You’ve remixed hundreds of artists, which one brings the widest smile to your face?
I’ve been so lucky to work on so many amazing records by incredible artists that it’s almost impossible to answer this question. But when I was remixing Luther Vandross’s classic 'Never Too Much' by a wonderful coincidence he was booked in the same studio in the room next door. He heard what I was doing with the remix, told me he really loved it and asked if he could possibly record some new vocal parts for it! Needless to say that was an incredible experience and I had a smile on my face for a long, long time after - and whenever I hear it still.
The world you started your career in has become the stuff of nightlife myth. What was 80s NYC like for you?
You don’t really think about how special something is while you’re living it. You’re just doing it. But obviously I knew I was part of and witness to so many incredible nightlife and other experiences at that time. To have had residences at now legendary clubs like the Mudd Club, The Ritz, Area, Limelight, Tunnel, and played often at many others is something I don’t take for granted. The creative energy and those inspiring people I was around all the time was magical. It was a small community of like minded people doing really ground breaking things. It was possible for all that to happen in New York at that moment and I thank my lucky stars I was part of it.
How does today’s NYC club / music scene compare to when you started DJing?
The world has changed and along with it the club / music scene, this isn't a New York phenomenon. I don’t think you can compare it at all really as things have changed so much. I never thought about having a career as a dj. It just happened. I loved music and had a pretty good record collection. I'd never dj’d anywhere before my first gig at the Mudd Club. Now being a dj is something people want to do as a career - dj culture is a 'thing'. The age of the social media dj is with us: how many likes and followers and this and that. I use social media as well but try to keep it interesting and somewhat personal. Dj’s are now performers, rock stars so to speak... playing on stages. I grew up going to great clubs to hear dj’s and dance music I couldn’t hear anywhere else but all that’s changed. It is what it is but I try to bring that experience of going out to the best clubs and playing in great spaces with me whenever and wherever I play.
How did you make it through New York in the 70s/80s and four decades of DJing and never touch drugs?
The boring but honest answer is it never interested me at all, so I never thought about. If someone offered me any I just said 'no thanks'. Same in school as well. I just knew it wasn’t anything I wanted to do. Just walking into the Paradise Garage or playing records at the places I have done and still do is all I ever needed.
What’s the secret to HMD’s success in your home city?
The HMD parties in New York have been some of the most fun and special I’ve played. The crowd is into the music and dancing from record one. They aren’t staring at the dj, they are dancing and engaged with the music and each other and that is a beautiful thing.
Check out Justin's mix with Severino on NYC's Lot Radio in 2017 here: https://www.mixcloud.com/thelotradio/severino-horse-meat-disco-justin-strauss-the-lot-radio-07212016/
HMD have started to release their own music. Will we see a Justin Strauss remix?
No one's asked me yet, but that would be special for sure.
You were centre stage during a golden era in New York’s music and club culture in the 80s. Which people back then had the biggest impact on you personally and professionally?
Well there have been many but if I had to single out a few I’d say David Azarch. He was the great dj at the Mudd Club who gave me the opportunity to play one night which fortunately turned into my life from then onwards. And then there was Larry Levan. The first time I walked into the Paradise Garage in 1981 and heard Larry play records I never thought the same about what it meant to be a dj. He was and is my biggest inspiration and we got to become friends which made it even better.
There's been a cultural symbiosis between London and New York for decades, especially musically. What's your personal relationship to the Big Smoke?
The first thing musically that had a huge life changing impact on me was the Beatles and the 'British Invasion' which came with it followed by David Bowie, glam rock and then punk. England was like a dream place for me. When I was 17 I was the lead singer in a band called Milk n’ Cookies and by a twist of fate we were signed by Island Records and sent to London to record our album. To say this was a dream come true would be a huge understatement. So I have a really strong connection to London and have been many, many times.
My first dj trip to London was in 1992 to play Ministry of Sound in the early days. The New York / London connection was and is very strong. When I started doing remixes many of them were commissioned by the London a&r people and musicians. I have remixed so many British artists including Depeche Mode, Marc Almond, 808 State, Erasure, Holly Johnson, Fine Young Cannibals, Duran Duran, Hot Chip, Blood Orange and many others. And of course the HMD London/New York love affair is something I’m super proud to be part of.
Justin plays Horse Meat Disco this Sunday at The Eagle, 349 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5QY. Doors open at 8pm.