Last Collector Standing: Alexis Tucci Hansen on the Art of the Beat and Dance Music's Evolution
Out of the genres that would seem adaptable to the digital transition away from vinyl, electronic seems to be the most obvious choice. Yet the culture of trainspotting, or having the knowledge to pick out samples of electronic music playing at a club, was explicitly linked to record collecting. The collectors who lived through the birth of house music, like Hot House Sessions founder and DJ Alexis Tucci Hansen, know how important vinyl is to throwing a good party. You can catch DJ Alexis in action tomorrow night at the Definition of Dance at 2720 Cherokee. The 21-plus event starts at 9 p.m. and is $5.
We caught up with Tucci Hansen, who's also an event organizer for MAC, while she prepared for her next gig. Discussion turned to her recent birthday show, Frankie Knuckles and collecting dub records.
Last Collector Standing: I'm going to make you be the victim of the month. Since we're right in the middle of the holiday season, do you have a favorite holiday record?
Alexis Tucci Hansen: My favorite holiday music is electronic music that remixes traditional holiday tunes. Om Records has a great compilation of jazz-inspired broken beat, acid jazz and some house music remixing the classics.
[Writers note: In a phone call prior to the interview, Tucci Hansen explain she had been working frantically to organize her records before our meeting.]
A lot of record collectors are very methodical in how they organize their collections. How would you say you organize your records?
[Laughs] Don't laugh at me but I'm the most unorganized record collector there is. Everything is energy based. No matter how hard I try to formulate a set for a crowd, I basically pick what I'm feeling at that time period in my life and bring everything that I can carry. Then [I] hope that the one person tapping their foot tells me which direction to go with what I'm playing.
I do have multiple collections, because I love music and I can't seem to just stick to one type. I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Peaches record-store era when my father was turning me onto music. My dad liked mostly pop music at that time, which was the Motown era, Donna Summers and disco or Billy Joel. He would buy records or tapes at Peaches and collect the record crates. I was just lucky enough to be old enough to experience that. I fell in love with all kinds of music and then got into the '80s hip-hop and break-dance music, anything with funk and soul. I started collecting some ska records and some reggae.
I was fourteen going to ska shows. Then [I was] fifteen when I found house music and electronic music. It was an epiphany. It was a great experience and an amazing sub-culture to be a part of from the very beginning. All those different types of music, I just continued to love them simultaneously. The first group of friends I made in dance-music land was hippies who followed the Dead. We went around the country listening to dance music [and] went around the country listening to Dead shows and various other jam bands. The collection just continued to grow in so many different avenues. I'd have to say if I had my favorite it would be funk and soul and old R&B and disco.
I did prepare one record that is my all time favorite. Going to parties all the time and first experiencing dance music, like most people who hear it for the first time, it sounds like one long song. At the time you don't know when to anticipate a new record coming in. The very first time I realized the start and stop of a song was "The Whistle Song" by Frankie Knuckles. It's a beautiful song. It doesn't real drive a dance floor, but the experience behind it is definitely when disco turned into House. It's just a really gorgeous, five in the morning house track that I love.
What's the experience of live DJing like?
It's all sort of experiences. My birthday party last week was one of the best shows in a really long time. Very full dance floor. Good energy. I didn't feel like I was trying to push the vibe in any direction. I was just playing what felt right, deep and heavy. Everyone was feeling it because I wasn't forcing the issue.
Other times its really stressful. I played a show just recently where I had to work very, very, very hard to move anyone in the room. They were just chillin'.
Speaking of your birthday show, since you had a number of DJ and live musicians performing with you, did anyone think to get you any records as a gift?
[Laughs] No. No one bought me any music for my birthday this year. Buying music for me or throwing a party for me are two things people often don't do because that's my area, so they try not to go there.
The most records I've ever received is from the guy who is making all sorts of noises in the kitchen. [Laughs] He's given me all sorts of great house records. Corey Thomas is in the kitchen, one of the most beautiful house DJs in St. Louis, and my lifelong friend and wingman that helped me promote all my parties.
Since you didn't get any records for your birthday, if there was one record you could get for Christmas this year what would it be?
The first thing that comes to mind is how badly I want the new Cee Lo record.