Dj Harry Towers
From 1983 to 1991, Harry Towers was the buyer and Billboard Reporter for Our Music Center on Staten Island. At the same time, he was a DJ, spinning at clubs such as Abracadabra on Staten Island, The China Club in Manhattan, Casablanca in New Jersey, and The Spectrum in Brooklyn (better known as 2001 where Saturday Night Fever was filmed). Harry was briefly a music reviewer for the Underground News and later for Dance Music Report Magazine and then Dance Music Authority Magazine. He is also well known for breaking Euro Dance Music. Furthermore, Harry also used to have a hot mix show on Saturdays at The Buzz out of Atlantic City and MIX 102.7 in New York. He can currently be heard on over 10 stations, the most notable ones being NRR Radio, Strictly Dance Radio powered by 1 Club FM and iDanceRadio.com. He formed Deet Promotions 10 years ago with a determination to keep dance music alive. Harry is about to release his first book entitled Abracadabra. Maximum Ink caught up with Harry, and the following is what he had to say.
Maximum Ink: Can you tell us a little about yourself? What were you like as a kid? Have you always been drawn to dance music?
Harry Towers: I was a very outgoing kid who loved nothing more than dancing and playing records. I was always drawn to music and dance. My Aunt Betsy taught me how to do the Twist and I never looked back.
MI: What first made you to try your hand at being at DJ?
HT: I started buying records when I was 10 years old, and whenever there was a party with friends or family, people would ask me to bring my records and play them at the party. When I was 16, I went to a discotheque for the first time and saw the DJ spinning records for a living. I had seen DJs spin before, but I didn’t realize it was a profession. Right then and there I started dreaming of becoming one. However, not until I was 23 and a nightclub named Abracadabra was desperate for a jock to cover their grand opening did I get my first chance to actually do it. Their DJ had the flu, and I ended up getting the job steady.
MI: Why do you prefer to promote dance music?
HT: I love almost all forms of music, but dance music is the one and only form of music that has been here since the beginning of time. The first music played was performed by natives hitting bones on animal hides that were stretched over hollowed out logs. They danced around the fire to tell the history of the tribe or to please the gods. Other styles of music come and go, but people will always respond to the calling of the drums and that makes dance music a necessary part of what it means to be human. So, I am proud to represent dance music. It’s good for your mind, your body, and your soul.
MI: How do you think the dance music genre has changed since the earlier days?
HT: Since dance music organized in the early 1970s until now, it hasn’t changed all that much. What has changed is how we play it, how we get it, and, of course, the singles now are made to be DJ friendly and easier to mix.
MI: I heard once that in the dance music industry you are one of the highest profile record promoters around. Is this true? How do you feel about that?
HT: Yes, that is true, and I don’t know how it happened, but it’s easily measured by the awards and accolades I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy. At the Winter Music Conference, I have had more wins and more nominations than anyone else in dance music history. One thing that I would add is that I took that high profile and used it for good. Along with Ellyn Harris, we formed the Committee for the Advancement of Dance Music and we petitioned NARAS for a Grammy award for dance music, and we got it. NARAS still uses the rules I wrote to define a dance record. Lately, though, I’ve been more involved with raising money for charities. In December I went to Chicago and DJ’d an event that Georgie Porgie put together to benefit a food bank that provides food for a battered women’s shelter. On April 22, I am throwing a benefit here on Staten Island for University Hospice with three DJs and 10 acts. We will also be going to Los Angeles and Phoenix this year to raise money for AIDS and autism charities. The motto of my company is, “Making the world a better place one beat per minute at a time,” and that is my driving force these days.
MI: What do you think it takes to be a good record promoter? Do you have any advice for others on the subject?
HT: I was a Billboard reporter for a few years, and I paid close attention to how the top promoters of the day promoted to me, what worked, what didn’t, and tried to mold myself after the best that would call me, such as Frank Ceraolo and Bari G. It is most important to treat everyone with the respect you want for yourself and never try to make it about one record because there is always another one coming down the line, and if they can’t help you with this one, perhaps they’ll be there for you on the next. I try very hard to get to know their needs as Disc Jockeys, what they enjoy playing, and try to point them towards the mixes and productions that best fit. Once they get to trust that you know and respect them and what they do, things sort themselves out quite nicely. It also helps that I still spin and know music inside and out.
MI: Could you tell us about Abracadabra? What is it like to write a book about yourself? Did it feel a little odd to be putting it on paper?
HT: Abracadabra is a book about my life, growing up to and really focusing on, the three years I honed my craft at Abracadabra, and how it set me up for my career in music. Writing a book about what I know is easier for me than having to make something up out of thin air. The real issue is how truthful do you want to be when it comes to exposing yourself and your life. I believe I came pretty close to telling it all like it is through the filter of how I saw it. I share with most members of my family a way of looking at some of the most difficult things that life can throw at you and see the humor in it. So, I hope the book will be entertaining, as well as bring respect to DJs by bringing the reader into the booth to see what it is we do and also to immortalize the lives of so many of my friends who passed away.
MI: How did you land the job as a Billboard reporter for Our Music Center?
HT: Well that came together that way everything did for me in this business. I was a big fish in a little ocean (Staten Island, New York), and I knew the music. I was a pleasant phone call for a lot of the promoters who would reach out to me. So, when they were looking for another reporter from New York, the promoters themselves put my name in the hat, and they offered it to me. The thing was, I didn’t know what it was. I thought they wanted me to be like a musical Clark Kent, and they would give me assignments to interview artists for Billboard Magazine. The woman in charge of Billboard reporters at the time, Sharon Russell, laughed her ass off when I asked her what would be my first assignment. She said who do you think you are? Jimmy Olson? She then explained that all they needed from me was to report my top singles.
MI: You grew up in a haunted house as a child. What was that like? You have said you saw things that weren’t usual for a kid your age. What kind of things? Do you think that experience left a lasting impression on you?
HT: There were always weird occurrences going on, and we never knew why. I could go on with ghost stories for days, but we moved out of the house after the ceiling collapsed over my bed, and there was a body buried in it. That was a real “Aha” moment, and we moved from that house in Brooklyn to Staten Island. I was 11 years old. Going forward, I have an open mind about anything. Lacking evidence, most people say prove to me the supernatural exists. For me, when evidence is lacking, I say prove to me it doesn’t exist. I believe first and ask questions later because one day it can save your life. I was walking dogs one night after midnight on Halloween, and all of a sudden I heard really loud tubular bells. Child, I’ve seen a lot of horror movies and experienced a lot in my life, but when you hear the music you run. I tore ass down the streets dragging three Dachshunds and a Shepard mix behind me, only to find out it was a van coming around the corner with the radio blaring the music out of an open window.
MI: As a record promoter, DJ, and author, how would you actually classify yourself?
HT: I always think of myself as a DJ, but more and more I feel like an author. However, the book has to come out first.
MI: What is it like to have your work featured on 10 stations and eight stations on the internet? Would you like to see your work on more stations someday?
HT: It’s weird because you don’t know who is listening until you get an e-mail or someone reaches out to you on Facebook to comment about your show or ask you about something you played and how they can get it. When I was on the radio here in New York, we had a concert for the station in Manhattan, and our Saturday Night Mix Show was the highest rated show on the station. When they brought all the DJs out, I was the last to come out. The roar of the crowd was deafening. It was an awesome moment for me— a real rush.
MI: What projects are you currently working on over at Deet? How is your quest to keep dance music alive going? What can your fans look forward to next?
HT: Right now I am really excited about a single we got breaking around the world called “Nah Neh Nah” by Rico Bernasconi vs. Vaya Con Dios. The single is doing so well that Sony Music just picked it up, so I am thrilled about that, as well as singles by DJ Yiannis and Georgie Porgie, PH Electro, Khalid Rivera, Amoray, and Groove State. I’ve already started on the sequel to Abracadabra called Our Music Center and a supernatural fiction novel tentatively called Joey’s Gift, but I know I’m going to change the title once it’s finished. On my own Sirenia Records label, we are putting together the next singles for Dare 2B Dif’rnt, Nancy Yvonne, and Ben Coen. Also coming up are the benefits on Staten Island, in Phoenix, and in Los Angeles. I think that is about all I can handle right now.