Brooklyn: Where Halloween Tomfoolery Goes After Hours

Claptone (Sabrina Feige)

It’s no secret that locating any truly late night New York fun these days requires a trip into Brooklyn. You needn’t search much further than the explosion of secret raves, underground parties and crowded venues from deep Bushwick to trendy nightspots in Williamsburg. Take, for example, earlier in October when Chris Lake performed alongside Nero at the Brooklyn Hangar as part of their North American tour. (On Dec.14 Gratitude*NYC will present “Cosmic Mirrors,” a trippy, experimental affair at the same location). Hours after Nero’s show ended, techno master Guy Gerber hosted an all-night rager with BLKMRKT that continued until sunrise.

“I said, ‘I needed to come to Brooklyn,’ and I was looking for the right partner,” Gerber told BlackBook of the BLKMRKT event. “I was surprised at how they come up with the party and literally no one knows the address until an hour before it starts. I thought the sound was great for a warehouse—it was probably one of my best shows!”

Manhattan remains commercial king for EDM with glossy clubs, lounges and arena concerts like Zedd’s recent stop at Madison Square Garden. That being said, finding a balance of mischievousness and euphoric, high-quality electro beats—especially during Halloween week—is never a true challenge. But as soon as the clock strikes 4 am, your options dwindle disappointingly fast. This year felt especially telling. It was perhaps the first Halloween since the clubbing ascent of the outer borough where the action in Brooklyn completely trumped the Manhattan scene.

Not to say Manhattan didn’t deliver the goods—for the less adventurous, but equally as boisterous and discerning, Pier of Fear, produced by top-shelf agency RPM, set the bar high. The special effects, lights and organization of the weeklong mayhem could only be outmatched by roster of world-class DJs.

“As we approach our fifth year at the Pier, we’re doing it bigger and better than ever,” commented RPM founder Eddie Dean (also behind the secret parties for Nero). “New York is in for a real treat.” Right he was; Kaskade had a refreshingly dynamic set the weekend before Halloween. (Queens native CID certainly got the crowd lubricated with his high-octane warm-up).

Armin van Buuren, who stormed the scene on Oct. 30 after releasing his album EMBRACE, delivered the best large concert of spooky season. It was a shame, however, that his Friday night positioning wasn’t swapped with Skrillex’s primetime Saturday set—a more progressive and forceful performance than usual, especially considering he had to jet to SoCal’s Fairplex that same morning for one last set at HARD Day of the Dead.

Thank you Armin van Buuren ... epic night at #PierofFear! Round III tonight with Skrillex & friends! Get tickets now at pieroffear.com Photos by Christopher Lazzaro for www.FreedomFilmLLC.comArmin van Buuren (Freedom Film LLC)

The real setback with the Pier of Fear is that it starts far too early and ends way before most attendees want. Organizers should consider pushing on past 5 am, although the NYPD and proponents of noise complaints would surely put up a fight.

Naturally, there was plenty of other competition throughout Halloween week. Paco Osuna held court at Space Ibiza NY; Lavo, obnoxious as that joint is, offered guests QuestLove; Marquee booked Bingo Players and Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano for back-to-back weekends. In fairness, one could indulge in the Pier of Fear and then Uber off to greener, darker and rowdier pastures in Brooklyn. And that’s exactly what Halloween night called for.

Borgore’s creepy and steamy, House of Gore, the “Ultimate Haunted Halloween Warehouse Party,” attracted a crowd that was commendably jovial, troublesome and hardcore at a location deep in the bowels of Brooklyn.

“I love masquerade balls,” DJ/producer Claptone mused to BlackBook as he tried to convince us to swing by his affair in the more gentrified milieu of Williamsburg’s Verboten. “One essential characteristic about a mask is that it dissolves social or cultural differences for a certain time. The East End boys can make out with the West End girls like the Pet Shop Boys would put it.”

Claptone, who always performs under the veil of a golden mask, has earned a sturdy reputation for his soulful house.

“The mask extends your personal freedom,” he confessed. “It exceeds your personality and sparks your imagination—so dress up and join me.”

gibson_claptone_sabrina-feige-7Claptone (Sabrina Feige)

Unmoved, we reminded him that it would be a busy night in Brooklyn and making wise decisions during the wee-hours would be crucial. “I’ll have a lot of other surprises in store for my guests, musical as well as non-musical, ” Claptone replied, baiting us. “Don’t tell me I didn’t give you a heads up.”

Indeed, Claptone was the surprise hit of the night (morning, at that rate). His masquerade boasted an enticing assortment of costumed revelers getting down and dirty to every single amazing, underground house beat he played.

A Dutch entourage shared treats with dancing neighbors as a coven of witches caressed a brawny, shirtless stud dressed as a Trojan. It’s precisely such an international, pansexual gathering of the curious and the intoxicated that kept our Halloween spontaneous until well past 7.30 am. When the plug was pulled and daylight swooped in, Brooklyn had succeeded beyond expectations yet again.

“Do you have the address for Loco Dice?” a model dressed like a woodsman asked, as he limbered toward our car.

“Yes,” we said, sharing the Sunset Park warehouse location near Industry City that was slated to endure until noon. “An underground party with a covert vibe” was how Loco Dice’s publicist had described it.

“Let’s share a car!” he said presumptuously.

“Nah—we have to go cheer on our friends running the marathon,” we mumbled, firmly closing the door.

The race had already started.

The Launch of the New & Enhanced Thefuture.fm: Founder/CEO David Stein Speaks

I am completely weak from Fashion Week pressures and some new tattoos…plus, I’m moving a little to the left of Brooklyn, toward Bushwick. Today I’m going to chat about Thefuture.fm which is "a patent-pending fingerprinting and rights tracking technology, which is the first ever turn-key solution to the legal monetization of DJ mixes, podcasts and mix tapes.” Are you still with me?

David Stein, who you used to hang out with the smart set at my smart clubs and even some smarter ones, is the founder and CEO of this internet radio platform. According to the press release, David founded Thefuture.fm "in an effort to allow festival-goers and club kids to relive the experiences created by the world’s best DJs on a daily basis, while discovering emerging music along the way. His passion to help DJs legally promote and monetize their music came when he realized the monumental challenges and setbacks of rights flow for mixed audio." You still here?

He used to book talent atthose smart clubs, and has a unique grasp on who’s-who and what’s hot. Now he’s gone digital. In April he launched an iPhone app, which is “the first to solve the industry’s long-standing copyright issue associated with mixed audio,” by accurately identifying the content of mixed audio. Thefuture.fm’s will also experience a complete overhaul of their platform, making it easy for users to revisit mega DJ performances, club events, and learn about future performances by their favorite DJ/performer. At launch, subscriptions will be free, with near-term plans for revenue streams in premium mobile and brand-supported offerings. Over 5000 DJs will participate.

I caught up with David Stein awhile back and asked him all about it.

Is this basically Pandora with really great DJs?
Thefuture.fm is basically internet radio, curated by the best DJs in the world. And we enable DJs to upload their mixed tapes to the platform and let their fans access them and listen to them via the platform on the web and via mobile on our iPhone application. It’s sort of the first-ever legal kind of entity to allow for this to happen. Really, the core of our business is that we’re a music technology business; we’re focused around this concept of how do we legally, scale-ably, and effectively monetize and extract value out of long-format music content? If you know the history of a mixed tape and the DJ industry, you know there’s never really been a solution in terms of how to compensate the individual artist and copyright holders whose music is being used and played by DJs. So we exist to solve that problem. And we create technology, IP tools, around that concept. It’s really the core of why thefuture.fm is able to be a legal internet radio that is curated by these mixed tapes.

The first, and really the basis of that business, is a technology and a concept that we created called Mix Scan. Mix Scan is a fingerprinting and rights core management tool specifically around long-format contract – mixed tapes, podcasts, live streams – that DJs make and play. Like Shazam on steroids. The way that it works is a DJ will upload a mix tape to our platform and we’ll run it through our algorithm of our software and we’ll pull as much metadata as we can so we’ll learn every artist, song, sample, song length – we know when one song ends and when one song begins. We timestamp that music file and create a unique set of metadata for the entire media file. That enables us to accurately cross reference against our analytics so we know every time within our eco system, our platform, each song gets played. Then we automate the report, these entities that exist to pay out to copyright holders. SoASCAP, BMI, etc… so that’s really the basis of how we operate a legal internet radio. We’ve been sort of operating as a free service while we build out our monetization models and we’re soon going to be launching pretty revolutionary ways where DJs can, for the first time ever, legally make money off of their mixes and podcasts. Who are some of the DJs that you’re involved with?
We represent music from 8,000 different DJs across all genres: From Bounce FX and DJ Scribble to your Mel Debarge and Cassidy, to your Dead Mau5, Tiesto, Skrillex. It’s all-encompassing. And it’s everything – rock, hip hop, dance…

So a person gets on and they have a choice, like Pandora, of different genres of music?
Yes, the platform is two-fold so you can get on the platform and get featured content that’s exclusive to the platform across all the genres. Or you can type in any DJ that you know you want to hear and we’ll give you all of their mixed tapes within their own profile. Or you can type in a song or an artist that isn’t a DJ and we’ll give you mixes that have those songs in them.

Are we going to see this in stores, trendy boutiques, hotel lobbies? Or in individual homes?
Well, the service and the platform is built for personal use, but people who aren’t supposed to be using it use it for whatever reasons they want. Eventually we hope to roll out services that are specific for business services, music-filing, those sorts of things.

Are you doing profiles on your DJs or feature DJs, stories about these guys, who they are, and why they’re important as well?
There are unique cases where we’ll cover DJs on our blog, but primarily it’s just the content. It’s mixes that you can’t really find anywhere else up on one platform. And it’s a combination of us allowing DJs to upload content themselves and then us partnering with different venues, nightclubs, and festivals and acquiring that content and then featuring it on the home page.

You used the word upload. Are you going to be able to download? If I hear something that’s pretty amazing and I want to be able to feel that DJ Thursday night, am I going to be able to download it?

There’s no downloading on the platform yet. It’s a streaming-only service and we abide by these rules that have been set in place by the copyright law that enables us to be a compliant web factor, and that means that we’re restricted to streaming only. It’s the only way that we can really quantify the function of the actual tracks within mixes.

But companies like Amazon and iTunes would love for you to link to them. Is that something you do?
Yes, so because we know what songs are in the mixes, there’s a pretty great discovery component to it. You’re able to learn and discover new music from your favorite DJ and you can see what songs you’re listening to. 

Now all these DJs, including me, have management. If I’m listening to Mel Debarge, which you mentioned before as one of yours, does it refer you to his management? If someone’s saying “Wow, I’m listening to this at my home but I want him to play at my Christmas party, this guy is unbelievable,” is there added value like that?
Yes, there’s absolutely added value in that regard. We’re not looking to be a middleman and block interaction. You can put, as a DJ, any contact information you like. But on the back end, we get requests from different brands, different platforms, different websites, blogs, Eater, Curb, TechCrunch, to name a few, that we work with really closely in booking DJs that are on our platform – the right DJ for their event. And all we do is facilitate an introduction. It’s part of that added value we bring to the DJs that we work with what’s on our platform.Is there a comment, for instance, of your clients? Can they rate a mix and say this one’s great, this one’s 94%, this one’s 70%?
There’s no percentage, but there is a “like” mechanism. We’re very against, “Oh, we don’t like this mix.” If you like it you click the “like” or “favorite” button. There’s mixes with hundreds of thousands of favorites on them.

How many people do you think it’s gonna reach? Give me some numbers and goals.
So we’ve been operating and have gained a pretty substantial user base solely on the love of the DJ and their bands. We were primarily working within this context of the DJ and the brand and the different magazines and entities that have visibility on our profile as our evangelists. They promote themselves to their fans via our platform and then we show love back by promoting them via our own page.

Theoretically, if someone likes Mel Debarge as an example again, they come in and listen to what Mel Debarge has posted on your site, and while they’re there, they’re exposed to other DJs.

How do you put these DJs in categories, so that Mel is near, let’s say, Cassidy or far away from Steve Lewis so that the person coming in can see things that are similar?
It’s categorized by genre but specific to the individual mix, not the DJ.

There’s a great difference between DJ Tiesto and, let’s say, Frankie Knuckles.
100 percent.

So how does a person find exactly what they’re interested in, without having to randomly explore?
At the highest level, the mixes are tagged by specific genres that are pretty broad in scope. All the sub-genres of house music, EDM, sub-genres of hip-hop, sub-genres of rock. On a more granular level, if you’re looking to hear specific songs or specific sounds within a genre – a search for rock ‘n’ roll, for example – you could type in Prince or “Bohemian Rhapsody” and you would get mixes that have those types of songs in them.

Kids On A Crime Spree’s Jangly “Creep The Creeps”

I guess I’ve had the kids-on-a-crime-spree idea stuck in my head since seeing Spring Breakers the other night (by the way, all other films have been rendered obsolete, please make a note of it). But the Top 40-style soundtrack must, by necessity, stick to Skrillex and Britney Spears. What of the badasses inspired by Phil Spector-ish wall-of-sound pop?

Kids On A Crime Spree are wedded to that 1960s sound and don’t appear headed for a divorce on new single “Creep The Creeps.” Catchy as hell and twice as reverbed, you may just begin to clap along. Or take up surfing lessons. Or go on a crime spree. But, you know, the kind with motorcycles and leather jackets. Vroom!

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.  

The Most Exciting Films From This Year’s South By Southwest

This year the film portion of the South by Southwest Conference had thirteen entrees that premiered at Sundance and a number of studio-funded projects destined for wide release, meant primarily to bolster the star power attending the daily and nightly Paramount theater premieres. This is not a bad thing—rather, it’s a testament to how vital the SXSW Film Conference has become to the film scene in general, a diverse conflagration of anything and everything within the strata of a theatrical experience. However, it doesn’t make breaking new, below-the-radar films any easier, especially with a bigger schedule—the much-anticipated premiere of the The East comes on the final night of the conference, after this will be published—and more theaters scattered around town.

That’s where I focused most of my efforts on the film front, catching more than 20 films—in honor of the film conference’s 20th anniversary—most of them produced on very low budgets or premiering for the first time in the United States. I skipped Burt Wonderstone and the Evil Dead reboot, as they’re flicks I’ll see in my local megaplex depending on the Rotten Tomatoes reception. I skipped Before Midnight in favor of a local Austinite’s film, quite regretfully—I’d rather pay to see the final installment of Linklater’s walk-and-talk romance trilogy, anyway. The six films listed here are the ones I found to be the most impressive and important glimpses into the cultural zeitgeist at the 2013 film conference—though there are a number I didn’t get a chance to see due to scheduling conflicts and the fact that the press screening library crammed into the convention center stairwell was so atrociously barren. But with so much paranoia surrounding pirating these days, who’s going to risk turning in a DVD to the media?

Spring Breakers

Unlike anything you’ve ever seen, the charged 1,300 plus audience at the Paramount was—as a Deadline reporter put it—both “joyful and bewildered” when the lights went up after the North American premiere. While some critics may find the surface layers of the film to be a mile wide and an inch deep, or an extended Skrillex music video, this is merely the backdrop Korine wanted to create. The slow-motion montage of barely clothed coeds binge drinking on a Florida Beach in the opening minutes of the film is the ultimate thesis statement—the youthful, primal obsession with self-destruction, beautiful imagery, carefree sexuality and complete sensory overload is all about to come into sharp focus.

With a dreamlike storyline, seedy neon-soaked cinematography, and non-linear editing reminiscent of a Terrence Malick film, Spring Breakers preys on the audience’s senses. You kind of can’t look away, whether you’re enjoying yourself or not. And—without giving up the ending—one could even argue that Korine’s work is a bizarrely magnificent statement about feminism, where the pretty, aggressive blondes in this vapid fantasy world of a St. Petersburg Spring Break are the ones who are the true gangsters.  Regardless of if you agree with any of this analysis, you should see Spring Breakers for James Franco alone, as the corn-rowed, grill-sporting thug who goes by the moniker of Alien—it’s truly a performance for the ages.

Yellow

Heather Wahlquist has appeared in relatively minor supporting roles in her husband Nick Cassavetes’s films over the past decade, which makes her leading performance in Yellow all the more impressive. In it, she plays one of those artificially gorgeous yet vividly delusional California women named Mary Holmes, who is barely holding it together. She teaches elementary school children and chases pills with vodka nips throughout the day, regularly drifting into her own alternate realities, which are equally colorful, musical, hilarious, and horrifying. As her antics get worse, she is forced to return home to her family, where Wahlquist takes us inside the core of her character, revealing the origins of her mania. The entire film, which Wahlquist also co-wrote, is a quiet yet remarkable achievement.

Good Ol’ Freda

The Beatles have been covered from just about every angle possible by now—except the one director Ryan White found for Good Ol’ Freda, when he interviewed Freda Kelly, the head of the band’s fan club for much of the ’60s and perhaps the only Beatles employee who had never broken her silence about the band. It’s a sweet film and a fascinating look at an incredibly respectful and moral person who was tasked with protecting and representing some of the most famous people in the world. White’s storytelling does reveal a few new insights into who the Beatles were behind the scenes, but the film focuses primarily on Freda, examining how someone so close to those who were literally changing the world could remain so true to who they really are as a person.

Scenic Route

Bleak tales about the insignificance of man and the brutality of the world are tough to pull off without fine acting and crackling dialogue, which is why Scenic Route works so well. Two friends, played by the diametrical opposed Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler, are stranded off the incredibly photogenic highway through Death Valley and forced to reexamine their friendship after drifting apart. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse, however, due in part to both men’s egos and stupidity, as well as a bit of bad luck—which, when you get all philosophical about it, is something that life often serves most of us in the end.

Drinking Buddies

There’s a incredibly unique tone to Drinking Buddies, thanks in part to director Joe Swanberg’s technique of having his actors tightly improv every scene in the film. It’s also probably because his core cast consists of seasoned professionals like Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston, and—most impressively—Olivia Wilde, who really shows off her dynamic acting chops while also looking crazy hot. The result is a romantic dramedy—if that’s even a thing—that qualifies as one of the more realistic unrequited love stories that has worked in a while.

Cheap Thrills

The first film purchased at South by Southwest this year—by none other then Drafthouse Films, who held the world premiere in one of their theaters—this fine dark comedy is ultimately a real-world fable about what desperate men will do for money. Made on a shoestring budget with a quality cast (Pat Healey, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, and, by far the most impressive transformation, Ethan Embry as a tough guy) Cheap Thrills is a testament to true independents of the past that deserve to break through to a wider audience. It manages to break new ground and entertain, while keeping its message hidden until the very last frame.   

See the Full Tracklist for Harmony Korine’s ‘Spring Breakers’ Soundtrack

One of the best things about Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is the music. And that’s not to say you’ll ever find me dancing alone in my room to Skrillex, but between his throbbing beats and Cliff Martinez’s haunting ambient score, the music works to entrance us into Korine’s hyper-real world in a way that creates a strong cohesion between sight and sound. Dropping March 12th, the soundtrack for the film features Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, and Ellie Goulding alongside Martinez and Skrillex. Vibe gives us the full tracklist below that looks to fit the bill for a dirty dubstepping romp through Spring Break. But wait—where’s the Britney Spears?!

1. "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" – Skrillex
2. "Rise And Shine Little B***h" – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
3. "Pretend It’s A Video Game" – Cliff Martinez
4. "With You, Friends (Long Drive)" – Skrillex
5. "Hangin’ With Da Dopeboys" – Dangeruss with James Franco
6. "Bikinis & Big Booties Y’all" – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
7. "Never Gonna Get This P***y" – Cliff Martinez
8. "Goin’ In (Skrillex Goin’ Down Remix)" – Birdy Nam Nam
9. "F**k This Industry" – Waka Flocka Flame
10. "Smell This Money (Original Mix)" – Skrillex
11. "Park Smoke" – Skrillex
12. "Young N****s" – Gucci Mane (feat. Waka Flocka Flame)
13. "Your Friends Ain’t Gonna Leave With You" – Cliff Martinez
14. "Ride Home" – Skrillex
15. "Big Bank" – Meek Mill, Pill, Torch & Rick Ross (feat. French Montana)
16. "Son Of Scary Monsters" – Music by Cliff Martinez & Skrillex
17. Big ‘Ol Scardy Pants – Cliff Martinez
18. Scary Monsters on Strings – Music by Skrillex
19. Lights – Ellie Goulding

 

Skrillex Will Be Doing a Cirque du Soleil Residency

As Vulture so hilariously tells us, "No, this is not a Mad Lib." Yes, young prince of thumping electro music and asymmetrical coiffures, Skrillex will be starting a residency with Cirque du Soleil. The Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment," based in Montreal is now opening a new dance club in Vegas. For the new venture, they’ve recruited a host of DJs to design specific shows and of course, Skrillex fits the bill on that one. On the topic, he said, "It’s not about having acrobats for my set. For me, personally, the objective is to have something based around your music and something you want to dance to, not something you want to stare at the whole time."

Okay cool, I’ll start my trapeze warm-up and dusk off some contortionist hulu-hooping for now while listeing to Cirque du Soliel’s best show, Alegria.

Newbie DJs Hit The Decks At A DJ Lab in Bali

This summer I decided to become a DJ. Being a hip and sexy young person living in New York City in 2012, you’re probably a DJ, too. I’d encourage you to put your petty professional jealousies aside for the sake of this story. In any case, there’s no need to sweat just yet: I’ve never actually played a set, or even decided on a DJ name, the perfect brand for my peculiar lack of talent. But it’ll come, and when it does it’ll be appropriately exotic sounding and hard to pronounce so that you’re afraid to say it out loud without sounding like an asshole. Something like Posso, perhaps, which is sort of like posse, but with an “o” at the end that would benefit from an umlaut. Posso means “I can” in Italian and—goddammit—has already been taken by two designer-slash-DJs from Los Angeles named Marylouise Pels and Vanessa Giovacchini, who used to have a line of spats that never quite took off, but was, Pels assures me, copied by all the best designers.

It’s late July and the sun is still blazing when Posso begins bobbing its heads and pumping its arms atop an improvised wooden stage on the “wet deck” of the W Hotel in Bali, Indonesia. There’s only about a dozen people dancing, but the ladies look ecstatic. On the giant screen behind them you can even see them mouthing the words: “She’s homeless. She’s homeless. Da dadee, da dum, da dadee, da dum...”

Pels and Giovacchini are two of the eight lucky DJs who’ve made the 24-hour journey to this off-season paradise to take part in the 2nd annual W Hotels & Burn Studios DJ Lab, a nonprofit boot camp where a team of veteran knob-twisters would teach a class of newbies how to become the next Skrillex. They’d learn how to dress, how to Tweet, and how to mix and scratch.

There’s a bit of that, but there’s also a multi- million-dollar marketing extravaganza aimed primarily at the Asian market where the W is opening five new hotels by 2014. Needless to say, everyone is extremely nice and very happy to be here, and the food is fantastic.

This year’s mentors include Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation, Paul Nolan, a big-deal sound engineer, and Jason Bentley, the music director of L.A. public music station KCRW, who the assembled journos interview as a group.

With electronic dance music back in vogue, the timing couldn’t be better for W, which has always had a thing for DJ booths and plays music throughout its hotels 24/7. The aim of the summit is to help some of the younger artists who play its various venues gain a foothold in the actual music industry, says veteran DJ-turned-producer Michaelangelo L’Acqua, W’s global music director and the man leading the charge. He is wearing wooden prayer beads around his wrist.

“For us as mentors to sit and share these intimate stories about our careers, about our failures, about our successes—it’s amazing,” he says from behind green-tinted aviators. “When I’m done with each session, I sit back and realize how much I’m learning from them. It’s been very symbiotic—it’s give-and-take and give-and-take.”

Two exemplary graduates of last year’s lab in Ibiza—a dandy DJ named Angus Wong from Hong Kong and a model-pretty DJ out of Tokyo named Eiko—have even returned as mentors.

“They represent the aesthetic values of W,” says L’Acqua, proudly. “We have a position in fashion—it’s one of our passion points—and these two represent cutting-edge fashion everytime they walk out the door or get behind a DJ booth. This is a beautiful thing and why it’s worked so well for us. It’s magical.”

The bow-tied and blazered Wong, who has spent the last year on the “wet deck” circuit, would hardly disagree: “They’ve given us a great opportunity to present ourselves to different countries all over the world,” he says, cheerily. “I’ve learned so much not only from the mentors but from the other DJs.”

After learning a bit more about the marketing strategy behind burn (lower-case b), a new energy drink for the Asian market put out by Coca-Cola that has partnered with W on this and other music-related projects, it’s time for a tutorial in actual DJing by Liverpudlian sound engineer Paul Nolan who makes tracks, on the sly, for David Guetta and everyone else you’ve ever heard of.

“You don’t have to be a great musician in order to make good music,” he says, reassuringly, as he sets up his decks. “If you can count to four, you can DJ.”

True to his word, in less than an hour of dragging and dropping, he builds a track that would be recognizable to anyone who has ever been to a club. I can’t wait to get back to the city to start my new career. Posso out.

Ellie Goulding Enters a New Phase With Sophomore Album ‘Halcyon’

It’s a cool September evening in New York City, and the first thing Ellie Goulding sees when her van hits Manhattan’s Lower East Side is the Economy Candy shop on Rivington Street. She’s scheduled for an interview with ArjanWrites at the Hotel On Rivington as part of his HP series, but not before she stocks up on bags of candy. She promptly tweets about the experience and even adds the photo to Instagram. It’s that level of human interaction that makes Ellie Goulding such an accessible pop superstar. She’s also pretty damn talented.

The U.K. artist’s debut album Lights arrived in the U.S. in 2011, but its title track took a year and a half to circulate and make Billboard history as the longest climb to a top position on its Hot 100 chart. “Everything’s weird in my life. Honestly,” Goulding says, settling into the leather sofa in the hotel’s penthouse suite. “I can say that with absolute sincerity.” She’s clad in all black with the only hint of color being her pink-meets-flaxen hairdo. This past year she took a trip to southern Ireland to pen her follow-up opus to Lights, titled Halcyon. The greater whole of the project was crafted in the presence of water; makes sense considering a “halcyon” is a type of mythical bird that watches over the sea. She co-produced the album with Jim Eliot of Kish Mauve, and before deciding on the name Halcyon, the two went on a binge of the Orbital track “Halcyon and On and On.” The content reflected the name halcyon. “Like the bird, it represents peace and happiness, and I like the idea that even though the album is quite dark, it can still represent sort of some kind of hopefulness and truth,” Ellie explains of the project’s title. “So then I was like, fuck, I have to name the album Halcyon. A lot of the album is melancholy, but it shows glimpses of hope so, it just all kind of made sense.”

While writing Halcyon, Goulding had a few life-changing experiences. She parted ways with ex-boyfriend, Radio 1 DJ Greg James, at the close of 2011 and met current boyfriend Skrillex several months later. The two chatted over email before beginning a friendship that turned into a relationship. Halcyon reflects the despair of one love ending and the hope of a new one beginning. There’s still a certain degree of loneliness when two touring artists get together. “I still have this dark side, you know? I think even though I’m in a relationship, and a really good relationship it’s still lonely because we’re not always physically near each other. Also I’m still very confused over what happened with my last relationship,” she admits. “I think it’s just confusion, especially when you’re by yourself a lot. Things manifest, and it amplifies and gets more intense. When I’m by myself in a hotel at night, I have a million things running through my head. That’s how I end up with songs.”

Ellie is escorted into another section of the hotel, before reemerging in a blue leather jacket and white V-neck tee. As she heads to the HP main stage to begin her talk with Arjan, her Beats By Dre commercial is shown on computer screens. A tour with Katy Perry, performing at the royal wedding, spots on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Saturday Night Live were all sizable milestones in Ellie’s career thus far. That’s not including her early achievements of winning the coveted BBC Sound of 2010 award and the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards that same year. All of that was pushed to the back of her mind though when creating this new album. “I really had to ground myself to stay away from that and stick with what I was doing,” she says later on of the album’s direction. While there’s a strong Pop influence on Halcyon—evidenced by the album’s torch single “Anything Could Happen” along with the Calvin Harris cut “I Need Your Love”—there’s still a level of sonic purity that hasn’t been diluted by the saccharined mainstream. “That was something that I was never really going to do,” Goulding says. “Like, I love pop music, but there’s different degrees, I guess, of pop music. I would say that this album is very pop—it’s very repetitive, it’s very simple. It’s very melodic and the choruses are big. In a lot of ways it is a pop record, but it’s also kind of…” She trails off. “It’s darker.”

While sitting in a big uncomfortable chair at the heart of the small stage, Goulding makes jokes about her pants being “noisy” and seals answers to Arjan’s questions with a giggle. She’s still not totally comfortable with being a celebrity. Her eyes change shape, though, when snippets of the album are being played. The versions are chopped in a weird way, and while still remaining polite, it’s obvious Ellie isn’t thrilled with the edits made to her work. It’s a clear indicator of her connection to this album. Lights was written eons ago, but Halcyon is still fresh in her mind. “The fact that I can even remember writing tracks and where I was—I feel a lot closer to it,” she says. “That last album was just like, damn, I wrote it so long ago, and I can remember writing it but, like, you change so much! Especially in the climate of what I do, especially, I feel like I’m in a different place every day and I’m meeting different people every day, and I’m having to grow up quickly and having to move on real quick. That means that Lights is just a lot further away to me than it is other people, I think.” While she had a hand in production on the last album, she’s listed as an actual producer on Halcyon, explaining that the subtle vocal nuances scattered throughout the work are the result of her being much more comfortable and familiar with her voice. “My voice requires so much attention to me. I’ll know if the slightest thing is out of tune or if something is a little bit weird. It’s so cool to know something so well,” she says. “I used to record demos with just my guitar and my voice and didn’t give a shit about how it sounded. Now I do.”

While this next phase in Ellie Goulding’s career is certainly not her last, she’s still accomplished a lot in music thus far. Her fan base has reached mass hysteria, but she’s still one with the people. That’s the battle cry of an everyday girl doing extraordinary things, while still having fun doing it. “I posted a picture of me [on Instagram] in these latex pants and everyone was just like, ‘White girl ass!’ Like, nearly every other comment,” she jokes. “I’m just like, I thought I had a pretty substantial ass.”

A Q&A With DJ Photographer Rukes

Considered the number one DJ photographer in the world, “Rukes is like a ninja,” according to mix master, Dirty South. The shutterbug, “beautifully captured the rise of a movement and the musicians that lead it that otherwise would have continued to go unnoticed if not for his amazing photographs," superstar DJ-producer Kaskade adds.

The worldwide client list of Rukes includes Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Avicii, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Porter Robinson, Calvin Harris, Dada Life, Sub Focus and even Tommy Lee. When not on tour with DJ’s he can be found photographing massive events including Electric Daisy Carnival, Holy Ship! and Stereosonic in Australia, keeping Rukes constantly on the move

W Times Square approached Rukes with the idea of co-curating an exhibit as the brand is deeply committed to music and EDM in particular. Thus, “Inside the Booth” was born. The show will feature never-before-seen images of famous DJs shot by Rukes. Next to each DJ’s photograph, a listening station will be installed, allowing guests to enjoy the artist’s music while they fully immerse themselves in the moment as if they themselves were on stage. 

How did you become the go-to photographer for DJs?
A combination of trust and good photography! I started off taking pics of DJs around 2005 when digital cameras were just starting to get big, so there were very few people using them to capture the EDM scene. When I started honing my skills as the years went on and figuring out my eye for photos, they turned out to be the type of photos that most DJs wanted to represent their work. Not to mention my ninja-like skills of being able to take photos without getting in anyone’s way or even the DJs noticing I’m there!

You’re clearly a fan of EDM since listening stations will accompany this exhibition…
Yes, definitely! Been a fan since probably the very late ’90s, well before I even used my first camera!

Who is your favorite DJ and why?
It’s hard to pick favorites, there are so many out there for various reasons! I would have to pick two for now…

One would be Hybrid. They aren’t very well known, but should be. They have produced my favorite EDM music since I started listening to them, and were the first DJs to recognize that I had some talent hidden away and I should keep on working on my photography.

Second would probably have to be Zedd. We are really close friends; so much so that I was able to hang around in his top secret studio while he worked on his upcoming album, which is a MONSTER. One of those rare albums where pretty much every track could be its own #1 hit; and I rarely come across albums like that. He’s just starting out, and we definitely are planning on doing a whole lot of work together when he gets even bigger in the future!

Do you listen to hip-hop ever? Who?
Not regularly, but I’m pretty much a fan of every genre of music. I still haven’t fully branched out into hip-hop for my music catalog (I love to just load up tons of music on my iPod and hit shuffle in the car).

Who is your all-time favorite DJ to photograph live? Why?
Again, I can’t really pick just one, there are way too many for various reasons. From Deadmau5 and his amazing production spectacle, to Dada Life and their champagne and bananas, to Steve Aoki and his crowd interaction, every DJ has their own reason why I love to photograph them.

You seem to be everywhere at once since there are so many DJs all over the world everyday of the week! How do you do it? When do you sleep?
I am always on the move it seems. Thankfully summertime I usually have a little bit of time off before tour season really starts, so I’m able to get some breaks here and there, and plan a family vacation to Tokyo.

I try to follow a “normal” sleep schedule as much as possible. I have to put priority of my health and well being over photography, as there can’t be good photos without it. I won’t be able to react quicker to capture any photos, or hold my hands stable enough with a lack of sleep. So for the most part, my schedule is sleep, eat, work on photos, shoot more photos, eat, sleep. Rarely during tours do I ever have a moment off to even explore the city; usually the best chance I get is when I’m looking for some food.

Is there anyone you haven’t shot and are dying for?
Probably Daft Punk is all that’s left on my EDM list. I saw them at Coachella and I did have a camera in hand, but since I knew I was witnessing something amazing, I felt I should actually enjoy what was going on without working. I rarely do that.

Who inspires you as a photographer?
Not to sound cheesy, but myself. When I take a picture that is amazing, it just inspires me to keep taking photos at that level and improve myself so the next time I take a photo like that, it’s even better. I sometimes reach that stage of creative depression where I think “Oh, nothing will top that picture I just took” but then I just surprise myself later when I do!

What advice do you have for the budding shutterbugs?
My favorite piece of advice is to make sure you find your personal eye for photography. Figure out your style; don’t spend all your life trying to emulate another photographer, that is a dead-end. Take photos the way you want to take them and make sure they make you happy, don’t try to make someone else happy. If people like your work, they will respect what you do.

What’s your fave software?
Adobe Lightroom is my program of choice for editing all the RAW photos I have. Can’t live without it!

Hardware?
Definitely my new Canon 1DX, it’s an amazing camera that helps get some shots I couldn’t get with earlier cameras! Every new technological innovation makes it a little easier to get those extreme low-light shots the way I want them.

Second would have to be my new laptop, a Dell Precision M6700. A lot of people are surprised I’m not a mac guy, but when you realize the MacBook Pro doesn’t have a great screen for photo editing (colors are a bit off even when calibrated, doesn’t have a full gamut of the color spectrum) it really helps having a beautiful 10-bit IPS panel with 100% sRGB color and more. No need to hook up an external monitor; the colors on my laptop are now the same as the colors as my pro monitor at home!

How has EDM’s explosion in the US change your career?
It’s done a lot to help boost it up, but not too much to change it. I’m still doing what I used to do, just a bit more now. More DJs I have worked with for years are starting to tour bigger and bigger venues, and more festivals are popping up. So pretty much EDM’s explosion has just provided me with the opportunity with more work, better “Rukes shots” (the behind-the-DJ fisheye shot with the entire crowd) and now with this exhibition at the W Hotel in Times Square, the ability for people to see what they missed the past few years, like the beginning of Skrillex when he first was hanging out with Deadmau5 in 2010 as “Sonny” and then later opening for his first Deadmau5 shows before “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”


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