Simone de la Fuente on 18/8/11
There are few cities that can boast a richer musical heritage than New York. Its DJ’s brought Disco to the masses in the '70s and set the clubbing blueprint with establishments like the Loft and Paradise Garage Then Mayor Rudy Giuliani happened. Reviving archaic cabaret laws that meant establishments had to possess a license in order to allow people to dance collectively, New York’s booming nightlife was killed in one fell swoop by Giuliani’s draconian laws.
Fast-forward to 2011 - a decade since Giuliani’s reign and what’s the shape of the Big Apple’s nightlife? New York is no longer as booming as it once was but parties like Blkmarket Membership, The Bunker and Verboten work hard to keep New York’s clubbing heritage alive. No party does this with as much sincerity as Mister Saturday Night, who with their inclusive party ethos and an uplifting house and disco soundtrack pay homage to the parties and sounds that put New York City on the map.
Mister Saturday Night are Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter and Simone de la Fuente caught up with them both to talk about the trials and tribulations of putting on parties in Gotham City and why, despite this, there’s still nowhere better to party than NYC.
Pulse: Neither of you are from New York so I wanted to know what brought you both here? Did the party scene have anything to do with it? Justin Carter: For me, I came for school. I came eleven years ago but the party scene I knew nothing about. Luckily, I had a friend who lived two doors down from me at NYU and he took me to Body & Soul, like the second weekend that I was here, so I was exposed very, very quickly to very good parties in New York.
Eamon Harkin: I came here from London to work in eCommerce and Web Design. I’d always DJ’d in London, not really that seriously, but I’d had a couple of parties with a friend. When I came here, I didn’t know anybody at all so I had to throw myself into some sort of ‘scene’ to meet people and stuff so I just started taking music and DJing more seriously. Justin and I were in email contact because I was working at a club called Studio B, which is now closed, and Justin was the music director at a club called APT. We started interacting because of some booking stuff and then we started our Sunday Best party, which was the first one, and then we started Mister Saturday Night off the back of that.
You now throw Mister Sunday, a spin off of Mister Saturday Night every week throughout the summer. This replaces Sunday Best, which was your Sunday party at BKLYN Yard that ended in 2010 after losing your venue. JC: Yes. We’ve lost a lot of venues. The authorities really seem to clamp down on parties here.
Do they make it as difficult as possible to put on the type of events that you want to throw? JC: It’s hard to throw the parties that we want to throw, yes. Sometimes the authorities will have a problem with it but that’s much less the problem. I think really what it comes down to is much more about real estate. For example, the place where we were throwing parties from October until March of 2009 - Market Hotel - it had been open for two years. It had always been one of these ‘on the border of being legal’ venues. No one had ever had a problem with it and I think that at a certain point, for whatever reason - it’s all very complicated and convoluted and we can all make our assumptions of why finally the cops decided it had to shut down. Whatever. They came and shut it down. And with Sunday Best, it had nothing to do with the cops at all. It had to do with a deal gone bad with the woman who was running the venue and the landlord. So, there are always these different kind of things that come up but it’s not ‘oh, those damn cops are making it bad for us’.
Todd Terje at Mister Sunday from Justin Carter on Vimeo.
Do you find that whilst it is a hassle and can be disheartening to lose venues, a change of scenery can sometimes make a party fresh and more interesting? EH: Sometimes. It can get a little tiresome not having a regular home because there’s so much you need to do every time you move to a new space but in the end it’s not such a big deal because we get to seek out interesting spaces and have different versions of the party in different spaces. It keeps it interesting for us and for the audience and it’s kind of part of the whole creative process. Putting the party in a space and making it work.
JC: That’s not to say we wouldn’t love to have a space that met all of the criteria for us. It’s just not easy to find that one space, but we think about it a lot. Especially after the last year where we had so many venues close down and get shut down for one reason or another. It’s not so easy to just open up a club in New York for a whole host of reasons. Because of the rent and also because the cost of opening a venue with all of the different laws that are in place for a club. You’ve got to spend a ton of money to make sure you have the right certificate to have a group of people in a space and if you want to have dancing you have to have this other certificate. There are all these strange rules if we were to have people dancing in a club. So, it’s really difficult to find one space and make that your own home. That’s why we end up moving the party around so much.
When you both arrived in New York, what was the scene like then compared to what it is nowadays? EH: The scene that I initially got into was kind of more the Nu-wave; post-punk kind of stuff and that was pretty big at the time. The biggest party was a party called Motherfucker, which was held maybe eight times a year and it was gigantic, two, three thousand people every time it happened. That whole scene has pretty much disappeared and at the time there were more clubs. I didn’t really go to them to be honest but all the clubs that Motherfucker would use have all gone, like Limelight and what was the other one…
JC: Don Hill’s. I did go to Body & Soul for the first few years that I was here and that made a huge impression on me. It was a party that could pull, I guess like 400-500 people every Sunday. Sunday Best, if we’d have had the right venue, during the summer we could have pulled more than that, probably a thousand people a week.
"I’ve lived in London and I’ve played a lot in Berlin and those scenes are still bigger for sure, but when you’re in it and it’s happening in New York, there’s nowhere better. The parties I’ve been to and the parties I’ve played in Europe are great but when we have a great party going off, there’s no better party. I can’t be objective but I feel that. The energy levels are amazing, it’s diverse, the music’s great, it’s in an interesting space that doesn’t feel like a club. It’s a ton of fun and it’s hard to beat."
EH: The first Sunday Best in 2010, when it was at BKLYN Yard, we did 1500 people and there were 500 people outside that couldn’t get in.
JC: There was a line that was all the way from the door, three blocks away and that was at 4PM. But anyway, my point is that I don’t know that there’s a party right now that year round can sustain those kinds of numbers and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s because it got too expensive to run a club and the scene fell off and there are less people because there was less of a scene? I don’t know what it is, but in the past six years, the evolution that I‘ve seen is as a lot of clubs have gone away, and a lot of clubs have been put into these constraints where they have to do things that aren’t sticking to ideals, there have been a lot more parties like ours that have popped up. Right when I first started to DJ, the parties that I threw were at this place called Asterisk. It was this Bushwick (Brooklyn neighbourhood) loft that hosted shows, and I think I was the only person that was throwing parties there. Asterisk was, I think, the first of the Bushwick lofts that hosted shows, and that kind of all mixed in with this burgeoning rock show and party scene that was going on in these illegal spaces. It’s really turning into something now where you can pretty much count on for there to be every weekend a few shows and a few parties that are happening in spaces like that, and I would say that the majority of my going out in the past five years and definitely the majority of the parties I’ve thrown, have been in this kind of space.
Do you find there is a real community of clubbers here? Do the same people turn up to all your parties or are there more and more people walking through the door that don’t really know what the music’s about but are hearing the name and coming along? JC: It’s a goal of ours to make this party something that breaks down those barriers. Like I said, I came here and I didn’t know anything about dance music. I came to this scene because Body & Soul was this party that didn’t feel like you had to know about anything really. I didn’t know a damn thing about it, I just showed up and I had a great time because it was full of really interesting people, everybody had a smile on their face and the people at the door were nice. I take a lot of Q’s from Body and Soul.
EH: All the great parties and all the parties that inspire us are parties that are, and were, much bigger than the music. They were events in their own right that brought people to a scene and brought people to the music. For me, coming from Ireland and the UK, Optimo is right up there, Electric Chair in Manchester, again is another event that was more than just a bunch of DJs playing, and Body & Soul is part of that as well. It’s a thing in it’s own right. It’s a collection of people that are coming together to celebrate and have a good time. So, that’s why we do it.
Coming from London, there’s been a big buzz about New York of late. Do you sense that too, being in the thick of it? EH: We’ve picked up on that. We’ve got a fair amount of press attention in the past year. I’ve lived in London and I’ve played a lot in Berlin and those scenes are still bigger for sure, but when you’re in it and it’s happening in New York, there’s nowhere better. The parties I’ve been to and the parties I’ve played in Europe are great but when we have a great party going off, there’s no better party. I can’t be objective but I feel that. The energy levels are amazing, it’s diverse, the music’s great, it’s in an interesting space that doesn’t feel like a club. It’s a ton of fun and it’s hard to beat.
JC: I feel like when a party goes off here, it really is about a coming together around the event. Everybody is very aware of what’s happening and when it actually clicks, because everyone’s aware that they’re at something that is special, it really takes it to the next level. I feel like one of the beautiful things about Europe is that just everyday people go out to parties. I want for that to happen here too, of course, but it’s not a bunch of people who have made the trek to this place to go and have this experience. In Europe, just the average Joe will go to a club, since that’s just what they do on a Friday or Saturday night. It doesn’t feel as special.
EH: In Europe, for whatever reason, you’ll always have just a culture of going out and getting drunk and just partying, whereas you don’t have that inherently in American society so you have to create it almost from scratch. The people that opt into that are really thinking about what they’re doing versus just going out to the latest party or whatever. So, I think, therefore, you get that co-active contribution from everybody that makes it really intense. When you go to Panorama Bar or whatever, it’s great but there are a lot of people there that are there just wasted.
JC: They just heard that they should go to Panorama Bar because that’s what you do when you go to Berlin.
EH: And they wouldn’t know the difference between a bad DJ and a good DJ. I’m not knocking Panorama Bar. I think it’s great.
JC: And I’m not knocking the people that go out. God bless the people that go out just to go out. I wish we had more of that in New York because then it would be a hell of a lot easier to do what we do.
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