Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann – “How Does One Continue To Have Some Relevance”
S&S: What’s your style of music? How do you describe it?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: My style is very eclectic-I draw musical inspiration from all genres-not just electronic dance music–deep house, progressive, etc –but also from global influences. My musical tastes run from Yousou N’Dour to Salif Keita to Elvis Crespo and artists and genres in between.
S&S: Who or what was most instrumental to you when it came to music?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: My musical influences as far as being in radio or as a dj first and foremost was my pops Thomas TJ Spann, Sr followed by my cousin Pervis Spann ,. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my mom as well because she kept the radio playing, especially on Sundays as we listened to the dusties on then WBMX and that is where I learned all about the Motown, Tamla, Stax and other great catalogues of funk/soul.r & b. As far as mixologist-def initely Steve Silk Hurley whom I lovingly refer to as big brother –I learned a tremendous amount from Steve on beat-matching – 89th and Blackstone was THE classroom) as well as showmanship/ presentation (giving the crowd something and leaving them wanting for more) –Having the ability to be an opener for both Frankie Knuckles, Lil Louis and Ron Hardy on so many of those now infamous hotel parties like the Bismark, the Ascot, Blackstone, etc.. I learned a lot about music selection and telling a story with the music. I learned from Frankie the importance of reading album liners to learn about the musicians, the producers, etc. From Ronnie, I learned how to push the envelope musically –a lesson that I never forgot and employ to this day-and Lil Louis taught me about expanding your skill set-“don’t just play the music. create and own the music”.
S&S: What drives you creatively?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I am driven creatively by sights and sounds all around me. Whether in the studio, on the air or in the booth, I try to study everything that is going on around me-to always BE in that moment and observe . For example, when I receive promos from different labels, I go in my studio, put the track on, and turn on the disco lights in there to simulate the club environment – and I listen –REALLY listen to what is coming out of those speakers- dissect the songs –musically-lyrically-I concentrate on the emotion that it evokes in me and consider how will that translate to my audience either over the airwaves, the internet or on the loud club system / festival system. I ask myself, whether it’s a track that I put together or one that I am considering purchasing or one received as promo-would I have spent an entire weekend on my hands, knees and tired feet going from record bin to record bin to look for this joint and once found, would I spend my last few dollars and be okay with having to walk home from the record store because it was worth THAT sacrifice? These are the standards that I use both driving me creatively and when I am playing for my audiences.
S&S: How much does your audience influence you and your music selection?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I am ALWAYS influenced by my audience in the sense that the crowd-the dancers-are there not to ctritique so much as to be comforted-to be transported away from their current realities-bills, relationship issues, daily stressors and they are looking for me –or whomever is in the booth-to deliver the right pain medicine to help them heal for at least a few hours. I honestly consider myself while playing as some sort of spiritual leader and the crowd are my congregants that are looking to be uplifted and as such it is a sacred duty to be on point. I am always mindful that I have a responsibility to the promoter/venue to drive revenue during the event BUT I am equally mindful of the fact that the crowd is ultimately responsible for paying my fees.
S&S: What artists or genres do you listen to when you’re not working?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: Man I listen to a lot of reggae –roots and culture mostly, lover’s rock , zouk and hi-life, calypso, merengue, salsa, bachata and classic hip hop. In my thumb drive that is currently in the usb port in my car, there is plenty of Marvin Gaye, Soukous Stars, Jacob Miller , The Eagles , Stanley Jordan, Wes Montgomery –runs the gamut.
S&S: Do you have any favorite memories of growing up with your family?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I truly led a blessed life-by today’s standards we were poor-5 people in a one bedroom apartment on the south side –in Chatham- BUT I wouldn’t change a thing about it. My mom and pops were hands on without being helicopter parents. They never told us that we lacked the ability to do or be anything-even a dj-if that is what our passions were. There was always music –and big meals –like on Soul Food-that my mom shared with the entire neighborhood. Backyard barbecues were legendary because the neighbors all shared and cooked together. I have since buried both of my parents-my pops in 92 killed by a drunk driver over in Hyde Park –my mom in 2002 due to cancer –but they were incredible. I have two brothers that are still living in Chicagoland area and we talk all of the time.
S&S: Is there anything you would like people to know about you?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: All of the accolades received over my lifetime, all of the opportunities to travel around the globe-China, Dubai, UK, Africa – to spread dance music and good vibes-this has been a tremendous privilege BUT the thing that I count as my greatest role or title is DAD. I am blessed with two beautiful children that every day I have the privilege of being called their father. I love being at every soccer or basketball game. I love being at their boy and girl scout activities. I love dating my kids on weekends that I am not touring and the fact that sometimes my kids -15 and 12, still like to climb up in the bed and watch movies with their dad.
S&S: Are there any charities you are working with or excited to tell us about?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I am an active mentor with the 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale and a supporter of my local Kiwanis Chapter. I volunteer to coach PAL basketball and have recently begun volunteer coaching tennis for inner city kids. I also donate my dj services to several non-profits throughout the year such as Boys & Girls Clubs for fundraisers-including the equipment.
S&S: Are there any questions that you wish people would ask you?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I would love for folks to ask me how does one continue to have some relevance after three decades in this or any other industry. I would tell them it is really simple -1) ALWAYS be professional-I never drink at gigs 2) I never ask for guest list –the promoter/venue is counting on paying patrons to pay me 3) I’m on time to gigs-meaning I usually arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour prior to my set time 4) NO DRUGS-EVER! 5) I don’t stress over what djs on the bill or in the audience think of what me, the HIRED talent for the night is doing 6) Stop waiting on others to open doors for you-get out there and be hungry-stay hungry BUT don’t be cutthroat because it will come back on you 7) ALWAYS HAVE FUN!
S&S: And on the flip side of that, are there any questions or references you wish people would stop asking or using?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: Please stop showing up at gigs with YOUR headphones and YOUR music asking to get on if YOU’RE not the hired talent for the gig and stop asking me (more like advising me LOL) to play so and so., such and such. Stop asking me how much am I getting paid –its none of your business –charge what you believe YOU’RE worth and either the venue/promoter will agree and hire you at that amount or not. Please stop accepting gigs for $25 and bar tickets because you are hurting those that come after you. STOP asking for copies of music-true story-I had a guy ask me if he could go get his hard drive out the car and would I load music on it-if we don’t have history like that, it’s not going to happen-and besides, many of the labels that send me promos ASK explicitly to NOT SHARE their intellectual property. Seriously, most tracks are between .99-5.99 –if you’re going to be in this industry, you gotta make the investment.
S&S: What artist(s) have you been the most excited to work with?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I have been really excited about our work with Rona Ray , Vicky Martin , Diamond Dancer , and solo efforts with Nigel Lewis and Rodolfo Velarde.
S&S: Are there any artists that you dream of working with on a collaboration?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: A while back, we did an unauthorized treatment of a Sade single that got a tacit nod of approval from her folks but Sade is notorious for her disdain of remixes of her work-and I am not mad at her at all-but if I could, I would love to work with her.
S&S: What can we look forward to next from you?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I am going to resume a more active tour schedule over the next few years and hanging it all up at the end of those 2 years. I will continue with my mixshow on WMOC (mocradio.com) Thursdays from 6-8 PM and perhaps Silk and I will finally roll out a project or three for the S&S imprint.
S&S: What legacy would you like to leave?
Thomas “DJ P.E.A.C.E” Spann: I want my legacy to be that I loved people anyway and that I helped people to find their escape-albeit temporarily-through the stories I shared with them over the airwaves, over the internet or in the clubs. Love is all that matters most. Without it, we but tinkling brass and good for nothing. The second half of that legacy is that I want to help as many people as I can become debt free so that they can in turn reinvest in our communities and help turn this thing around-politicians can’t do it for us-well meaning community organizations cannot do it alone-it takes resources –money answereth all things-so by creating opportunities for our children to thrive and discover their best, authentic selves without fear of premature deth by violence-it will take all of us. We cannot lead any people if we don’t love the people nor can we save our people if we won’t serve our people.
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