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I decided to get in touch with Henry Maldonado after playing his record “Trial By Fire.” I thought to myself, “I need more from whoever this person is,” so I did an online discogs search and found out the man behind the wax is Henry Maldonado, a house music veteran of over 20 years and one of the first producers on the famous label Strictly Rhythm. I ended up with a lot more than just more music to listen to. I was given the opportunity to pick his brain, and now for those of you curious, you can get an insider’s viewpoint on early house music in the 90’s from one of NYC’s finest!

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Q: First time I heard your production was when I bought your “Trial by Fire” EP on Speak Recordings. You’ve been producing far before 2008. Tell me about your start in music and how it’s evolved.

A: I DJ’d locally and produced New York style House tracks with two of my closest friends. We went under the names House 2 House and Urban Rhythm on the Strictly Rhythm label. Our first release in 1991 was an EP of 2 tracks – Hypnotize Me / I Wanna See You Dance. Our sound was pretty raw and very “bedroom” sounding but that was the style back then, and honestly what I didn’t know about producing music could fill a stadium. We weren’t thinking much, we stole a lot of samples and had a ton of fun experimenting and making tracks and hearing them out at places like Palladium and Sound Factory Bar.

Whatever we were doing was working for us and the momentum carried over to releases on Maxi, King Street, Choice, Emotive and other labels. Later I continued to make House tracks on my own throughout the mid and late ’90s and landed releases on MAW records under the name Rhythm Section. I also had releases on the Henry Street label under Groove Culture.

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Q: You are based in NYC, were you born and raised there? What is most inspiring about the city to you now, and in what has been in the past?

A: I was born and raised in NYC, my parents and family were raised here so I’m pretty rooted. It’s hard to put a finger on what inspires me about this city. Looking back it was a decaying mess but I couldn’t see it and I don’t remember if any of my friends were aware of it either, and we all came from the projects. It was just home to us. I always felt New York had a life and an energy of its own. I’ve been to a few places and I know you can say that about cities like LA and Berlin. I witnessed Hip Hop grow from something we did on the block, to a global phenomenon.

Having a front row seat to the growing underground music and art scene in New York was all the inspiration I needed. I just wanted to be a part of it. I lived in Queens most of my life and moved to Brooklyn about 8 years ago. New York today is very different and by no means am I ghost chasing. There’s a ton of things I miss about New York and a lot of shit I’m glad doesn’t exist anymore. I tend to like the renewed enthusiasm people have for this city these days. Ironically it tends to come from people who aren’t from here, and props to them because the rents are high as fuck!

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Henry Maldonado: Right. (1990’s)


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Q: Tell me about the first record you ever released.

A: An SP1200, Korg M1, EMU-Emax sampler and a couple of reverbs I think. We were really inspired by the Sample House pioneered by New York and Chicago House heros like Todd Terry, Tyree Cooper, Pal Joey etc. Nothing was ever recorded to separate tracks or anything. Multi-tracking came later when we added Alesis ADATs to our studio. Everything was sequenced in the SP1200 and the Alesis MMT-8 sequencer and we would record a stereo mix to a DAT tape. We made tracks daily, they weren’t all good and we didn’t have any real aspirations to release any of them.

We met Kenny Dope through a friend and he was still releasing solo tracks for his Dope Wax label. Our first release was supposed to be on Dope Wax, but Kenny suggested we check out Strictly Rhythm. I was a bit reluctant because it was a new label with just a few releases out. Kenny thought our stuff was good enough for them and he had already signed his first release with Strictly Rhythm a few weeks prior.

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House 2 House (1990’s)


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Q: What were the early Strictly Rhythm days with House 2 House like, what were some of the most memorable experiences?

A: Those days were a lot more simple in that we weren’t thinking about careers. We were young and we were making and releasing music, we were getting cash advances and in some ways, we took it all for granted. I was definitely a lot more naive about how the music business worked, how much hustle and promotional effort was necessary on our part to get ahead. I learned a lot of valuable lessons and just like New York, there’s a lot I miss and plenty that I don’t, but that doesn’t change how much of an impact those days had on my life as a whole. As a scene, it was amazing. There was always a significant night to attend at any of the clubs around town.

Wednesday night would get things going at places like Sound Factory Bar, and the trend would continue well into Sunday, leaving you Monday and Tuesday to rest. There were so many memorable experiences, especially the wild stuff that happens in clubland, but hearing our first release played out for the first time is a feeling that will stay with me forever. Roger Sanchez used to be a resident at a small club on the west side near the Javits Center. It was called the Octagon. It was the place to be, and all the Strictly Rhythm alumni were there. I ran the 12″ up to the booth as soon as we got there and he played it later that night. The reaction to “I Wanna See You Dance” was great and I wanted more of that.

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Q: Tell me about your Play it Loud parties. Are you still putting them on?

A: My friend Doug Gomez (Drrtyhaze) and I shared the same taste in music for a while. We had both reached for the boogie and obscure disco, funk and punk disco nobody was paying much attention to between 2004 / 2006. We always wanted to do something together but nothing stuck until we decided on throwing a straightforward vinyl-only disco party. Play It Loud’s name and logo is a nod to the old “Play It, Say it” stickers on 12″ record jackets. I met Darshan Jesrani around 2006 I think. Nick Chacona introduced us and it turned out his studio is right up the street from where I live. I thought Darshan would be a perfect first guest for Play It Loud and Doug agreed. The three of us played so well together, Doug and I asked Darshan if he’d like to be a part of Play It Loud and he agreed. We threw some memorable parties out of Public Assembly, lofts and other spaces in Brooklyn. We would bring in our own sound if things weren’t up to par, that was always really important to us. I’m not done DJing or throwing events for that matter, but the Play It Loud chapter is closed. I never say never, but with everyone focusing on their own obligations, you have to just keep it moving. Who knows, we’ll see.

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Q: I sensed a shift in your style of production after your work on Strictly Rhythm and MAW. Would you agree? And how did this shift come about?

A: I’ve been “married” to House since I started producing and did a decent job at staying current and relevant I guess. I’ve been a fan of House since the ’80s so I always enjoyed producing it, but the music I was making didn’t reflect everything I loved about club culture, DJing, and the New York underground from a personal level. I grew up on so much music and the cultures that surrounded the music were prominent, and the “scenes” were just as important to me. My demographic was into Hip Hop and so was I, but if you went to places like Funhouse and Roxy, you’d see those same kids dancing to Italo, Electro-Funk, New Wave, Freestyle, Proto-Freestyle etc. Around 2000 / 2001 I became heavily influenced by what guys like Chicken Lips, Hans-Peter Lindstrom, Prins Thomas, Richard Sen and Metro Area were doing. At the time their sound and tastes might have been foreign to some, but I immediately recognized the music and the era they were tapped into. I guess I’ve been experimenting since then and I’m sort of coming into my own “thing” lately, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably continue to evolve.

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(Audio clips from Son of Sound – No Retribution EP)



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Q: I particularly like the re-edit of Spirit Catcher you did for Mystery Meat. The first time I heard the Tramaine vocal sample was on The Burrell Brothers track “I Need It^3”, your edit is the first time I heard that killer guitar in there. Was that a big go to track back in the day as a DJ for you? What made you decide on re-editing it?

A: I did play that record a lot and the whole re-edit genre to me is almost like 2nd generation sample-house so I sort of approach it the same way. I try not to edit much, as I feel there are way too many edits and most of them are butchering real great music. I don’t claim to be that good at it myself so if I do choose to edit something, I try to approach it with respect and treat it as a homage to the original. To be honest Spirit Catcher was whipped up during a weekend we had a hurricane. I was locked in, TV was boring and I gave it a go. Mystery Meaty approached me about releasing it after hearing it on my soundcloud.

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