Man of the house: DJ Stan Zeff talks Tambor
It’s hard to believe that the acclaimed house music event Tambor has been in existence for five years — but lo and behold it has. Helmed by resident spinners DJ BE and the U.K.-born Stan Zeff, along with a rotating cast of big-time guest jocks, Tambor has evolved from a local soiree (a haven for Atlanta’s house music lovers, dancers and more) to an internationally touring event and, now, a record label. Later this month, you can catch the crew on the warm beachscapes of Miami at the annual Winter Music Conference. But before they head down South, we hit up Zeff to get the lowdown on the past, present and future of the long-running event.
Slo*Mo: Before we start talking about your future plans, what are your thoughts about how Tambor has grown since its inception?
Stan Zeff: I really didn’t expect it to grow as much as it has done; [becoming] a household name in the house community worldwide, I really didn’t expect that. Started it off as a small party in the East Atlanta Village, and then it just moved from venue to venue … because we were outgrowing the venues we were at. And then once I saw what it could actually grow to, I started changing my way of thinking towards it.
What do you attribute Tambor’s growth to?
I think it’s supplying a need for people — that maybe some didn’t even know they needed. I think people needed a place where they could go and just check all their inhibitions and all their worries, money issues and everything like that at the door. Just leave it at the door, and go into a party and just dance. And there’s no ego, or people wanting to profile in front of you or whatever. Everyone just wants to dance. And it’s innocent, and it’s good music. People wanted that, and they wanted the best of it, which is what I did; I brought the best of the music in the house community. And I brought the best sound system so people could feel the music. And I brought the best vibe, because the people that wanted that came together with an innocent love of the music.
So looking at 2014, what do you have planned for the event?
Well, we’ve started 2014 really big already … [in January] we had Timmy Regisford, who is a legend, really, in house music. … [In February we had Louie and Anane Vega.] Never had Louie Vega at Tambor before. I had [Anane] come play about two years ago but never had Louie Vega. … What I wanted to do was kick off the new year, this five-year anniversary year, in a special way. … Carrying on from there, coming up from May to August, we’re gonna have something called “The Summer of Love” — where we’re gonna bring artists to Tambor that we’ve never brought before. And what we’re looking at, it was the same thing with Louie Vega, is the fact that we want crossover. We want people who like house music but haven’t really been exposed to Tambor to look up and say: “Oh, they’re bringing such-and-such. He’s one of my favorite DJs, but I’ve never heard him play in Atlanta.”
Along those lines, how important is it for you to reach new audiences?
That’s paramount to the event. It’s paramount to the survival of the event. We can’t rely on the same people to come, month-in, month-out. … To increase the growth and exposure, we need to reach out to those house heads that are not necessarily into deep house; they’re not necessarily into soulful house, they’re more into a harder house — but not techno. They just like good house. They might like Miguel Miggs. That’s a crowd we need to reach out to. And one way of doing that is to introduce different types of artists.
OK, moving on to the spring, what do you have planned for this year’s Winter Music Conference?
This is gonna be [Tambor’s] third year at the WMC. For the last three years, including this year, we’ve been at the Ocean’s 10 venue on Ocean Drive. Beautiful space. We’ve done really well there. And this year we’re gonna be teaming up with our partner company in the U.K., Tribe Records — which is one of the leading, if not the leading, record label in the soulful house scene — to do a collaborative event.
Speaking of labels, you’ve recently branched out into this world. What is your vision for the Tambor Music label?
The label’s been going for under a year, and we’ve had two releases so far. The first release [“Set Me Free”] was from a guy called Mr. Funk Daddy [featuring DJ Sue] from South Africa, which did really well on the Traxsource charts, got it on the Top 10. The second track … by Roland Clark … was released a couple of months ago, and that track was called “All About That Love,” with mixes from me and Marlon D. The reason behind the label is to grow the brand even further and have the brand recognized as something serious in the house music scene — and not just a party. Yes, Tambor is a party, but we understand music as well. That’s the message that we’re putting out there to people: We understand quality music.
Are you planning to just release singles or are you considering full-length albums, compilations and projects like that?
I’ve just taken on a label manager purely for that reason — so we can start thinking about the label in its entirety. Signing artists, developing artists, putting albums out, putting EPs out and, as you said, compilations. Compilations are right up our street. Who understands what’s best on the dance floor than what we do at Tambor? And really, there’s not many parties like us that start as a party then move to a label. I just see it as a natural growth for us to keep the momentum going.
Wrapping things up, what are your thoughts about Atlanta’s house scene?
There’s a lot of transplants in Atlanta. Kids from New York, Jersey, Chicago, California; there are people from all over, even Europe. There’s a lot of people coming in who are interested in house from a different angle, and it is important to reach out to them. One way to do that is by collaborating with other DJs. For example, our December 2013 party was with the Chosen Few DJs in Chicago — who host [a summer house music event] that draws 30,000 people. They’re celebrities in Chicago. When we did the party together, it brought Chicago people to the Tambor party who otherwise would not have heard of it. But the house music scene in Atlanta is thriving. From a DJ/promoter side, they are looking for more things to do … to introduce more people to house music, which I find refreshing. On the production side, there’s more musical productions coming out of Atlanta and that’s a good sign. There are singers coming out, like Miranda Nicole and Cortney LaFloy, who have hits — and that can only grow.
For more info about Stan Zeff and Tambor, visit www.tamborparty.com.