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.