Industry Insiders: Talking to DJ Diego Harispe

For our Oct./Nov. issue’s Industry Insider section, we interviewed professional house music DJ Diego Harispe. In the business for over 10 years, Harispe approaches his craft old-school, mixing CDs and vinyls, and weaving the sound into a story. Currently based in Miami where he’s found DJing at such spots as Nikki Beach and Mynt, Harispe has DJd across South America (Crobar in Buenos Aires) and Europe, where he honors the local cultures’ music. Here, Diego shares what he thinks a DJ should never do, the one song everyone loves, and what he reminds himself in the midst of success.

You’ve DJd all around the globe. What place do you look forward to spinning in the most?
That’s a hard question. I think every city and every country has something special. My favorite place is always the next one to visit, so this week it’s Ibiza. In Ibiza, every dancefloor is filled with different nationalities and cultures, but what is amazing about this magic island is that everybody speaks the same language: MUSIC. 

What’s a DJing-don’t? Something a DJ should NEVER do?
A DJ should never become a DJ for other reasons than the love for music itself. Unhappily, we have lots of supposed “DJs” in the industry  that are there just for exposure, a certain lifestyle, or other vein reasons than the music.

What is one song that people always love?
Gotye’s “Somebody That I Use To Know.” There are so many good remixes of it.

You’ve been a pro for years. What have you learned about success?
It’s not something that you finally reach. Success is being able to do what you love. It’s a forever path, and the key is to have faith in you. No matter how hard things get, with faith and consistency you will always achieve what you want.  

Our Man in Miami: Going Gone with Pete Tong

Labor Day is usually a time when nightlife veterans such as I retreat to anywhere but Miami Beach. The crowds are colossal and their behavior is generally just as monstrous—anyone in their right mind tends to avoid it at all costs. But when Pete Tong is flying in for a spin at SET and you’re offered some face-time, well, dealing with rash behavior seems not to matter so much.

But I couldn’t get gone with Pete Tong without prefacing it with some good new-fangled rock music. So I snuck in the side door at Bayfront Park and sidled up to the stage for a set by Paramore, perhaps the most rambunctious young’uns touring the world these days. It was a strange affair, what with the shrill shrieks and massive crunch of neo-classic power pop. Then again I don’t often stand between 6000 screaming teens and their idols.

On to SET where things were decidedly more adult. That’s not to say there wasn’t some frenzy in the air, mind you—it’s just that the frenzy seemed to be tempered by everyone’s concerted effort to impress each other. Tong of course, has no such need. The cat’s been at it for so long his name is pretty much ubiquitous with the night. And though in person he’s coolly understated, on the decks he’s no such thing. There’s good reason this DJ’s a superstar. Just ask the masses who lost their minds at the foot of his booth.

Tong had flown in from spinning Randall’s Island Electric Zoo, and was set to floor SET before heading out to Vegas in order to do it all over again. That he found time to get with your Man in Miami between spins only means he’s not just a superstar DJ, he’s also a gentleman.

Okay, you literally just flew in from spinning at Electric Zoo in New York. How many people do you think were there? I didn’t count ‘em (laughs). It was a very, very cool location, just at the top corner of Manhattan under the bridge between the Bronx and Queens. The weather was fantastic. When I was back in England there was all this talk of hurricanes, so I didn’t know what to expect. The only unfortunate thing was that I literally just flew in, did it, and flew out again. I’ve been coming to New York since 1979 and this was by far my shortest visit. But taking off from La Guardia I got the most stunning view of Manhattan I’ve even seen. It was a crystal clear night and we flew right over the city. I didn’t think you were allowed to do that anymore.

Tomorrow you’re in Vegas for another drive-by? Yeah, I’ve been coming to America for a long, long time but I’d never done Labor Day because it’s always in the middle of the Ibiza season. But it’s obviously getting more and more hot over here, and this seemed like the perfect year to do it. So you want to sort of maximize it, and do as many shows as you can in a short span of time. It’s three shows in 26 hours: Electric Zoo, SET tonight, then on to Vegas for a daytime party at Encore Las Vegas.

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Then it’s back across the pond for Wonderland Ibiza right? I do Wonderland every week for 16 weeks. This last Friday was the only Friday I would’ve missed. It ends on October 1. That is the closing weekend.

Did you open the Ibiza season with another of your International Music Summits? Yeah, we did our third year of the Summit. It’s kind of inspired by the old New Music Seminar and Tony Wilson’s In the City; kind of a hybrid of the two. There really isn’t one in the UK right now, Miami’s Winter Music Conference is in March, and the Amsterdam dance event isn’t until October, so it seemed sensible for me and my partners to do this in Ibiza, and kind of set the agenda for the whole summer.

The Summit itself is about 600 people, and we do a big scrum around the evenings, different showcase events, and then it ends up with the big concert in a heritage site on top of this town that no one’s every used before, which is beautiful. It’s meant to be a bit intimate so everyone gets something out of it. It’s a kind of antidote to Miami, which I now call ‘an exhibition in nightclubbing in one week.’ Most people that come to Miami for Conference don’t even realize there’s a conference going on.

Is this your first time at SET? No, no, I did SET back when it first opened. I used to do a lot of Opium Group shows; then I started doing one-offs – Ultra and Space. Lately I’ve been spinning Mynt Lounge a lot. My friend Roman [Jones] owns it. This time I’m changing up.

Winter Music Conference 2011. What do you have planned? We’ll be doing another pool party, but we may move from The Surfcomber, I’m not sure yet. It’s easy to overdo it during Conference. Last year I did only two events: The Surfcomber and Space.

Underworld, U2 and Spoon are the first three mixes on your site right now. What do you have to hear from a song for you to get involved? There has to be something quite remarkable about it. I always look for some kind of soul in the music – and I don’t mean soul singer soul; just something special, something magic. It’s kind of a sixth sense really.

Kinda like your DJing? Exactly.

Industry Insiders: Michael Sutton, Guy’s Guy

Soap opera star turned LA nightlife entrepreneur Michael Sutton has quite the diverse CV. He’s been nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards, he was a co-founding partner for a private membership community called Xenii, and he’s had ownership in LA hotspots The Lodge Steakhouse, Memphis, Charcoal, and supper club Goa. His new joint Guys & Dolls has been a hit among the West Coast elite.

The opening event at Guys and Dolls looked like quite a show. We opened May 26 and had a launch the day after Memorial Day Weekend. It was a bit crazy. I had a friend who was able to spin on that day, DJ AM, and we just went with it because the lounge is not a huge club-sized space. Being that it’s limited in scope anyway, we figured we’d launch on a Tuesday and it would help with our capacity issues. The event really set the tone for the past months that we’ve had.

Where are you from originally? Born and raised in Beverly Hills.

Tell me about your history with Guy Starkman of Guys Bar, which occupied the space before. I was looking for a new location to open up either a bar, lounge, or a club. I wasn’t sure which was going to come my way first. I was actually approaching Guy to see if he’d be interested in selling his location and his business to me. He had just re-built the space, and he hadn’t really opened yet, but he wasn’t quite sure. This was in November-December, when we were talking. About three weeks later, I found a location in Hollywood and I was going to move on it, and then I decided to give Guy one last phone call. During the conversation, for whatever reason — timing, luck — he was willing to sell it and we made the deal right then and there. I obviously didn’t move forward on the Hollywood location and was very, very happy to take over Guys and rename it Guys & Dolls. The idea was to be the evolution of Guy’s bar. The place that I promoted was nothing near the scope and magnitude of this location, or what was built at this location. Guy’s bar opened in 1995, and I think I promoted it at two different times, so I knew the location well. We named it Guys & Dolls to have a little play on words — established in 1995, and refined in 2009.

What’s the vibe like? It’s this sexy, sophisticated, service-oriented ultra lounge. LA doesn’t really have anything like that. It’s the size space you would see in a hotel bar, but being that it stands alone, there’s this incredible energy in the room. It’s kind of like Rose Bar New York meets Mynt Miami. You have to see it to feel that energy.

What’s the music like? The music in LA, believe it or not, has really come full circle. We were hip-hop only for so many years. I’m a huge hip-hop and rap fan, but now, I think a full night incorporates a lot of feel-good remixed 80s music and a lot of fun, happy house music. A little bit of electronic house, more European in scope. Everything that we do at Guys & Dolls is really catered to the happiness of the women. The music, cocktail menu, the vibe. If the women are happy, then we have a successful lounge. It’s all about the women.

Why is that? It’s the secret of LA. I think this is the case anywhere, but LA specifically, because of the celebrity factor. It’s all about celebrities and women. If you capture those two, keep them coming back and happy and advocating your place, then you win.

The women bring the men? Exactly. The beautiful women always attract the men and bring us the best clientele. The place is an extension of entertaining my friends. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I realize that if I just try to build a place that would accommodate my friends and my needs, inevitably it ends up being a successful venue. I feel like I’m in touch with what would work and what would be embraced by the city. My friends, luckily, are fun, like to have a good time, and are beautiful people. That grows organically, and like anything, it’s not about the dollars you throw out to market it; it’s got to be grassroots. It’s either something that people like or people don’t, and I never want to sell something that people don’t like.

How’d you make the transition from acting to nightlife? It was out of necessity. I was working on a soap opera where you’re just given dialogue after dialogue, pages and pages. It’s a never-ending cycle of putting words into your head. So, I didn’t have any time to see my friends. My father was a publicist at the time, and he’d taken on an account at a club that used to be very hot called Bar One. I told him that I would go in and throw a party there once a week so that I’d have a chance to see my friends. I ended up launching the opening of their new bar, called The Room. From the first night we did it, I had my actor and model friends, photographers, directors, producers, and agents. I did a party or two a week for the last 15 years, believe it or not. About seven years ago, I invested my own money into a place called the Hollywood Canteen, and that was my first transition to operations, marketing, and promotions. I loved it. After that, I got into The Lodge Steakhouse. I really got an education in business because I had the mindset of an artist and wanting to do creative things as opposed to business. At this point in my life, I have a good background in both. You need that to be successful.

Where are your spots in LA? The best sushi place in LA is in Beverly Hills — it’s called Yu-N-Mi Sushi, and it’s owned by a friend of mine who was my executive chef at Goa. That’s one of my favorites. I love Mr. Chow. I like to be adventurous, so I’ll go to all the different cultural sites around the city. I’ll go to Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Thai Town, and go to the local dive restaurants there that have authentic food.

Where do you shop? I like H. Lorenzo on Sunset Plaza. I’m a huge fan of all the Japanese designers, and Lorenzo goes to Japan four times a year, and he gets all the best new designs. I don’t think anyone else does that in LA. Maxfield is great, and Fred Segal and Barneys. Those four get my paychecks a lot.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Travel. Indulgence. I definitely love to explore, so my guiltiest pleasure is that if I had the chance, I would just keep going from new destination to new destination. My second guiltiest pleasure is beautiful women.