There’s not many who can boast such a colourful career in the music industry as the legendary Timmy Regisford. From his early experiences at New York’s finest clubs through to embracing A&R Director roles at MCA Records, Atlantic Records, vice President of A&R roles at Motown Records and Dreamworks Records; remixing greats from Diana Ross to Stevie Wonder; to launching his own now world famous Club Shelter; Timmy has played huge role in shaping the face of dance and urban music around the world. With more than 157 releases to date on labels such as Shelter Records, Restricted Access, Unrestricted Access, West End, King Street, Quantize and Tribe Records, we grabbed a rare chance for a chat with the New York House legend as he reveals his brand new album, ‘7pm’.
WWD: You’ve been contributing to the music scene since 1985, that’s a lot of years and a lot of history! Tell us a bit about your early relationship with dance music and clubbing, what turned you on to house and where did you go to party?
I started out at 14 years old. Somebody took me to the Paradise Garage. People were dancing and it wasn’t called house music then, it was just called club music or Disco. That was my introduction and my love just started. I went to the Garage and to the Loft and some other clubs and that’s what really got me into the music.
WWD: Your famous Club Shelter nights have been running in NYC for 28 years. Did you ever think you would create such an institution when you first set out, what’s the secret to keeping a club running for so long and what makes it so special?
You open the doors and hope that the club gets full. What you learn throughout the years is that you stay true to what you do and don’t try to change people’s thought process – you try to give them what they want. That makes you grow and they tend to grow with you. That’s what has kept the Shelter nights strong for so many years. I learn from my audience and my audience learns from me. I try to stay loyal to that process.
WWD: What’s been your most memorable gig to date and where would you most love to play in the future?
There’s many nights at the Shelter throughout the past 28 years that I will never forget. There’s a handful of them. There are nights at the Shelter that I will never forget, many nights that could never be replaced. You really had to be there to experience it. I really love playing in Japan and can’t wait to get back there.
WWD: How does the house music industry compare now to back in the day and what needs to be improved in your opinion?
There’s no comparison because back when it started people were still creative. The 70’s was the best era of music that we ever came across. It was so creative then, but when electronics started to be introduced to the music it took away from the songwriting and the artistry and the music itself. In the 90’s, almost everybody could make the music, so it became watered down to where there’s not much of an industry anymore.
WWD: You’re about to release your brilliant new artist album ‘7pm’ on DJ Spen’s Quantize label, please tell us about it, what we can expect to hear and who is involved?
The album was put together by myself and Tiger Wilson. It’s a reflection of what’s going on in New York and some places in Europe. Today, I don’t think you can make music to represent and please everybody. So the album is more soulful and underground and the people that understand the Shelter and understand what NY music is about, will understand where this album comes from. Myself, Tiger Wilson and Dave Rivera were the major players involved with the album, along with 2 other great featured vocalists Felicia Graham and Arnold Jarvis.
WWD: Musically how does it differ from your previous albums and what did you set out to achieve this time?
The biggest difference between ‘At The Club’ and ‘7pm’ is that ‘At The Club’ was more European focused. Working with artists like the Brand New Heavies for example, made that album a little more focused on my worldview of underground dance music. ‘7pm’ is specifically focused on the New York underground dance movement and what’s happening in it right now.
WWD: Why did you have such a big gap between the 2 album releases?
It’s taken me eight years to do a new album because I wasn’t comfortable with the distribution platforms that were available to me before I started to work with DJ Spen and Quantize Recordings. The minute that I was comfortable that my music was being represented properly was the minute I was able to be completely creative and not have to worry about anything else except being creative.
WWD: How do you typically go about writing a song and what inspires you?
I take inspiration from most of the things that I listen to and then try create my own ideas. I believe that music has a cycle: there isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before, it’s just reborn music that somebody else did or something that’s in your head. You heard it from somewhere, so the inspiration comes from all music that you listen to and I listen to a lot of music.
WWD: Throughout your career, whats been your biggest learning curve?
Learn from your audience – learn from the people that you are playing for, the people who are on your dance floor.
WWD: And you biggest triumph?
Every time that I open up a club I try to present the best sound that I possibly can. So I look to present the best music in the purest form with the best technology available. So it’s not about drinking or how the place looks, but precisely what comes out of the speakers.
WWD: Your production and remix catalogue is huge with over 157 releases, please share with us the 5 pivotal releases in your career.
The biggest signing I have done to date is Boyz II Men, their first album sold 5 million, the second was 14 million, and the third was 18 million. I never perceived that it could reach that kind of ground. The second was Eric B and Rakim, I loved their music but I wasn’t in the rap world, I just loved what they did and it happened to work. As far as dance music, the thing I had a lot of feeling for was Colonel Abrams first album featuring the single ‘Trapped’, which was the 1st dance record on a major label that went gold. It sold 500,000 copies, which back at that time was unheard of for a dance record. It was C&C Music Factory and Colonel Abrams, who was a brother from the block and everything else was Latin and white commercial music at that time. Black people were not getting played. Many producers were, but not the artists. I am also really proud of the track 7’pm’ from my new album. We went into the studio, I made a beat, we created some music, and I performed the vocal on it and recorded the whole track in 35 minutes. I am really proud of it and that I am actually the vocalist.
WWD: Do you ever have moments when you say ‘oh I’m tired of all this and want to retire’? What keeps you motivated and where do you see yourself going musically in the future?
I have never been tired of music. When I finish with my own club and I feel like I have done everything that I can with my own club, I will stop it. But I would stay in the business of owning a club, because it’s profitable and I like being around music. I like seeing what the next generation is doing. I have no plans to retire, but I stay consistent by listening to everyone that’s out there and where the music is going. So it’s not boring, it’s challenging, in fact more so now than ever because we have access to more product than we did in the past. The music comes fast and goes even faster.
WWD: What are your current top 5 tracks?
1. Armonica, Toshi – Ngeke (Original Mix) – MoBlack Records
I love this record because its very afrocentric vocally over a different style of European dance. It really does go down well when I play it.
2. Tracy Hamlin & Thommy Davis – Isn’t it A Shame – Quantize Recordings
This record very soulful and to the point. It has great production and is such a friendly record that is works wherever I play it.
3. Kevin Yost – Persistance – Lost & Found
A techy afrocentric track that works really well on the dance floor. It’s definitely got a deep Shelter Vibe.
4. Timmy Regisford – 7pm – Quantize Recordings
Because I did it in 35 minutes. And is one of those songs when you hear it, no matter what kind of genre of music you play, you can picture yourself dancing to it. I think it’s a timeless piece of dance music that you can play anytime anywhere.
5. Timmy Regisford featuring Tiger Wilson – 1000 Roses – Quantize Recordings
This is definitely one of my top records. I like it because it’s not a typical Shelter song. It’s a little more commercial, but it’s easy to listen to.
WWD: You’re a very private person, so from the perspective of a successful artist and DJ is social media a blessing or a curse in the music industry today?
I think it’s a curse. The reason why i think that is because anybody can say almost anything on Facebook, Twitter and instagram, get picked up by a major corporation, and make millions of dollars overnite. Nobody has to work like we did in my generation. I see young dj’s and entertainers get picked up because they have so many followers, but they don’t know anything about their craft. Next thing you know, they are making millions of dollars, but they’re not proven. In my generation, the sponsors came to us because of the work we did to get where we were at. This made us appreciate the process and what it took make it. In my opinion, have to earn the right to say that they deserve that much money.
WWD: What else is in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I am busy on the studio and already have another 9 songs ready for my next album. I feel very strongly about the artist I am working with who hails from South Africa. I have a feeling its going to be really good with a bit of a surprise for everyone.
‘7pm’ Album will be released on April 19th on Traxsource. Buy Here
Full release May 3rd 2019 on Quantize Recordings.