In the ending scene of the season 1 finale of Mad Men, the greatest show ever to grace television, Donald Draper explains to the Kodak dudes he is pitching to, the importance of words like “new” and “nostalgia.” “The Carousel” scene should be Youtubed over and over by anyone trying to connect with their clients, or trying to sell anything. I played it outright to the team at Webster Hell when I was explaining what I was going to do with their place. It sold them better than any power point presentation or artistic rendering could have. The balance of the old, the familiar, the warm and the fuzzy, the nostalgic with the “new” is often an important part of my design approach. When Luke Brian Sosnowski and Timothy Falzone approached me about their new spot, White Noise, even the overly optimistic me had to laugh. They had virtually no money (around $25,000), a big space with high ceilings, and they needed to get it open by mid August. They wanted to open up White Noise as a rock ‘n’ roll bar. It was to be a saloon, a joint, a haven. It was to be true to that school— evoke the sweet nostalgia and gritty bond that rockers, and bikers, and strippers, and sluts, and Jack, and beer, and all that other stuff that goes with it. I am of that school.
Without trying to offend every DJ, and every track made outside of the genre, I’d rather listen to “Dust in the Wind’ or “Smoke on the Water” than any offering by a Beyonce, a Timberlake, or a Tiesto. Rock wakes me up, it gets me through the night, it moves my old bones when I need to move. Of course, they couldn’t pay me, and the place looked and smelled like ten thousand and one depraved nights had hit it hard. I decided I didn’t need to change much, except for the ceiling, the walls…. the floor…the bathrooms…the entrance…the furniture…the bar…the lighting…and everything else in between or squished in the cracks. Luke, Tim, and their crew of relatives—relatively sane peeps—merry men and fabulous women, went at it with a vengeance, and a lot of love, sweat and tears. We pulled it off. White Noise is the shit. In soft opening the last week or so, it has worked like a charm. It’s new, but not too. It looks like a set for a Stones video, but is so down to earth when it’s occupied by like-minded souls. It is pure rock, and will be home to a scene that really hasn’t had one since they shuttered Snitch.
Money isn’t everything in design. It sure helps, but if an operator has some skills and determination, a joint can be realized. I am currently working on places with budgets of $4 million, $10 million and higher, and for that super chic set, it is necessary. But if you want to go home to your rock and roll roots, and see it as it was meant to be seen, brought to you by people who live it 24/7/365, then White Noise provides. I caught up with Luke while Tim was tweaking the joint and taking care of his very new baby.
Where did the name come from?
The name White noise comes from the book by Don Delillo—from the idea that modern life has become so overly saturating to the senses that even the most exciting things in our lives have become background or “white noise.” That’s why we thought it would be a perfect name for a bar.
How do you and Tim know each other?
Me and Timmy have been best friends since we were in Kindergarten. We’ve been working together since we were 12. Timothy was a philosophy major, I was a fine art major. We are both musicians and artists.
Tell me about yourself and New York Nightlife.
I started going to Disco 2000 when I was 16. I was working the VIP door at Tavern in the Hamptons in the summers when I was 19—when I would come home from art school. Threw parties and worked doors for years in the city. Thursdays at 289 was one of my favorite parties that I did with Bill Fresco back then. I disappeared for a little while to deal with the damage done from those years. Came back started a band with Timothy called Night Kills the Day. Supported the band by being a bottle host at Stereo with Barry. We got signed, recorded an album and went on the road. Came back and worked as head host at Mansion while working on our second album— which has taken forever. Timothy has bartended, managed and worked doors, hosted at various bars and restaurants, while supporting his artistic endeavors, and doing scores for independent films for the last decade—most recently at the Gates. We started to think New York really needed a cool rock bar. I had been thinking about opening a bar downtown for about a year. Timothy had a baby, and that was the deciding factor to step it up and open up a bar together.
How did you come to this space?
We loved the bar White Noise used to be years ago called Uncle Mings. Rob Morgan, the original owner, had some offers but held off for us. The location was perfect. Timmy bartended there, and we used to do our after show parties there when we were playing Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom. We called in a lot of favors, including you Steven, and made it happen. I was pleasantly surprised with how many people supported us and lent a hand. We built it ourselves and with the help of my little brother Owen and his friends.
What’s this place about?
White Noise is a rock bar that will be playing only rock that spans the full spectrum within the genre. With all DJs that play great music, Michael T, Uncle Mike, John Lennon, Nick Marc, friends of ours in bands and others. We wanted to make a place where we, and our friends, would like to hang out and party. We wanted it to be more like New York was 15 years ago, and to break out of the mold a lot of places are following. There aren’t enough places right now in New York to hear good rock music so we thought it was the perfect time. We wanted to make a place not so pretentious. A great mix of people. Musicians, artist, hipsters, skaters, groovers, straights, gays. A non-aggressive open-minded environment made for a good time only with great music.
Tell me about the look. We wanted the design to be dark, seedy, sexy and red lit only. We hired Home and Apartment by Marc to reupholster old vintage furniture in black vinyl and brass studs. Covered the bar in old tin roofing Timmy bought on the street in Brooklyn. We covered the walls behind the bar in red lit insulators from the 60’s. And black on black damask wallpaper. Kept the old chandeliers and covered them in liquid rubber and shoe glue. Kept the windows boarded up and covered them in black velvet curtains. We covered the old wooden floors with layers of red, gold, and black paint and we will polyurethane it after we are satisfied with how badly they get scuffed up and ruined. So in a way, our patrons are helping us create a piece of art on our floors. Even Billy from Billy’s Antiques on Houston gave us a great deal on a floor to ceiling pier mirror from the 1800s. Clay Patrick McBride gave us one of his portraits of Iggy Pop, and James Greco, the Brooklyn-based painter, has given us one of his paintings. James also helped me make the buffalo skull infinity boxes. I hope people will enjoy the space as much as we enjoyed making it.
Steven, of course, a huge thank you to you for all your design direction and support. You’re a really good dude, Steven, and what you did will always be very appreciated by me.