Eric Duncan Interview
Producer/DJ, Eric Duncan, aka DJ Dunks, could easily be recognized as a pivotal figure in NYC post 90’s dance culture. Best known for his partnerships with disco duo, Rub-N-Tug, and NYC collaboration, Still Going, Duncan’s nightlife sound steadily infuses blends of slo-mo disco, incandescent funk, techno and house music. He’s recently branched out to work on additional solo projects, under the moniker, Dr. Dunks.
Along with partner in crime, Thomas Bullock, Rub-N-Tug developed the groundwork for a new generation of revelers – the sleazy pleasures of afterhours disco and whatever else was in their record bags. The Rub-N-Tug party series made a name for itself with events hosted in various downtown Manhattan lofts, and the duo currently continues to release projects and host events.
Born and raised in LA, Duncan’s musical foundation was forged by the 80’s New York hip hop era, a steady dose of LA radio, and influences from his mother’s record collection. Over the past decade, he’s remixed everyone from Roxy Music to Zero 7, LCD Soundsystem, Cold Play, Grace Jones, Chic Chic Chic and The Beastie Boys, to name a few.
Hot Mass crew member and recent transplant to Pittsburgh, Thomas Ceddia, is bringing in Duncan on Saturday, November 29th to play at Hot Mass. Ceddia is the creator and resident DJ of Aquabooty, one of the longest running dance parties in the U.S. He’s also the owner of the famous Miami nightclub, Electric Pickle.
Ceddia recently had a chance to interview Duncan about his expansive history of past and present compositions, as well as his impact on NY nightlife. Below is what transpired:
Thomas: Growing up, what kind of music were you listening to and what milestones have influenced you most along the way?
Eric: As a kid, I was always around music. My house was full of vinyl records, and I was dragged around to bars with my parents. It was the 70’s, so I would pass the time with a Coca Cola, a pocket full of quarters and the juke box… sort of my first foray into DJing, I guess. When I got older into the 80’s, it was all hip hop, electro and freestyle of that time. After that, I really got into funk and soul and discovering the sources where the hip hop samples came from. That progressed to weird rock and afro stuff, then into rave and the electronic dance scene. I was always into all sorts of music.
Thomas: The late 90’s under Mayor Giulliani were pretty much the dark ages for clubbing in NYC. Around this time, you and Thomas Bullock (Wicked Crew and A.R.E. Weapons) started the now famous Rub-N-Tug parties. Rub-N-Tug took the party out of the glossy clubs and back underground to seedy lofts and dive bars. The parties had a very DIY, downtown, renegade, disco punk vibe that was expressed in both music and attitude. How did you and Thomas meet and come to start Rub-N-Tug?
Eric: Yeah, the early 90’s were a great time in NYC. Giulliani really started clamping down by 1996 when Thomas and I both moved there full time. In ’97, Thomas opened up for DJ Harvey in Los Angeles at Harv’s first real gig in the US. It was a party organized by Paul T., who is the guy behind the Sarcastic Disco parties. So, I flew back to hang out and party. That’s where I met both Harvey and Thomas. Once I was back in NYC, Thomas and I started hanging out at bars and talking about music. One thing led to another… we found this vacant massage parlor loft in China Town with all these weird little rooms. We started doing the Rub-N-Tug parties there in ’99. The vibe was so insane, and everything really took off from there.
Thomas: You’ve put out tons of remixes and edits over the last decade, under too many aliases and record labels to count. I’ve read an interview where DJ Harvey calls you “the best editor on the planet right now” (High praise from the former master himself). I’m a huge Bryan Ferry – Roxy Music fan. How did that edit project come about, and what was it like working on it?
Eric: Yeah, there are quite a few edits and mixes out, I guess… that was a nice thing for Harvey to say! I’ve been involved in 3 different official Bryan Ferry remixes. The first was Rub-N-Tug’s remix of “The Main Thing” by Roxy Music. After that remix, I became good friends with Bryan’s son, Isaac. He put my name in the hat for the next two remixes; the second remix was by Still Going of a track called “Shameless” by Bryan Ferry, and the most recent remix was just my solo retouch of the Bryan Ferry classic, “Don’t Stop The Dance.” They were all really great fun to work on.
Thomas: I know you’re a big vinyl collector and worked for a period at probably the best record store in NYC, A1 Records. I think Danny Wang who you collaborated with also worked there. Danny is also playing here at Hot Mass on December 6th. Other A1 alumni include Dennis Kane and Ron Morelli from L.I.E.S. Seems like great record stores breed great DJs. Little known secret outside of Pittsburgh (though the secret seems to be getting out): We have some of the best record digging in the country here.
Eric: I’ve been hearing that a lot of Japanese cats are coming to Pittsburgh and cleaning up. Jerry’s records, that’s the spot.
Thomas: Yea, that and the Attic.
Eric: I hope I can check it out.
Thomas: We are going on Sunday.
Eric: I’ll leave some space in my bags.
Thomas: What records never leave your bag?
Eric: That’s a tough one. I feel like my sets are always changing and moving forward. I’ll keep a good amount of classics at all times, but I rotate them constantly to keep things interesting. I’m lucky I get lots of promos from friends, new and unreleased things emailed to me. I used to be a sort of vinyl purist, but it make no sense as the vinyl promo almost doesn’t exist these days. So it’s hard to stay really fresh by only playing vinyl. So I’ll play whatever I like, in whatever format I can get my hands on. So to answer your question… things make their way in and out, but nothing says the same for too long.
Thomas: Are you an actual medical doctor or have a doctorate degree of any sort? What have you been up to lately and what can we expect from Dr. Dunks in the near future?
Eric: No, and I do not. Though in a pinch, I can perform an emergency tracheotomy using a ballpoint pen. Lots of traveling, DJing and studio time. Just played Panorama Bar in Berlin and The Block in Tel Aviv. This weekend, I’m in Philly. Guess I’m doing a mini tour of Pennsylvania. Not sure what the ol’ Doctor’s up to next. More parties, more crazy nights under the disco lights.
Thomas: Have you ever tried a Perogie?
Eric: Veselka on 2nd Ave. NYC. That’s a big Pittsburgh thing? That and the sandwich with the fries?
Thomas: That’s right!
You can catch DJ Eric Duncan and openers Anthony Susan and Thomas Ceddia at Hot Mass on Saturday, 11/29 at midnight till Sunday, 11/30 at 7am. The cover charge is $15.