DJ Spinoza, aka Bryan Kasenic, has been breathing life into New York's underground electronic music scene for more than a decade. As a booker, he's brought some of the top techno talent from around the globe to intimate after hours gigs like the famous Wolf + Lamb parties at Williamsburg's Marcy Hotel, while his Friday night Bunker hoedowns at now defunct L.E.S. venue Subtonic were arguably the best weekly electronic club nights in North America. These days, the Bunker has migrated across the East River to Public Assembly and become a monthly, but it's popularity has only grown.
Niteside caught up with Spinoza to get his perspective on techno heads, marathon DJ sets and the city's current, D.I.Y. club scene.
How long have you been throwing dance music parties? I have been throwing electronic music events in New York since early 2000. The Bunker launched in January 2003, and just celebrated it's seven-year anniversary.
A few years ago, you moved the Bunker from the Lower East Side to Williamsburg. how have the two experiences differed? The Bunker was a weekly event for the first six years (we became a monthly in 2009), I think we really relied on the local neighborhood crowd to fill the party every week. When we moved to Williamsburg, we lost some of the people from the L.E.S who used to come through regularly. However, it seems that we've gained more than enough people who live in Williamsburg to make up for the loss of the L.E.S crowd. I think at this point there is no doubt that the best techno parties are happening in Brooklyn.
How would you describe the crowd at the Bunker? It's a good mix. There are a lot of heads who've been listening to this music for a long time, and some newcomers as well. Public Assembly is pretty far off the beaten path and not really known for hosting this kind of party, so we rarely get anyone just on a random weekend bar crawl wandering in.
Speaking of the top talent you guys draw -- especially from Europe, where house and techno are much more mainstream -- are they ever surprised to be playing at such a small venue given that this is New York City? I think that some of them, especially the ones who have never been to the States, are surprised when they walk into the room and see how small the space is. Most of the artists I work with prefer to play in a small room though. We have an intimate room, bring in an incredible sound system and have an up-for-it crowd that is super knowledgeable about the music. This creates an amazing experience for the DJs, and most seem to think it's much better than playing some huge club or festival.
Who are some of the standout DJs and performers you have booked over the years? I've had over 500 DJs and live acts come through the party, so it's very hard to pick standouts. The January Bunker, which was our seven-year anniversary, was a very special party with Speedy J playing in the back and our sister party Kiss & Tell hosting the front room. We also had three events as part of the Unsound Festival New York in February. They were all great parties, but the Bass Mutations night with Untold, Pole, TRG, 2562 and FaltyDL was really special as it was just incredibly packed with people going completely nuts all night.
Is New York a tough place to throw a regular electronic music party? It's been a battle for sure, but it takes a lot of work to do anything worthwhile in life. Compared to other cities in the U.S. especially, I think New York is pretty open to the idea of what The Bunker is trying to do.
How has New York's electronic scene evolved over the last decade? I feel like the entire scene has become more D.I.Y., with so many more people throwing their own parties instead of relying on traditional clubs for entertainment. Sometimes I feel like there are too many parties happening, and things are being spread too thin, but overall, this is a good development that has breathed a lot of life into the scene and gotten more people involved and going out.
Techno DJs are known for their long sets. What are some of the longer ones you've guys have had at the Bunker? Speedy J recently played the entire night for our Seven Year Anniversary, an eight-hour set! Derek Plaslaiko and DJ Jus-Ed have also played the entire night when the party was shorter, so those were six-hour sets. I really like the idea of DJs getting a chance to play long sets and stretch out, and it's something we'll be exploring more in the future.
When you aren't throwing your own parties, where can we find you out in the city? I really don't hang out in bars a whole lot, as it's really expensive at the end of the day. I prefer to have people come over to my loft with a six pack or bottle of wine to have brunch and listen to records when I feel like hanging out. Most club nights in New York are a pretty big disappointment to me, and I usually avoid them. Lately, I've been going to smaller venues to catch more experimental music and weird bands. Going out a lot during Unsound Festival reminded me how much I miss this kind of thing.