The AOR Disco Interview: Sunshine Jones (Part One)

The San Francisco DJ and producer Sunshine Jones is best known for his work in Dubtribe Soundsystem - and their classic deep house anthem Do It Now - but in recent years he's developed a strong following for Sunday Soul, his outstanding four-hour weekly show on, and for his label Treehouse Muzique. And his new album Gas Masks and Crazy Girls has just been released on Cosmic Disco. We talked to Sunshine Jones about his various projects and in particular his extraordinary series of edits and reinventions of 1970s arena rock. 

We first became aware of your edits and remixes when David Bumpstead of the now defunct but influential Facebook group Disco Not Disco (which included Graeme Fisher of The Extended Mix, Steve Lee of The Project Club and Paul Doherty of Musica Hermosa - and which gave us the idea for starting AOR Disco) was raving about your remix of Heaven by The Rolling Stones. And when we saw that you'd edited Hotblooded by Foreigner too we thought we'd truly found a kindred spirit.

So imagine our surprise when we saw that you were an ex-punk who talked about editing "brilliant soul tunes and horrible rock records". Did you actually harbour a secret love for arena rock when you were in the late 1970s/early 1980s Bay Area punk scene?

Let's get one thing extra clear: there was no "Bay Area punk scene" in the late 70s. There certainly was a San Francisco punk scene, and it was about 90 people. The Bay Area was cows, malls and suburbs. It's true that places like San Jose, which in 1978 was virtually inaccessible to someone from San Francisco, has a small punk scene too, but San Francisco was (and still is) the center of the northern Californian universe. 

At the risk of making some cow-tipping types very unhappy, I'll say that the whole idea of Bay Area anything is just some low self-esteem suburbanites diluting the life of a brilliant little peninsula by attempting include its town houses, tract homes, and strip malls into the most beautiful city in the world. These people got sick of saying they were from Walnut Creek (and people said "where?" and then they had to explain that it was 45 minutes east of San Francisco). And yeah, I suppose that gets tedious. 

Punk rock blossomed in San Francisco BECAUSE of these horrible suburbs. Kids fled the sheltering hell of malls and absent parents to be here in the city and thrive. To be a "punk" in the suburbs was more of a 90s thing. I think those cats even missed the rave. So there's no Bay Area here. There's only San Francisco. The rest - in my opinion - is just Milpitas (and you ask "what's Milpitas?" and I smile and say "Right?")

To answer your question:

There was a brief moment before Disco and Punk. A moment of listlessness where I heard tracks like 'Miracles' by Starship, and 'I'm Not In Love' by 10cc and thought maybe  life was going to head off in a different direction... but it didn't.

I used to wear a Motorhead T-shirt all the time. People would ask me "Why the fuck are you wearing that stupid t-shirt?" And they would actually be upset with me. I'd always smile and say "Because they suck."

However, anyone with a brain knows that Lemmy is amazing, and Motorhead were the most amazing power pop trio to ever stand completely still on stage.But in terms of the punk scene in San Francisco enjoying any sort of an overlap, in the 70s punk was an art school thing. Mostly gay, and mostly loving, and barbiturate driven. We had a lot of gender-bending fun, and the scene was extremely creative, and always moving forward. In the early 80s you could have drawn a line where time stopped, and it all suddenly became very "athletic," absolutely speed driven, and even homophobic. My interest in it died right there and then. 

The next edit is an all-time AOR Disco  classic. You turned Miracles by Jefferson Starship into a a deep house classic. Was the original just a track you came across or was is a part of growing up in San Francisco in the mid-70s?

'Miracles' was the sound of the summer of 1975 for me. It represented fucking the babysitter in the backset of her boyfriend's cougar. It represented that warm air ache that blew through everything in those days. My hair was down to the middle of my back, feathered, and pukka shells choked my neck every time I swallowed. Disco hadn't happened for me yet, and I was staring into the void and wondering when something was going to happen.

I wanted to translate that into something I could play. I was experiencing the same feelings again at the time and wanted to reach backward in order to go forward. I wanted to see if there might be a new way to bide my time until something happened.

A lot has happened since then. It's been great. These are really amazing times for music. I love what's happening right now.


Thanks for your kind words on my edits. Those edits really saved my life. I was totally lost after Dubtribe split, I got divorced and really had no idea what to do with myself...

I was doing a weekly show at the time called Sunday Soul and one week I did a re edit program. I actually re edited a track on the fly during the show, and stopped, talked about the process, and then kept going until it was done.

Rock the Box was the next week's show. I did a handful of edits of music from my childhood for the show, and used the sticky fingers concept for the poster. People liked it and so I decided to digitally release it. That was the first music I made following the end of everything and it got the ball rolling again for me.

Next people like David Bumpstead started turning us on to some really creative edits of everything. I got the idea that maybe anything really does go. So I couldn't resist but join in.

From there creativity was flowing again in a way which hasn't really been awake in me since the days of sampling. I spend a long time working hard to turn the "sample loop" into a live experience with Dubtribe, and returning to samples, huge pieces of other people's music was a really wonderful way to open myself up to completely new ideas and sounds.

Next thing you know I've got two more solo albums done (Belle Ame Electronique - King Street - and Gas Masks & Crazy-Girls - Cosmic Disco), and I'm playing a lot, travelling a lot, and feeling really good. Nothing like inspiration. Nothing like knowing you're not alone.

You've described the Album Orientated Discoteque album as "not really creative edits, but mixable re-syncopations and a few tricks as well." I'd say the remix of Love Is Like Oxygen by Sweet is very different from the original but on the others - for the non-Djs - what exactly is a 're-syncopation'? Is it mainly useful so you can include these tracks in house sets?  Also - who did the originals of Saved By Zero and Cinder and Smoke?

Well, yeah. I didn't do much. I just wanted to play those tracks. And you're right about Sweet. I remember jumping up and down on my bed to that single with the hair brush as the mic. The album version was like "Whaat?" I totally didn't understand it at all. So returning to it, and thumpin' out the ending was a must for me. Otherwise, yeah, it's all about correcting the galloping drums and tape edit glitches so that you can actually put one of these classics into the mix.

I know that sometimes people tend to top and tail their sessions, but I am so in love with mixing that I want to loop, reloop, and re edit my own work as well as the records I'm playing on the fly. I need to be able to rely on a track to stay at least within some fair amount of syncopation so that I can do that. So I developed these secret weapons - for a particular Sunday Soul theme, or for a special set I was going to play. And I figured why not share the love and see what other people could do with them too?

'Saved By Zero' is by the Fix, and Cinder and 'Smoke' is by the immortal and truly amazing Iron and Wine.

Part Two of our interview - with more rock edits - coming soon


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