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Vinyl Viagra

Remix master Peter Rauhofer suddenly finds himself in the record business

Peter Rauhofer is navigating traffic in New York City. His cell phone call is cut through by car horns and incomprehensible static, which only makes his thick Austrian accent that much more difficult to decipher. But for the 2000 Grammy winner (remixer of the year, non-classical), it's what he does to other voices that matters. Just ask Madonna, Cher, or Whitney Houston, Everything But the Girl or Funky Green Dogs. Rauhofer's interpretations gave each of them extended club play, landing him the coveted award in return.

When the Recording Academy decided to recognize DJ contributions in 1998, it made up for lost time by awarding Chicago house pioneer Frankie Knuckles and New York legend David Morales the first two remixer awards. Rauhofer received the third, happy to join the crusade to get house music the respect it deserves.

"I was both surprised and honored," Rauhofer says, trying to catch his breath after dashing across an intersection. "I hadn't done any promotion for myself, so I was very surprised I was chosen. But it belongs to dance music, not just me."

Recognition by the academy hasn't changed Rauhofer's incomparable style. Still spinning out the sexy, sultry grooves that made him Manhattan's favorite Austrian son, Rauhofer spurs the evolution of DJing by bringing the past up to speed with the future.

"A lot of the new DJs play things and they're not aware of the source," he says. "I was DJing before it became this huge thing, and back in the early Eighties we'd play soul, funk, punk, New Wave -- everything. I don't have just one direction."

It's his heavily vocal, disco-esque direction that puts him in high demand along the gay circuit, often spinning for events like this weekend's Winter Party. "I remember back when [the Winter Party] was at Warsaw and they would shut down entire blocks," he notes. "Circuit parties are definitely different than what I deal with at Roxy [his Saturday-night residency in NYC]. The circuit crowds want what they know: high-energy, vocal stuff. You can't introduce very much in terms of new records, but it's still a lot of fun 'cause I love tweaking the old disco stuff with current sounds."

Many Manhattanites say since Rauhofer has taken over the Roxy residency from Victor Calderone, his fresh perspective has enlivened a scene in decline. "New York is New York," he avers. "As long as there is a Saturday night in New York, there's going to be a great party somewhere. Personally I like Roxy and what's going on there. Sure, things can always be better, but I think it's fine."

And then there's that X-factor that always shakes up Gotham's clubland. "Like a couple of weeks ago I'm spinning and in walks Yoko Ono," Rauhofer relays. "She gets on the mic and starts moaning in this orgasmic way. I mean, where else can you see a 60-year-old woman walk into a gay club at 2:00 a.m. and start having an orgasm in front of thousands of men?"

Nowhere else, so Rauhofer snagged Ono to join him in the studio. Always happy to assist with orgasms, the mixer whose first single was titled "Let Me Be Your Underwear" is also working with Grace Jones for his label, Star 69. "My music does have a very sexual element," he admits, "but I think that's house music in general."

Star 69 has hit on still-sexy Eighties heavies Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, and Book of Love, hoping to inject a little vinyl Viagra to their classic dance. "It's very important to know the history of music in order to entertain properly," he explains. "You have to have that knowledge in order to educate. You can't expect to play for a crowd like the Winter Party without knowing disco. You have to know the right track for the right moment. It's a lot more than just playing records."

But playing records might become just a part-time occupation. "Star 69 is doing very well," Rauhofer says. "I didn't anticipate the success. It began as more of a side project that just happened to become a full-time job. I think we're now the number-three independent dance label behind Tommy Boy's [imprint] Silver and Groovilicious. I won't be a remixer forever."

 
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