start a set with or to drop over the top of something with vocals. Josh Wink is coming back to his classic TB-303 days. This record moves the floor and keeps getting harder and harder until it explodes. I didn't think a 303's resonance could be tweaked that high, but he's done it again. This is up there with “Higher State of Consciousness,” and I have to have it. You can rock a vocal a cappella over it, and it sounds even better. “Evil Acid” lives up to its name.
Check out www.djdeancoleman.com for more info on Dean Coleman.