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New York Diva Jockey Speaks with NAJM!

NAJM Dance Culture
Soulful and Sassy, New York's Marina is forging her way not only as a performer, but as a writer, producer, remixer, singer, dancer, mother and wife!   "Um Lotty Da" is her debut full length album full of great energizing hits as well as an interactive side featuring remix MP3's and a performance video! Marina took a few moments to speak with NAJM from her New York studio.
NAJM:  The first thing I wanted to do was congratulate you on the new album. It sounds fantastic!  

 

MK:  Thank you very much.
dot_clear.gif (43 bytes) NAJM:  We just wanted to take a few minutes and chat with you and get your perspective on what’s going on out there in the dance music industry. Have you been to the NAJM site yet?

MK:  I have been. It’s great, beautiful!
NAJM:  Thank you very much. I appreciate that. We put a lot of work into it.
MK:  I can see.
NAJM:  The feedback on the site has been very positive. Hopefully we can promote your album and get your music out there to the far reaches of the world.
MK:  I hope so, congratulations. That’s great.
NAJM:  How did you get your start in dance music?
MK:  (Chuckles). How did I get my start in dance music? Well, I am in an unusual situation in that I own MRK Records and I’ve been in the entertainment field my whole life. I also own a company together with my husband called Kamen Entertainment Group and we’ve been producing TV and radio commercials for close to 20 years together. So, I had a little “jump” as you can imagine. I’m also a bit older than some of the other dance artists that are out there. I’m 41. I’ve been at this for quite a while, Jesse. Kind of gave myself the start in dance music, but started in music at the age of 4.
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Studio 54

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NAJM:  You mentioned in your bio that you grew up in the era of the Studio 54 and CBGB’s.
MK:  Oh yes, honey.
NAJM:  What was that like?
MK:  What was that like? Well, I don’t want to be redundant and boring and repeat what I’ve heard recently, but I’ve heard somebody say, “if you can remember being there then you weren’t there”. That’s basically it. It was fantastic! I’m talking to you from an 18-year olds perspective, of course. When we’re 18, anything that’s cool was great, but honey it was fabulous! There really isn’t anything like it now.
NAJM:  Totally fabu?
MK:  Totally fabu, darling, that was just it.
NAJM:  Will we ever have a repeat of that era?
MK:  Well, that’s an interesting thing because at that time it hadn’t been done yet. I think there were a lot of people in the entertainment and art field that were willing to work for very little money. So you had a lot of very talented, creative people who were willing to spend the time to produce evenings that were spectacular. You had people from the art field; set design field as well as the music field and I think it’s a little more difficult for people now. Things are very expensive and very competitive. I think that’s the problem. I think it’s financial. It’s not because the talent isn’t out there, it’s just unfortunately it takes so much talent and production to come together and produce those kinds of evenings.
NAJM:  Have we shot ourselves in the foot with technology?
MK:  Not with technology. We are forgetting in the dance music scene that dance music is heard in the clubs and clubs have become very much about a DJ spinning music so people can come dance and drink or whatever, it’s a different industry. It’s a food and beverage industry, it’s a bar. I think that we have forgotten that dance music speaks for itself. The word is dance; it really should be about a performance, a look and a vibe, first. And the entertainment factor and then the music support the whole look.
NAJM:  That’s a very interesting take.
MK:  I think everybody has forgotten that. There are wonderful DJ’s. It’s not to take anything from the DJ’s. There are people who have been out there a long time like Danny Tenaglia. They’ve paid their dues, but these guys are spinning music, sitting in a room in the dark and playing for a bunch of kids that just want to party. Dance music has been around 20 years. That’s a very long time and there’s a very large market. I think it was hot years ago because the visual aspect was there, it was fun, campy and it had a face to it.
NAJM:  You are a writer, producer, performer, recording artist, and a mother. How do you find the time?
MK:  Well, I have help. I’m married 17 years to Roy Kamen.
NAJM:  Wow! Congratulations.
MK:  That’s just been a wonderful thing; I was very fortunate and lucky to find him. I work very hard; it’s not a secret. It’s very difficult sometimes. I think because things are happening in my performance career later, anything that happens I’m so happy. I’m so appreciative of that and it’s all good. Anything that happens, it’s just all good. So I think I appreciate it more now.
NAJM:  Great.
MK:  It makes it easier to juggle stuff.
NAJM:  The new album is out and it sound absolutely fantastic, I reviewed it and gave it a 5 out of 5. There are just no bad songs on it. It’s just masterfully done.
MK:  Thank you.
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Debut Full Length Album

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NAJM:  From the producer’s viewpoint, what was it like to record your debut album? I know that you have quite a few singles under your belt already but what was it like to do a full-length album?
MK:  Over the past 2 years, Tony Marinello and I have been writing. We have about four albums worth of material that you are going to see coming out. The first album in a way has been like a 2-year process. But like I said your going to see 4 albums coming out of it. We have so many songs it was very difficult to pick the songs for the first album. What we really wanted to try and capture was an end of the industry that I have been going after which is the campiness and also the aerobics edge. I used to teach aerobics at a place called “Body Design by Gilda” back in 1980, and we used to spin vinyl back then, Jesse. We were aerobics instructors putting vinyl on a turntable, playing “Flashdance” and “It’s Raining Men” and I very much have aerobics close to my heart because I lost 100 pounds. I’ve been battling my weight my whole life. So I wanted to do something on a record that could appeal to people that were into clubs, into dance music, into that vibe and also into aerobics and fitness. Putting that record together was a great thing. It felt very positive to me, because it represents a lot of positive stuff in my life.
NAJM:  When you recorded the album, what were you expectations?
MK:  Just to do good work, to sing and play well. Write melodies with good hooks and positive messages and hopefully be able to touch somebody’s heart instead of just having a boom, boom, boom. Being able to have somebody listen and being able to relate to either me, or the person wherever they are at. That was my expectation. To try to expect to do anything where there are sales, I never think like that, because you never know in this industry. You just have to love it and do good work.
NAJM:  The hooks are definitely there! You are listed as the primary writer on all of the songs. Where do the ideas for your songs come from?
MK:  They come from whatever I’m experiencing in my life. I talk about totally whatever is going on in my life that particular day. As you can see, being 41, having kids and owning a company, on and on and on, I have a lot to pull from. I’m never at a loss for finding something to talk about. I’m quite emotional and have a lot of drama in me, so I can always find something. Even if I’m happy or a little teed off.
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Diva Jockey!

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NAJM:  Speaking of drama, would you consider yourself a diva?
MK:  Oh, absolutely!
NAJM:  Absolutely, I love it.
MK:  Absolutely. I never get tired of that word; it’s a great word, Diva. That’s it, honey and I see myself as a Diva-Jockey. That’s going to be my new term.
NAJM:  This business that you are in has absolutely no rules. How do you stay on the positive side of things when everybody says dance music doesn’t make sense; the lyrics don’t make sense. How would you defend dance music to someone who says its crap?
MK:  I would say that, unfortunately, most people, most laymen who listen to dance music, they are right about that. It’s an unfortunate thing. There are a lot of singer/writer/producers doing dance music. And unfortunately because it is so DJ driven, the artists don’t really get the support from the labels that they should. Mainly artistry has to do with the visual aspect, the show aspect and the live entertainment/performance aspect. When a record label isn’t supporting that financially or emotionally, mainly financially because everything comes down to the dollars and cents of things, it has to. The entertainment out there is just about a DJ spinning tracks, and producers putting out tracks. It’s very faceless and nameless, so I think dance music is doing it to itself. It’s a hard thing to defend. When I have said these things in the past it has been misinterpreted. I think if people think about it and realize that dance music has been around a long time and it’s going to be around for a long time, they’ve got to let the writers and the entertainers and the performers stay in it long enough to be heard. That’s a tough thing; I understand why people say that.
NAJM:  You along with your husband Roy are MRK Records. What kind of challenges are you facing as an independent dance record label?
MK:  Every kind of challenge. It’s sort of like climbing up a wall. It’s mainly a financial challenge when you are competing with a dance department at Columbia Records that has been in business for a very long time. They have more money, more staff, more clientele, everything. It’s hard to compete with. I think that the Internet has been an incredible thing and will remain to be an incredible thing for new entertainers and new labels because it enables us, and people like you to get out there.
NAJM:  As a record label, you offered your album, “Um-Lotty Da” for sale on the internet a month before it’s release in stores. Is the Internet a viable sales tool for record labels?
MK:  Yes.
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MP3 Free For All?

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NAJM:  Another trailblazing thing that you did was to give away the single  “Um-Lotty Da” in MP3 download format from your site. There has been a substantial amount of controversy over the whole MP3 explosion on the Internet, how has this worked out for you?
MK:  It’s worked out great for me. I think it’s a great thing. I think if I want my music to be heard. I want people to know who I am, so to try to hold on to a few cents from a song when no one knows who you are doesn’t make sense, if I want people to buy my records in the future. I intend to stay here for a while and keep putting out music. So I want fans and people to know about me and to buy my records, you have to give something and that’s it.
NAJM:  I understand that you do remixing as well, and after hearing “Dreamlover” and “Um-Lotty Da” you did a really good job. How did you manage to keep the ideas of other mixes fresh and new?
MK:  I work with Tony Marinello. He does a lot of programming for me and we have a great time writing and doing music. We’re constantly listening to everything that comes out. We’re constantly on the Internet listening all over the world to whatever we can. We have a great time, so the ideas stay fresh, you know, that’s an easy one.
NAJM:  Tell us about Marina’s Convergence?
MK: Convergence started as a club evening last year. It was really a client appreciation event for our clients at Kamen Entertainment Group because we service a lot of the advertising agencies in New York and around the country. We’ve done commercials for VH1 and MTV, Cherry Coke, etc. we’ve been in the business for a while, but just had a regular client party for a long time. So I decided to merge what I’m doing in the club world with that clientele.
NAJM:  What a good idea.
MK:  It became a great networking event for people in advertising and magazines and TV/radio and I started to invite dancers and models/actresses that I employ and they all came together. I started to see a love for dance music by people that wouldn’t go out at 1 or 2 in the morning, but wanted to go out at 7 or 8 O’clock, and they wanted to have an interactive, theatrical club experience, where they could dance, meet people, see some live entertainment, see a show. So it’s almost like an off-Broadway theatrical event kind of thing. So that’s what Convergence is. I have kids there, old people, I have drag queens, I have everything. I think everyone needs a place to go. It’s all the same. We all really like the same stuff.
NAJM:  Do you plan to do any club dates or tours?
MK:  After Convergence I’m going to be working together with Action Against AIDS which is an entertainment program that goes traveling around the school systems educating children on awareness with sports figures and recording artists. I work very closely with them, and I have tour dates set up in May and June in the New York area. So that’s the next thing I have going on.
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Diva Advice for Beginners

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NAJM:  Any suggestions for someone who is just trying to get started in the business? Record labels, artists, that sort of thing?
MK:  Entertainers, I have one piece of advice. The obvious is to have your thing together. Have all your tools together, you can’t just sing. Get in touch with your writing, do some dancing, keep your body in shape. But most importantly, learn about the business aspect of doing things. Have a firm understanding of what a record label gives you. Don’t take it for granted. It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of hard work by many people to get an artist out there and I think sometimes artists forget about that. That’s the best education you can have, it will service you to be more educated in the field, not just singing and dancing.
NAJM:  Any advice or suggestions for us here at NAJM?
MK:  Keep doing what you’re doing; it’s fantastic. Keep people out there. Look for the artists that are doing they’re own writing and help get them out there and comment on that, that’s my piece of advice. I think it’s fantastic what people like you guys are doing, it’s great, helpful and we so appreciate it.
NAJM:  We appreciate you as an artist, no doubt about that. What is next for MRK and Marina other than the Action Against AIDS?
MK:  My next album coming out is “Under Her Covers”. I think it’s slated to come out in May. It’s an album of cover songs. I’ll have another album out in the fall that’s going to be again dance music, but a little bit darker and a little bit deeper. You’re going to love it. Some dance, techno, stuff like that.
NAJM:  Love it. Marina, thank you so much for you’re time, best of the luck with the single and the album. Maybe we can talk again in the May timeframe when the new album comes out?
MK:  I’d love to.
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To Purchase Marina's Um Lotty Da - Visit mrkrecords online!

Check out NAJM's Reviews Marina's Album & Remixes

Also Check out Marina's Guest Rant!

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