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
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
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 SoundFactory.com and JonathanPeters.com
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