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Andrew Nelson
Marketing & Promotions at Giant Step Records
By Sounni de Fontenay
(more articles from this author)
1999-05-20
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[Sounni] Can you tell me a little about what you do at Giant Step Records?

[Andrew] There are many aspects to my day at Giant Step, but the majority of my time is focused on promotions. Promotions at Giant Step goes to so many levels. We take the system from floor to ceiling. We'll take an artist and build lists of DJs world wide to promote their singles and LPs to, then build the buzz in local retail outlets, restaurants and hangouts by organizing meet & greets, instore competitions and performances. We build showcase and in some cases go as far as to promote the tours. In one way or another I am involved with every level be it the production of flyers or street posters to organizing radio appearances to evaluating the data presented by DJs.

[Sounni] Which genre of Hip Hop do you focus on? Why?

[Andrew] I love the period between 1988 to 1995. There was a special sense of humor combined with an actual feel that effort was put into the production of the beats.

[Sounni] What is your experience in the business?

[Andrew] In one way or another I have always been in on some level by being a DJ both on college radio and in clubs and parties. As far as "the Industry" I was thrown into it; Giant Step was my start. I began as a production assistant for some parties and later came on to the handle press and media relations for a while, full on production for a while and throughout all that I took on the complete organization of the event street promotions. I later moved on to work with the record label to the position I hold now.

[Sounni] Growing up who was the person you looked up to most musically?

[Andrew] As a to-be DJ I looked up to Prince Paul in a huge way. He made some of the best songs - be it with Stet or DeLa or even Living Color, what ever he touched was gold for my ears. As producers there was no one to top the Bomb Squad. Keith and Hank Shock Lee, Young Black Teenagers, Son of Bazerk, Public Enemy; need I say more.

[Sounni] How did you start DJing?

[Andrew] It was kinda silly kid thing actually. I grew up in a very white town in the middle of trailor park country and breakdance moved into our elementary school. Soon after that Fab Five invaded my Saturday mornings. I couldn't get enough hip hop. So me and five of my closest friends started our own crew called "the East Side Posse" aka ESP. I wanted to know every aspect of being a hip hopper. DJing was part of it as well as rapping and tagging. But after the whole Vanilla Ice episode, I was discouraged by the mic and it was to easy to get caught with a spray can so the last leg were my steel wheels. The rest is uh .... history I guess.

[Sounni] What kind of music do you mix?

[Andrew] I must say I do a mix. Giant Step has taught me about many types of music I never was exposed to. So what started off as mostly hip hop has moved to that plus trip hop, drum n bass, rare groove, soul and classic funk

[Sounni] Where do you DJ?

[Andrew] I do many one offs and open for different events. I've opened for Tricky, Morcheeba, Jamiroquai, Sneaker Pimps and others. I've spun at Roseland, Irving Plaza, Chaos, and many bars in the New York. All of that is cool and all but I really dig the house party vibe.

[Sounni] What made you work for a label instead of focusing on DJing?

[Andrew] Stability, stability and free records. It's to washy to be pushing myself to promoters. I also love to see the sun. Dark clubs don't offer to much in that department.

[Sounni] Do you scout out new talent for Giant Step?

[Andrew] yep

[Sounni] How do you spot talent?

[Andrew] It takes a lot of nights out and following any leads possible.

[Sounni] Tell me a little about Giant Step Records? What makes it unique?

[Andrew] What makes Giant Step unique is that we are what's been called a "Promotion One Stop" We'll take an artist put them onto the label, build them as an artist, promote the music to clubs and radio DJs world wide, build their web page, and when the live show is ready we will build the bill, create the flyer and flood the streets with them, handle the press, and then actually produce the event. We do everything it takes to work an artist from the ground up where other labels will have to hire independents out to handle press, promotions, live shows, etc.

[Sounni] What is it like working in a label?

[Andrew] It's like riding a roller coaster. Like just about every other job I can think of, it has it's ups and downs. Some days there is so much to do, all for a deadline, that you think your head's gonna explode. But when you start to see sales go up on an artist you're working or see a poster you designed plastered up for everyone to see or see your artist blow up or turn out a live show it can be one of the most rewarding places you can be.

[Sounni] Did you expect it to be that way when you joined?

[Andrew] To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect. I've always been a person who liked instant results and the record industry in one that works on long term hard work. Knowing this I figured it would be slower paced that it turned out.

[Sounni] Where do you see the Hip Hop scene today?

[Andrew] It's hard to answer this one in a quick answer. It used to be hip hop was hip hop and it was very clear who was hip hop. These days hip hop has her hands in so many pockets. She's got a chunk of Drum'n'Bass, Jungle, Big Beat, Electro and scary enough: pop. And that is only the music end of it. Graffiti is everywhere from cereal boxes to cartoons on saturday morning. And if I'm not wrong I thought Madonna was breakin' in one of her latest videos. It's got it's plusses and it's minuses. My heart is still diggin' the early vibes but loving how so much has come from the masters who have influenced the producers of today.

[Sounni] What new forms of Hip Hop do you see evolving?

[Andrew] I think the live element is due to rise. With groups like The Roots, Everlast with his newest release and tours like Lauryn Hill's making hip hop with the use of live played instruments, it's bound to bring new talent out of the oddest and most unexpected places.

[Sounni] Why is old school still so popular?

[Andrew] People like what they're comfortable with. With so many things being shakey these days it's easy to feel good with what made so many people feel good so many times. That's goes farther when people find out that the oldschool producers were snagging things from their oldschool - classic funk, rare groove and soul.

[Sounni] How is the club scene in New York these days?

[Andrew] It's having a hard time - Mayor "Adolf" Giuliani has a pretty firm grip on the club scene's nuts right now. It's kind of rough.

[Sounni] Which clubs are the best places for Hip Hop in NY?

[Andrew] Every other club has been shut down for this or that so the best club really are in the lofts and house parties. It sucks when you go to a hip hop party and you can't smoke or you can't dance.

[Sounni] What's next for Giant Step Records? For your own career?

[Andrew] Sky's the limit as far as I'm concerned. Don't sleep!!


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