Live or Memorex?
by Matt Kalkhoff

It's 5:00 on a beautiful spring morning in April when a friend of mine and I made our way to Sound Factory in New York City for the legendary nightclub's 13th anniversary celebration. The four-story nocturnal playground was overflowing with an abundance of testosterone and silicon upon our arrival as thousands of luscious lasses and seductive studs prowled the massive nightclub's cavernous sectors and gyrated provocatively on the near-impenetrable dance floor. Sex was in the air, along with a healthy dose of high glamour, both punctuated only by the relentless rhythms and back-breaking beats so skillfully layered and expertly administered by resident DJ and producer Jonathan Peters.

While it is impossible to fully reproduce the live club experience, Peters has effectively captured at least one Sound Factory moment-in-time on his debut mix CD, "Live with Jonathan Peters" (recently released on the Groovilicious label). The double-disc package has already made quite a splash in the New York area and is poised for nationwide domination. Strictly Rhythm/Groovilicious' PR guru, Jimmy Smith, expressed the label's confidence in Peters, promising a strong push for the CD beyond the artist's home stomping grounds. Said Smith, "A mix CD [from Jonathan Peters] was long overdue and we felt that it's time the rest of the country discovered him."

Since he began spinning at Café Iguana 16 years ago at the tender age of 17, the Billboard-reporting DJ/producer has established a venerable reputation in the dance music community for his 18-hour marathon DJ sets, cutting-edge underground tracks (sometimes recorded under monikers like Luminaire), and renowned remixes for artists such as Donna Summer, Kim English, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. In fact, Houston's "My Love Is Your Love" - a song that spent two weeks on top of the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart - is one of his biggest-selling and most recognizable remixes to date.

Peters is now focusing most of his time and effort on developing new talent and creating original tracks with business partner Tony Coluccio in his self-built state-of-the-art Chelsea studio. "I get more pleasure and more satisfaction creating something original from scratch," he admits. "I want to be able to move people. I would also like to create a little stable of really talented young singers and writers, kind of like what Motown did, and just have an in-house thing here in the city. My goal is to produce three to four artists a year.

"His first protégé is an aspiring 15-year-old bilingual singer, songwriter and musician named Luz Divina. "She's just the most talented young person that I've ever met," says Peters, with obvious pride. "It's been a year now [that I've been working with her to build her career], but as much developing as she needed, she writes these songs that are just undeniable." Peters is currently negotiating with major record labels to secure a recording contract for Divina. A "divine light" indeed, the teen-age powerhouse - whose vocal prowess rivals that of Mariah and Whitney - overwhelmed the eager crowd with her dazzling renditions of Sound Factory staples "In Your Eyes" and "Free" when she performed mid-morning at the club's anniversary party (providing, incidentally, the first full-fledged vocal songs we heard before our 9:30am departure - clearly marking the beginning of one of Peters' legendary late-morning vocal sets).

Perhaps topping Miss Divina's performance (at least in terms of spectacle, peculiarity and unadulterated raunchiness) was the homoerotic tribute to one of our favorite groundbreaking sitcoms of the 50s. At approximately 7:00am, the music stopped abruptly and the theme to "I Love Lucy" began to play as clips of the infamous candy factory assembly line episode were shown on a video screen in front of the stage. As the screen lifted, two ravenous beauties dressed as Lucy and Ethel were revealed sitting at a table designed to recreate the episode's set.

Peters threw on another hard-hitting, thumping record while the girls camped it up cleverly reenacting the scene - complete with a black drag queen playing the part of their ill-tempered supervisor. Eventually, as the conveyor belt sped up out of control, they were forced to start stowing the rapidly accumulating sweets in their pockets and down their dresses. They soon began playfully stripping each other while hiding the rogue chocolates in whatever erotic places they could find. It wasn't long before the girls were on top of the table simulating lascivious lesbian sex acts clad only in slinky lingerie. The show really had no point whatsoever other than to titillate the men and push the proverbial envelope as far as possible, but it was just so random, bizarre and fun that we couldn't help but applaud the most unusual and creative performance.

While such bacchanal distractions can easily propel club patrons into sensory overload, translating the Sound Factory phenomenon into a 25-song double-CD for home audiences proved to be a far greater challenge for the musical maestro. "It was the hardest thing in the world for me to do," Peters recalls. "There was track-listing drama, but that wasn't the hardest part. What I do at Sound Factory is so progressive, with maybe 70% of the music changing every three to four weeks. So by the time you make your track selection and submit it, five months go by and you look back and you're like, 'I am not feeling these records anymore.'

" The inclusion of underground hits like "Wonderland" by the Psychedelic Waltons, Out There" by Paul van Dyk and "It's Love (Trippin')" by Goldtrix pres. Andrea Brown offer stealth and marketing muscle while Peters' own productions "Manufactory", "What You Desire," "Been Through It," "Goin' Thru It" (due for release on Peters' Deeper Rekords label in mid-May) and "Trickling Down Your Mind" personalize the subterranean expedition while showcasing his innovative expertise.

But it was the significance of the lead song that really pulled the whole project together for Peters. When pal Johnny Vicious surprised him a few years ago with the a capella to one of his favorite songs, "Let The Sunshine" by Fifth Dimension, Peters immediately went into the studio to create what would eventually become his signature Sound Factory song. "When I started doing the compilation, I said, 'Let's try to get it,' and they got it," he cheerfully explains. "It was like my big record - so positive and beautiful. It's been a part of my night at the Factory for so many years that it inspired me to really focus [on the compilation]."

Peters finds inspiration from many people, places and events, but like most of us, last year's terrorist attacks on America affected him in ways that would change both his career and his life forever. "A lot of times in the nightlife world, there are so many negatives," Peters acknowledges. "When the whole September 11th thing went down, we closed the club. So a day went by and I was inspired to do "America The Beautiful" with Luz. [When the club reopened the following Saturday] it started out as a really weird night because everyone was like, What am I doing here? So I played the song and got the most positive response that I've ever seen in my life towards anything."

When the party ended sometime around 1:00pm Sunday afternoon, a young man came up to Peters in the booth and asked if he could talk to him for a minute. "He said, 'You know, I lost some family a week ago, and I was thinking to myself earlier, What am I doing going to Sound Factory?'" Peters recalls. "'When you played that song, you made so many things come together in my life for me at that moment; you helped me so much. I just want to thank you for helping me.' So I gave him a hug, and that was probably the first time that I felt not only the responsibility but really good about what I do. Who knows how many other people it moved because radio supported it big. That one thing really changed the way I look at what I do. And I'll never forget the look on that kid's face."

Music really does make the people come together. And Jonathan Peters couldn't be happier or more proud to do his part.

(You can catch Jonathan Peters live every Saturday night at Sound Factory, 618 W. 46th Street, New York City. Please visit and for more information. This interview was also filmed for an upcoming documentary called "Notes From The Underground," produced by Park Slope Productions. Watch for screenings this fall.)

© 2002 Matt Kalkhoff
This article was featured on the week of May 6, 2002.