Creating a Hedonistic World: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Giselle Reiber

 

by Gamal Hennessy

There are a lot of cocktail lounges in New York City. It has become a niche market unto itself. Every new venue is trying something different to stand out and appeal to the discerning New York native. Demi Monde is a new lounge that combines craft cocktails with creative entertainment for a very compelling effect. NCI sat down with their manager Giselle Reiber just before one of their unique nightlife performances.

NCI: Tell me about your career in nightlife and what you were doing before you got to Demi Monde.

GR: I got my start at Norwood where I learned a lot about how nightlife works. For a little while I was a bottle service hostess, but that wasn’t my thing. I transitioned pretty quickly into a management role and I’ve managed and help launch Pulqueria in Chinatown before coming to Demi Monde.

NCI: Give me an idea of the concept behind Demi Monde and how you are expressing that concept.

GR: Demimonde is a term made famous by Alexandre Dumas in the early 20th Century that literally means “half the world”. It refers to a high class hedonistic lifestyle. We’re trying to recreate that environment by combining high end craft cocktails with various types of performance art. We’ve only been opened a few months and we’ve already had contortionists, aerial silk dancers, fire eaters and burlesque shows. We plan to explore even more entertainment and performance art, although we probably won’t do the fire eating thing again.

NCI: Your cocktail menu is rather unique. Why do you think there has been such an international interest in cocktail culture over the past five years?

GR: I think it is a natural extension of the rise of foodies and the increased appeal of unique and exotic ingredients in food. When I first came to New York and started exploring restaurants I was exposed to cuisines and spices I never knew about growing up. I think it is similar for a lot of people when they start to explore cocktails. The same operators behind Death and Company developed Demi Monde so our approach to craft cocktails rivals anything available in New York.

NCI: You said you worked in bottle service before managing cocktail lounges. What do you think is the difference between your bottle service patrons and your cocktail patrons?

GR: I think the bottle service patron and the cocktail patron have different goals when they go out. The bottle service person is using the night to impress someone, whether it is his date, his client or his friends, about his income. The bottle is incidental. The cocktail patron is looking for a more sensual experience. They want a unique taste and a refined construction to what they drink. Whenever possible, we try to combine the two experiences by offering our hand made mixers with the bottle service instead of the standard juices to help our guest have a more distinctive experience. (See also: The Cultural Impact of Bottle Service

NCI: Demi Monde isn’t in an area known for its nightlife spots or cocktail lounges. Do you think you can lure more of the nightlife crowd downtown or do you think most of your regular patrons are the people who live and work in the area?

So far, have two waves of patrons on a typical night. Between 5-10pm, we get a combination of the Wall Street crowd and the regulars who live in the new buildings going up in the Financial District. Later in the evening we are seeing more people migrating down here from SoHo, LES and the Village.

NCI: People travel downtown for your cocktails even when there are several craft cocktail lounges in those other areas?

GR: They come for the cocktails and the entertainment. Demi Monde has become a destination spot because we offer an experience that includes cocktails, but we don’t just serve cocktails on their own.

NCI: What are you involved in outside of Demi Monde and where do you see yourself going in the near future?

Demi Monde is only part of my involvement in nightlife. I play keyboards in a performance group called Ice Balloons in addition to managing here. Both jobs give me a chance to be creative in different ways which is really what I want to do. I think I will stay in nightlife until I can work on my music full time or an even bigger creative opportunity comes along. 

Have fun.
Gamal

 

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 :)

Links

Facebook: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandabantug#!/artist/bio/artist_1700888

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/amandabantug

YouTube: Amanda Bantug Videos

The Culinary Side of Nightlife Culture: An interview with Jimmy Carbone and Rev Ciancio

By Gamal Hennessy

Music and fashion might be the most public aspect of nightlife culture, but consumption is the most basic and integral part of the experience. What we can eat and drink in nightlife is very different than what we allow ourselves to consume in normal life. There is an escapist quality in culinary nightlife that is just as strong as the artistic passion or the sexual expression. To get a better appreciation of this side of the culture, NCI sat down with Rev Ciancio and Jimmy Carbone to get their perspective on the eve of their new event series Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: Where did the concept of Elixirs and Eats come from?

Jimmy: We've been producing events together for a couple of years now. We know what goes into a successful event and what people enjoy. We have also made connections with a lot of small businesses creating unique small batch spirits. We decided to couple our involvement in culinary culture with the up and coming spirits producers that we know to create a unique series of events.

NCI: How did each one of you get involved in the culinary aspect of nightlife culture?

Rev: I started in the music biz as an artist manager. Managing bands is essentially like as series of pop up events.  I'd set up the tour, get the band in their van or bus, promote the shows and put the band back on the road when the show was over. After doing that for a few years, my interest in music events began to ebb, but my interest in the hospitality industry overall got stronger. That's when I began to focus on more culinary productions around the city.

Jimmy: I started out on the culinary and hospitality side of the business. I own and operate a restaurant called Jimmy’s No. 43 so the food and drink side of the equation has always been important to me. It was my involvement in that business that exposed me to the spirits that we are going to be focusing on for Elixirs and Eats.

NCI: How is your event different from other tastings in the city?

Rev: We’re different for two reasons. We've found that many of the tastings in the city focus more on the cocktail and not on the complexity of each spirit. That's why we want to offer our independent spirits neat or on the rocks, so our guests can get a full appreciation of the straight bourbon and the food we pair it with.

The other thing is, a lot of liquor tastings have a stiff corporate feel about them. We want to expose people to these great spirits and we want them to be able to meet the producers of each liquor we bring it, but we also want people to have a good time. That's why we're going to have great live music and a first rate burlesque show as well. We want people to get off work, come straight over, enjoy a summer evening on a beautiful rooftop and have a good time. That's always the main focus for us.

NCI: Tell me about the entertainment that you’ll have for each event and the venues you are working with.

Jimmy: We should talk about the venue first. Hudson Terrace is an amazing spot in terms of location, style and set up. It is the perfect place to spend a summer evening. It's also a great place to create a unique New York experience. We're going to have international trumpet player Fabio Morgera and his trio playing live to add to the ambiance and the Love Show burlesque to add some spice to the night. When you combine all that with our culinary offerings you get one of the best after work experiences in the city.

NCI: What about your beverage partners? Tell me a little bit about how they got involved in Elixirs and Eats.

Jimmy: We've met many great independent distillers when we were producing our previous events. For this first show, we're bringing together Warwick Valley, Caledonia, Scorpion Mezcal, and Templeton to let our guests sample and discuss what their spirits are all about. If you have a love for well made bourbon or you want to find out more about it, this will be a great setting for that.

NCI: What is the ultimate goal of Elixirs and Eats?

Rev: We want to expose people to more of the culture of spirits and create an atmosphere where people have fun exploring new tastes, new music and new experiences. We're not planning to take over the world with Elixirs and Eats. We just want to have fun giving people what they enjoy.

Have fun.

G

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.

G
 

A Life Behind the Decks: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Kamala

by Gamal Hennessy

When I began my professional exploration of nightlife culture one of the first DJ groups that inspired me was a trio of ladies that went by the name InJoy. I followed them from APT to SubMercer to Cielo. They captured everything about nightlife culture because they were soulful, sexy and they made beautiful music. All three ladies are still spinning in various venues and one of them, DJ Kamala sat down with me to talk about the life and inspiration of a New York DJ.

                Vital Statistics

  • Genre: Dance Music, House
  • Inspirations: Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, Osunlade
  • Recent Performances: MOMA
  • Latest Project: Original Production due to be released July 2012
  • Next Local Performance: Thursday at Bath Tub Gin
  • Websitewww.kamalamusic.com
  • Twitter: @DJkamala

NCI: Tell me about the first time you spun in front of a crowd.

KJ: My first time was in the spring of 1998, at one of my favorite legendary New York City night clubs, Nell’s. Even though it was passed it's hey day, it was still monumental in my mind for me to spin there. It was a short set but I got the crowd going with Manu Dibango's "New Bell" and it felt great!

NCI: Wow. You remember the first major song you dropped almost 15 years ago? That’s deep. What inspired you to become a DJ in the first place?

KJ: I was always a music aficionado so at age 11, it became a hobby to collect music and record my own compilations. Being from downtown Manhattan, night clubbing became the thing to do very early on. Going out, dancing, listening to DJs, making friends and finding community. I fell in love with nightlife culture and history, how it related to my own story. I was already a night owl and 9-5 was a routine I struggled to flow with. Djing seemed to me the most fun way to earn a living that I felt I had a talent for and which could potentially become a career. Thanks to it, I've opened up to music production and it's a whole new world.

NCI: Nice. Who are your favorite people to play with? Where are your favorite places to play?

KJ: As a DJ, I've gotten to get to know a lot of DJs and it's always great to come together with talented friends musically. It’s a special treat whenever I get to spin with someone who I perceive as a legend in the business. In terms of places, I love spinning all kinds of environments because I get to feel my range and adaptability to spaces. I get a special kick out of spinning outdoors in public venues and of course anywhere with a big audience. The more the merrier.

NCI: What kind of mood do you try to create when you play?

KJ: My whole purpose as a DJ is to create a mood that evolves through out the course of the night, ideally complementary to the venue and occasion. Personal expression comes across heavily in my selections and I really want to touch the audience on a variety of levels subliminally and outright. I am always looking to turn people "on" with the music. As a woman, there's a natural sexiness that easily comes across which I am happy to exploit if it will open ears but mainly, depending on the occasion, I want to trigger an insatiable urge to respond physically to the music, i.e. dance!

NCI: Where are you playing these days? Do you have a residency?

KJ: It varies month to month the engagements that I play which is fine with me because I enjoy the novelty inherent in the work. A few recurring outlets lately have been Thursday nights at Bath Tub Gin, and the last Friday of every month at the Rubin Museum. I also spin every Wednesday 5:30 - 7PM via a mobile and internet radio site www.handzonradio.com.

NCI: Where do you find new music and the inspiration to DJ?

KJ: Music is the fuel for my DJing, if there were not so many amazing sounds to share, I'd be doing something else. Because of the music that I adore, sharing it, is a pure joy and thrill. I also get into the process of mastery. Of becoming ever greater at the craft I've chosen to express myself thru. Every time is a learning experience that I come away with enriched and it's inspiring to witness my own growth.

I get a good portion of my favorite house beats from sites like Traxsource and Afrodesiamp3. I am forever sourcing for music.  I'll look under any rock to find more songs that excite me.

Have fun.

G

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.

G

Must Be the Music: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Herbert Holler

 

By Gamal Hennessy

Music is the heart of nightlife culture and DJs are the people who keep that heart beating every night in New York City. This week, NCI is proud to present three interviews with unique DJ’s filling clubs and dance floors all over the city. We begin with a pioneer of nightlife culture and the creator of the Freedom Party, DJ Herbert Holler.

NCI: You have been involved with nightlife culture for almost 10 years now. What do you see as the biggest difference between the environment you found in 2004 and what you see now?

HH: I’ve actually been involved with nightlife culture for 18 years now, if you can believe it. I started in 1994 promoting Giant Step parties. I was one of those dudes standing outside near the Cube on Astor Place, handing out flyers. (Ahh…The good ol’ days!) The main difference in the culture between then and now is that today, the culture itself has been turned into big business—molded, processed, and mass produced. There are “parties” everywhere. There are individuals calling themselves “DJs” and “promoters” everywhere. They’re pumped off the assembly line like bags of chips, so of course quality of the nightlife suffers. There’s still a culture, though, just not one with as much significance as before.

NCI: You told me that it is harder to figure out why people come to a party than to figure out why they stay away. What are some of the reasons people won't go out to a party and how have you learned to deal with those factors?

HH: There’re lots of reasons why someone may not come out. It could be location of the party, costs associated with attending (admission, drinks, food, transportation, etc.), what they’ve heard or not heard about the party, the kind of music played, maybe they’re tired, maybe they have to get up the next morning for whatever reason…The list goes on. I never know what’s going on in the minds of potential patrons, so I just try to make it as enticing as possible by taking away these obstacles. I choose venues that are easy to find and get to, I don’t charge a lot of money to walk in the door nor do I fuck with venues that hit you over the head at the bar. I make sure the music played is the BEST music in town (of course). I do my events on weekend nights so everyone can come out. I make sure I get the word out as much as possible, build as much buzz as I can, so people get excited and everyone’s talking about it. Etc., etc..

NCI: Explain the philosophy behind the Freedom party. What were you trying to create when you started and what have you learned about people and music as the party has developed?

HH: Freedom was created to, basically, help preserve NYC nightlife culture. Marc Smooth, DJ Cosi and I felt the BEST way to do this was to bring music back to the forefront. Make it about the music and the dance floor, and that in turn would work everything else out, from vibe to price. (Music is the answer!) Parties were mostly about attendees and how much money was spent. Freedom is about what’s being played. We completely flipped it around when we started in 2003. Today, we’re learning that a “classic” record’s excitement depends on what age group you have on your dance floor. “Funkin’ For Jamaica” was a big record for us when we started 9 years ago, and now, we barely play it. Most of our big records are from the later 80s, early 90s, and that has everything to do with how old the people dancing are.

NCI: You described the music that you play as music that has stood the test of time or will stand that test. What do you hear in a song today that tells you that song will last? Where do you find your new music or your musical inspirations now?

HH: For me, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not a song will stand the test of time: Does it have soul? It’s that simple. Does the record have a soul? A heart? A spirit? Melodies help, but melodies alone don’t make classics. The song has to have an identity, tell a story, DO something other than pull out pop devices and clichés. Most people think Isaac Hayes or Al Green or James Brown when they think of soul. But I think soul can be in anything. Dubstep, electro, commercial dance music, pop…All these things CAN have soul, and I find when they do, they stick around a lot longer. (Adele, Gotye, etc.)

NCI: Where do you see nightlife culture in the next 10 years? What will social entertainment look like in 2022 and will you still be a part of it?

HH: That’s too big of a question to answer on just one page. Shit…You can do a whole thesis paper on the future of nightlife culture. In brief, I guess…Nightlife culture will still be here, and perhaps it will find new breath, a new raison d’etre. Cycles play a big role in lots of different things. Perhaps we’ll enter a new cycle and see a revival in the respect and preservation of the culture. Maybe we’re entering one now. Regardless of where it will be, I will most likely be there with it. After all these years of spinning records and putting together parties (soon-to-be operating/owning), it’s safe to say that this is my calling.

Links:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/herbertholler

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/herberthollerpage

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/herbertholler

Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/herbertholler

Subsriptions: http://www.tinyurl.com/subscribe2holler

Web: http://www.herbertholler.com

Have fun

G

Life Beyond Robotz: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Ko-Lition

 

 

In spite of persistent claims that both nightlife and hip hop have been ruined by a lack of creativity, there are still artists and operators in the underground pushing nightlife culture to the next level. Two performers who are making a name for themselves in the world of live hip hop are the brothers DeLorean and Karl. We sat down with them to talk about their music before their next big show at the Knitting Factory this week.

• Genre: Hip Hop/Jazz/Electro-Soul

• Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

• Inspirations: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Digable Planets, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Biggie, Tupac, 

• Previous Performances: Ko-Lition TakeOver Santos Party House!

• Latest Project: Debut album 'Love Jazz Robotz'

• Next Local Performance: May 24th, 2012 'Ko-Lition TakeOver The Knitting Factory'

NCI: Talk to me about the philosophy behind your music and how it compares to the current generation of music?

KO: Part of the idea behind the concept of robots is the assembly line model that we all have to subscribe to in our daily life. We go to work every day, we load up our spreadsheets and contribute to the process of making things work. It is an existence that can feel very mechanical, very robotic.

Even when you talk about creating music and being in the music industry, there are methods you need to adopt and things you need to do if you want your music heard. There are elements of it that are very much like a machine. If you don’t conform to that model then getting your music heard is almost impossible. Of course, there are artists like Prince or Radiohead who can challenge prevailing industry models after they have been established. But nowadays even mainstream artists like Drake have to give their music away for free at some point to get their music out there. Part of Must Be Robotz is an exploration of that reality.

NCI: So the song is basically a critique on the forces of conformity in music and life in general?

KO: We don’t dislike current forms of music. Our music is hip hop with a jazz foundation, but we can get into the more electronic forms of rap. We even get down with dubstep and other types of electronic music. There is a lot of good stuff out there.

Our message is more than just a critique. We’re not attacking people’s lifestyles or society or the music industry. Part of what we are saying is that you need to find your way to enjoy the life you have. Maybe the price you have to pay for your fun and your individuality is your job. That’s how you can afford to do the things you want to do. We have to handle our own management, marketing, booking, legal stuff and production to be able to get on stage at places like Santos and the Knitting Factory because that’s where we can share our music.

NCI: What is it about performing that is so attractive to you?

KO: When you are on stage you are at your most vulnerable. When you go up there and pretend to be someone you are not, the audience sees right through that and they will reject you. You have to be willing and able to put yourself out there and expose yourself to really connect with the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you have to open raw emotional wounds in your lyrics, freestyle a few bars because you forgot your lines or work around the fact that the band has spontaneously decided to go into an extended solo jam session. When you’re on stage the rigid predictable life is gone. You are more alive because things are uncertain and unpredictable. 

NCI: Is that why you use a live band instead of a CD in your act?

KO: That is a big reason for it, but that isn’t the only reason. Some of our major hip hop influences like Digable Planets did their shows with live bands and that was a big inspiration to us. There are some sounds that have a special quality when you hear them live and we want those sounds in our show. But the biggest reason is the spontaneous energy that comes from live music. The crowd gets hyped up from a guitar or drum solo in ways that never happen if you just pop in a CD. We call our record company See Music Live because that is one of the best ways to escape the monotony of what we have to go through every day.

Have fun

G

Links
www.kolitionmusic.blogspot.com

www.soundcloud.com/kolition

www.facebook.com/kolitionmusic
www.reverbnation.com/kolitionmusic

www.youtube.com/Kotubetv

www.twitter.com/kolition

 

Burlesque for Everyone: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Kita St. Cyr

Burlesque is one of the growing cultural trends in nightlife. The rise of this historical culture into mainstream consciousness offers creative opportunities in fashion, interior design, cocktails and dance.  I caught up with one of the prominent members of the burlesque community to discuss the cultural impact and direction of burlesque in New York nightlife.

NCI: Why do you think burlesque has been gaining so much more popularity in New York in the past few years? What is driving that?

KSR: There are quite a few pop cultural trends that are feeding an interest in burlesque now. A few years back there was the Burlesque movie Christina Aguilera was in with Cher. Shows on cable like Boardwalk Empire followed after that and there has been a steady increase of prohibition style speakeasies and cocktail lounges in major cities. All of that has a positive effect on the interest in burlesque. At this point, there is basically a burlesque show going on every night in New York City.

NCI: Do you feel that more men or women come to your shows? What is the difference between the way men and women watch your performances?

KSR:  When I look out at the audience now, I see a lot of couples coming to the shows. I think there is a something that both men and women get from burlesque that makes it easy for them to come out together. The women are attracted to the glamour, the costumes and the overall spectacle... 

NCI: And what are the men attracted to? 

KSR: Men like boobs. It’s really not that complicated for them.

NCI: Point taken. Are more minorities getting into burlesque? Are more minorities coming to the shows? Why?

KSR: The shows are becoming more diverse as the popularity of the art form grows. Entertainment is a business after all and a venue will decide to bring in different types of girls to fit with the patrons they have or want to have. I’d like to think that I am selected for shows because of my talent, but I’m sure that there have been more than a few shows where I was selected because I attract a certain demographic. When I produce Rhinestone Follies I try to create shows that have body and race diversity, both to show the wide range of burlesque as well as attract the largest audience possible.

NCI: Where do you see burlesque performances going in the next 3-5 years?

KSR: I hope that it’s not a fad that fades out over time. You can see a lot of burlesque culture becoming mainstream in terms of its impact on fashion and general entertainment and that needs to continue. Nightlife culture can always benefit from expression that celebrates female sexuality in ways that are positive and artistic and burlesque offers that to people. It has a long tradition that more people would appreciate if they took the opportunity to enjoy it.

Have fun.

G

Fashion and Fantasies: A Nightlife Culture Interview with madison moore

    

 

Vital Statistics

Name: madison moore

Group Affiliation: Interview Magazine, Thought Catalog, Splice Today, Artspace Underground

Hometown: New York, NY

Website: www.madisonmooreonline.com  

Latest Project: Trying to finish this damn dissertation!

madison moore thinks critically and creatively about popular culture. A doctoral candidate in American Studies at Yale University, madison writes primarily about fashion, nightlife, and music, and his writing can be read in Interview, Jezebel, Art in America, Thought Catalog as well as on his weekly pop culture column at Splice Today. His dissertation is about how people in the worlds of fashion, nightlife, and music use glamour as a form of cultural critique. He gained public notoriety on the subject of nightlife largely in relation to a self-designed seminar he taught at Yale on Dance Music and Nightlife Culture in New York City.

NCI: A lot of your writing deals with fashion as it relates to American culture. Was it fashion that attracted you to nightlife culture or was it the other way around?

MM: You know, I’m interested in stories, and to my mind there is no greater story than the one a person’s fashion tells. Everybody gets dressed in the morning, and whether we know it or not, how we do it says a lot about who we are or perhaps even more significantly who we want people to think we are.

Whenever I talk to people about the relationship between fashion and nightlife, I always ask the person to think about what is typically the first thing a person does to go out? They get ready, they shave, they wear something new or different, they pull together an outfit—a look. So the question is how will you dress for the theater of nightlife? How will you prepare your body to be visually consumed by a largely anonymous audience? How will you dress to attract people you want to notice you, to get laid if that’s what you’re after (and who isn’t?) ?

I’ve always been a sort of club kid, and my favorite thing about going out at night is the fact that night time is different time—a time to do things we want to do rather than the boring things we have to do. For me, fashion plays a big role in night cultures especially since they are both about fantasy. The kinds of parties I like the most are the ones with the most fashion freaks—men in high heels and corsets, man tits fully out, girls dressed up like a fabulous bootleg Marie-Antoinette, people wearing outrageous wigs or aluminum foil, people serving beekeeper realness. This, for me, is one of the things that makes a nightclub interesting: it really hoists the intensity of the room into a kind of cinematic experience.

NCI: What is it about nightlife culture that attracts so many different types of people?

MM: Well, I’m nervous to talk about a single, monolithic “nightlife culture.” I prefer to call them nightlife cultures because, as a multi-billion dollar industry that’s responsible for a hundred thousand jobs and more than 65 million people every year in this city alone, there are various night worlds and various people who frequent them. There are swingers parties, gay sex parties and sex clubs for people who want to fuck. Some people want the jazz club experience, others want a wine bar. Some want to catch a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and go to the after party. Many enjoy an hours long conversation over an equally lengthy dinner. Some people go to a hotel like the Bowery or the W for an after hours cocktail, whereas others can’t wait to walk the categories at vogue balls.

What I’m saying is that there are different ways to do nightlife, and different people participate in it differently depending on what their fantasies are. That’s the key—fantasy. The one thing I think that links all the various night worlds and the pleasure-seekers in them is that everybody wants freedom, action. There’s that Alicia Bridges song, “I Love the Nightlife”—you know it—where she sings joyfully over a saxophone about loving the nightlife because she “wants to live,” she wants some “action,” and I think she leaves it up to us to decide just what she means by “action.” So what brings people out at night? : fantasy, freedom, action, wherever they can find it. 

NCI: Talk about the nightlife culture seminar. What was the reaction that your peers had before it started? What do you think the students expected at the beginning? What do you hope they came away with at the end?

MM: The Dance Music and Nightlife Culture seminar I taught at Yale was probably the most exciting part of my graduate education at Yale. It all started with the dissertation chapter I’m currently working on, which is about fashion and nightlife, and I started thinking about ways to expand that chapter into an entire class. Doing that would also help me see the architecture of the chapter I was about to begin writing. It was a way to introduce students—and myself—to the history of nightlife, and I thought that doing a class on nightlife would ultimately help me write the chapter. I was after how studying nightlife is in fact studying race, class, social issues, gender, sexuality, the law, visual culture—among other things.

The class was awesome, and I have never taught such a captivated audience! Each week was inspiring, and I really believe students responded to my creative teaching methods. Honestly, I think a lot of people (in and outside of the class) thought it was going to be this sort of puff class—you know, one of these classes where you just show up half asleep and get an A. But, no ma’am, I wasn’t having any of that. The subject matter may be fun and I might come to class with spiked shoulder pads on, but don’t make me read you. So the thing is, people still think that the only way to think critically in the humanities with a capital H is to think about old texts written by dead white people. Dead white people are great, and there’s certainly a lot of value in studying them. But there’s equally as much value in what I do, too.

A lot of the critique about my class was on how silly it was, what an easy A it seemed, and why on earth people at Yale, with its hallowed halls and collegiate-gothic architecture, would be studying this. Look, the fact is that thinking about popular culture is hard because everybody just takes it for granted. Everybody thinks pop culture is easy because it’s all surface. But it’s easy to take a single idea and make it overly complicated, which is what a lot of scholars do. It’s hard to take a massive concept and make it easy so that people can understand the world around them. Hard is easy. Easy is hard.

I think my greatest accomplishment with the nightlife seminar was that, over and over, students told me how much taking the class changed their whole perception of the world, not just nightlife. They were able to see and understand the cues of visual culture better than ever before, and some who did come into the class perhaps a bit skeptical realized that, in fact, things are not as easy as they seem.

NCI: Talk about the role nightlife plays in terms of class, race and sexual orientation in America.

MM: This is a huge question, because I would say that nightlife cultures are unfortunately already segmented along the lines of race, class, and sexual orientation. I get really annoyed when I go into a space it’s all the same kind of people. Isn’t that boring? Some straight dudes are terrified of going to gay joints lest they be “hit on,” woe is them. There’s that funny story about Park Slope being nervous about having a hip-hop club (i.e. black people) move into the neighborhood. There are clubs that enforce strict dress codes, which is just another way of racially stereotyping so that certain kinds of “undesirables” don’t get to come in. If you really want to know, I think a club should have gay people and straight people and drag queens and transsexuals and fashion freaks and people who don’t know what the fuck is going on and Wall Street types and men and women and the gay dudes are making out with women and the straight dudes are making out with the gay dudes and the music is ridiculous, and everyone just tosses their inhibitions and roles out the door. You enter the space as a body, not as a preprogrammed black heterosexual male who works on Wall Street, but as a body that wants to consume.

This, I think, was initially the spirit of the Harlem cabaret circuit in the 1920s. Cabarets were small, intimate spaces where all sorts and kinds of people were forced to bump into one another, dine together. It was intimate, and that very intimacy helped to shatter preconceived notions about social groups. The rent parties of Harlem also had that kind of spirit, so did David Mancuso’s loft parties and even a commercial space like Studio 54. I don’t think we see much of that mixing anymore, perhaps not in New York, anyway. Though I did recently go see one of my favorite bands SSION perform at the Highline Ballroom, and it certainly seemed like a very mixed crowd. When I go to some gay clubs in New York (I won’t name names!) I’m amazed at how monocultural the room is. I do not go out to be bored or, for that matter, to hear the Top 40!

NCI: To what extent does nightlife culture play a positive or negative role on the broader culture? Going forward, do you see more of less impact from nightlife culture on the broader society and why?

MM: Nightlife reform is a fascinating topic, because the social ills the media uses to scare us about the dangers of young people get framed through nightlife. The media associates nightlife with debauchery, noise, underage drinking, pre-marital sex, not to mention recreational drug use, all of which is true. But you know, nightlife is kind of this catch-22. No matter how people frame nightlife as inherently negative, the fact is that if you look at any post-industrial city in America that is currently in the process of gentrification, and so of bringing single white people and empty nesters back into the city core, what is the first thing they advertise? Inevitably they say: we have shopping, we have dining, and we have nightlife, and then there’s a photo of some people drinking a glass of wine or posing at a bar at a “hot” local club. The point is, reformers have always chastised nightlife whereas developers see it as an industry that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars into the city core and which brings with it the power to gentrify whole neighborhoods if not entire cities. In New York City alone, just think about how the neighborhoods of Chelsea, the East Village, Williamsburg, and now the Meatpacking District all came to be.

Nightlife isn’t going anywhere, even if people in New York never stop complaining that it isn’t what it used to be.

Have fun.

G

 

 

From Nashville to New York: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Shonali Bhowmik

 

by Gamal Hennessy

Vital Statistics 

Name: Shonali Bhowmik

Group Affiliation: Tigers & Monkeys, Variety Shac

Hometown: New York, New York via Nashville, TN

Website: www.shonalibhowmik.com  

Latest Project: 100 Oak Revival


Shonali Bhowmik has spent years in New York’s music and comedy scenes. As part of our ongoing focus on the panelists at our upcoming Nightlife Culture Expo, NCI caught up to her to talk about her latest album, the benefits of the internet to the music industry and being a Southern Belle…

NCI: You have your own band (Tigers and Monkeys), an ongoing comedy show (Variety Shac), a pilot for a TV series and a day job. When did you find the time to record a new album? How long did it take you to finish this with everything else you have going on?

SB: I recorded this album in a way that I haven’t done in the past. It’s taken me a few years to complete this release because I flew down to my hometown of Nashville, TN on various weekends to lay down the basic tracks in the home studio of the enormously talented Paul Burch.

My intention was to just go for a sparse live recording and immediately release the “Shonali Basement Tapes” album. But instead, I returned to New York and just started hearing additional musical layers which absolutely had to be added to the recordings in order for me to feel satisfied. So over time, I scheduled sessions with Matt Gill in his Manhattan studio, Key Room where after work he and other musicians helped me add piano, cello, guitar, vocals late at night. I just couldn’t stop recording, and then there were technical issues with converting the tape to digital format which meant we had to rerecord instruments. So the short answer to your question is this album took forever. Ha.

NCI: You have had other albums with other groups in the past. How is this record artistically different from the previous releases? What were the inspirations for this CD?

SB: This new album includes a backlog of music that I had written over the years since I moved to NYC in 2002. For the most part, they are representative of a moodier, bluesier, more country Shonali. I grew up in Nashville, TN and although I had always believed that my country roots didn’t impact my music that much. It took reading music reviews about my music and the specifics on my singing drawl to realize that I actually sing like a Southern belle. And then it came to me that I sing like that because I AM a Southern belle. This album is certainly not as hard rocking as songs found in my Tigers and Monkeys repertoire (of which we are currently recording another release).

NCI: There have been a lot of changes to the business and technology of music during your career. How does that affect the way you create an album now and how you sell it once it has been released?

SB: Honestly, the myth is that Napster and ITunes killed the music industry. The reality for me is that the internet is a direct way for me to share my music with the entire world. Due to the advances in recording technology, I don’t need to spend $100,000 making an album anymore, which believe it or not I did at one point. So now artists can spend a whole lot less money to make great music. This is an exciting time for musicians. As a business person, I think that artists have to be proactive and dictate where the industry goes. We should be forcing the direction. Big labels aren’t the experts anymore. So we can load up our music and sell it directly to the people. I find that “Pay what you Want” is the way to go. You want folks to have your music, but let them decide what it’s worth to them. Everyone has a different scale – be it they are broke, or they are rich, or they are somewhat fond of heavy metal, or somewhat fond of country music.

NCI: You perform a lot of your music in Brooklyn now because a lot of live music has migrated from downtown Manhattan over the past few years. How has that affected the way you and your friends create and perform music? Do you see musicians coming back to the city or do you feel that it will move farther into Brooklyn and Queens?

SB: Honestly, although I love NYC, I wonder how good it is for a rock band to live and pay bills here. I started playing music in Atlanta, Georgia where the rent was cheap, rehearsal spaces were cheap and jobs were everywhere. It was the perfect place to live as a member of a touring rock band.

In Manhattan, rock clubs will always be a mainstay, but I think the question regarding where the music will go has more to do with the viable living options available to artists. It’s been a long, long time since living in the East Village was an inexpensive place for rock n’ roll and artist types. Brooklyn and Queens have taken on those titles but those boroughs are getting more and more expensive day by day. I just read that Austin was where all the young artist types are moving. New York and the entire United States needs to do more to preserve its artistic culture especially if everyone is just ripping music off the web. (Yeah, and I was saying that this was a good thing in my response to your earlier question - yup, contradictory that’s me.)

Have fun.

Gamal

Celebrity Waitresses, Sex and the Sin Effect: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Steven Lewis

 

By Gamal Hennessy

Steven Lewis has been a fixture in New York nightlife for more than 30 years. He has gone from managing golden age venues like the Limelight and Palladium to designing venues like Butter and Marquee to writing for the influential nightlife blog Good Night Mr. Lewis to performing as a DJ with the 4AM DJ collective.

NCI: What attracted you to New York nightlife when you started back in the 1980’s?

SL: I went out looking for sex. What I found was sex and characters. When I was working on Wall Street, all the people I met there were mundane. When I went out at night, the people were exciting. They had personalities, vision and creativity. When I started to run clubs I made sure to create a space that would attract those same characters. The clubs I envisioned were like Rick’s from Casablanca. I modeled myself and a lot of what I did based on that concept.

NCI: How do you see the nature of nightlife culture today?

SL: The dominant theme today is the niche market. In the past, a lot of different crowds and scenes came together in one massive space. Each one of them would have their own room or their own section on the dance floor, but there was still a lot of cross pollination between the groups. Now each group tends to discount the other groups. Fewer people go out to meet and hang out with different people. Nowadays, people go out to meet and hang out with their friends or people who are similar to them. There is more focus on your space, your group, your table. You are isolated even if you are out with hundreds of other people.

NCI: What do you think contributed to this change?

SL: 9/11 had a major psychological effect on nightlife culture. We collectively embraced the concept of Safety In Numbers or SIN. Instead of feeling confident about interacting with people who were very different, we began to huddle up with their own kind. Now most of us are more nervous hanging around anyone who isn’t like us in ways we think are significant. The growth of bottle service is a direct by product of people’s need to be separated. It’s not that each group of people is doing radically different things. They are drinking the same drinks, dancing to the many of the same songs and still trying to have sex with each other. They are just less willing to mingle with other people.

NCI: So it wasn’t higher real estate prices, smaller venues, tougher laws and more fragmented musical tastes that were detrimental to New York City nightlife.

SL: All those things had an impact, but they were minor. The SIN effect caused by 9/11 caused a seismic shift that overshadowed all those other things. And keep in mind that in many ways, nightlife culture is as good now as it has ever been, it’s just very different than it was before. If you look at every element of the nightlife experience, you’ll see operators becoming more and more specialized. Each one does their separate job better than it was done in the past. They have to. Patrons feel more and more alienated from their governments, their jobs and their lives. They are looking for more and more distraction and they get that from New York nightlife. More and more tourists are coming to the city for our dance clubs and cocktail lounges. Venues are spending more and more on music, design and food. The stage is set for a new golden age of NYC nightlife.

SL: Who do you see as the next major player in nightlife culture?

The celebrity doorman, DJ, and bartender have all had their time in the spotlight. The cocktail waitress/ bottle service girl is the next big thing. She is the one people interact with the most. She can put on a show and entice people into having a good time. In the past the waitress was a model or an actress waiting to be discovered. Now, the best bottle service girls already know that the job is an end in and of itself. They can make big money, work in any major city and mingle with a very exclusive crowd in the process. Don’t be surprised if schools pop up to teach this skill set, the same way it did for mixologists and DJs. The better clubs are already teaching these skills. Everyone is more specialized now, bottle service won’t be an exception.

Have fun.

G

My Heart in Focus: An Interview with Meleni Smith

 

Creativity and connection are the heart of nightlife culture. The artists who perform and celebrate our experience are the foundation of that intimacy. As a fundamental part of our look at New York nightlife, we are going to take time to talk to the artists who bring life to connection. The first conversation in this series is with the singer songwriter Meleni Smith.

Vital Statistics

Name: Meleni Smith

Group Affiliation: solo

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Websitehttp://www.reverbnation.com/melenismith

Latest Project: My Heart in Focus

Next New York Performance: 2.1.12

GH: How did your musical journey start? What was your first motivation? What was your first performance like?

MS: I started singing when I was six. The expression of music always moved me. It was the only art form, besides acting, that had the ability to make me feel extreme emotions.  I always felt very connected to it. My first performance was when I was in the 3rd grade for the entire school when I was chosen to sing the lead to "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love." I was terrified. I wasn't even trying out for the lead but one of the student teachers overheard me singing to myself and told me to sing for my teacher.  I didn't even think I was doing anything special, but they chose me.  

GH: What is it about performing, especially performing in New York that you enjoy the most?

MS:  Performing is a rush.  You literally feel the adrenaline, the anxiety, the excitement… so many different emotions are experienced no matter the size of the audience.  I have such a love/fear relationship with it because the moment right before I begin, it's like looking down from the top of a cliff and everyone is telling you to jump.  But once you jump the relief and realization that you can do it and its ok feels so great.  Especially when the crowd is there with you and showing love and appreciation for what it is you're sharing. It's amazing.  I think some of the best crowds are in New York because New Yorkers really appreciate art and they love the experience of the live displays... but on the flip side New Yorkers are so spoiled.  They literally have seen and done it all so they can be tough crowds at times too.. haha.. But I love the energy always.  New Yorkers know what they like so if they're into it, they're REALLY into it. 

GH: How have your travels to places like Egypt and Thailand affected your writing and performing?

MS: Being exposed to different forms and styles always affects my art even if only on a subconscious level. I absorb it all and all sounds somehow find their way in my music whether it be new melodies that I pick up or rhythmic patterns.  Egyptian music, in general, uses more notes than American music so it was amazing to hear all the in between notes that I wasn't used to hearing on this side.  The entire experience of traveling by myself to these countries made me fearless and that fearlessness has definitely affected my performing.  I learned that life is really just about sharing your gifts with the people you meet and inspiring as many people as possible along the way. 

GH: What have you learned the most from working with artists like Alicia Keys and other superstars?

MS: I actually never got the opportunity to work with Alicia Keys but hearing her voice on one of my songs was awesome.  I guess from working with more well-known artists, I've learned that at the end of the day, we're all the same. We're all just artists yearning to express what we feel we need to channel into this world.  

GH: Tell me about the creative relationship between your music and your videos? Are they conceived and created at the same time or does one give rise to the other?

MS:  Everything begins with the music. The music is the fuel for all other art forms.

GH: Is there a driving message or focus in your new album?

MS: Well the record is called 'My Heart in Focus' and it basically chronicles falling in love, then falling from love or whatever happens when things change... what we all go through during this human experience. What reminds us that yes! We are alive!! It takes you on a journey of a heart. I have a song for every stage of love from the beginning to the very end. 

GH: What performances do you have planned for the new album in 2012? Are you planning a tour?

MS:  I'm just going with the flow.  I believe 2012 will be all about the flow... But definitely visit my pages for updates!!

http://www.reverbnation.com/melenismith

www.youtube.com/melenismith

www.facebook.com/melenismith

www.twitter.com/melilove

www.mymeleni.tumblr.com

Have fun.

G

Sutra Celebrates Seven Years as a Hip Hop Icon



By GamalHennessy

Most clubsin New York City do not last very long. Normally, a club can go from thehottest place on Earth to closed in 3-5 years. For a club to last more than 5years and still be relevant is a rare and wonderful thing.

Clubs thatstay opened the longest rely on good management and a reputation for particulartype of music. There is a club on the corner of 1st Street and 1stAvenue that is still going strong after 7 years.  Its owner has been a strong supporter ofnightlife culture who has built a haven for both underground and mainstream hiphop at a club called Sutra. I sat down with Ms. Ariel Palitz on the seventhanniversary of the space to discuss the impact that it has had on the LowerEast Side, nightlife and the culture of New York City.

GH: What was the goal when you firstopened Sutra? How close have you come to achieving that goal seven years later?

AP: I spenta lot of time in Bar 16 as a patron before I bought it and opened Sutra. Iloved spending time there because of the type of people I met and the vibe ofthe place. When I became the owner, I wanted to keep that spirit. I wanted aplace where different types of people could come and have a good time. I wantedto have different types of parties and different types of music. I wanted Sutrato represent underground New York. We had that vibe from day 1. It didn’tmatter if we did bhangra parties, soulful house sets or hip hop parties. Thegoal was to always to celebrate the diversity of New York and we were always ableto pull that off.

GH: I know you have a lot ofdifferent types of parties, but I’ve always seen Sutra as a hip hop spot. A lotof that has to do with the people who perform here. It’s a long list thatincludes Funkmaster Flex, Questlove, Mos Def, Slick Rick, DMC, Just Blaze and alot of others. When did you first realize that the hip hop industry embracedSutra?

AP: Therewas a night early on when Questlove was in the DJ Booth spinning and BlackThought and Mos Def just jumped in there and started freestyling.  We had no warning but everyone in the roomloved it. It has such a raw energy about it. It felt very natural. There was nohype, no drama no problems. Everyone was just flowing with them. I sat back atthe owners table and knew it was special.

GH: Were there a lot of nights likethat?

AP: Yes. Alot of artists come to Sutra to experiment on a live crowd. You can put outmusic on the internet, but nothing beats getting the reaction of people in theclub. Artists like Just Blaze and Tony Touchknow that. They’ll come and drop new beats and hooks and samples all the timeand then we’ll hear those same elements in top 40 songs 6 months later. Sutrahas been the birthplace for a lot of new music.

GH: What has been the most successfulparty Sutra has had over the years?

AP: We’vehad quite a few long running parties, but Toca Tuesday has to be the crownjewel. Tony is truly a professional artist and it is people like him that keeppeople coming back week after week. He is one of the reasons Sutra has been sosuccessful.

GH: What are the other things thathave helped Sutra last so long when so many other clubs don’t?

AP: We nevertried to make people feel like they didn’t belong or they couldn’t come in. Wewon’t turn your friends away because of their race or anything else. We don’ttry to force bottles on everyone. We throw parties that people enjoy. We’vealways been able to attract talent that people wanted to see. We have a goodrelationship with people on the block and in the neighborhood. All those thingshelp keep the doors opened.

GH:  So what’s next for Sutra? Do you plan to keepit opened for another 7 years?

AP: Iactually put Sutra on the market for sale this week, partially to coincide withthe anniversary. I had a goal in mind when I opened Sutra and I’ve achieved it.I love Sutra and the impact it has had on my life and the life of the communityand culture, but I have other goals, new businesses and new ideas for the Sutrabrand. Once I find the right buyer, it will be time to move on.

GH: How do you think Sutra willchange once you sell it?

AP: Ideally,the new owner would inject new energy into the place but still keep theinclusive spirit I inherited from Bar 16 and developed in Sutra. Ultimately Idon’t know what the new incarnation will be, but I will do everything in mypower to make sure that it will be a benefit to the quality of life forneighborhood, the people and New York.

GH: Do you think artists who havestrong ties to the spot might buy it? Rappers have bought venues before…

AP: Owning anightclub is a very different business than being a rapper or a DJ, but ifsomeone in the industry would want to take it over that would be great because hopefullythey would be able to infuse the same great talent and great vibe that has keptSutra alive this long

Have fun.
G