Boris Midney

Boris Midney at his recording studio circa 2008

Boris Midney interview: Boris Midney is a Russian born musician, composer and photographer who defected to the United States in the 1960s and immersed himself in Jazz with the Russian Jazz Quartet. In the 1970s however he discovered Disco or it discovered Boris. Midney's two biggest Disco studio groups were Beautiful Bend and USA-European Connection. DiscoMusic.com member, Jussi Kantonen interviews Boris Midney. Read on...

 

Boris Midney - The Interview.

How do you describe the music of Boris Midney, an auteur whose sound creations have reached a true iconic status? Huge, uninterrupted spans of rhythmic sound, with sinewy curves and deep shadows that accentuate sparkling orbs of light? Proto-trance? The ultimate in Designer Disco? Words may fail those who experienced first hand in 1978 the revelation that was Come Into My Heart. The effect of the track was just too overwhelming: It's a version of a theme from a James Bond film, by... I don't know who, but it sounds fab and very trippy says a 19 year old clubber thirty-one years later.

Now, at long last, here's The Maestro. I have kept the questions presented by the readers of DiscoMusic.com and Boris Midney's answers intact.

Boris Midney: "The Interview" - sounds like a movie title...

Boris Midney's Jazz background is very evident in his free flowing disco arrangements; how, when and why did he decide to make the jump from jazz to disco?

Was not quite a jump - more like a slide... there was no conscious decision... It was natural for me to find other means of musical expression, and jazz alone was limiting me as it was going more and more underground, becoming less and less accessible to the public... turning into "musicians music"...

Boris Midney's musical landscapes are incomparable to anyone elses, one of my favorite LP's is Caress, The child-like vocals and the unrelenting groove he builds in Catch The Rhythm are such a great juxtaposition, and the piano bridge in Make That Feeling Come Again is one of the most beautiful moments in disco music history, period!

"Juxtaposition" - I love it...

Boris Midney in his state of the art recording studio from the back cover of the Empire Strikes Back album
Boris Midney in his state of the art recording studio taken from the back cover of the Empire Strikes Back album on RSO Records.

DiscoMusic.com members would like to know how Boris Midney made the transition from jazz in the 1960s to disco in the 1970s and then techno in the 1990s?

It was gradual...

Since I am classically trained, I always had a desire to connect jazz with classical music, (which I'm currently succeeding with), so it was normal for me to experiment with symphonic sounds, jazz, and various pop styles. Bear in mind that there was nothing in jazz that was not already theoretically implemented in classical music. Jazz is not an innovation in that sense. It just has its own flavor that allows for "free" improvisation, and "swing" of course...

In the studio, I was laying funk and R&B trks down with "classical" string arrangements. Many liked it, but thought I was crazy recording stuff that was not "marketable"... I guess I was determined. I was only doing something I really liked and deeply enjoyed doing it.

At that time, the term Disco was not coined yet. It was a major movement... not one singular person - it was in the air. The creation of Disco, or the Disco craze, was nothing short of a revolution against established and cliché pop sounds that allowed composers and producers to experiment with new and "off-the-wall" sounds - which is truly the basis for any new movement.

Obviously there were opportunistic elements that came along, (you know music is like swimming - can't fake it too long), but regardless, the main music establishment felt very threatened by this new movement since very few had the chops to do it. Specifically the so called Euro-Disco was heavily dependant on knowledge of music and orchestration, and that's exactly what made it so exciting and not readily available to "the other side". "Traditional" classical players were thrilled to have fun within this new (Disco) medium... "Pass the headphones, man"... My favorite string section came from the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra when I started recording in New York City. (Eugene Ormandy was not involved).

Gradually, recording studio techniques became available that allowed engineers to multi-track and record various instrumental sections and rhythm tracks independently. Apple Macintosh computers came through gearing towards musicians and other artists. Synthesizer sequencing became possible with improved synth designs and new software.

I was very much interested in achieving the highest "studio quality" sound. I wondered why pop records sounded so much better than most jazz recordings? Quality sound became my main core focus.

When Come Into My Heart / Good Lovin' was released, I recall thinking it was unlike anything I'd heard, to that point. Particularly Love's Comin' / Baby Love.

Was the project a hard sell? Or was TK the first label Boris Midney presented it to.

Album cover for the Boris Midney album for Beautiful Bend on Marlin-TK Records.
Album cover for the Boris Midney album for Beautiful Bend on Marlin-TK Records.

I made this tape in my studio in Philadelphia at odd times, mostly at night. When it was finished, a friend of mine from New York told me he knew the owner of an "underground" club in downtown New York, David Mancuso, and arranged for me to be at the "premiere" of the tape play at Mancuso's club called The Loft.

The place was crowded and full of balloons. At midnight Mancuso played it. One by one people cleared the dance floor until it was empty... bare... deserted. I was pretty embarrassed and didn't even say goodbye to David... drove back to Philly.

Following Saturday, I received a call from my friend... "I am calling from The Loft... David Mancuso has played your tape already 4 or 5 times tonight... people just can't get enough of it... there is a revolution going on!"

After that, the tape was put on regular rotation at the club and things started to happen very quickly. Promoters called me soon after and I was introduced to Henry Stone at TK Records who came up with an offer.

Where did the MiSound come from? Was it heavily influenced from Boris Midney's Jazz experience? Or, was it a completely organic evolution?

I strived for my "own" original sound... It became colloquial so I named my company so. It is true of course that jazz played a major role, but then also classical, R&B, etc... It helped me to be able to play and understand the instruments that I was arranging for...

Also, what does Boris Midney consider to be his best work?

The 'best' song/project is really for the audience to decide.

I had a lot of fun writing melodies for Pinocchio, but from a technical point of view, my personal favorite is Evita for the challenge in re-arranging the original and creating completely new orchestration and vocal arrangements.

Would Boris Midney consider reworking some of his classics as Cerrone has done?

It's very tough to make a remake that tops the original. The next question is what genre other than "vintage"? Remains to be seen...

Album cover art for the Caress release on RFC-Warner Brothers Records.
Album cover art for the Caress release on RFC-Warner Brothers Records.

Where did Boris Midney get his inspiration from?

Ah, Inspiration... a sweet drug. It comes in big waves and you usually don't have enough time to ride the whole wave, you catch what you can. It is a state of trance. I don't want to get too philosophical about this, but it is by and large a very dramatic, sad experience. The best pieces in music or literature are always dramatic, rarely comedy. With years of experience, you learn to evoke that trance, but not continuously. It's a celestial gift... and Universal Secret...

One of my all time favorite Boris Midney album is the USA-European Connection second album. Any information Midney can depart on the recording of this album would be appreciated.

Oh, I can depart...

Henry Stone, (TK Records), needed a second album. I didn't have anything. My New York studio was on 54th Street (East). That night I went to my favorite restaurant that specialized in ducks. Ducks - fried, boiled, grilled... ducks in every which way. I was having dinner 'round 10pm, and it didn't taste exactly right.

I went back to the studio and got terrible double vision and severe nausea. I sat at the piano hoping it would pass. Dmitri, one of my engineers, was still there and I said let's record something. He rolled the tape and I was in and out of consciousness playing non-stop until Dmitri called over the intercom and said he had run out of tape - the second USA-European Connection was done.

Needless to say I was sick all night but Henry Stone got his record. The final vocal parts and arrangements were completed later that week. Came out pretty good...

Album cover the first USA-European Connection album by Boris Midney on Marlin-TK Records.
Album cover the first USA-European Connection album by Boris Midney on Marlin-TK Records.

I would very much like to know whether Boris Midney visited any of the legendary New York City clubs and which records/artists inspired him most.

I loved NY clubs... It started with the Enchanted Garden in Queens, then The Loft, (courtesy of David Mancuso, I didn't have to stand in the long lines that went all around the block). David was very keen on having a pure audiophile quality sound - we had a lot in common...Paradise Garage... The atmosphere of The Saint was very special... and naturally Studio 54 - a "disco elite" hangout.

Artists that inspired me?... Count Basie, Tchaikovsky, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Ornette Colman, R&B, Funk - loved Bobby Womack, Tom Bell, and the Ohio Players. I'm a sucker for sad Russian folk melos...

I'd be curious to know if Boris Midney was treated fairly by the business.

Hey, I'm curious too...

It's a known fact that corporate business is a "dark matter"... When big giants don't have an ounce of creativity, they invent "creative accounting"... Its the leftovers that go to the piper... So it's hard to say given that the records were distributed by so called "subsidiaries" and territories, which big corporations are very good manipulating with.

Is he the same Boris Midney who is credited as engineer on the Smooth Talk LP by Evelyn Champagne King?

Album cover for the second USA-European Connection album by Boris Midney on Marlin-TK Records.
Album cover for the second USA-European Connection album by Boris Midney on Marlin-TK Records.

Yes, the same... I engineered all the sessions and played some sax with Champagne at my studio, (Alpha), in Philadelphia, as well as Instant Funk, Foreigner and Rolling Stones.

Once I suggested to Mick Jagger to put a dance beat under the songs we were recording to which he replied 'love to... 'cause I personally like it a lot , but we're afraid to alienate our audience.' And that was that. Dealing with the Stones was an experience in itself.

I understand now, as you progress to a new style, you find your demographic changes and suddenly you've lost your audience. I produced a lot of styles since, including gabber, hardcore, industrial, D&B, techno, trance - fast BPM's "got me going again"....

Rarely do disco lovers ask what you're working on now. Not to say that I don't get some awesome e-mails, but once a great fan wrote me to ask what happened to me, totally unaware of my feats post 70's - cold...

If Midney was the engineer on Smooth Talk, an LP recorded in Philadelphia, did that inspire him to do USA-European Connection's Come Into My Heart LP, using members of Instant Funk and MFSB @ Alpha Studios?

Did he see Bunny Sigler while working on that LP with his proteges Instant Funk?

And were there other cuts from that session that didn't make the LP, as the LP seems to run much shorter than the standard 20 minutes per side.

Sure... as I said I engineered all tracks... Bunny Sigler, T. Life - very funky guitarist, Instant Funk... they were all there... it was quite creative.

My record was done before Bunny and T. Life ever appeared at the studio. I guess they liked the sound I was turning out, so they booked the studio...

Larry Washington, percussionist for MFSB, while playing congas kept saying "you don't know man, you got a new thing man... It's a new thing"... I didn't know if it was new thing or not, I only knew that I loved what I was doing.

In regards to Evelyn "Champagne" King: The whole Champagne record was recorded as a demo on 2 tracks because the rate was cheaper than multi tracking. After it became a possibility to sign her, the guys booked the studio at the multi track rate with the intend to re-record... It never happened... the feel wasn't there... so going by the 'first take' spontaneity rule we ended up using the 2 track tape, of course with Instant Funk rhythm tracks, which was then transferred to multi-track to add the vocals.

As to the extra cuts?... We used the 'best' cuts. There probably were extra takes, I worked on so many projects at the same time it's hard to tell.

Does Boris Midney have control over his master tapes from that period in time, and was that how he was able to do the reissues of his songs on CD? Or are they owned by whoever took over the labels (TK, RSO, etc..) or studios?

The CDs were re-issued by a 3rd party that obtained the rights. I did not have supervision or input on the quality of those releases. I've still got some 2 track masters.

12 inch single of Living Up To Love by USA-European Connection by Boris Midney.
12 inch single of Living Up To Love by USA-European Connection by Boris Midney.

COME INTO MY HEART: a home run first time at bat... similar to Stephen's question... how does this happen... how does an unknown get the financing it must have taken to achieve such an ambitious project?

If you have a formula to get funding - let me know, it's always an issue.

I was lucky enough, while still living in Princeton, New Jersey and having my first built-from-scratch recording studio there, composing various projects for NBC in New York. That paid for my sessions with musicians.

So:

  1. Build your own recording studio, even if it's in your bedroom.
  2. Find an artist that you really admire and measure your project up against his or her work.
  3. Never play your stuff for family or friends.
  4. Cultivate money-guys that are sympathetic to what you're doing, stay away from the banks - remember, they 're not doing too good...
  5. Be a real ARTIST - don't sell out. And keep studying music - it's not that difficult.

Honestly can not thank Boris Midney enough for those memories... during the downtown lunch hour, would play the entirety of COME INTO MY HEART for the San Francisco financial district's shirt and tie crowd and would sell many many copies doing so [Icon Cool]. That record sold tons in SF. Not to mention its intoxicating effect in the clubs...

Bizah! I need that kind of an artist rep!... SF - funky town.

Does Maestro Midney still pursue photography? He photographed all, but one of his LP covers as far as I know, and they are striking, especially the Companion LP photo.

I love all kinds of visual art... I shot stills during the filming of Flow Interrupt, an indie feature I am scoring. I'm continuing photography and graphic design. The classical version of Puppet I am working on has hand drawn animation, and I'm storyboarding the multi-dimensional show Renette.

I would like to see if Boris Midney could compile a list of his his jazz works?

That is something I will have to attend to...

How did Boris Midney come across the central musical idea for the very first album?

I was looking to somehow connect the EuroSound with U.S. Funk/R&B... While commuting from Princeton, NJ to Philadelphia, PA on the highway to Phily, there was a large sign Connection to 95 and that's how I got the concept... USA -European Connection... Of course! I got to the studio and plunged into it.

Many times when you have a title, you have the concept. Sandy Ross (my attorney at the time) kept saying I was crazy - the title, he said, is too long, it'll never sell... then I knew it was right.

I'm sincerely grateful to all my fans for listening to my music... there's more to come..."Make That Feeling Come Again!"

Thank you Boris Midney. Since the day I got my hands on the USA-European Connection album and stared at it in awe, I have dreamed that I might be able to get into contact with you in some way. I know many readers here at DiscoMusic.com feel the same. This interview really is a dream come true.

—THE END

Music by Boris Midney

Listen to Come Into My Heart by USA European Connection:

 

Listen to Love's Coming / Baby Love:

Related Links:

 

Author and Disco DJ, Jussi Kantonen.

About the author:
This interview with Boris Midney was written and kindly provided to DiscoMusic.com by Jussi Kantonen. Jussi,, who hails from Finland, is a renowned eclectic DJ who travels worldwide spinning his unique brand of Euro-Disco. He is also the author of Saturday Night Forever, which is now on its third edition. Thank you Jussi for making this possible.