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Galaxy 21

Related: nightclubs - New York music - dance music

In early 1976 François Kevorkian who had just arrived in New York from Europe was hired to play live drums on top of Walter Gibbons' mixes at a nightclub called Galaxy 21 This era was the beginning of club culture as we know it today. [Aug 2006]


New York area club owned by George Freeman.

1976: Walter Gibbons was the DJ, Francois K. had been hired to play live drums on top of Walter's mixes. Kenny Carpenter, who must have been 17 at the time, did the lights.

François Kevorkian on Walter Gibbons at Galaxy 21

The rhythmic crescendo at Galaxy 21 intensified in February 1976 when the club's owner, George Freeman, hired François Kevorkian, a young French drummer who had travelled to Manhattan the previous September, to play alongside the DJ. "I was very enamoured with Hendrix, Santana, Jeff Beck, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, and I came to the conclusion that I was wasting my time in France," says Kevorkian. "I came to New York to establish a sort of beachhead for the rest of my band. My bass player came three or four months later with his girlfriend, and she decided that they were going to live in California. The guitar player never made it." Life picked up when Kevorkian began to fine-tune his technique with the Miles Davis drummer Tony Williams — "He traded drum lessons for French lessons" — and the new arrival landed his first serious job when he stumbled into Freeman. "I didn't really have anywhere to live so I decided to search through the ads in the Village Voice. Instead of looking for a reasonable apartment to share, I decided to look for the most expensive apartment to share. I didn't have any money and figured that if somebody had a big apartment and was looking for a roommate then they could probably afford to hire somebody to help them look after the place." Kevorkian called the owner of the priciest apartment. "I explained my situation to this person called George Freeman and he said, 'Listen, I'm not into sharing my apartment, but I've got this club and if you want to come down I'll hire you to play the drums.'" Kevorkian agreed, much to the irritation of Gibbons. "Walter got terribly upset. He kept saying that I was throwing him off and that he couldn't mix the way he wanted to, but I kept going. He tried to trip me up by playing all of the drum solos of all the records, although I managed to stay with it most of the time. It seems people liked what I was doing because if they hadn't I would have been thrown out after the first night."

Kevorkian was in a perfect position to witness the DJ's percussive-expressive agenda. "Walter's DJing was very emotional, based on crescendos and drumming. His style was fiery and flamboyant. Walter's thing was drums for days. I guess he preferred them when they were on vinyl." Rare Earth's "Happy Song" remained his trademark record. "You would never hear the actual song. You just heard the drums. It seemed like he kept them going forever, although I would imagine it was actually about ten minutes." Gibbons was the first Manhattan DJ to cultivate such a purist, percussive aesthetic, and his mixing technique was precision personified. "The break in 'Happy Song' is only thirty seconds long, and he knew exactly how to make it click because to me it sounded like one record. I was playing along with the drums and it was always the same pattern, always the same number of bars. He had this uncanny sense of mixing that was so accurate it was unbelievable." The Galaxy DJ's technical perfection disguised the difficulty of the mix. "When you listened to the record it was like, 'Wait a minute, where do I cue up to know exactly where I am?' It's not easy. The record doesn't just start. It fades up. You really have to have a very keen ear to pick it out through the headphones."

--Tim Lawrence, Keep On magazine, http://www.timlawrence.info/articles/2005/keep_on.php [Jan 2005]

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