Rub-N-Tug DJ Eric Duncan on Two Decades of Partying Until Dawn
A man of many aliases, L.A. born and NYC-based producer and DJ Eric Duncan's musical projects have included throwing notorious underground parties in the '90s as duo Rub-N-Tug and building a solo remix career as Dr. Dunks. Now, two decades into his career, he has become a well-respected figure in the New York underground nightlife scene, and recently curated the Do Your Thing show this past summer at New York's White Columns gallery with Rub-N-Tug partner Thomas Bullock. With his vampire-like immunity to fatigue, he also runs rock-disco/house label and production duo Still Going with Oliver Spencer, and travels back and forth to Japan working on disco edits with various labels there. We recently caught Duncan en route from Japan back to the States to chat about his newest projects, being an underground party hero, and drinking mezcal. He headlines Public Works this Friday with Tim Sweeney and local DJ Eug.
We're almost afraid to ask, since you always have a multitude of projects going on... but what have you been working lately?
It seems like I've been on the road nonstop since the end of June. I'm just finishing a two-week tour of Japan. I'm actually on my way to the airport now. But I have been working on a few things on the music side. I've started a new project with Dean from Chicken Lips called The Rhythm Odyssey and Dr. Dunks. We have four 12-inch records all mastered and ready for release on Golf Channel Records. I think the first two will be released at the same time next month and the other two over the next few months.
I also started a band, so to speak. There are two tracks I'm working on. I have Pete Z. (Block 16/UK) on keys, Jonny Sender (Konk) on guitar and bass, A-Ron (aNYthing) on trumpet, and Justin V. (TBD) helping with recording, production, and engineering. It's a work in progress, kind of on the back burner, but it's getting close.
Rub-N-Tug also have a new release coming soon. We gave a tune to Y-3 brand. I'm not sure how or when it's coming out but the tunes are called "P-Drunk Meditation." And we also have a RNT remix we did for Lindstrøm [that] just came out.
I've also done a few remixes lately for various artists. Two just came out on Japanese labels Crüe-L and Funiki ENE, and one just out on a French label called Hollie. And I just finished one a few weeks ago for former A.R.E. Weapons guys Matt and Brian's new thing called TV Baby. The tune is their version of Fear's " New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones" that should come out soon on Rong Music. There's a few more I just can't remember them right now. But that sums up what's been on for me lately.
And sleep comes when?
I guess it comes in bunches. I had a stretch last weekend in Japan where I was either in a car, plane, restaurant, or DJ booth for 48 hours straight without sleep.
Of all your aliases and projects, which one is most fun to perform as in a club and why?
Well probably when I perform as Tiesto, because of the pay.
Recently you and Rub-N-Tug partner Thomas curated a show at White Columns. Can you tell us a little about that?
That was a great experience. First off it was an honor to be asked to do it. Matt Higgs at White Columns had a vision and it really worked out. All our arty and non-arty friends contributed some amazing work. They really came through for us. The opening was awesome, and the after-party legendary. We took over a synagogue on 34th Street, brought in a sound system, and partied 'til dawn with chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, stained glass windows shining, and Matt Sweeney plugged in and jamming along on his guitar all night. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it. New York's still got it every once in a while.
Being known as an underground party hero, do you think they are still going as strong as they were in the early '90s?
I'm sure there are still underground things happening. Definitely not as many as the '90s though. With the evolution of the Internet, things are totally different. The experience factor has faded. You don't have to physically experience a party or a style of music or DJ to know everything about it anymore. All you need is a computer. Double-edged sword I think is what it's called.
You guys hand-painted your vinyl pressings of Party Starter, which you gave out at White Columns. Why did you decide to personalize each one? Was it a super tedious project?
Yeah, we did all 300 on my roof. It took two sessions. We laid out blocks of the records and just started bombing them with spray paint, house paint, markers, glitter, just about everything Pearl Paint sells. The idea came when I found a bunch of mini discs with old Rub-N-Tug parties recorded on them. I found maybe 20-plus hours from various parties in 2001, 2002, and 2003. I recorded all of it day and night into my computer. Then Thomas and I began editing as if we were doing a 40-minute mix CD except this mix would be on vinyl. So it's a live mix on a record.
One of the blocks, 8x8, a 64-record square called Turf went up at the show and will always remain a piece. The rest went to friends and the contributing artists; also White Columns Gallery has some for sale online and or at the gallery. And no it didn't get tedious. It was really, really fun. We've been asked to do the show in Sweden and France. I hope it happens because it would be great to do it all over again.