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Arthur Baker Pays Tribute As Seminal New York DJ Dies Suddenly

Arthur with Mark in more recent years



Pioneering New York DJ and nightlife icon Mark Kamens, who, as well as discovering Madonna, helped define 80s club culture through his residency at the City’s last truly ground-breaking club Danceteria, has died of heart failure aged 58.


Best known for introducing his then unknown ex-girlfriend Madonna to US record mogul Seymour Stein (as well as producing her debut single Everybody), his impact was even greater as a DJ, particularly at Danceteria in the first half of the 80s.


Regularly spinning from 8pm-8am with punk DJ partner Sean Cassette from Hurrah at the infamously decadent 7 nights a week multi-story superclub, he helped break hip-hop as much as house music and electro, including numerous future classics by New Order/ Afrika Bambataa producer Arthur Baker.


Writing on Facebook on Friday, the nowadays London based producer was passionate about the passing of his friend,


“Mark Kamins was a great fuckin guy. When I think of Mark I think of hangin’ in those early days of Danceteria, bringing him acetates that he would slap on after hearing just a few beats and watch the crowd go off- he was as fearless a dj as he was a human being even then,’ Arthur recalled.


“Mark was a brave traveling muthafucker who never lost the spirit he had back in the day. He taught kids in Mexico about the meaning of our music, the 80s and beyond. Mark had a huge heart and ironically it was his heart that let him down,” he added.



Chatting to Skrufff several days later, Arthur expanded on his memories.


“Mark Kamins played a huge roll in the development of the New York City 80-90s nightlife scene- he was a super influential, extremely experimental, open minded and most importantly- fearless dj-from his legendary whistle blowing, siren laden marathon sets at Danceteria, to his residency at Mars and his nights at Harem Belly Dancing Club.


Mark played every kind of music WAY before the Balearic sound hit the UK- his use of Ofra Haza samples and jet blasts and sirens were risky, extreme and revolutionary.


Visiting Mark in the DJ booth back then was fairly hectic- it often included shots and lines and then the chance of getting my new acetate or cassette a testing before one of New York City’s best audiences.


Mark would give a track a quick listen and then slam it in seamlessly. The excitement of having my Hall and Oates Out Of Touch remix getting its first club airing there still lives fresh in my memory and how much Mark enjoyed it went it rocked the crowd.


But Mark’s talents went way beyond his greatness as a DJ. Of course he is most known for having discovered and unleashed Madonna upon the world- also having produced Everybody.


But beyond that he was a great (but often underrated) producer, A&R man & all around record man. From his Quando Quango records onwards, his productions and remix stand-up to any of the greats from the 80s.


Also, he was still staying up to date, searching out new records on line, still finding out about bands before anyone else. He recently was speaking about his son Max’s band, he was so proud of him.


Mark was a fearless world travel, crossing all continents as an ambassador of music- (starting way before the idea of DJs flying to gigs existed).


He made records and ran labels all over the last 25 years- living and working in Columbia, Mexico, Austria and Paris amongst others- with his slang French or Spanish ultimately always charming artists and civilians alike.


It had been so like Mark to pick up and move to Mexico to teach kids about pop music- and having spoken to one of the kids since Mark’s passing- of course they loved him so.


But beyond everything, Mark was an amazing supportive friend, a charming companion who still loved living life to its upmost and fullest. He had a huge heart and ironically that’s what let him down.



Skrufff: Why do you think he failed to share in the global success of many of the NY house DJs who came after?



Mark was of that first generation of the eclectic era of DJs- the rock pool crew- including such djs Ivan Ivan, Justin Strauss, Murray Elias/ those guys played everything and were the trendsetters, along with such djs as Jellybean, (Larry) Levan, Francois k & Bruce Forest.


And although he, more then any of his contemporaries, launched the DJ as a uplifting performer/personality- putting the rave ideology out there first with his sirens and whistles and pre sampling sampling- I guess he just was too early and maybe just didn’t fit into the global success blue print of playing one genre of tunes to success.”










Jonty Skrufff (Follow me on Twitter here)

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