Tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 8, Jonathan Toubin’s 'Soul Clap' DJ night and dance-off competition invades the UFO Factory. Toubin is seriously one of the best DJs on the planet. The New Yorker-via-Texas is world famous for dusting off obscure 1950s and 1960s rock and soul 45s that you have no choice but to dance to.
His show includes his infamous dance-off, where a panel of distinguished local judges will select a first place winner of a $100 prize.These are seriously the most fun events, so if you’re a stick-in-the-mud sourpuss, you might consider staying home this evening (or just getting over yourself already). People will seriously be cutting the rug and doing the shrug — as well as the watusi, the shimmy, and the boomerang — at New York Night Train’s Soul Clap party. Dress sharp and show up early; this will very well sell out.
Doors at 9 p.m.; 2110 Trumbull Ave., Detroit; ufofactory.com; $10.
Metro Times: What is your favorite recent discovery? Jonathan Toubin: I’ve found too many cool things lately to pick out only one! For Soul Clap I’ve been in love with Little Woo Woo’s groovy minimalist cover of “Harlem Shuffle,” for my Friday rock 'n’ roll format I just picked up another Ohio killer a few days ago at The Attic in Pittsburgh, The Tulu Babies original version of “Hurtin’ Kind,” and for Halloween novelties, I’ve really been getting a kick out of watching the dancers do Ichabod and the Cranes’ “The Turtle.”
MT: Are you still finding new-to-you tracks all these many years after doing this stuff? Toubin: Definitely! While its harder for me to obtain a fairly common inexpensive gem that I don’t already own at this point, the most exciting thing about 1950s rock’n’soul 45s is that once you get down to the obscurities, they’re infinite and you’ll always find something new. I asked Fred Bohn Sr, who’s been collecting and selling the hard stuff since the 1960s, the exact same question earlier this week, and he says he still finds good records he’s never heard all the time. I think the quantity, quality, and variation of 45s from this period is testament to postwar America’s democratic regional music marketplace before it gradually morphed into an oligarchy as 1960s progressed.
MT: At this point, what fuels you? Toubin: On the most base level, it still makes my day every time I manage to transport dance floor. Since I don’t work my sets out ahead of time, the nights are a collaborative effort and a narrative created from a conversation with the dancers. I enjoy reevaluating everything about what I do, focusing on the subtleties of the sound, EQ, transitions, beat, emotional impact and aesthetics, improving on everything, cutting the fat, and in general getting better at being a mediator between music and people.
Though I get bummed out, those nights when I wasn’t able to take the crowd to the other side, the nightly improvisation is a math equation, a sport, and a gamble with too many variables to ever get bored. And the thrill of getting lost, gradually finding the way, and pulling the bus up to the destination is still a huge reward and can keep me going no matter how tired I am. Finally, as in the beginning, I love finding new music, getting excited about it, and sharing it with people.
MT: What is your finest memory of Soul Clap in Detroit thus far? Toubin: There have been so many amazing Motor City Soul Claps everywhere from The Majestic to Old Miami to the wild wang dang doodles at the U.F.O. But the night that left the biggest impression was the time it didn’t work out. Years ago I was on a six-week U.S. tour and hit The Lager House on a Monday Night. Not the best day of the week for a dance party. Anyhow, only maybe thirty people came out. But the ones who turned up really got into it and worked to make it one of the most fun parties ever. They also bought so much merch that I was able to still get by after giving a big chunk of my guarantee back to the club. That night reminded me something that you guys often take for granted - Detroit is the most supportive music scene I know of.
MT: Detroit is obviously super important in your musical world — what else do you like about he place, like as it is now? Toubin: Ha! “As it is now!” As much as everybody complains about recent changes, your gentrification isn’t nearly as bad as New York or the other places I visit. And from my admittedly far outsider perspective, despite some of the usual irritants, the newcomers to the center seem to be improving the city and its culture thus far. I first came to Detroit with bands in the 1990s and loved it right away. The people were very real and committed to rock ’n’ roll aesthetics even when it wasn’t fashionable.
I think a lot of the city’s problems brought together a community of strong people in the middle and I’m so impressed over time to see the things that my friends have been building the last few years. So many great record stores, night clubs, recording studios, and other dreams being realized on a quality and scale you don’t see in more expensive cities like my own. Also, other than my friends and the records, I gotta say that I can’t get enough Le Shish, Royal Kabob, and other the killer middle eastern joints. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it…
MT: And what about new releases from you — still going strong with Norton? Toubin: Yes! The first four did really well and I understand that there are already some represses out there. Also, good news — Souvenirs of The Soul Clap Volume 5 just came back from the pressing plant today! I’m gonna try to wrangle up some copies and bring them to the Detroit party Saturday! Also I’m putting the finishing touches on Volume 6 and cutting Volume 7 with the geniuses at Chicago Mastering in a couple of weeks.
MT: Have you done a Halloween mix before? Toubin: Yeah horror rock and Halloween novelties are one of my passions and favorite side projects. I’ve done a Halloween mix each of the last seven years. I just debuted the new one on Soundcloud but I recently uploaded the back catalog to Mixcloud so you can turn on the stream at your Halloween party and the haunted hits will keep coming for seven hours!
MT: Tell us about this newest Halloween mix, please. Toubin: Just when I thought I was out of quality Halloween material after the 200+ tracks I’ve already put out there, I fell in love with this mix! But I just made it so give me a week or two to start picking it apart and hating on it! Anyhow, this one has something for everyone – a disproportionate amount of tracks by late night horror hosts and B-movie actors plus novelty dance crazes, evil garage, mummy doo wop, satanic calypso, jungle voodoo, shadow funk, vampire reggae, forgotten horror movie themes, scorpion surf instrumentals, Brazilian black cat rock’n’roll, thermin creeps, and haunted beatnik exploitation. And a lot more I’m sure I’m leaving out…
MT: Michiganders sure do love their Halloween. Pick three tracks from your latest mix and talk about them, please. 1) Toubin: Terry Teen, “The Hearse” (Gemini, 1962) This guy was one of the world’s foremost professional clowns and helped McDonald’s create Ronald McDonald! He also wrote books about clowning. I don’t really know of any other track as twisted as this from this time. He privately re-released “The Hearse” as “Curse of The Hearse” a few years later as Terry Teene on the flip of another killer worth your time, “Pussy Galore”…
2) The Verdicts with Al Browne Orch., “The Mummy’s Ball” (East Coast, 1961) This all-time classic is the only recording by this soulful Bed Stuy street corner doo woppers on the obscure East Coast label. It’s a story song about a dance party at the mummy’s house. The whole thing is going swimmingly until Frankenstein steps on his host’s foot and all of the guests, even the old lady in the rocking chair, get in on the melee…
3) Neal Ford and the Fanatics, “Shame On You” (Hickory, 1966)
I’ve had this one sitting around for years but it just occurred to me that its perfect for a Halloween mix. This ain’t the summer of love… it’s one year before! And these Houston, Texas garage rockers like their psychedelia on the sinister side. This one is still as good as it gets…
MT: Anything else you want to say at all? Toubin: Yes, Mike! Can’t Wait to see you Saturday! Will you judge the contest for us?
Come on out — Metro Times' Mike McGonigal will be one of the judges. Feel free to throw all the tomatoes at that guy.