Because It’s New York City: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Amanda Bantug


It is common knowledge that online marketing and digital distribution gives artists and musicians the ability to create and release music from any where on the planet. The cliché of coming to New York with your guitar to make a name for yourself isn’t as universal as it once was. But even in the era of iTunes Youtube and Reverbnation there are still many artists yearning to perform in the City. In the first interview of its kind, NCI talked to Amanda Bantug an alternative musician from Georgia who is planning her New York debut.  

NCI: When you imagine playing your music live in New York, what do you see in your mind’s eye? What do you think that first experience will be like?

AB: Since I’m not from New York, of course I imagine thousands of people singing my songs back to me a MSG, but realistically, that is not going to happen right off the bat. I know I’ll probably be at a more intimate venue, which is wonderful because I really get to interact with the audience. I hope the audience will give me a lot of their attention and really get to know me through my music. It’ll be really exciting for me because I love New York so much and it’ll be a dream come true to even play up there. Even if it’s just me and a guitar.  

NCI: Tell me about the last song you wrote. What inspired it, how did you develop that idea and what kind of emotions did it bring out of you when you knew it was done?

AB: I literally just a wrote a song yesterday. I have a very close friend who actually inspires me to write a ton of songs. They’re just in the phase of doing anything they want to do and take anything they are handed. It sucks because they have such a great talent that could take them wherever they want, but their heart just isn’t in the right place. So that is what the song is kind of about. After writing it, I just feel like a weight lifted off of me, because sometimes I can’t express myself best verbally, so I put in song. But songs can’t fix things, so the emotions I still feel towards my friend haven’t changed.  

NCI: What inspiration do you think you will get from being in New York City to perform? 

AB: I’ve read somewhere that being in different surroundings can help your mind open up to creating different ideas and what not compared to what someone would usually create in their day to day setting. With that being said, I would definitely be inspired to write about different concepts with a different type of genre. I am always up for experimenting with sounds, lyrics, and structure.

NCI: Why do think a lot of musicians still want to come to New York to perform? In an era of digital distribution and independent music, what still draws artists like you to want to perform here?

AB: Cause it’s New York City! What else is there to say? There are only a few cities in the US that are as diverse as NYC. I feel like you can always run into someone up there who can pull a couple of strings for you. Because of all this digital distribution, there is so much going on, it’s hard to listen to all of the bands that deserve a chance. That is why us artists need to play live in so many places, including New York :)





YouTube: Amanda Bantug Videos

The Pride of New York Nightlife: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Sabrina Haley

Pride is a cultural celebration born out of New York nightlife. It came from the Stonewall Riots and grew into similar LGBT events around the world. For some nightlife natives, Pride doesn’t just happen once a year. Some people live, breathe and create this culture every week. Sabrina Haley is one of those people. As a producer, bartender, photographer and activist she supports nightlife culture on a year round basis. NCI sat down to talk with her on the eve of her biggest event of the year 

Sabrina Haley Website

NCI: Let’s start by talking about how you got started in nightlife and what you are up to now.

SH: I came to NYC in 2004 to be a photographer. I attended work scholar program at the Aperture Foundation. I worked there forty hours a week but didn’t get paid. I needed to find another way to make some money. An old friend of mine from San Francisco got a DJ gig at a place called Girls Room. The parties were scarce for us back then so I joined her to create a new event. That turned into a weekly party called Girl Scout. We had girl-scout cookie cocktails and gave away merit badges for best breasts and best dancers. Girl’s Room was a dirty spot on Lower East Side but the party took off and I was hooked. I started to promote, attend and photograph as many parties as I could after that. NYC was alive and I wanted to be a part of it. I learned then that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. When you let go of that concept you can succeed and rock anything!  

Right now I am working to support Pride because it is my favorite time of year. I am working to produce some of the biggest and best parties. The biggest one I’m doing this year is the Siren Pride at the Beekman Beach Club. I’m planning to have great music, good food and drinks and sexy mermaid burlesque dancers celebrating with 3,000 people with a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge. 

NCI: Tell me all the different things you do in nightlife culture in a normal week. And then tell me what drives you to do all those things.

SH: Currently I produce and bartend a weekly Tuesday night event called Mix Tape, at Henrietta Hudson’s. It’s a happy hour into night dance party focusing on old school hip hop and throw back dance music.  I also am the lead bartender and host of a Friday party called Lesbo A Go-Go at the infamous Stonewall Inn that has been going on for six years. We offer a high energy dance party with no cover, sexy go-go dancers, and lots of women every week. I also attend many other events to stay connected to the community. I’m out and about taking photographs at a lot of different places; everything from benefits to roof top launches to gay boy dance clubs to special house DJ sets. All my weeks look different! 

My drive comes from the passion I have for my community. I want my life and work to be about helping people and bringing them together. It is so rewarding for me to get emails from young queers thanking me for what I do because it makes it easier for them to be gay and feel comfortable in their own skin. That makes it all worth it to me. What I do sends the message that I believe in our rights and am here to fight for them. That makes much more sense to me than spending my days checking into an office or selling my soul to corporate America.

NCI: Talk about the struggles that go into putting together a successful one off party and a successful weekly party. How many hours go into preparing for one night?

SH: They are very different beasts. When I am doing a one off party, it’s really best to have at least a month of preparation. If it’s a big annual party like Siren Pride our team usually works on it for at least four months. The concepts get kicked around almost as soon as the last one is done.  It takes lots of hours. People really do not have any idea how much work it is to create a good party. It’s not just a FB invite. It’s a long term relationships with venues, talent and guests. It’s marketing across the board. It’s creative work to develop press, fliers and the look and feel of event. It’s decision making. It’s gambling. I have to decide which is the right DJ to make this crowd pop? What are the right hours for this night? The list goes on and on…

For a weekly party, I treat it like a relationship. You are working on it all the time, keeping up the momentum, coming up with new specials, theme nights, drink specials, promo, new talent, continued guests and things like that. You have to make the guest feel wonderful so they come back. A weekly survives on regulars. We love our tourists, and visiting partiers, but they do not keep it alive from week to week.

NCI: Tell me what you are looking for when you are conceptualizing a new event or looking at a new space?

SH: I usually have a creative spark; an idea of the event. Then I estimate the numbers from a 150 to 2000 person party. I try to find a space that is the right size and accommodations for that crowd. I like a nice full room, not too empty and not to packed. And the sound system is key. Finally, the venue has to be queer friendly (obviously) and the staff has to be both professional & fun. 

NCI: What is the single most important thing that goes into a great party?

SH: I like to say..."Energy In, Is Energy Out". It’s a simple concept of physics. I put my heart into my events. I give it my energy and then people feel that. Everyone we hire from DJs, dancers and staff all get behind the idea. Then it becomes a community. That is contagious. The crowd feels it. And that’s when you have a great party.

Sabrina Haley Website

Have fun.


Hip Hop Love from Tokyo to New York: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Mika

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a DJ in New York isn’t easy. In addition to learning the technical skills, you have to navigate your way though bar owners, promoters and patrons who often don’t appreciate you. It takes a lot of passion and confidence to thrive in this world. Many people want to DJ but can’t deal with that kind of stress.

Now imagine adding a move to the other side of the planet and learning another language to the obstacles between you and pursuing your dream of spinning behind the decks. How many of us would be willing to face all those challenges to reach our goals? That is what DJ Mika has been able to accomplish. NCI caught up with this old school DJ fresh from her performance at Hot 97 Summer Jam to talk to her about hip hop and living in nightlife culture.

Vital Statistics

  • Name: DJ Mika
  • Hometown: Ibaraki, Japan
  • Inspirations: DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Muro, DJ Mitsuru, DJ Maru and DJ JUNE
  • Last Performance: Hot 97 Summer Jam Interscope booth
  • Next Local Performance: Resident DJ Tues to Saturdays at bOb bar (235 Eldridge St.)

NCI: How were you first introduced to hip hop music growing up in Japan? What is the first artist you remember listening to?

Mika: My older brother has always loved hip hop music. Growing up with him and the music he listened to made me hip hop fan! LL Cool J probably had the biggest impact on me. The first songs I remember hearing were “Jinglin’ Baby” and “Round the Way Girl”.

NCI: What made you decide to start DJing? How did you learn to mix?

Mika: My brother and I spent a lot of time listening to CD mixed from other DJs. At a certain point, I wanted to make my own CDs. I didn’t know how to make them, but I knew I wanted to learn. So, I bought equipment and I started to learn by my self at first. After I came to NYC, I learned DJing from artists who taught me what they knew especially DJ C2. I always appreciated the time they took to help me.

NCI: What made you decide to come to New York? Was it difficult getting a DJ job here?

Mika: After I made my first mix CD, I didn’t think it was very good but I loved it because it gave me the confidence to become more involved in hip hop music. I started to dream about DJing for more and more people.  That’s when I decided to learn more about real hip hop culture and come to NYC.  I’m lucky because the friends I met here helped me a lot to get DJ job and always supported me.  I really appreciate that.

NCI: How did hip hop fans treat you when you began to DJ in New York?

Mika: Most people showed me a lot of respect, but sometimes it’s twice as hard because I’m Japanese and a girl.  It took a long time for me to establish myself. But, I think now I finally get respect for my set and not just because I’m a female DJ. J

NCI: What is the best part of being a DJ in New York? 

Mika: When I decided I wanted to become a street DJ, I knew the best place to do that was in New York. That’s where it all began. Now that I’m here and spinning on a regular basis, I am living my dream. What is better than that?

NCI: Is there anyone you want to shout out?

Mika: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. I want everyone to know how much I love being a NYC DJ.

I also want to give special thanks to DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Starshell, DJ JUNE, DJ Smooth, Taq , Mitsuki, and all my friends!

Also, thanks to General, Nadia, from It’s Done Promotions, Rome from Badboy Records, Daniel from Drity  Magazine, DJ Emmo, Harmen, DJ Fortune, Espinoza from Cajo communications, Powaradio crew, ATS from the Rock Steady Crew, DJ Technic, Dreatraxx from Hoodstarz, my Japan Crew, identity bar crew, Rock and soul crew, Jemiho , DJ CHURCH, DJ Rawbetaz, DJ Krazie Charlez, DJ Max Carnage, Malik, George, Greg from bOb bar, Eli, Fred The Godson, Beats by Dre and DUB. (I can’t write everyone’s name but I want to say THANK YOU for everyone who supports me!!!)

Have fun.


How to Use Nightlife Culture for Networking

by Gamal Hennessy

I was walking into work today and a random co-worker asked me if I went to “industry parties” because he wanted to attend some to meet people “in the business” and get his project off the ground.  I get this kind of request a lot. Some people think that they can just show up at a party with a demo or an idea, sit down next to Jay-Z and blow up the next day.

Sorry. It doesn’t really work like that. My personal story is a good example of what really happens.

Nightlife can be one of the best ways to hustle in New York. The premise of Elizabeth Currid’s book the Warhol Economy is that the nightlife scene in New York drives much of the business on Wall Street, Madison Avenue and every industry you can think of.

But you can’t just show up at a party and expect to connect with the big dogs. It’s a process that develops over time. To get the best results you have to follow the process including:

1)      Get out of your house: Nightlife personality Steven Lewis told me that “You have to go out to find out where to go out.” If you immerse yourself in the scene, then you’ll naturally find out where to go. If you stay at home waiting for the party to come to you, then you will be waiting for a long time.

2)      Expand your existing network: If you have any friends at all then you know people who know people that you want to meet. Hang out with them for a while and you can make good hustle connections. You might even have some fun.

3)      Start low: The bartender you meet today might be a club owner tomorrow. The warm up DJ could become the next big producer. The struggling artist might be the next big thing. Don’t think you have to meet the big dogs right away. It is often better to meet people on the way up instead of when they are already at the top.

4)      Make a connection and have something to offer: No one is going to work with you or take a chance on you if they don’t know you and see any benefit for themselves. Being introduced by a mutual friend helps, but it will only take you so far. At some point you have to be willing to put time and effort into the connection before anything comes out of it.

5)      Be patient: You can’t expect to meet someone on Monday and have them give you a record deal or an advance or anything else by Friday. The bad news is that it might take months or years of building up your network to the point where you can make things happen and a lot of times nothing will happen that helps your long term hustle. The good news is that you can spend that time drinking, dancing and having fun. There are worse ways to meet people.


When I got into nightlife culture I didn’t know anyone or anything. Now my network includes club owners, musicians, DJs, liquor brand managers, promoters, designers, writers, dancers, advertisers and a lot of other great people. I’m still growing my connections and expanding my reach, but ultimately I’m out having fun. That is the best way to use nightlife culture for networking.


Have fun.