DJ Manero on His Art Project at the New Museum and How He Got His Name

We are always defending the ‘city that never sleeps.” The people who keep it awake, and the bedroom-community types who want it to turn in early and watch Leno, are always at odds. Nightlife supports hundreds of thousands of people, many of which are using their night careers to chase other dreams. There are the classic waitron types trying to be actors and the bartenders who paint up a storm when not swinging liquor. Roman Grandinetti, also known as DJ Manero, has deep club history and is now using all his skills to curate an art project described as Sound Graffiti.

"…the creator of CNNCTD+, Roman Grandinetti. In one month’s time he put together 100 influencers to create playbuttons for the New Museum store on May 1st, created a scavenger hunt series of SOUND GRAFFITI outlets around the city including the heart of the Fashion District and a wall on Kemare with Jason Woodside. This team has created a lot of content over the last month with connections to over 100 influencers including Pharrell Williams, Maria Cornejo, Cindy Sherman, Santigold and other icons like George Lois and other cool fun NY hits like Katz’s Deli and The Meatball Shop.”

On Tuesday, a private party at the New Museum will preview the public opening on the following day. They say the "goal of CNNCTD+100 is to showcase a cross-section of New York City culture that highlights the multidisciplinary connections of contemporary culture. Music inspires fashion, street art inspires fine art, youth inspires establishment."

It will be "Roman Grandinetti (a.k.a DJ Manero) and his team selected 100 heroes and creative leaders from various disciplines to participate in the project.

Participants: Mario Sorrenti, Maria Cornejo, Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Pitt, Cindy Sherman, Pharrell Williams, Scott Campbell, Santigold and iconic NYC personalities and companies including Katz’s Deli, FourSquare, and Ricky Powell…. The complete list of participants won’t be revealed until the night of the event but includes dozens of big names and surprises…The public can buy tickets @ the new museum store online to come see  the show as well. There’s only 100 spots open to the public as well."

I caught up with Roman and asked him all about it:

What will people be seeing/hearing?
I think what people will see in the show is a wide range of talent and the vastness of our creative vision – we have chefs, models, DJs, producers, curators, photographers, fashion designers, creative geniuses, and we hand- selected a few people who we think are next.

Tell me about yourself. Include your journey through clubland.
I’m 25 years old and I’m a Brooklyn-born Italian. I started out promoting and selling tickets at around 13 for every teen night. Later, when I turned 18, I worked for Rob T and later Uriel – who I believe introduced us for the first time years ago. He let me pretty much run my own nights and put me at the door. My family decided it was not a good idea for me to go to school in Brooklyn anymore -and I got into High School of Art & Design. Going there changed my life. It opened my eyes to not only a whole new world, but it introduced me to a whole another world. I stopped promoting, got into the whole downtown thing – graffiti and sneakers.

I was one of the first employees at A Bathing Ape. I met every rapper you could imagine in the place. While I was there I started a sneaker event called Soledout NYC. I put three of them together from what I learned from promoting. The events did around 2,500 guests per event. The money gave me leverage to fully stop  promoting and kinda enjoy nightlife for myself. I started going to PM, Butter, Cain, Lotus all of them while being underage – haha. At that time I started to look into the DJ stuff but didn’t take the leap yet. At A Bathing Ape, Steve Rifkind walked in and changed everything. I started interning at Universal music, servicing records to DJs – which really got my gears turning to become a DJ. I was hired a month later. I worked in the marketing department with Akon, Wu-Tang, Asher Roth and had an opportunity to work with Marc Ecko and Swizz Beatz.

While I was there, Steve was a huge supporter of mine and helped me out a lot. I published my first magazine’ it was this 6×8 FREE pocket-sized magazine, dubbed connected – it had Swizz Beatz, 50 Cent, Pharoahe Monch, and Mark Ronson on the cover. I soon left Universal and worked on connected, which is now "cnnctd+”. I became very close to DJ Vitale and Sal Morale, who opened the door to the DJ world to me. They introduced me to the model promoting world. Vitale and Tommy Virtue taught me pretty much everything I know and made sure I knew what I was doing before I even played in a club. I worked with childhood friend Gezim for booking help and Uriel gave me the name "Manero” because everyone used to call me “Young Travolta” since I looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Also, I grew up in Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge and walked the same blocks he did in the movie.

So your DJ career took off…
DJing became my main source of income. Vitale continued to push me to get better at DJing. I truly feel he’s one of the most talented DJs in this city, and I would spend hours watching him and Sal. I’d listen to all of DJ Riz’s mixtapes, trying to develop my own style, which Vitale and another big help in my career (Mel Debarge) told me would come in time. I had the opportunity to play every venue in the city, was handed money to play a record, and played for countless celebs. Some of the celebs I was allowed to talk about and some I was never allowed to.

I tried the traveling thing and, for a short period of time, really was a career DJ. I was traveling weekly and ending up in rooms I would NEVER step foot in and it kinda made me see a clear vision of what I want to do and what the life of a traveling DJ is. So I started to save a bit, get a bit more into music production, and really focused on creating a career. I fine-tuned the gigs, did what is a right fit for me as a DJ / trying to mold myself. I bought an office/studio space in Chinatown. I started out just doing remixes and slowly looked for some interesting work to work on during the day to stay creative. Got cnnctd+ rolling again and my girl’s father introduced me to the owners of playbutton to maybe help out with some marketing stuff.

Since the day we met, I have done a collaboration with HBO and How to Make it in America, created one of the first interactive street murals on Kenmare between Bowery and Elizabeth (across from the recently-opened Ken & Cook), and now I’m producing a show of 100 influencers at the New Museum on May 1st. Thus far, I have Cindy Sherman, owners of The Meatball Shop, Mark Borthwick, The Fader, Mario Sorenti, Illesteva, Andre Sariva, Katz Deli, and Scott Campbell – all showcasing works alongside myself. My girlfriend Bibi Cornejo who is a major help and supporter of cnnctd and Sal Morale.

What’s the New Museum event going to be like?
The point of the show is built off of what NYC nightlife used to be – a collective group of influential people all in the same room at the same time, all looking for an interesting time/conversation. Hopefully everyone leaves inspired, creates an idea for something new, and everyone gets to meet some interesting people

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