10 Jul
Imitating The Six Million Dollar Man While Hustling New York City Style


Above portrait shot by Timothy Saccenti

Sometimes when you met someone, things just click. That’s what happened when I linked up with Dennis. I always considered myself a bit of a music nerd, but after chatting with the man I realized I was operating on some grade school level, while he was the pipe-smoking prof—leather patches on his tweed jacket and all. I met him about a week after he played an issue release party in NYC for the magazine I was editor of. I wasn’t at the party, but I did hear how good he was (for a while too) from a gaggle of friends that were. They were all, Dennis this and Dennis that. I was kinda jealous. Apparently guy rocked it with a set of off-the-beaten-path rock/disco jams. This was years before the whole disco/non-disco thing came back in fashion, btw.

So there I was, sitting in my office, across the table from a good thing staring me in the face. Being no dummy, Dennis was brought on board to do a column each month. Reading his work every issue made me feel like I was discovering something essential. Completely sans fluff—I felt inspired. Looking back at the scope of things now, he pretty much mapped out the influences of what has become the “new disco” scene: David Mancuso, Arthur Baker, The Glimmers, The Idjut Boys, Daniel Wang—his list of contributions were long. Next thing I know we’ve been working together for years.

Over time I got to know him, catch his occasional roof raiser sets in LA, Miami or NYC, and get his insights on music, art, culture. He was always onto something new, always digging, reading, note-taking, hustling some new project, new party, new idea. Guy is intensely engaged on life. He runs two vinyl imprints, is a monster on the decks worldwide, maintains a studio practice as a visual artist, works on remixes and original productions, throws a great loft party, and is a co-resident (with Darshan Jesrani, Metro Area fame) at Cielo in NYC. For the past 6 months he’s been imitating the Six Million Dollar Man while recovering from a near fatal bike accident (run over by an 18 wheeler—a 15 ton fuel oil truck to be exact!). He was on this way home in Manhattan to his studio in Queens when he was hit from behind. The truck ran over his pelvis, which cracked in multiple pieces, the flesh in his right thigh was torn from the bone and he’s likened the damage to his lower calf muscle as a pressed Cuban sandwich. The good news is that he’s back on his feet and feeling good enough to have just designed and rebuilt his son’s room and he’s once again on the hustle… oh yeah, and he got a new BMX!

I always get an ear full, mainly from people that live in NYC, about how New Yorkers are “real.” I don’t know about all that, but I do know that Dennis is one legit man. Read all about how this guy drinks, dances, and gets down NYC, why he admires David Lynch, the importance of joyful sleaze and that horrific bike accident in our interview after the jump.

“Ice Chips And Morphine” mix (I’m a big fan of one and I don’t have anything against the other):

[podcast]http://lostinasupermarket.com/robsimas/Kane/ice chips and morphine corrected.mp3[/podcast]

“I’m not sure any one place will ever be the center again. New York has been so amazing for so long, and certainly when I talk to friends from LA or London their view often is that it’s still the spot. I used to love my neighborhood, (Lower East Side) it had such an amazing amalgamation of everything, art, crime, sleaze, intellect—that mix that you think of when you see NYC in capital letters. Now the neighborhood is all condos—there’s a sports bar for fucks sake, but it’s a condition of all cities now…” Dennis “Citizen” Kane


above photo by Karen Ramspacher

Hey Mr. Kane!
Dennis Kane: Rob, what aisle are you in?

I’m upstairs in the manager’s office…if you were Lost In A Supermarket where would you be?
The aisle with the hot mommies—the ones without botox. Actually, at my local Key Food there was a murder recently, so much for “shopping happily”. Great lyrics to that song* – “ I wasn’t born so much as I fell out…” (He’s referring to the song “Lost In The Supermarket”, The Clash, btw.)

So what is on the front burner these days?
Music and then some, I am pretty much 90% back physically—leg is still numb from the knee to hip, and lot’s of scar tissue but I am doing gigs and working on music. Ghost Town has a new 12” that just came out, 2 edits from me, and one from these Irish kids—Bicep. There is another 12” featuring 3 Beat Broker arrangements to follow. I am finishing up the next release for Disques Sinthomme—my own composition with vocals from Sal Principato, (Liquid, Liquid), we are also doing an arrangement of one of Sal’s “Fist of Facts” tracks. I am also back in the studio painting and drawing, it’s been a minute—the whole “try to start walking again” thing took some time away.

Let’s talk about the accident. You recently had a near death experience. Literally. Can you talk about what was going through your mind at the time it occurred? Do you remember anything from that moment?
My therapist asked the same question, actually he phrased it: “how did it feel”? Which is hard to answer, there is not really any prior experience to condition your response—an 18-wheeler ran me over. You are speechless when it happens, and shortly after in some truly sublime pain. I rolled out of the way of the last set of wheels, otherwise a number of DJs would now be bidding on my record collection!! I thought about my son Roan Mingus, I remember staring up at the night sky—almost seeing how far I could look, thought “not right now”, and hoped the EMS people would respond. I went into active mode, called 911, and managed to get a call into my wife. I couldn’t look down at my own body so I kept it on the verbal and visual, it was freakish and heightened—trying to be in charge was how I coped. Which given my state was somewhat surreal—yelling at them to take me to Bellvue, (it has the country’s best trauma unit), freaked out that the cop never gave the driver a drug or alcohol test, explaining to the EMTs that it wasn’t a head injury… it was very chaotic. When they wheeled me into Bellvue about 15 people got to work on me, tubes everywhere, the whole 9, and that wonder drug Morphine. The main concern was spinal, then internal bleeding… My man Anthony was there as I arrived, the look on his face put the fear into me. Ohh let’s talk about something else man.

Last thing on it. How, if at all, did you walk away from this experience a different man?
It does change you, I had already been through plenty prior, but one thing I really felt after was not to stress so much of the BS, and to really try to live in the present. The world is fundamentally unfair, and certainly in my small worlds of art and music a general lack of criticality has made for a kind of capital driven chaos. The line between art and entertainment has been painfully burned and things have been dramatically dumbed down.

Hopefully we are at the end of a certain paradigm and beginning of another. [Said wishfully] Since the accident I try and work hard, but make more of an effort to enjoy the everyday. I don’t know Rob, things still piss me off, but I can’t give up the energy worrying about aspects that I have no control over. It doesn’t mean a retreat to passivity, it just means create response—artistic, social, political etc… and attempt to enjoy the process of doing it. Also it impressed on me something I try to think about daily; it can all go by at any second, try to stay in love with things, and know how fleeting even the best-case scenario is…

Speaking of response what’s happening with the Strobe Lodge parties?
Darshan and I are doing one this upcoming Saturday at a gallery space in Brooklyn, it’s a benefit for a group of documentary filmmakers, we’ll have the sound system hooked up, a little cookout beforehand, and a long night of joyful sleaze for a great crowd who really makes it happen. The vibe from these events has such warm feel. The sense of engagement is really brilliant.

Joyful sleaze, I like the way that sounds. Give me a story, put a smile on my face.
Our crew is full on, they are tough to wrangle at times, but they work hard, and play hard. Graf writer and town bon vivant SPAM has been our barman through thick and thin, and he has managed to get laid at each and every one of our parties—while working! One night we were in a wine wholesale place getting stuff for the party, and me and my man Ryan were arguing over the best vin choice for our remaining budget, in the minute or so we haggled, Spam went over and picked up this gorgeous woman who was offering Cognac samples. Pretty Tony aka Anthony C, our host, rocks the velvet bathrobe look on his deck, grinds down to the party and then sets off the dancefloor. Our man Sean works 2 full time jobs at SONY and Downtown Distribution, and his only question always is “what do you need”. I mean really it’s what you want, put your cards on the table and play—drink, dance, and get down—but, with a sincere sweetness, not some half assed, look at me I’m dirrty affectation. This has more joy to it—good to be alive and complicated…and the crowd has that mix, hipsters, but not so many who sulk and wanna be the star. Fuck that. It’s more just cool people who almost gave up on going out. This is one of the best compliments we get: “ I used to go out in London all the time mate but I’ve been staying home—until I found this…” David (Mancuso) said something so beautiful to me about his crowd: “Many of them I’ve known since they were young, and they’ve grown and there is more to them as people and therefore there is so much more to love…”

I see you guys are back at Cielo with the Adult Section nights, I also heard you finished your night at APT.
Yeah we are really excited to go back to Cielo, the sound system there is proper and the venue is run on a really professional level. We had been doing Tuesdays and having a ball, you could sense something growing. Cielo’s owner Nicolas (Matar), was really empathetic about the accident, (he had one of his own to deal with), and offered us Fridays when I was ready to return.

Apt changed ownership—the club is now run by the new owners’ 26-year-old son. I did a night there for 8 1/2 years, really a long run, but toward the end things fell off behind the scenes, the club was rundown, the cool staff all fled, the cops were shutting the place down nightly for violations, the equipment was breaking, the music programming fell off, etc… I guess there is inevitable entropy. I don’t understand how you can make money for so long and never put anything back into the venue…

Do you see the current economic contraction impacting the city? Is it affecting people’s creativity? Do you think it will?
Well there are a lot of places closed down, (stores, record shops, restaurants, clubs) and certainly Brooklyn has become the locus that downtown used to be. I think poor people will get it the worst (as usual).

Perhaps wealth will not be as prevalent. Bohemia left long ago, real estate took care of that. A general sense that art = $ and fame poisoned the well pretty badly as well. There were and are a lot of entitled people wanting it all, and wanting it immediately. No time for paying dues or for trying to become specific, just find something and promote the hell out of it, develop a style much like a product and get over—fame as the ultimate credit line. Lot’s of bad disco wannabe’s. Hey, if all that gets checked I’ll feel pretty good. What worries me are cuts in education, quality of life for the working people of the city. A city can’t just be poorly designed condos and cheesy lounges. Modernism developed over a long time, the results of FDR’s social policies ushered in a sense of growth on all levels. That growth has been slowing precipitously since the early to mid ‘80s. Things have gotten top heavy and fallow, the idea of progress from the middle got lost.

LA has really stepped up its game. Do you think New York is still the apex for art and culture?
I’m not sure any one place will ever be the center again. New York has been so amazing for so long, and certainly when I talk to friends from LA or London their view often is that it’s still the spot. I used to love my neighborhood, (LES) it had such an amazing amalgamation of everything, art, crime, sleaze, intellect—that mix that you think of when you see NYC in capital letters. Now the neighborhood is all condos—there’s a sports bar for fucks sake, but it’s a condition of all cities now… I don’t know if you can ever get that mix back once you prohibit it. I was talking to my neighbor, he is a writer and in his late 70s, he was saying he had thought NYC was through in the ‘60s, but it came back, and in the ‘70s, but it came back, and so on… It still draws in an amazing group of people who really push hard at what they do; perhaps cheaper rents will widen that pool of people a bit, let in a perspective that isn’t so upper middle class.

Do you distinguish between your visual and music work? The audience or concepts?
Really I don’t think about that, the audience for my visual art is so small—it’s hard to call it an audience (laughs). I think I just pursue ideas in varied media, in the end I don’t worry about the connections, if they are there they are subtle, and on a deeper level. One thing I love about DJing is that it’s a night—you show up, you do it—the party happens and it’s over, gone, I love that. Granted it gets videotaped or recorded on occasion, but what happens in those moments stays there. I think the visual work is completed by the viewer, but the way they work that out is private—in their own heads. I don’t feel overly precious about the reified nature of the visual work; I like thinking of the object as a tool for people to use.

Have you considered a website for both? Or do you want to keep the art and music separate?
Actually we are working on that now, a place that will have everything under one banner, I used to not mix the two worlds. The feeling being that seriousness in one implied a less than serious approach in the other—but that’s rubbish. Everything I’ve done, architecture, photography, writing, art, film, music etc… or do is part of a continuum of thought. When I was studying philosophy I was supporting myself as a carpenter. When I was working on my thesis I would read film scripts for $. By nature our involvements are complex—it’s rare that I meet someone whose life is singular. I like how David Lynch has set it up so that he can edit film, make furniture, work on music, and paint in the same group of buildings. Not only that, he is taking the distribution into his own hands; forming his own networks for dissemination. I think that is going to be the way for the future and in my own poor man’s way want to try and set it up so that all my activity has a place, and that varied production isn’t separated by form. I think the way my pal Paul (Mudd) has set up his Claremont 56 label is really beautiful, the sense of care involved is so evident.


[podcast]http://www.lostinasupermarket.com/robsimas/Kane/Cactus_Cooler_Citizen Kane_White_Night_Riot_Mix.mp3[/podcast]

What’s the MO for Ghost Town and Disques Sinthomme?
Well Ghost Town is primarily for edits or re-arrangements—records in a small pressing for DJs to play, subtle adjustments to heighten the strong aspects of tunes that might not otherwise see the light of day. Disques Sinthomme is primarily for original work, on the left side of the dancefloor, to be honest my interest is moving more toward songs, (as opposed to tracks) and the more work I do with live musicians the more I feel like that is the way.



Tell me again why Citizen Kane? Man crush on Orsen Wells?
Ha! Well I had a pretty sadistic Latin teacher in high school (laughs) he carried a copper pipe wrapped in rubber, he would ask you a question (in Latin), if you answered incorrectly he would wack you on the thigh—insane. He used to call me either Citizen Kane or Killer Kane (which was a comic strip figure from the ‘50s), the guy from the New York Dolls already had Killer Kane so… Actually in Wells’ film the title is ironic, Charles Foster Kane becomes a tyrant of capital, above the civic contract, really the opposite of what a citizen should be. I took its more literal utopian sense—participate, promote the civic, contribute etc… and yes Wells and I were a couple from 1974 – 78 in Ibiza—right before I married Dyan Cannon, I thought you knew that?

What’s your most treasured piece of music? And what on your iPod would embarrass you if others found out that you were listening to it?
Oh the Steven Segal audio books? Mmmm most treasured hard to say, I really love Eric Dolphy, “Sketch of Melba” is a big fav, and I love the early Wille Nelson demo stuff “Opportunity to cry” or “Darkness on the face of the earth”… I’m not embarrassed by any of the music I have, some people don’t get it sometimes, I was trying to explain how great Jimmy Webb and Laura Nyro are to some “DJ” person, it went right over his networking hipster head… I laughed… what are you gonna do

Teach them the way… where would anyone be without guidance.

On July 24th Citizen Kane plays at Love in NYC July 24 w/ DJ Harvey, August 28th with Darshan Jesrani at Cielo and in Los Angeles around mid August (trust us, we’ll have the details).

No Responses to “Dennis “Citizen” Kane”

  1. andy says:

    nice interview


  2. Candy says:

    He’s an inspiration to try to bring it all together. I’m a fan! Thanks!

  3. Sean says:

    Nice one mate!!!
    Laura Nyro always makes me sad, even after listening to it for 30 hours on end at work, it still has the same bittersweet effect.

  4. […] of hearing. No BS. Our boy Dennis “Citizen” Kane (you can peep the feature we did on him here) is going to work it out with Harvey tomorrow night. Ummm, if you’re in NYC right now, go! It’s […]

  5. […] In case you’re not familiar with Citizen Kane, we sat down for a chat a little while back. You can read our interview here. […]

  6. Renzulli says:

    Gotta love them pressed Cuban calf muscle sandwiches! They don’t make ’em in San Diego. Great read brohammer!

  7. Thanks for some other great article. The place else could anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect approach of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the look for such info.

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