As I enter TrampStamp Record’s downtown New York City office building I am immediately greeted by a man named Bruno. Bruno is well dressed, in his early 30’s, slender, and fit. He’s wearing a $3000 Armani suit. Black. He is wearing Ray Ban aviators inside the building. A little wire is dangling off his ear and down the side of his neck. He leans his head to his left and speaks to his shoulder.
“Ok.” he says to his shoulder.
One awkward elevator ride later I am sitting in the waiting room of a posh multi-million office decorated with hallways of gold records, photos of famous musicians, and one fantastic gold plated door that leads to the office of the man who made all of it possible. That man is none other than the legendary Mick Longstein.
Bruno leads me in.
“How you doin?” Mr. Longstein asks.
“I’m good, how are you Mr. Longstein?”
“Please, please. Call me Mick. This ain’t no Wall Street bank aight?”
Moments later, after some small talk and the usual pleasantries I am finally able to get to the reason I am here: to interview a master of the arts.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did TrampStamp Records get its start?
Mick Longstein: When I was about 18 years old a few of my associates and myself took over a little night club in Brooklyn. Well, once we had it up and runnin’ we need somethin’ to, you know, draw the people from the neighborhood in to start spending their hard earned cash..with us. I had a cousin who started a little rock and roll/do wop outfit, The Dick Ritchie Valens Quartet, so we booked ’em to play 7 nights a week, 6 shows a night. Well, a few years later and we got all this cash flowing through the club but, you know, we ain’t gonna play Uncle Sam any of that cut. So we started a, umm, a subsidiary. Yea. That’s it. And we figured, hey, let’s expand our empire into this music business. So we started TrampStamp Records.
Let me get this straight, so TrampStamp Records was originally a front? A place to launder your cash?
ML: Hey buddy, who said anythin’ about laundering money huh? I got no fuckin’ clue what you mean by that. Next question!
Ok. Who was the first artist you signed?
ML: Let me think about that one, cause, you know, my memory ain’t too good no more. You know, it was Blue Lou Boyd & The Chesterfields.
Who had the big hit “Am I Lying?”
ML: Yea, that was a big hit for sure. We made our first million off a that one. I bought my first wife a mink coat with those proceeds.
You have a reputation in the business for being very hard nosed and tough yet also very caring for your artists. How do you maintain that balance between being The Boss and being their confidants?
ML: My first job was working for a guy named “Handsome” Frank Capitano. I was 12 years old and Frankie showed me the ways of the streets. He taught me that you need to be both feared and loved. I decided that once I was The Boss I would instill that fear into my artists. Fear can sometimes motivate these creative types. Motivate them to get off their little lazy hippie asses and do somethin’! But love also motivates people okay. My people need to know they have to pony up every week but as long as they do, they know they get a seat at my sunday dinner table. The wife makes an amazing lasagna!
TrampStamp Records is legendary. You have signed and made tons of artists, too many to list here. Which ones have been the most memorable for you?
ML: Memorable? I find reminiscing to be a sign of emotional weakness, okay. The lowest form of dialogue. But if you insist, I think one of my all time favorite artists has to be Jackie.
Of Jackie & The Treehorns?
ML: Of Jackie & The Apriles! THE APRILES! I don’t know nothin’ about that Treehorn shit. When I had Jackie, he was a huge star. The biggest! But you know the story. Jackie thought he was too big for us, too big for TrampStamp Records. Well, I told that manager of his, that Heshel, “no one is bigger than TrampStamp. No one!” So I dropped his ass. Done.
After you dropped Jackie, TrampStamp took a few years to recover from the fall out. You really struggled in the 80’s and 90’s and almost went bankrupt. How did you turn it around?
ML: I’ll tell you how I turned it around: Ron Johnson & The Audio Consultants. That’s how! Now that guy? He’s a true fuckin’ talent. Truly an artist you can mold into whatever you desire. I danced at my daughters wedding to his hit “The Girls Are Rockin'”. It was a beautiful moment because I got him there to do it in person. Acoustic! Took the fuckin’ house down with that one he did.
What’s next for TrampStramp Records?
ML: World fuckin’ domination, that’s what’s next. We’re gonna put TrampStamp Records back on top with newer artists like The Happy Endings, Kima & The Yellowtops, and Buddy Revel & The 3 o’clock High. And I also got an appearance in that upcoming blockbuster The Jackie Movie. I ain’t usually comfortable, you know, talkin’ about myself to these liberal fuckin’ media hippies but hey, Jackie made me some money back in the day and it’s the least I could do to help promote myself some more.
It’s been a real pleasure talking with you today.
ML: Yea, right. The pleasure is in fact all yours.