Updated: Jun 26, 2021
LOS ANGELES, CA
For those who have been part of LA’s underground house & disco scene, Tony Watson is a familiar name. Tony has been making waves in the SoCAL capital for nearly three decades as a DJ, designer, record label owner, and party professional.
Tony played a pivotal role in developing the underground sound of his city as a member of the Wax family, who built the template for house music parties in LA in the 90’s and 2000’s. Tony is curator and owner of not one, but two, record labels that consistently put out excellent music of varied persuasions weaving together the best of the past, present and future of LA.
The American Standard label went active in the 2000’s. It has been responsible for producing some of the most sought after dancefloor oriented re-edits in discoland with productions from the likes of Rayko to The Drunk. The limited run pressings make each record that much more collectible triggering a “buy on sight” response from dj’s of the house and disco persuasion.
Tony Watson takes a more sophisticated angle with his label Adult Contemporary, as the name suggests. Adult Contemporary releases a range of records from Balearica to Nu Disco - the sound of the label has been aptly described as “elegant, cerebral” and “emotionally full”. Each release has been touted by DJ’s around the world including Mr. Harvey who included two of the tracks on his Pikes Ibiza comp. Take notes, disco kids.
Tony’s own productions have bombed dancefloors worldwide on such labels as Ibadan, Om, Pacha, and Sonar Kollectiv. As a DJ, Tony continues to live by David Mancuso’s idea that the music, the audience, and the selector should all come together to create a utopian moment, something greater than the sum of the parts. Tony has an uncanny knack for holding together a vibe and morphing sounds just when you weren’t expecting.
Tony aspires to the expanded sublime, through performance, composition and identity; we can attest to the fact that he does so every time he steps into a booth. His one hour OVER&OVER mix is a thing of beauty.
We are thrilled to have Tony Watson for this week’s OVER&OVER PRESENTS. Be sure to get ready with a proper system for this set, and hit the J before being transported into the transcendent world of one of the best DJ’s and producers in the game right now.
Tony, thank you for being part of our series! We’re huge fans of your work and we’re stoked to share your mix!
Thanks for having me! I’m happy to be here. What a great group to be a part of. It’s my honor.
How has the adjustment to life in Covid been for you?
It was a breaking wave of change. Everything sure got crazy pretty fast! It felt like we were in a movie with a missing plot piece, fighting an invisible enemy… waiting for the monster to show up. I asked myself who I wanted to be on the other side of this thing... so I got busy developing the habits.
Are there any silver linings from 2020?
My home gym! One of the benefits of being single is I can put a Squat Rack in the middle of my living room and no one can tell me a damn thing! Oh and I mastered the art of the perfect steak.
You’re LA born and raised, yes?
I was raised by Wolves in the mountains, deerskin as my clothing. I wasn’t discovered until I was 15 years old. I remember the first time I heard voices on the radio, I was like “Damn, those people have been inside there a long time!”
Yes, I was born in East LA! I grew up in East Hollywood about two blocks from DMC records original location on Melrose just west of Vermont.
In the 80’s my friends had older brothers who were DJs and promoters. As kids we would spend the day examining the mix tapes, flyers and relics they would bring back from the scene/parties. The rest of the day was spent listening to KDAY, breakdancing on the streets and flocking at people's black books. What an amazing time!
I remember the first time I walked into DMC records I was 11 years old. I remember going through the record bins and a lot of the records had “For DJs only” printed on the labels and I would think to myself, "man… they’re going to know I’m not a DJ and won't let me buy this record." so I never bought those records. If only I had known then what I know now… there are no rules!
Can you tell us about your introduction to the scenes you emerged from and how you became a DJ, producer/ label owner? What were your entry points?
In the 90’s promoting nightclubs and chasing girls. One thing led to another.
Prior to Covid how would you describe the scenes in LA?
Fun & Adventurous!
You are head honcho at American Standard and Adult Contemporary, two ACE labels with loads of fantastic releases. Can you tell us the difference between these labels and when they started?
Ritesh Kumar and I started both labels around 2008. American Standard is edits only. Named after the manufacturer of plumbing fixtures. I always liked their logo. It's such a nice word–mark. They recently re–branded and the new logo has zero soul. What a shame to squander that legacy.
Adult Contemporary is all original music. The inside joke is that we're "adults" making "contemporary" music. The part you don’t see is the mountain of demos we receive from artists of the "Adult Contemporary" Category. They obviously do not listen to any of our stuff before sending theirs.
Do you have any label highlights you’d like to share?
I feel like you're asking me who my favorite child is LOL! Each release has its own story and if I share one it might send the wrong message to the other ones. I love all of them. I really do. Maybe one day we can do an AC label profile. In the meantime you can check out “Adult Contemporary in 40 minutes” Part 1 & 2 on my Soundcloud.
Is the beach still a part of your life?
I love the beach and I love the water! I spend a lot of time on the beaches up and down the coast all the way to Mexico training for the “Tanning Olympics” but I've never surfed.
What’s next for Tony Watson and your labels?
I’m building a Rocket Ship in my backyard. The first mission is to build a Roller-rink on the moon. The view is going to be amazing!
I'm also back in the studio. I actually started working with my eldest son. He's a hip-hop producer and sound engineer. He's killing it right now. He grew up around it. When he was little he would go through my records on his own. He would handle them with so much care. I remember waking up many mornings, popping out of bed and running down the stairs to see what he was playing. It was usually a b–side of something I had ignored. And while we’re on the subject stay tuned for more Project Sandro stuff with Rollmottle. We had wrapped up an EP pre-lockdown that still needs some love so time to give it the love.
How do you see dance music changing as result of this pandemic?
I don't know... but I imagine some of it is going to sound like some of the music Jasper (Michael Caine) plays for Theo in the movie "Children of Men"
Special shoutouts to Juan Nunez, Freshro and Dennis Kane! Thank you for the ongoing inspiration. And much love to everyone!