Celebrating Jonathan Toubin: Gibby Haynes, Jon Spencer, Neil Hamburger And Others Share Their JT Stories


Certainly you’ve heard that New York’s very own soul-and-rock DJ Jonathan Toubin was injured in a freak accident where a taxi crashed into his Portland hotel room and landed on top of him while he slept. As the kind of guy who knows all his local bodega owners, DJs in four states in six days, and will let your dad judge one of his dance contests, people around the country have responded accordingly, starting a iheartjt web site and an events-benefit calendar; artists from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Margaret Cho to Ariel Pink have pitched in to raise money. As Jonathan’s friend and agent Michelle Cable says, “I’ve been joking about how the iheartjt movement is larger than Occupy Wall Street.”

We’ve asked people who know him to share anecdotes illustrating why he’s awesome and what he means to so many people. Unsurprisingly, they had a lot to say.

Eleanor Logan, musician I took [the above] picture of Jonathan the day I met him. I’d invited Michelle Cable to a barbecue at the Williamsburg waterfront, and she asked if it would be okay if she brings this DJ she’d just started booking. So she showed up with Jonathan, he was in a full suit even though it was the middle of summer, and he’d already eaten, but he’s too much of a gentleman to ever arrive at a barbecue empty handed, so he brought a fish head.

Gibby Haynes Jonathan is one of those guys that everybody loves to hang out with—his positive attitude and an honest willingness to listen to “your bullshit” makes him a friend to all as well as one of my favorite folks in the whole wide world. His empathy puts him in touch with people; that’s what I think makes Jonathan a great DJ. He knows what the crowd wants and gives it to ’em. It’s a great relationship: the people love Jonathan and Jonathan loves people!

Jon Spencer Jonathan’s enthusiasm and passion for music are infectious. My band Heavy Trash has had many a great evening playing some of his events and he has turned me on to some cool new bands. In addition, he was always very patient with me when I was DJing with him and inspired me to go strictly old-school 45.

Neil Hamburger I met Toubin in Toronto when we were both in town doing separate shows, and was very impressed with knowledge and commitment to quality music, but even more so by what a warm and genuine character he is. He instantly made a real impression on me, and the fact that this shitty runaway taxicab literally made an impression on him has been very upsetting.

Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman / Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Silver Alert)
Jonathan Toubin is a genuinely sweet and soulful guy. Generous, stylish, tirelessly optimistic, and always totally up-for-it. Jonathan has added another chapter to the NY club scene; anyone who’s ever been to any of his parties knows they are simply the best. The party isn’t over yet: it’s time to stand behind Jonathan and give him all the love and support we can.

Mark Sultan (aka BBQ from the King Khan & BBQ show) Jonathan is the only person I know who discussed how garbage Senuti is to a Senuti ‘DJ’ without being rude, but by really espousing the magic of vinyl in such a reverent way that it meant much more than the usual, warranted insults. He is so gracious to everyone around him—a truly awesome guy.

Kid Congo Powers, musician I met Jonathan when he arrived to NYC in the 90s, via friends from Berlin and Austria. He was as effervescent as can be and made an immediate impression on me. Some years later, we met up again when he was starting a record label/music history blog called New York Night Train. I was floundering as what to do with my solo career when Jonathan offered not only to put out a record I was peddling, but to condense my entire history on his new blog in both written and audio mp3 form. Very innovative!

Jonathan is a well-schooled music historian and did a three-day long interview with me, edited it, and made what is now the outline for a memoir I am writing. He organized what was his first NYNT event at Tonic for my record release—a sold-out extravaganza with Gibby Haynes as MC, Ian Svenonius as DJ, guests Julee Cruise and Pluroman, Thalia Zedek, Congo Norvell reunion, Judah Bauer and Hollis Queens and a bevy of others. Shorty after, a version of my band the Pink Monkey Birds imploded and Jonathan stepped in and said in a fatherly tone, “What you need Kid, is a Texas rhythm section.” He found me Kiki Solis and Ron Miller whom, six years later, are still the “Texas rhythm section” of my band The Pink Monkey Birds.

As I write this, having just played a sold-out show in Paris, Jonathan was so right! He has been a champion of mine through and through and I consult him regularly for advice. I am enjoying success now because of this advice. If Jonathan is on your side, you will know how indispensable—not to mention irreplaceable—he is. The news of his accident came to us on tour and we have been gutted. Get well Jonathan. It is our turn to do for you!

Josh Styles, Stalkers/Daddy Long Legs/Smashed Blocked A true lover of REAL rock-and-roll and a true believer in not only underground music, but counterculture in general. In a day and age where you are hardpressed to make people get off their computers and out of the house, he manages to pack dance floors! But beyond any of that… a true gem of a gentlemen.

Yasmine Kittles, Tearist I met Jonathan in Brooklyn in 2005. I moved out there to be in a band with another former Texan- Dave Wofford and Jack Martin. It was my first real band, and I was so excited to just be singing back-ups. Jonathan and I met and became instant best friends. We hung out together every single day—talking too much and annoying everyone. At practice he would make jokes most of the time. He, also, insisted that I sing more, which meant so much to me. I was very nervous, because here are these pros that are older than me, and him saying that actually was making me sing louder. Like, “this guy I respect believes in me.”

At our first show (at the old Glasslands… which I believe was called Glasshouse?) he kept trying to push me to the front, but I was insanely nervous and only doing back-ups… Finally, I ended up getting up the courage to stand on this piano. The piano turned out to be not actually a piano, but a broken decorative thing. It broke, I fell, knocking out all the power and my shirt shifted, resulting in my boobs popping out. I remember him double over laughing while I was on the ground with my cut-off shorts and boobs out… bright red, I imagine. That was my first show I ever played. Jonathan kept saying how proud he was of me… maybe because I was so embarrassed or maybe he just was.

A bit later, a bad circumstance left me having to quickly move my things from where I was staying and leave that band. I had all my belongings and walked over to Union Pool in the afternoon, crying. This was my first time having a drink, so I was immediately drunk. Jonathan tells the story that he found me “fighting with a bum over a bench” in the daylight. He physically picked me up as I cried and pulled my bag along as he took me over to the Vietnam (our Texas friends’ band) house. The house was a store-front and at the time the was no power or water. He lived upstairs. He, literally, carried me blocks and blocks to safety.

I would soon realize acts of kindness like this were not uncommon… but just how Jonathan was. I do believe he saved my life that day. I am so honored to know him.
I am so honored to know someone like him exists. And that someone is my close friend.

I love you, Jonathan. I will never say it enough.

Howie Pyro, D Generation Jonathan is the only guy left who will put his money where his mouth is to make a party happen. (And he has a big mouth!) He has the uncanny quality to bring the coolest people together and make these things we call “a party” a PARTY! Not a “club night” or “a weekly,” but a fucking party, as in a place where everyone has fun. God bless him.

Michelle Cable, Panache Booking I first met him through a show we co-promoted, and within a couple of weeks, we were on each others speed dials, had discovered we shared the same birthday as well as a zillion mutual friends. Before I knew it, he had asked me to be his agent and we began planning his world domination DJ tour. And we did just that. In that first year, we traveled together to Mexico, Canada, all over the United States, Turkey, and even a ten-day DJ tour of Israel.

He has this amazing ability to charm every single person in the room, whether it’s the owner of a club, your mom, crazy uncle, best friend, or even the janitor mopping the dance floor. He will be there, gabbing your ear off. He does it out of complete sincerity and love of the human spirit.

Connecting with people comes naturally to him. Whether he’s DJing to 5000 people at a Faith No More show in Tel Aviv or to fifteen people in a Jerusalem nightclub or at a private party for the mayor, Jonathan gives 200%. He lives like he DJs—pushing the EQ and volume to its limit, fully defining “maximum rock and soul.” I love you Jonathan. Please get well soon.

OJ, X-Ray Eyeballs Jonathan showed me a video once of him playing guitar in a punk band when he was 15 in a backyard in Texas and he was wearing little shorts and shredding! Jonathan is a man of many talents.

Vashti Windish, K-Holes, Golden Triangle I love Jonathan. We first met in 2006 at the Circle Bar in New Orleans, he was down there playing shows, I had tagged along. Instantly he charmed me by introducing us as married to everyone he knew there, which was strange, but hilarious.

I found out then that most of his friends in New Orleans called him Mr. Wonderful, because he was always so wonderful! What a name to receive! It’s so true though! Since that moment, we have always been friends, and at a certain point business partners in the party happenings called Animal Train, which was part Live With Animals (the gallery I co-ran) and part New York Night Train. Our goal was to make NYC dance and throw themed parties with bands, go-go dancing (myself and Carly Rabalais) performance, and of course, DJs. I decided I was too busy to do it, but continued doing things with Jonathan by playing shows, hosting his parties at our space, DJing occasionally, but most importantly, being friends. My favorite Jonathan moments are sitting around having coffee and chatting about the world.

My boyfriend and bandmate Cameron Michel made a card last night for him at the Enid’s Get Well card-making party that I thought was so poignant: “We hope for a speedy recovery so that we can give you the love you have given to all of us.” It’s so insane to see how many people he has touched, I have never felt such an overwhelming feeling of community. I have seen people that haven’t been in the same room in years at his many benefits, many whom don’t quite get along. This accident I believe has opened many peoples’ eyes to how important he is and how important we all are to each other. It’s a beautiful thing to see, and I know that Jonathan will love to see when he opens his big brown eyes.

Chezza Zoeller, DEVA He came to a sidewalk show with my Devo cover band and we got caught in the rain and had to hide out in this really small pizza place. We just started talking and after awhile I realized I didn’t know this guy, but it seemed like we were friends for years and I had known him my entire life. That is exactly how Jonathan is. He is not only one of the grooviest cats I’ve ever met, but the sweetest and most friendly. He’s so passionate about what he does and lives life to it’s fullest. Just hearing about all he is doing makes me tired. He’s just one of those rare people with the kind of positive charisma that you can’t buy or steal. Ya either got it or ya don’t and Jonathan’s got it.

Jamie Peck, writer, Sound of the City contributor I first met him when I was writing a story on the Shank… he definitely gave me all the best quotes in it. There were so many good ones that didn’t make it in. I quickly realized that everything he says is gold and he has true passion for keeping New York nightlife fun and awesome.

This past March, he showed up to my birthday party at 5 a.m. (after DJing all night) only to find that we were running out of booze and the party was dying down. Rather than call it a night, he gave a guy $40 and told him to go get beer for everyone who was left, and the party continued!

He has insisted on cabbing me home on multiple occasions even though it’s quite a bit out of his way. We’re all so jaded in NYC that it’s almost a little bit off-putting when a guy does something nice—you wonder what he wants in return or if he’s a serial killer—but Jonathan is just a true gentleman, pure and simple.

When I had just moved into my new apartment and had no Internet, he let me work from his place. He cleared off a table in the kitchen for me, played me a few records, then went off to meetings while I blogged all day.

One time at the Shank’s second incarnation, some drunk asshole came up to him and demanded he play hip-hop. “I don’t come down to your work and tell you how to make the burgers,” he replied, at which point the guy came at him and he did an impressive job restraining him until security kicked him out. I have since stolen that line and used it when appropriate.

He seems to do this kind of stuff for everyone he knows. Which is pretty amazing, considering how many friends he has.