“I love the smell of cardboard in the morning,” DJ Icey says as he attacks the racks of records at the offices of online record store Dance Music Specialist (http://dmswax.com), one of his favorite places to find new beats for his live sets. Later, he will adjust to a different storeroom smell as he searches for unique samples at, of all places, a local thrift store in his hometown of Orlando, Fla.
For now, though, Icey searches through the latest breakbeat tracks. Although Icey favors several sites, he shops most at Dance Music Specialist, thanks to his long-held friendship with the site's vice president, Cliff Tangredi. With partners Dan Dickinson and Cory Ouellette (all Orlando DJs), the trio places an emphasis on customer service. Each of the partners brings a vast wealth of past music-retail and online-music-service experience to the site. Although 99 percent of their customers listen to the three- to four-minute song samples on the Website, which specializes in breakbeat (but also offers house, trance and drum 'n' bass tracks), today, they've opened up the stockroom for good friend, and equally good customer, Icey.
Discovered by the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ and A&R man Pete Tong, Icey became the first American artist to sign to Tong's FFRR label in 1997. Icey was also the first American DJ to be selected to record a prestigious Essential Mix album. Today, Icey has SoundScanned more than 300,000 units in North America alone. Thanks to a busy touring schedule that finds him playing more than 125 live sets per year, Icey finds shopping online Websites to be a necessity when he's living life out of a suitcase. But as time allows, he also likes to visit the occasional thrift store or used book and record store to search for buried musical treasures.
That quest has been ongoing since his early DJ days while a student at the University of Central Florida. The man who tweaks nearly every piece of music he currently plays started at a local Orlando pub's dollar-pitcher nights, spinning house and industrial tracks on two belt-driven turntables that he bought at a pawn shop and a $25 mixer from Radio Shack. Since that time, he has not only upgraded his equipment but also updated his sound — Latin horns and percussive Cuban rhythms are plentiful among Icey's 200-plus singles and remixes.
Having been born and raised in the Sunshine State has certainly had its musical influences, but it's his nonstop touring that Icey says has had the largest effect on his overall sound. “I am always playing with different DJs who play different styles, so I am constantly exposed to new sounds,” Icey says. “I am like a sponge — I soak it all in.”
Although DMS' stockroom provides a few current tracks, an afternoon thrift-store trip renders the day's most interesting shopping experience. Ever the ambassador, Icey explains to Community Thrift Store's managers and security patrol that the gentlemen following him with a notepad and camera are covering his shopping habits for a magazine article. Icey also tries to briefly explain his philosophy of recycling vinyl: He frequently donates to the store many of the promos that he can't use in his sets. Still, the store's guardians sternly ask that no pictures be taken.
Later, away from watchful eyes, Icey explains that he visits thrift stores such as this one at least twice per month to dig through the crates to find odd bits he might use in his productions. Individual drum sounds, kicks, snares, hi-hats, percussion snippets, drum loops, spoken-word bits, horn riffs, hits and various odd samples and effects are all potential pickings for Icey to later tweak and manipulate through Digidesign Pro Tools for his larger productions. “Overall, it's that '70s reverb sound I love,” Icey says. “The way things were miked back then, well, it's a sound that's hard to reproduce today.
“When buying at the thrift store and such, you have to buy in bulk and go for your gut feel,” he continues. “The records are usually inexpensive, so it's not a huge monetary investment.” Indeed, today's thrift-store purchases ring up to an astounding $11.25. In fact, the a cappella dub bit of Raw Silk's “Do It to the Music” that Icey mashed with Isle Natividad's “What Percent of Nothing?” on his latest release, For the Love of the Beat (System, 2004), was bought here for a mere 75 cents.
For the Love of the Beat is quite similar to Icey's live sets, in which nearly all of what he spins is exclusive material. “I wanted everything on this mix to be tunes I've produced, remixed or re-edited,” he says. But the musical edits are not the only influential factor on his latest release; the CD's artwork, complete with liner notes and hand-drawn type, is also a throwback to the many records that Icey finds when digging through thrift-store crates. The covers from today's expedition certainly reflect days gone by: Nearly every artist is pictured smoking a cigarette — something certainly forbidden in this age of political correctness. These days, the only thing smokin' is the sound from DJ Icey's hot-as-fire productions.
While continuing to search for records, Icey strikes up a conversation with an elderly gentleman. The elder man asks if the younger is a record collector. Icey pauses; reflects for a moment at the question asked; and stops his search, as if suddenly realizing the straightforward description of his profession. He then looks the gentleman in the eyes and proudly smiles. “Yes — yes, I am,” he says.
DANCE MUSIC SPECIALIST
CUT & RUN
“Outta Space” (white label)
This is a nice nu-skool remix of the old Prodigy classic featuring vintage ragga vocals and nasty warped bass lines courtesy of the same people who recently did a wicked Altern 8 remix, as well, in the UK.
I heard this tune on Annie Nightingale's BBC Radio 1 show about three months ago and have been looking for it ever since! I was quite pleased to get this, a real dubby groove monster. It has a locked-on stone-cold groove with ragga dub delays on the hits. I just love this tune.
MOVE-YA! & STEVE LAVERS
“Could Be tha Sound” (Audio Bug)
This little electro-bass solid groover is a real head-nodder with a nice breakdown. Sometimes, I like to end the set with a tune that winds it down a little bit but still has a lovely melody in it. This track is perfect for that.
“Something Tough/Clear Cut” (Boom Box)
Simply put, this is a nice two-sider of funky nu-skool madness.
COMMUNITY THRIFT STORE
Percussive Big Band Jazz(Audio Fidelity)
This is loaded with excellent horn hits — a good find with lots of hits and a few drum fills, as well.
JOSE MADEIRA AND HIS ORCHESTRA/CARLOS MONTOYA PLAYS FLAMENCO GUITAR
Havana … 2 A.M.(Master Seal)
A lot of amazing acoustic guitar work is on here, along with some interesting drum sounds. There's some great cha-cha tunes on one side and nice flamenco guitar work on the other.
Afro-Cuban Influence(RCA Victor)
This has the pulsating rhythms of Africa and Cuba — lots of great percussion on this record, including amazing congas and bongos. There's some really amazing shit just to listen to for inspiration on here, as well.
Community Thrift Store; 6015 Edgewater Drive, Orlando, FL 32810; tel. (407) 295-7266