This Saturday, one of the icons of the DJ community spins at PURE. Manny Lehman is the central part of many gay community members’ dance memories. He’s spun everywhere from Montreal to Miami ; New York to LA. He’s headlined almost every circuit party on the planet, and now he’s extended his network of fans to the thousands of boys and girls who take to the ever-growing gay cruise market. Matthew Ray HX Philadelphia chatted with Manny from his dreary office in the cold Gayborhood while Manny lounged in his cabin on an Atlantis cruise. Lucky bastard!
Matthew Ray: You were a bigwig at A&M Records. Why did you go from recording company executive to DJ?
Manny Lehman: I was always spinning, even during my years working at the record label. I felt it gave me a sense of the music in streets and where the next vibe was coming from. I had just left A&M and was considering another position at another record label, when the DJ thing took on a life of it’s own. Before I knew it, it was a full fledging career.
MR: You held the title of “Director of Dance Promotions” at A&M…Sounds like a job that would take you to a lot of clubs….
ML: It did take me to many clubs all over the country, but most of the jobs entailed speaking to the DJs on a weekly basis to ensure chart activity on the Billboard Charts and club rotation.
MR: Can you tell me a little bit about your discovery of CeCe Peniston?
ML: I discovered CeCe Peniston singing background on a rap record I was working on. One of the songs "Female Preacher" had a solo in it and it was CeCe. I heard that voice and was like “ Who in the world is that?” I flew to Phoenix to meet her and she was just a doll. I asked her if she was interested in a solo career, she gleamed and said "Absolutely!" We cut a demo, which was Finally. I knew it was going to catch on as a club record, but I never anticipated it to be such a huge radio hit and then spread to international success. It still gives me goosebumps when I hear it on the radio.
MR: You’ve had some major success teaming with Jeffrey Sanker…Why do you think his events still draw record crowds?
ML: Jeffrey is a very pivotal person in my career. He put me in the spotlight as a DJ, something I will never forget. I think he continues to have success because he is very intuitive. Whether it’s a huge event like the White Party or a happening lounge/bar like Eleven or Area, he keeps his relevance by changing with the times.
MR: How has clubland and the circuit changed since the 2000-2001 heyday?
ML: The circuit scene has changed quite a bit. There used to be a circuit event a month, now there are a few a year. Gay Disney, Winter Party, Black & Blue, White Party, Blue Ball…They have all survived, but many of the smaller events have gone by the wayside. I think it has to do with circuit fatigue… There was a lot of traveling and expense one had to undertake. It then transformed into big guest DJs at local clubs. So you can have the music bought to you. The Gay Cruise ship has filled the void of circuit events. I have been working with Atlantis for a long time now and have seen it grow into this massive cultural phenomenon, where you get your circuit fix in abundance and then some. It goes beyond just a party but becomes a total cultural/lifestyle experience filled with travel, entertainment and friends old and new.
MR: What do you think draws gay men to the dance scene, more so then straight men?
ML: It’s a place of congregation for our community. It’s a place where we can be who we are without public judgment. It’s a safe place.
MR: You’ve lived in LA and NYC, what appeals to you about both and what are the major differences – musical and in the gay scene?
ML: What initially appealed to me about LA was the weather. I love living in LA…. Having a car and living in a house, not something you really can’t do in the New York environment without having a ton of money. I will always feel in my heart that NYC is my first home. A trip to spin in NYC is always a great musical experience.
MR: So tell me a bit about your MOVE ATLANTIS CD…
ML: I am one of the seasoned veteran DJs on the Atlantis team. As I mentioned before it’s a unique environment that combines so many different aspects into one amazing experience. You can go to a massively produced party one night…. have a quiet dinner one night and go see a high quality show the next or many times you get to do them all in one night. You also connect with people in a different way than you do at a regular party, you get to become friends with people.
MR: What can we expect from you upcoming appearance at PURE?
ML: Nothing but PURE fun & energy…. get it huh PURE fun
MR: What else do you have in store for the coming year?
ML: I have another CD coming out soon, on Tommyboy. It’s more original music-based. It will be called "Back to Music".
Saturday, March 15 th
open till 8AM
MOVE: Atlantis Dance 2008