Matt Dike (1961-2018)

03.13.18 / Featured, General

Matthew Dike, 1961-2018

Matt Dike, co-founder of iconic record label Delicious Vinyl, producer of enduring hits for 1980s hip-hop stars Tone-Loc and Young MC, and driving creative force behind Beastie Boys’ 1989 album Paul’s Boutique, has died.

Dike formed record label Delicious Vinyl with co-founder Mike Ross in Los Angeles in 1987. The label’s first releases included 12-inch singles “On Fire/Cheeba Cheeba” by Tone-Loc and “Do This” by Cuba-American rapper Mellow Man Ace. Within 18 months of forming the label, Delicious Vinyl released Tone-Loc’s “Wild Thing,” selling over two million copies via heavy MTV airplay of its Tamra Davis-directed video, a sly parody of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” The song’s incorporation of a Van Halen drum fill was indicative of the surprising source material, undeniable mass appeal and utter fun that were hallmarks of Dike’s production style.

Matthew Dike was born on December 2, 1962 in West Nyack, New York, and grew up in the town of Tuxedo Park, approximately forty miles north of New York City. His father, Constant Dike, was a master carpenter who built the Dike family home on We-Wah Lake. His parents (mother Tanya) raised the Dike siblings (brother Lane, sister Vikyana) as strict Jehovah’s Witnesses, banning records by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath from the house. Young Matt was not so easily discouraged.

photo by Mario Caldato Jr.

Matt Dike (photo by Mario Caldato Jr.)

In May, 1974, Matt was taken by his older brother Lane to see his heroes Mott The Hoople at the Uris Theatre on W. 52nd St. in New York City. Matt clambered onstage and was handed a guitar pick by Mott guitarist Ariel Bender, which he kept in his pocket for many years afterwards. In the late ‘70s, Dike visited a childhood friend attending NYU and living in the infamous Weinstein dormitory, where Matt DJed a party for the first time, repeatedly playing Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time” at the request of a then-unknown teenage artist named Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Dike arrived in Los Angeles in 1980. He began assembling a collection of garish mohair sweaters and ‘70s funk, rock, and disco records, all deeply unfashionable and available cheap at L.A.’s bountiful thrift stores. By 1983 he was putting his look and sound to use at a club called Rhythm Lounge, founded by artist Salomon Emquies, where Matt’s taste in music came to the attention of UCLA student, DJ and avowed funk fanatic Mike Ross.

“I walked into the club and it was completely going off,” remembers Mike Ross. “When I looked behind the turntables I see this white dude playing killer jams one after another, old school funk, disco and hip-hop. I thought, who is this? I had a feeling he was going to be my new best friend. Little did I know how deep Matt’s music lexicon was, and where’s we’d wind up taking it.” The pair’s burgeoning kinship led to the creation of Delicious Vinyl a few years later.

In an era before the lucrative DJ glut, Dike made ends meet as a gallery assistant for art dealer Larry Gagosian. He reconnected with Jean-Michel Basquiat when Gagosian brought Basquiat to Los Angeles for his first major West Coast Gallery show. Dike drove Jean-Michel around town, knocking together frames from discarded wood and witnessing the creation of significant Basquiat paintings including 1983’s “Eyes and Eggs.”

With his pal Tim Kelly, son of Silver Screen icon Gene Kelly, Dike started a nightclub named Nairobi Room at Ethiopian restaurant Red Sea on 3rd Street. With Pamela Turbov (later the first full-time Delicious Vinyl publicist, name-checked as “Funky Pam” in Beastie Boys’ “What Goes Around”), Dike created clubs Red Square and Enter the Dragon. These were further steps in the legacy of transient nightspots, most now forgotten, that fed a fertile L.A. music scene and fueled the rise of bands including Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction. The scene provided Dike with a proving ground that by decade’s end led to the popular success of Delicious Vinyl.

First, Dike co-created and was the key DJ at Power Tools from 1985-87, held in the crumbling grandeur of the Park Plaza Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Guests included Andy Warhol, Traci Lords, Joan Rivers and Pee-Wee Herman, and bands like Thelonious Monster, Fishbone, and a new rap act from New York City called Beastie Boys performed. Beasties’ contentious onstage meltdown brought a young sound designer named Mario Caldato, Jr. out of the crowd to offer the services of his superior sound system. Caldato would become an important part of the Delicious Vinyl creative braintrust as the label’s in-house engineer. “Without Mario we would have never gotten anything done,” Dike said years later.

After Dike and co-promoter Jon Sidel pulled the plug on Power Tools, Dike and Ross founded Delicious Vinyl in 1987. After producing Tone-Loc’s follow-up smash “Funky Cold Medina,” Dike and Ross had another million-selling single in Young MC’s “Bust A Move,” one of the most credible and endearing hip-hop songs to ever cross over to the upper echelon of the pop charts. The label released lauded, Afro-centric hip-hop albums by Def Jef, and realized Dike’s dream of adding a heavy rock act to the label by signing Masters Of Reality away from Rick Rubin’s Def American Recordings.

Dike then lent his sampling skills to Beastie Boys’ sophomore opus Paul’s Boutique (Capitol, 1989), abetted by the production work of Dust Brothers Mike Simpson and John King. Initially a commercial flop, Paul’s Boutique has been exonerated into lasting classic status. “The album was a complete and utter failure at the time,” Dike said in 2014. “It didn’t sell shit! But it got mind-blowing reviews, which I think is better for me in the long run.” The album is the last major release bearing Matt Dike’s production credit.

Matt Dike left Delicious Vinyl in 1992, relinquishing sole ownership to Michael Ross, who retains ownership to this day. Living in a mansion in Echo Park that allegedly once belonged to silent film star Fatty Arbuckle, Dike retreated from public life. Journalist Dan LeRoy, in his 33 1/3 book on Paul’s Boutique, noted that Dike had fallen so far from view that his surname was misspelled “Dyke” in the liner notes to Beastie Boys Anthology: Sounds of Science (released in 1999).

In recent years, Dike expressed surprise that the records he’d made years earlier have endured, and continue to delight new generations of music fans around the world. “It’s mind-blowing. I just wanted to have as much fun as possible!”

Matt Dike passed away at home after a brief illness, with his brother Lane and sister Vikyana at his side. He is survived by his siblings, and his nephew Matthew.

–Peter Relic

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