New York-based DJ Bryce David is the man behind Brooklyn’s Black Flamingo, an eatery-cum-discotheque that hosts some of the most exciting selectors both locally and from across the pond.
Starting out in Atlanta as a promoter, Bryce then moved to New York and, seeing a glaring gap in the local nightlife scene, decided to open the nightclub, that by day serves vegan Mexican food and cocktails. As well as running the bookings, the design and the menu at Black Flamingo, you can also find him gracing the decks most weekends, playing all manner of danceable delights.
Navigated by the mood de jour, his ‘Space Cowboy Mix’ soars through cosmic disco, synth-pop and rock selections full of weird sounds, jungle noises and guitar riffs. Alongside the vinyl-only mix, we chat to Bryce about his relationship with vinyl and a life spent saturated in music…
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Records were definitely not a part of my household – but radio waves, cassettes, and CDs were abundant. I believe the first record I ever interacted with was scratching a Sinatra record at my grandfather’s place in New Jersey when I was 7 or 8, though it didn’t have any impact on me, no disrespect to Frankie Blue Eyes. My father was into a lot of Motown stuff and loved Prince and that has left the biggest and longest imprint on me, Nile Rodgers forever, but eventually he just started putting on whatever I was into at the time for better or worse. There was a good 8-year stretch of silly music that we shared together every summer in the Bay Area. No eye-rolls please but my mother played Sade a lot in the house, so Diamond Life holds quite an exclusive place in my heart.
Lastly a nice, healthy buffet of radio stations serving r&b, classic rock, and rap left me feeling fulfilled, there are a lot of moments in my life that are bookmarked by a song so that whenever I hear it today it takes me back. I also moved around quite a bit, spending time in different corners of the country from Key West to Oakland to Atlanta to Boston so I’m pretty lucky to have been exposed to different regions, since they all have their little sub-genres and movements.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
There are two moments where records entered my life and one of them was fleeting, but DJ culture was the conduit in both occasions. When I was in junior high I got an all-in-one DJ set up; coffin, tables, and a numark mixer from my parents, which they eventually came to regret deeply, shout out to them for splitting the tab. I was mostly buying hip-hop and other classic LPs, but the first doubles I had were that debut Clipse album and I used to try to bounce that intro by Pharrell on Grindin’ for weeks with Pusha in the background. Wow, that was hectic.
Eventually for a tween it got too much for me financially and whatnot – I think I chose partying instead, which perhaps had just as much of an influence on me; psychedelic trips with The Doors and Pink Floyd, 40’s on a porch with Tribe and Nas. All of that nonsense. Then I got older, got back into it. Sometimes I still feel like a tween and want to give it all up and be an adult with a bigger savings account but it’s probably too late for that.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
Most 12” records go in the shelves in a room off of my sleeping quarters, some LPs in the kitchen, and some more scattered about. Usually have a pile of ‘why did I buy this’ ready to exit the lot. I try to file by genre: house, more Balearic-y house, dance from Detroit, Edits, synth-pop, etcetera. It’s difficult. I haven’t really found the magic tool yet, but if someone has and they can come over to help me organize, I will cook for them all weekend.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
There are the obvious spots around town I love; A1 Records, Human Head, Second Hand, Superior Elevation, but I must be true and honest to this unforgiving world of DJ culture and admit I am on Discogs more than any physical shop. Huge grabs from Boom Service (local), Lewis Dene, Philadelphia Music, Human Head again, The Slut Bunny, BreweryTownBeats, Preserved Instincts, Super.Soul.Records, and many more near and far.
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
Colorful characters don’t come to mind as much as people who inspire me do, both by their selecting and principally through their passion for all things music. Fede aka FaTik from Second Hand Records: the epitome of record store guy in an actual good way and one of the only people who still picks out records for when you hit him up and he makes a nice curry too. Paul Raffaele of Love Injection: P may be the hardest working guy in NYC, someone get the man a medal or a holiday already plus he’s a killer selector, designer, and connoisseur of all things Spaghetti. Takaya Nagase from JOY; dedicated and educated. He’s the best! Honorable mentions: Toribio aka Papi Chulo, Tom Noble aka Uncle Tom, Bianca Lexis aka BONK, Shawn Dub lives it, breathes it, and many many many more. I would have a lot less friends if music were not such an integral part of my life.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
Negative. I’m not into that. No grails, no legends, no hype. Not all expensive records are good and good records aren’t expensive. Also I do not care if it is a re-press as long as it sounds good. If you need an OG copy of anything you have an amount of disposable income that I can’t register.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
I am definitely a solo digger. It’s just something that works better for me when there is only one agenda on the board, but if I’m hanging with a fellow DJ sometimes we may find ourselves in a record store when it’s too early for a beverage or a romantic meal. With the invention of the Internet it’s become incredibly easy to share music with your friends by quickly sending them a YouTube link with a smiley emoji or a mind-blown emoji. Technology can be fantastic when used sensibly. And I still love listening to music with friends and sharing, but I’d prefer to show and be shown cool stuff from my digger pals or hear them play amazing music on the radio or in a club versus looking for that amazing music together against the clock.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
There’s no real rhyme or reason. Usually I’ll flip through the house section first or if they have an electronica section with weirder cuts that’ll be first. Still checking disco 12” sections for some reason even if I’m only really getting disco cuts I track ID out in clubs that are fun and sleazy. Then on to Rock, World, etc.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
Album artwork is cool. Sometimes it grabs my attention for the right or the wrong reasons and I will listen to it. Sometimes I will skip it and later get shown the same record by a fellow collector and think to myself ‘you would have discovered this if you didn’t skip it by looks alone’ and that will leave me conflicted about my digging skills, but I digress. It’s really just another element to digging that helps, but most records I like to pick up and read the credits on them if they’re listed and that can help. I’d say typography is equally as important, 80s and 90s design skills are such an amazing time capsule.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
Yeah, I titled this the ‘Space Cowboy Mix’ and just pulled fun records with lots of weird sounds or jungle noises and guitar riffs. Something I think a cowboy in Space would listen to if they had the opportunity to dance or listen to a DJ mix lol. Music is serious but this is just a fun mix and something I would want to listen to in a car driving and hopefully some people like it. I think it’s important to keep in mind the environment where the music will be engaged with, super-club mixes outside of a club are just not that tight to me. In here you will find some cosmic records, some rock, some disco. It’s important to have fun with it and go with what you’re feeling and this is what I was feeling at the moment. Sometimes I’m in a NY house mood, sometimes I just want to listen to DJ Screw or Nick Drake all day, but at the time this captured the mood de jour for me.
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
No standouts really, I like all of the records equally, but I did end it with that Chicago 12” that’s super long and amazing and I love playing it out but it’s so crazy and rock’ed out that sometimes it really doesn’t land at all but when it does it’s incredible. I thought it was funny I found an opportunity to put it in a mix and I really wasn’t planning on it, but I saw it sitting there next to my bag and grabbed it and started pitching it in quickly. Once I put it on I was kind of lost on what to play after so I just ended it there which is also how I feel when I play it out and it goes off, I really need to find the perfect follow up blend…
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
This is an extremely interesting time for this question and literally the craziest time the world has universally experienced during my generation; Coronavirus. Three weeks ago I would have gushed about some travel plans and summer weather, whatever really, but a lot has happened recently. Most of my previous concerns seem trivial. I’m currently quarantined in my apartment in New York City. All my plans and dreams are off just like everyone else. My club and restaurant are closed indefinitely. My team at Black Flamingo is out of commission. We’re all out of work. Shout out to them all, I love you very much.
It’s putting a lot of things in perspective and aligning what’s important. In short, I’m excited for things to get ‘back to normal’ but I’m not sure what normal looks like on the other side of this. Hopefully this will bring some corrections to our society, economy, health care system and all of that, but if history has taught us anything, it’s likely that nothing will change in America. If anything I hope that people will just have more empathy for one another when this is done. I’ve leaned into that a lot in the last few years; love, empathy, vulnerability, and honesty. Nobody would have predicted that the world would be going through this, but it really has created this equilibrium that the earth really needed. As it all just started and really has no end in sight I’m just attempting to remain positive, stay balanced, stay in touch with my friends, think about the future, all of that. How can we all put a better foot forward after this? I’m out here getting very existential and misty eyed most of the time.
Really I’m looking forward to friendship, dancing, being outside, eating food outside, and just the option to be physically present with another human being – which if I said to someone two weeks ago they would think I’d completely lost the fucking plot. But things have changed…