It's nearly 2 a.m. on a recent weekend morning inside a packed Gryphon Nightclub, and the sights and sounds of debauchery are everywhere. The hard-driven electronic beats careening out of the DJ booth are sending the crowd into a frenzy, as measured by all of the dancing and sexual energy surging through the crowd. With barely an inch of space between each person, body parts start finding their way into random hands. People who would otherwise feel offended by the invasion of personal space are transformed into sluts. A small group gathers around a woman who has climbed on top of a man's shoulders and is straddling his face with her crotch. This is the type of inhibitions-to-the-wind party vibe that DJ Funky Junction is known to create on any given weekend.
With a tiny flashlight in his mouth and years of confidence etched across his face, Junction, born Costantino Padovano, can't help but smile as his hands manipulate the soundboard. He's been performing as a resident at Gryphon, in Hollywood's Hard Rock Casino, for the past three years and has quickly built a reputation as one of the most exciting and original DJs the club has to offer.
His passion and approach to playing electronic music is notably different from other style-over-substance DJs in South Florida. That's partly because, at the age of 47, he's been around the global house scene long enough to remember his beloved genre before it was a genre at all.
Padovano was born in Mola di Bari, Italy, and grew up around a bloodline of working musicians, including his jazz musician father. He landed his first music-related job at the age of 15, working at a radio station back in Italy, but it wasn't until he moved to the United States with his family in 1976 that things began taking shape.
Once in New York, Padovano was surrounded by the blend of art and music parties that dominated the scene and pushed his creativity forward. He was popular enough to cut his teeth playing at legendary clubs like Danceteria, Studio 54, and Limelight in the early '80s. At the time, he was also making early house tracks and recording under the name Mixmaster.
"My first job was learning to make edits, cuts, and to splice tapes together, which was accomplished by using a reel- to-reel machine, a blade and tapes, lots of tapes," says Padovano in his strong European accent. "[It took] hours and hours of work, all done manually, just to do a simple editing job on a song that today can be done in a few minutes."
It was from the mastery of these techniques that he was dubbed Mixmaster. Later on, the name became almost synonymous with hip-hop, and Padovano dropped it. In the '90s, determined to stay fresh, he started making music for smaller electronic imprints like Buddha Bar, Hed Kandi, Café del Mar, and other foreign record labels. Toward the latter half of the '90s, his sound was also shifting from the disco/industrial style of a decade earlier into a blend of soulful/Latin house, tribal, chill-out, and lounge.
One of the first songs he came out with as his style progressed was called "Voices," by Funky Junction vs. KC Flightt. He'd stopped performing under the name Mixmaster, and with a new song tearing up the underground charts, it was a perfect time to reinvent himself.
"In 1998 I was going through my depressive stage in searching for new sounds and new ideas in the studio," Padovano says. "One day I got inspired to create something new and different from what the rest of the world was playing, and I came up with a combination of tribal beats played in a dark mode." It's not to be confused with the dark house heard throughout major clubs in Miami and its environs. His main intent is actually to distance his set from those others, which he believes are more aimed at selling bottles than advancing dance culture to the next level.
"There is no house music scene in Miami," he says. "The DJs always play the same thing that ends up getting too dark or too cheesy, and Fort Lauderdale mirrors Miami's dark format. It's all about the promoters and PR. They want to see how many people they can shove into a club."
The issue of generating revenue has not only affected the quality of music in clubs, but it tends to divide music into two categories: commercial and underground. "For me, commercial music is what pays my rent," Padovano says. "Underground is more of an individual's category, where we place our dreams, hoping that the rest of the world will catch up one day — which sometimes happens."
Today, he lives with his three children and his wife in a house in Port St. Lucie. He mostly works out of his home studio surrounded by his various awards, including a 2004 gold record for Danzel's "Pump It Up," a 2003 gold compilation for D-NOY, his 2000 record for Funky Junction versus KC Flightt's "Voices," a 1999 platinum record for Gloria Gaynor and the Tramps' "Mighty High," and a 1991 gold record for the 740 Boyz's "Shimmy Shake."
Apart from doing remixes and original productions for Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and Universal Records' Dreamgirls, he has also done remixes for songs by Enrique Iglesias, the Blue Man Group, Frank Sinatra, Kelly Rowland with Snoop Dogg, and various other mainstream acts. Recently, Padovano remixed the song "He Said, She Said" for the Disney Channel's Ashley Tisdale. Even though Tisdale might not be the most creative artist around, her money goes to support talented musicians, like Padovano, who actually know what they're doing.
For Padovano, the most important thing is personal taste. "I play music that I like: electro house, tribal, progressive, minimal, with a twist of what people like. When you come to my shows, you'll notice I never play the same sets twice."