New York has a long and storied history when it comes to dance music, but nowadays, with so much focus in the scene being allocated to Berlin and London, New York’s club scene has a bit of a “second [club] city” complex. And while many of the city’s big clubs leave much to be desired, digging a little deeper in the outer boroughs reveals a handful of world-class parties that stand up with the halcyon days of New York’s renowned tenure as dance music’s capital. Mister Saturday Night, helmed by Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin, is one of those parties. In only a couple years, Carter and Harkin have organized some of the very best loft parties in New York: bringing in extraordinary guests as well as becoming very accomplished DJs in their own right. In addition, the Mister Sunday (formerly Sunday Best) parties have become a summer institution — a day party beside the infamous Gowanus Canal where New Yorkers let their hair down while consuming delicious tacos and local brews. LWE caught up with Eamon and Justin at the start of 2012 to discuss the year that was, their ethos for the party, and Twitter beefs. They also provided us with our 108th podcast in advance of their January 14th appearance at Chicago’s Smart Bar: a distillation of the party’s sound into an hour and a half of house and techno both new and old.
LWE Podcast 108: Mister Saturday Night (88:20)
01. Floating Points, “Myrtle Ave” [Eglo]
02. Jazzanova, “Let Me Show Ya” (Henrik Schwarz Remix) [Verve Records]
03. Jacob Korn, “Selene” [Running Back]
04. P. Éladan, “Monochordium I” [Muting The Noise]
05. The Opus, “Live 2″ (Instrumental) [Ozone Music]
06. Kode9, “Black Sun” [Hyperdub]
07. Alice Russell, “Take Your Time, Change Your Mind” [Tru Thoughts]
08. DJ Duke, “Tribal Journey” (Sun Mix) [Earth, Moon & Sun]
09. Wax/Sun Ra, “No. 30003″/”Space Is The Space” [Wax/Blue Thumb Records]
10. Black Science Orchestra, “Where Were You?” (Original Dope Demo)
[Junior Boy's Own]
11. Soul Center, “Psycho Set” [WvB Enterprises]
12. Eamon Harkin, “Rigor Music” (Roman Flügel Remix) [Throne of Blood]
13. Alfabet, “Lap The Music” [Rush Hour Recordings]
14. Club Ice, “Manhasset” (Space Mix) [Black Market Records]
15. Tazz, “Lost” [Underground Quality]
16. Underground Resistance, “Transition” [Underground Resistance]
17. Ramsey Lewis, “Party Time” [Cadet Records]
2011 seemed like a really big year for you guys.
Eamon Harkin: Yeah, it was a big year for us. I think a big part of that is the fact that we returned to this spot in Gowanus [Grove] for our outdoor party. And we had a really great run of 16 parties. Well, maybe 13 or 14 because we lost a few with rain. And that was great; we got a lot of momentum from that. A lot of people really loved that party and came out. One of the big themes for us this year was doing parties by ourselves and not having guest DJs. That was a purposeful strategy because that’s how we want to grow and develop the party, but also ourselves as DJs. That’s where we want to take the party. And it really worked.
Justin Carter: Yeah, because parties that are all about a guest are often really just vehicles for a guest. And of course we appreciate all the people who come and play with us, and we still bring in guests, and were not going to stop doing that — at least any time soon. When a party has a guest every single time, though, it can become a stage for someone else. And the whole reason we started the party in the first place was because we’re DJs, and we wanted to play records. And so we saw that there was an appreciation for us as DJs when we were playing alongside guests, and we also saw that we needed to start using this thing that we developed as a stage. We had this mission to really make the party into a party. Something that had it’s own identity, instead of having the identity of the guest. Mister Saturday Night has become this thing that has an identity in and of itself and isn’t about who’s playing — it isn’t even necessarily about Eamon or me. It’s just this thing that happens, that now it has a life of it’s own.
EH: And that’s the goal of the party: for it to be a party, to be a community. To be a thing in itself, to have a life of it’s own. So if there’s a guest there, the guest is a guest, rather than a headliner. He, or she, adds musical variety. There are some parties across the globe that do that well, and I think we achieved something similar this year. That’s been the most satisfying thing.
Is there any party in particular that stood out to you?
JC: You know, it’s funny because it was probably the least-attended party of the whole year. There was a string of crazy rain that happened in August, and there was one day where the party got cancelled because it looked like it was going to be torrential. And then it wasn’t torrential. So we were sitting at home looking outside at a beautiful sky, and then the next Sunday we were like, “We’ve got to do the party no matter what.” The weather forecast was awful, and ended up being awful just like it said it was going to be. I think maybe 150 to 200 people came. That was one of those moments where we realized that there are still people that will come out to see us in a crazy downpour and have an amazing time. It was an incredible party.
The party has taken place in a handful of venues. What do you look for in potential spaces?
EH: First and foremost we look for something that’s comfortable. The commonality among all the spaces is that they all have wooden floors. That’s really important for a dance floor, for us. We want it to feel warm, we don’t want it to feel like a reverberating warehouse. We want it to be a kind of place where you would want to hang out. And you can be social, but you can also just get on the dance floor and get on with it. 12-turn-13 definitely has that; it’s almost a legendary venue in New York at this point. House of Yes definitely has it, and the place on Scholes Street had it as well, to a certain degree.
JC: I think another thing that we look for is a positive relationship with whoever is in charge of a space. We continue to have a very good relationship with all three of those places. The people who run those spaces are reasonable, smart, creative people who are not trying to angle on you at all. They’re just really good people to work with.
EH: Which kind of comes back to what we’re all about in the first place, which is an experience, you know? And a community-based experience that is about people interacting and music. You don’t get that unless every person involved is in line with that vision, and unless you’re in a space that facilitates that.
What parties in the past have influenced the way you approach the Mister Saturday Night parties?
JC: Well, the first party that I went to in New York, period — before I knew anything about parties or DJs at all — was Body and Soul. I just went there because a guy on the hall in my dorm, he had an older boyfriend who was part of this old-time club scene, so literally the first Sunday that I was in New York City I went to Body and Soul. The elements that made that party so good were, of course, the music and the sound system, but really there was this great cross section of people. It felt like a real community, so that’s definitely an influence. It’s not like every time we think about our party we’re thinking about how we can make it more like Body and Soul or whatever Eamon’s influences are. That’s just what my original experience of a party was, and what a great experience for that to be. I don’t really have any nostalgia for raves or that side of dance music. I don’t really have any nostalgia at all. The only thing that I really knew in the beginning was Body and Soul, and so I think that probably just naturally has an influence on me.
EH: Years ago I was living in London, and my entry point into DJ culture was through post punk and indie music, basically. I think that the initial influences on me, and really what turned me on to DJs, were people like Optimo and Erol Alkan, when he was doing his Trash party in London. My sister was living in Glasgow at the time, so I’d go and see her and go to Optimo, and then when I was student I’d go to Trash. And those, for me, were great because it was the kind of music that I was more accustomed to at the time, and they were also communities — that’s the thing I’ll always come back to. It’s kind of rising above and beyond just the music or the club.
JC: Was Trash heavily focused on guests?
EH: No. Well, they were parties. That’s the thing: a party can’t become a party if it’s always about guests. Because you have no continuity. Right? And so the continuity comes from people pushing their vision on a continual basis. At Trash you’d hear Erol Alkan play great obscure indie records at the time. I’ve become slightly disillusioned with where Erol Alkan’s taken his aesthetic since then, but I really respect where he came from and what he did. And similarly for Optimo, and Optimo continued to be a huge influence. We’re going to play there at the end of the month in Glasgow. And we played last year, and that was just a really exciting moment, to be asked to go out there and play. So I wasn’t, like, in the rave scene in the UK or Ireland, so the influences from a party perspective kind of finish there, to be honest.
How did you guys get into house music and start DJing?
EH: Well, for me it was one of my oldest friends at college; we were in London, right? There are lots and lots of record stores, lots of parties, just lots of music going on. We were living together, so we just started buying tons of records. We used to play these fairly small little hip-hop parties; we just kind of fueled our love of music doing that. And that was around the same time I was going up to Glasgow and going to Trash and all that — I was still kind of an indie guy. Then I moved to New York. Do you remember a party called Motherfucker?
EH: So there was lots of parties downtown in New York which were based around rock and roll, and Justine D was a big figure. I was operating in those circles, and I got — Motherfucker was actually would another party that would be some sort of inspiration. What attracted me to that was the fact that it was downtown New York. I was besotted with the history of downtown New York, and I wanted to follow it, whatever the current version of it was. It was a really interesting party. They had Hot Chip play there, they had ESG play there, they had The Cramps and the New York Dolls play there. I got to play Motherfucker three times, which was pretty amazing as the party was huge and a true New York melting point of different types of people. But you know, I started to get bored of hearing guitar music at these parties, and wanted to hear more beat-driven stuff, so I started to seek out house and techno parties. Justine D, who was running those parties, became the musical director at Studio B and brought me on board as a resident, and we were doing parties there that were quite wide ranging in music. That was around the time that Justin and I met for the first time and started working together.
JC: For me, I just grew up with a dad who was really into music. He was a musician, he continues to be a musician, he plays the guitar, he’s been playing guitar for, I don’t know, 45 years or something like that at this point. And he also had a big record collection. So I spent a lot of time in the car with him, growing up. He had a big tape collection as well, and so we’d just listen to music all the time. It was just a natural progression for me to grow a record collection (it was a CD collection at first). I also was playing music a lot. I was a guitar player and a singer and a songwriter through junior high school and high school and into college. And after college, I kind of stopped playing music as much and writing my own music as much. Around the same time I found myself saying something along the lines of “There’s no good new music,” and as I said it I knew that it wasn’t true. I decided that I would start to go to Other Music and a few other stores in the city and just educate myself, or let the record store clerks educate me because I knew that there was a ton of music out there that I didn’t know anything about. So I just started buying records, and I just bough my own turntables and played records in my bedroom for six months. It wasn’t long before I started DJing out.
How did you two start working together?
JC: Eamon just sent me an email, because Eamon’s very proactive, and he was like, “Hey, we should meet.” And we went and met for a donut at Peter Pan up in Greenpoint, and we just became friends through that — fast-forward a little while and we were doing Sunday Best together. And… well — actually, you tell the story about APT.
EH: So Justin was organizing a residency for Afrika Bambaataa. So he asked me and Lindsey Caldwell to be the other DJs. So we did this weekly party with Bambaataa where I would open, Bambaataa would arrive with is entourage, and I would quickly get out of the DJ booth before Bambaataa came in because APT had this tiny little DJ booth, and if Bambaataa came in, there’s no way you were getting out — he was a big man. The party didn’t last very long because Bambaataa had a touring schedule, and –
JC: Honestly, it just wasn’t that successful; it was on a Tuesday night, and nobody in New York can draw every Tuesday night.
EH: But it was fun, you know? It was pretty awesome to be playing with Bambaataa. Around the same time we started Sunday Best, which was kind of the original incarnation of what Mister Sunday was this summer.
JC: I realized in working with Eamon that there was somebody who took it as seriously as I did. Like, Eamon would respond to emails and respond to phone calls, and he treated the business of throwing parties seriously. And not to say that you’ve got to be all spreadsheet about it, but I feel like nightlife in general is something that a lot of people are drawn to because it’s so loose. But I think it’s really important when you’re running a party to be serious about presenting people with a good experience. That’s something that I saw that Eamon was committed to, so it was a very natural draw to each other once we actually started working together.
How did Mister Saturday Night start?
EH: Well, Santos Party House had opened downtown, and I think there was a genuine excitement about this club because it was a good club to begin with, and it had creative, interesting people behind it, and it portrayed itself as alternative and different. We ended up signing a deal with Santos to program every Saturday night, both floors. Justin and I would program it and run it and be residents, and then we’d also have James Friedman as a resident and Twilite Tone, who Justin had been DJing with as well. Justin came up with the name “Mister Saturday Night,” and that’s how we started.
JC: Which Eamon wasn’t so excited about in the beginning.
EH: No, I felt it was a little too jazz hands. But so we did it from January to May. However, our dreams of having this really great relationship with the people at Santos were dashed, to be honest. And at the point, you know, I’d worked at Studio B, I’d worked at Love, Justin had worked at APT, we’d worked at Santos, Water Taxi Beach. We’d all kind of had these experiences of having to work with people who didn’t share our vision. And frankly, to be honest, didn’t really have any vision for nightlife — who just seemed to be business people who were in a business that they didn’t understand. Which to me — it’s kind of like opening a restaurant and not having any vision for what you’re putting on the menu.
JC: Or not having any real passion for it at all. I would like to say, though, that there are so many people involved in Santos that I don’t want it to seem to anybody that we’re bashing all the people that are involved in Santos. There are some really, really great people that are still involved with that place as owners, as partners, and they still have a good vision for that place. But there are forces that are larger than the ambitions of a few creative people in a big organization that made that place untenable for us to do parties.
EH: So we had to leave. Oh no, to be fair, they kicked us out.
JC: Because we weren’t drawing more than 800 people a night.
EH: They needed substantial crowds to pay rent. After that we just wanted to take the entire operation experience into our own hands and start afresh, and that was really the beginnings of the party as we know it now.
JC: We really said, “Alright, enough with clubs, enough with these places that don’t have the same vision that we have. We need to go to other kinds of places.” And around that time, we found out that Todd P at Market Hotel was willing to host dance parties and appeared to appreciate what we did. So we started to do Mister Saturday Night there. And that was really the beginning of Mister Saturday Night as it exists now.
How has it changed since then?
EH: We’ve developed a community. You see the same faces coming through, you see those faces interacting with each other, as a result of being at the party, and we interact with them as well. We’ve seen it grow and evolve. We’ve seen groups of people come for, like, nine months at a time and move on. We’ve all got busy lives and we’re moving around, but seeing that evolve is really satisfying.
JC: I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit tighter in our execution of things. You know, we — in the beginning when we were at Market Hotel, we did –
EH: Ugh, everything. We were bringing subwoofers upstairs at like six o’ clock before the party, and killing our backs.
You guys bought all the beer and all that?
JC: Yeah, yeah. Everything.
EH: Everything. Now we can show up at, like, 9:30, and it’s all set because we’ve got a team of people.
JC: A great sound team, a great lighting team, a great bar team. It’s all set up. This is something else that’s really satisfying — it’s not like we’ve handed these things off, and we hope that it goes well. We’ve handed these things off in a way where everything fits in with our vision. That’s a huge, huge thing to be able to say. Our sound guys are just, like, so on it. And Jeff, who does our lighting — every time we show up, it’s simple, but it’s special, and it’s warm feeling. He does such a good job. And our bar staff tells us when something needs to be changed or when something needs to be ordered.
EH: And our security guy tells everybody that walks through the door, “Welcome to Mister Saturday Night.” You know? He gets it. We’ve worked with him the entire time. It takes time to build that, but it’s quite amazing that we’ve gotten to that point in two and a half years.
Do you guys think you would ever consider going back to a club?
EH: Yeah. I still have a very soft part of my heart for, like, the clubs, you know? Like, there are the places that are the kind of “cathedrals” in the world where people go to. It pains me that New York has lost those. It really does.
JC: It’s not that a good club can’t exist. We’re going to play at Plastic People at the end of this month, and that is a club that totally gets it right. They have great security people at the door. I was talking to somebody Plastic People the other day, and they said to me, “You know, the first time I was there, I paid too much money at the bar, and I walked away and I didn’t know it, and a couple of minutes later, one of the bartenders had walked through the crowd over to me and tapped me on the shoulder to hand me my change.” Which amounted to, like, two pounds or something like that. It wasn’t a big thing, but they care so much. The people who run the place care, and the sound system is good — not because they want to be show-off-y about it, but because they actually care about how good it sounds. If somebody opened a place like that in New York, we would be there in a second because there are a lot of things that are a real pain about doing what we do in the way that we do. So if we could move it into a regular club, no doubt about it, we would do it.
EH: I admire Berghain, I admire Panorama Bar, I admire Fabric. I admire those clubs that have a vision from the top down, and then everything else is just putting the components in place to make it happen. That’s not what I’ve ever experienced in New York. The people that own the clubs, the people that are signing the checks are people that don’t know anything about music.
JC: And there are exceptions to that. I mean Cielo was started by Nicolas Matar, who’s a DJ, and there’s still good stuff that happens there. The tragic thing about that place is that it’s in the meatpacking district.
EH: That kind of proves my point: the reason it’s been successful is it had that consistent vision the entire time. Not a guy that’s sitting there that doesn’t understand what’s happening in his club, beating people up because they’re not bringing people in.
Eamon, tell me a little bit about your productions.
EH: Well, Steve [Raney] and I started working together about — I’d say about two years ago. Up until that point, I’d done some edits, and I released a 12″ on Wurst, just when they were an edit label. We started sending stuff to James [Friedman] because he was an old friend, as James was kind of reinvigorating Throne of Blood. And it kind of went from there. The nice reaction we got was just really satisfying. The process of writing something yourself from scratch and putting it out there is actually quite frightening, because you live with it and you have no idea whether it’s good or bad. I mean you have an inkling, but even, like, playing those tracks was kind of a bit of a leap of faith. But to be able to dip into your bag and pull out a record that you’ve made, just as natural as your pulling out another record because you’ve built that confidence, was really satisfying this year.
Or to see Levon Vincent pull it.
EH: Yes. Yeah. That was pretty awesome it’s well. I really want to spend more on it — I’ve got an EP coming out in a month on Throne of Blood as well. Justin and I are starting a label this year. We’ve got our first 12″ signed, possibly our second.
JC: Not “signed,” but we just got an email last night from this guy, who sent us a really, really nice track.
EH: So we’re working on a remix for the first 12″ together, a Mister Saturday Night remix. And I have about half a dozen tracks that I just need to get mixed and get out there. So yeah, it’s a completely different thing trying to create music. We’re really keen to get the label up and running this year as well and see where that goes. We want to get more into production and putting music out and contributing something to the musical landscape above and beyond events.
JC: I think it’s a natural progression from us throwing parties, to release music. Eamon is fully immersed in producing music. I am not a producer, but I write music, and it’s a really important thing to me. I think both of us kind of want a potential vehicle for ourselves and a potential vehicle for the people that we have relationships with, whether that’s the people who are coming to the party, who are sending us music because they like the party and what it’s about, or if it’s people who are coming to DJ the party. We haven’t decided exactly what it’s going to look like — all we know at this point is that we’ve got two people who are sending us music that we are really excited about, who haven’t sent music to anybody else that we know of, and we’ll see where it goes after that.
Justin, you alluded to your own productions. How is that going?
JC: Yeah, so I co-wrote and sang on a Great Weekend track that was released on Wurst. But other than that, I grew up writing music, like I said before, and it’s funny: as I started to DJ, I stopped writing and stopped playing my guitar and singing as much. I always kind of assumed that at some point there would be this bolt of lightning that would strike, and it would inspire me to write that album’s worth of material that I always wanted to write. About a year and a half ago that I realized that that wasn’t going to happen, that I just needed to sit down and work, and create a schedule for myself that says, “You will write music five times a week for an hour a day.” That’s what I’m doing right now. I just sat down two days ago and wrote down my goals for 2012, and one of those goals is to finish writing and record a full album’s worth of material that may be released this year, but will definitely be released by next year. Cross your fingers that I can realize that, but it’s a real ambition of mine.
Where do you guys diverge as DJs?
JC: Let’s do it like this: I will tell you what I think Eamon’s style is, and I’ll let Eamon tell you what he thinks my style is. I think Eamon is very informed by where he grew up and where his formative years learning about music were spent. There is a much more austere quality to the dance music that took hold in Europe. You know, when I think of the origins of dance music in Europe, I think of bands like New Order, I think of clubs like Ministry of Sound. I think of, like, a dance music that’s less rooted in the black American experience. Even if it was inspired by that in one way or another, it’s certainly less influenced by that. When I hear Eamon play, it’s much more beat-driven music than the music that I feel like I play. I don’t know, what do you think? Feel free to disagree with me too.
EH: Ha! I think I probably would disagree. I think there’s a lot of overlap because we’ve been doing parties together for so long. I mean you’ll often find a lot of the same records in both our bags. I think where you kind of see differences is at the fringes of the party. Like, at the start of the night, Justin will often play a lot slower and play hip-hop. I love hip-hop, but I just never really choose to play it. I’d like to play, like, Philip Glass or Steve Reich — I guess that’s that austere sort of element that Justin mentioned. I definitely like things a little darker sometimes. So maybe that’s part of it. But Justin will play his dark, moody techno set often at the end of the night, you know? I think we were further apart when we started the party, and we’ve come closer together as a result.
JC: Yeah, I don’t think Eamon would have ever played, like, vocal versions of some of the house tracks that he has, but he definitely plays the vocal versions now, which is great.
EH: Yeah, possibly. I’d have played the dub or just played techno. But that’s the benefit of having a partner, and that fact that you can both grow musically by being exposed to each other’s tastes is great.
JC: How you would describe the way I play?
EH: Well, I think that you’ll sometimes play a particularly dark, moody set. Like, he was playing Tin Man records this year. I don’t even know if I would go that dark. But then he’ll play a particular type of disco that I wouldn’t necessarily reach for. It’s not like I don’t have that part of my spectrum, but there’s a happiness that sometimes comes through Justin’s set and I don’t go to that emotional part of the spectrum. I think that’s how I would best describe the difference in our styles – we both reach for certain moods which are unique to ourselves. Maybe I’m a slightly darker personality. Maybe it’s the Irish or something, I don’t know.
How do you guys keep playing together exciting?
EH: Well, Justin keeps buying all my records!!
JC: Yeah, I make Eamon have to work extra hard because I buy all of his records. It was funny — earlier this year I sent him an email, and I was like, “Dude, what was that record that you played that was black and white?” He sent me back an email saying, “I think we need to go on our own musical journeys.”
EH: I think that what’s great about a partnership where you respect each other’s musical taste is that you can learn from each other and you can challenge each other. I’ve learned a lot over the last three years because of the types of music that Justin has exposed me to, as well as the bookings. Booking is another kind of curatorial thing where I’ll bring an idea and Justin’s like, “Well, I’ve never heard of him, but let me have a look,” and vice versa. Justin was totally on the Floating Points tip way before me, and I was pretty gung-ho about bringing Rolando in. You’re on your own journeys, and you rub off on each other, so you absorb more as a partnership.
JC: Eamon is really good about how to make tracks work together; how to build a particular energy in the room. I still feel like I’m learning how to do that. That’s one way where I feel he’s influenced me in a really positive way — to think about how to build energy and not just play a good song and then another good song and then another good song. I mean I’ve always known that that was an important thing as a DJ, but hearing Eamon do that has been a real learning experience for me.
Is the fact that you guys play almost all vinyl at the party important?
JC: You know, was I thinking about this a couple of days ago. I try to be responsible about the choices that I make in general. I’m mostly a vegetarian, I try to buy things that are made in the States, for the most part, but vinyl is one way where I feel like my choices could totally be irresponsible. Because there’s a much less polluting way to do it. Vinyl is pretty toxic, and it’s creating these big plastic discs that are going to be around well beyond myself. So I was thinking the other day, “Is this the most responsible thing?” Vinyl is important for me because I have these big, physical things that I can turn around and look through. They’re like visual cues that remind me of a feeling or of what that song sounds like. That makes it easy for me to pick what my next record is going to be in a very basic way.
EH: The whole thing’s such a tactile process, and I’ve been buying records for so long that it’s just — I’ve tried Serato, I’ve tried more CDs, and it just doesn’t feel right. We don’t do it as any big statement, as part of the party. We don’t try to make a big deal out of the fact that we play vinyl; that’s just the way we started doing it. It’s a pain in the ass. Every single venue we’ve been at we’ve had to hang the DJ booth from the ceiling, and that’s a pain. But I think we’re better DJs as a result of it.
JC: Yeah, it’s just what we started with and what we continue to do. There’s definitely this nerdy kind of club that you get to be in when you play vinyl. You get to go to record stores, you get to talk to the other people who collect vinyl, and talk about how much better vinyl sounds than everything else. There’s something that’s really, really fun about that. And you know, it’s not like we are calling our party “Mister Saturday Night Plays Vinyl,” but we mention it. It’s part of what we do.
EH: I try not to be so prejudiced about it because I also try to look forward. We want to do things differently, and there is an element of vinyl culture that’s just a little bit nostalgic. I don’t want to be that. We don’t have any rule about guests not having laptops or whatever, but I think we’ve only had, like, three laptops in the booth the entire time. The guests we book tend to roll up with records. There’s a certain sensibility there.
How do you guys approach the booking?
JC: In the same way that we approach buying records. It’s purely based on who we’re excited about at a moment in time, whose music we’re playing a lot at the party. That’s really it.
EH: For the Sundays, where we book everybody in advance and we look at it as a 15-week thing, we want the entire summer to have a flow and momentum of its own.
JC: It’s kind of like programming a DJ set, in a way.
Are there any defining records of your party? Records that either always seem to find themselves getting played, or records that maybe only got played once, but produced a particularly special moment?
EH: Well, there’s a record that will be on the podcast because it was a big record for us this year. It’s “Lap The Music” by Alfabet, which is by Tom Trago [and Awanto 3]. I swear to god, every time our crowd just keels over for it. They absolutely love it.
JC: Yeah. That’s one that Eamon bought, and I was like, “What is that?” And next party I was like, “Check this record out!”
EH: Next party I’m at the bar, and there it goes, and Justin’s hands in air — “Look at my new record.” Another one is the third one of the Oni Ayhun, which is a big record for me. We played that the first Mister Sunday this year, right at the very end, and it just went bananas.
JC: Well, it kind of goes in cycles. At any given moment there could be one record that means a lot. But I’d say in 2011, for me, this Cece Peniston, with a Steve “Silk” Hurley remix on the back that I play all the time. And there’s one that I play a lot by San Soda called “Doorsnee.” It’s a little bit on that UK bass music tip. It’s got these big, crazy sub-bass melodies in it.
EH: You also played — I don’t know who did it, but it was on Philpot.
JC: Oh, that Arttu record? He released three records this year, and all of them were outstanding. Yeah, and I would play that first one every single set. Every, every single set. It’s very, like, very, very raw. Very Detroit-sounding. Very Detroit- [or] Chicago-sounding, like, you know, kind of big analog drums, very, like, spacious in its production. I don’t know.
EH: I mean there’s other ones that come to mind, like there’s a Martin Buttrich Carl Craig remix, anything by Roman Flügel, like “How To Spread Lies.” Cobblestone Jazz’s “Dump Truck,” Levon Vincent’s “Solemn Days,” the Frankie Knuckles remix of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” quite a few Junior Boy’s Own records. And then there’s always a lot of Omar-S knocking around as well.
JC: Not to be forgotten: Floating Points. Every single time he comes out with a record, it gets put on regular rotation at the party. I’ve been playing “Myrtle Avenue” like crazy. When we were in London last year playing with him, after the party was over we went back to Sam [Shepherd]‘s house. We were just listening to music, and he was like, “Hey, check this out; it’s called ‘Myrtle Avenue.’ You know, like Market Hotel,” where he came and played the first gig with us. It’s such a good record.
What’s coming up in 2012?
EH: More parties — maintain the schedule. Two Mister Saturday Night’s a month. One with a guest, one without, roughly. Hopefully Mister Sunday again. There’s always — there’s probably a lot more heartache that goes in to producing Mister Sunday than most people would know, in terms of permitting and politics.
EH: That’s New York, you know? So that, and we’ll be in Chicago, London, Glasgow, Stuttgart, and Berlin. I think we’ll be out and about more this year. Also the label — just contributing to the musical landscape beyond doing events is definitely the next goal, and I think we do that through our own musical endeavors and the label.
What do you think about New York as a party-throwing city? It’s got such a history, and yet nowadays so many people have this sort of love/hate relationship with it.
JC: I love New York. I think that New York is a place where, when a party goes off, it goes off better than anywhere else that I’ve ever been. You know, people like to talk about Berlin as this dance music Mecca, but I was there for three months, and I feel like I got a pretty good lay of the land. I heard a lot of really great producers and DJs at very important venues, and I never enjoyed them as much as I have when I’ve heard them in New York. In Berlin things never close — parties can just kind of go on indefinitely. There is no beginning and no end. Michael Mayer came and played with us last year at the beginning of the Sunday series, and he said something that I think is so important: “I really love to play your party because there’s an end to it, and that’s really, really nice.” On Sundays, we’ve got a hard cut at nine o’ clock. That’s such an important part of that party. A lot of people stay, and the energy is so amazing because people know that in one hour this party is going to be done. People don’t stay even till the end on our Saturday night parties, at least not a huge group of people. We’ve got a crew — a good, like, 50 to 75 people, and it’s got it’s own specialness about it. But on Sundays it’s really amazing because people who might leave a party before it was done won’t leave because they know there’s only an hour left. You get a full-on dance floor at nine o’ clock at night, and you get to play those end-of-the-night songs to a super receptive and excited crowd.
Even though we go until six o’ clock in the morning on Saturdays, it’s different than in Berlin where you could just go on forever and ever and ever. Even if it’s just 50 to 75 people there, it still feels like, “Oh, it’s ending so there’s something special about this. We better squeeze every bit that we can out of this moment because it’s going to be done soon.” It’s kind of like when people talk about how they hate the weather in New York if they live in Florida, but the people who live in New York and have been here for a long time, will always say, “Well, I really like the seasons. I really like the fact that you get to see the seasons.” And I feel like that’s kind of what makes parties good in New York: you know that there’s something that’s finite about it. You know that it’s not always this good. You know it’s not always going to be this warm, or it’s not always going to be this cold. You know it’s not always going to be like this so you try to draw as much as you can from that particular moment because it’s going to change at some point. There are a ton of bad clubs here, and you’ve been to those bad clubs before so when you go to a good party, and it’s really, really awesome, it becomes even more awesome because in New York it doesn’t happen all the time.
EH: I mean, I’ve got a European passport; I don’t have to be here. I choose to be here because it’s rewarding. What we’ve created is really rewarding, and I really believe in it, and that’s because of what New York gives back to us. It really bums me out when I hear people talk disparagingly about the scene in New York. I actually read an interview with Juan MacLean, which angered me because he was just talking really adamantly about how bad the parties were in New York. And it was coming from a limited perspective. I don’t know what his experience is, but I know he hasn’t been to some of the parties that are great in New York. And I love Kieran Hebden to bits, and we’re friends through having booked him and stuff, but there’s this little Twitter thing that was going on this summer, and I actually kind of challenged him back. “Alright, so you had one bad gig at Public Assembly because you were booked by somebody who doesn’t give a shit about sound systems. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing good in New York.” To be fair to him, he said nice things about us, but there’s that limited perspective thing again.
JC: Well, but I think Kieran had a point. I thought what he was saying was, “Until Brooklyn gets a proper venue that can support the people who are doing the things that are vital in the community, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”
EH: I think that the people of New York who come out to the parties, really, really make the parties. I had a little bit of a residency at a place called Tape in Berlin, and I had some great gigs there, but none of them compared to the best gigs I’ve had in New York. And having lived in Europe and gone to Fabric a lot as well, there’s a real sort of dilution of energy that comes from being popular. It’s a little bit like New Year’s Eve.
JC: Yeah, that’s it, man.
EH: We benefit a little from being a bit removed from that and not having that club. It just makes for good vibes. The one thing I actually think about New York is that it’s a little fragmented sometimes. I sometimes wish there was a greater sense of community between some of the parties, but I don’t know if that’s just being too hippie of me, or whatever.
JC: You’re not going to get me complaining about people coming together and loving one another.