The Bunker New York
15 Years In The Making

The Bunker New York is more than just a party. It is a world-traveling, party machine that is connecting people and creating relationships through music curation and production. What started out as an intimate basement rave has grown to become a staple in the techno world.

It’s mission? To push the limits of what techno can be.

THE ORIGIN

The Bunker’s origin story begins in 1995 with Rod Smith and Mike Wolf throwing parties called the Polar Bear Club in Minneapolis, Minn. These lounge parties had a “free-for-all” approach when it came to music programming. Chris Sattinger [Timeblind] eventually became resident after bonding with Wolf while working at Rev 105 FM.

Sattinger reflects on the early days of PBC. “I remember going to one in 7th Street Entry with tables and tablecloths and everybody dressed up formally. They played lounge and exotica which was a really interesting thing to do in a grunge bar. After a while they veered into deeper weirder music (both Rod and Mike are deep and weird). I DJed at some events that Rod set up in 7th Street Entry. Rod was also involved with Depth Probe and the acid and techno parties that Kevin Cole pioneered. Even in the late ‘80s those guys were throwing acid house parties in warehouses.”

TONIC, 107 NORFOLK STREET, MANHATTAN

In early 2000 Wolf moved to New York City and started the East Coast chapter of the party; Sattinger soon followed. The party continued in the basement of Tonic on Norfolk Street, a Lower East Side venue that was once a kosher winery. The main floor of the space was home to a variety of shows. Polar Bear Club nights (which were known for eclectic sound) were held in the venue’s basement, subTonic. The space itself was a freeform, dirty underground with plenty of room to chill or dance. The DJ booth was crafted from wine barrels that someone cut a door into.

Enter Pittsburgh native Bryan Kasenic who moved to the city when he was 19 in 1997 to study filmmaking at New York University. In the early 2000s he was booking parties for Openair and at Halcyon on Smith Street, he was assisting with theAgriculture Records, as well as putting on warehouse parties. He explored sound while working as a music director and hosting two shows for WNYU radio.

On his radio show Beyond he would read a list of events to highlight local parties. These listings would also be sent out to emails which he collected the old-fashioned way – by paying someone to take a clipboard out to parties to gather contacts. As a regular at subTonic he was consistently pushing the venue’s events, which got him on the Polar Bear Club’s radar.

Sattinger and Wolf invited Kasenic to play at one of their final parties as a thank you for helping to promote their events. Eventually, Wolf left the Polar Bear Club in the hands of Sattinger. Although the eclectic sound brought an energy of unpredictable fun to the table, he was inspired to keep a consistent and steady dancefloor which meant more focused programming. He asked Kasenic (monikered Spinoza) to become a resident for this new endeavor. In January 2003, The Bunker was born.

Becoming The Bunker

I honestly can’t remember a ton about that gig, but I know I got some people to the party and there was dancing, which I think maybe convinced Timeblind I should be his new co-resident,” Kasenic says about his first time playing a PBC party. “I just remember being super stoked when Chris asked me to join him to throw the new weekly! subTonic was my regular hang and after four years of having a Sunday residency playing chillout music at Halcyon, I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to do a more late night Friday thing that had a small dancefloor.”

Until 3 a.m. the inaugural party brought the sounds of Radius and Paul Patterson. The description: “Tonight is the debut of the Bunker, a new weekly party I’m throwing with Timeblind. Timeblind and I will be playing eclectic ecstatic sounds that you can shake your ass too (or sit in an old wine cask and zone out to … the choice is yours).”

EARLY BUNKER FLYERS

The party’s new name was inspired by the atmosphere of subTonic – a dark, bunker-like basement. It became a favorite for so many because it was an affordable spot with a different vibe, a good crowd, and a meeting ground for great music; a recipe for regulars who considered the space as a second home of sorts. Kasenic says, “It was underground and it really did feel like a bunker. Now, if I knew that The Bunker would become my life’s work, I think I would have given it more thought and tried to come up with something more unique (there are a lot of techno Bunkers around the world), but at the time we were very excited when we picked the name.”

He continues, “I think the early days of The Bunker, we were very much in the spirit of the vibe and musical direction of PBC. We kept things very eclectic. We always knew things would have more of a techno / dance music slant though as that was very much a common ground between Timeblind (who was actually a Midwest techno legend) and I.”

klevervice

SHEL KIMEN [KLEVERVICE], 2008 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

Even though programming for the parties became more focused, they maintained a diverse range stretching anywhere from experimental to 4×4 heaters, and the sonic crevices in between. After Sattinger moved to Berlin in July 2003, Kasenic asked Karl Erhard [DJ Movement] and Shel Kimen [kleverVice] to join as residents.

Both residents of Undercity, Kimen and Kasenic met at the old Halcyon. “We started playing other parties together, mostly underground warehouse type things. And had a few trials with our own parties in random bars. I’d been a guest DJ at most of the Tonic parties including Polar Bear Club,” Kimen says. “It seemed like a natural evolution and it was super exciting. It was such an unusual space and known for experimentation, of every kind. So that was perfect for me. I could play noise and Dutch electro pop and Outkast and ‘70s German electronic in one night, in one set, and somehow it worked. I played early, kept things weird. And Bryan was/remains one of my musical shamans. He always finds the best of the best and played it in unique ways, regardless of genre. So it was a lot of fun.”

She reflects on those early days. “While we did have a few dead nights, pretty much something amazing happened every week. If the energy was right Bryan would tease the crowd with a record he would only play if the energy was right. And it was thrilling to watch people just go nuts. But I also liked when we started organizing the ‘rock’ parties upstairs and suddenly we had this extreme cross-over of audiences listening to Animal Collective or Japanther upstairs and accidentally ending up in a techno party downstairs. I honestly hadn’t seen this kind of crossover since Medussa’s in Chicago the ’80s.”

The bunker brings change and yet feels like ‘home.’ I think it has (at least) two really powerful dimensions. It is exceptionally progressive, knowing how to stay ahead and avoiding ‘trendy’ while respecting and honoring roots and the intimacy required for strong community. That feels pretty good to me.” – SHEL KIMEN

Bunker started to really pick up steam in 2004 as they incorporated both floors of Tonic. In September that year for Kasenic’s birthday the sounds of Dan Bell, Perlon’s Sammy Dee, Delia & Gavin, and Blood On The Wall took over the basement and main level of the venue. The crowds would mix and in turn would grow.

Derek Plaslaiko made the move to NYC by way of Detroit in the summer that year. The Bunker, he says, reminded him of early ‘90s raves in Detroit. “I don’t remember who played that night or anything like that. Somebody had brought me there, though I can’t quite recall who,” he says about his first Bunker. “I just went there and looked around and listened and was like, ‘This is where I want to be’. From the fact that it was in a pretty dirty basement, to the wine casks converted into semi-private seated areas: it just felt perfect!”

derek plaslaiko bryan kasenic

DEREK PLASLAIKO & BRYAN KASENIC, 2006

He was hooked. Plaslaiko was one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. Those early days “I liked how diverse the music was. That some nights you would go and get your face blown off with just fantastic dance music, and then on other nights it could be completely ambient/experimental. And the crowd that came embraced that! It really felt like the DIY aspect of the Detroit scene that I left behind to move to NYC.” This dedication (and blossoming friendship) brought Kasenic to ask Plaslaiko to be a resident.

In 2005 Ivy Feraco [Unjust] played at Bunker. “My friend Adrian Michna (from Secret Frequency Crew and Ghostly’s Michna) got me the gig. Bryan seemed to really enjoy the set I played and afterwards when I moved there, I think I played again and Bryan asked me to be a resident and help out – like when Bryan went out of town I’d host. From then on I was playing just about every week,” she says.

SubTonic, she says, “wasn’t very big and you could connect with the crowd easily. It was also unique in that it had wooden barrels which you could sit inside, and that also helped the acoustics.” The space was small and intimate – a bar with a dancefloor, she explained. “You knew you could easily meet with someone and hang with the people there. Bunker was a party where friends could meet and get loose to good music. People would just go every week to hang out drink and dance.”

Her list of favorite Bunker moments is extensive. “Some highlights were having heroes of mine like Akufen and Zip play the same night,” she says. “Prosumer playing ‘Funk Dat’ at a limited party? It felt very gratifying to hear that, like confirmation. Surgeon playing when the night was at Public Assembly and just playing an unreal set, going from Patrick Cowley to Moodymann. BMG DJing an unreal set at Trans Pecos. BMG and Sal Principato saying they enjoyed a set I played.”

Since her time with Bunker she has been living in NYC. She has continued playing parties like Electro Strikes Back before subTonic closed, as well as throwing two parties in the last year. She is working to move to Lima, Peru to “get more time to produce and keep speaking Spanish, but I hope to keep coming back to Brooklyn and Miami for friends, family and music.”

eric cloutier

ERIC CLOUTIER, 2006 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

More folks started to enter the fold around 2006 and the list of residents began to grow. After Eric Cloutier played Bunker in December that year he was convinced NYC is where he needed to be and one month later moved from Detroit to the city. “When I first started going out, and especially playing in Detroit, there was a serious energy and vibe to everything – a community of sorts, for one, but just wholehearted love for the music,” he says. “Part of the reason I left Detroit was because that all seemed to have faded away – people were growing up and moving on, moving out, getting kids and families and such – and when I went to play at subTonic I was like ‘holy shit, this is exactly what I’ve been missing.’ It just struck a huge chord with me and I had to get myself to where I was feeling more connected.”

Cloutier and Berlin’s Jan Krueger [Hello?Repeat] became residents in 2009. And although the Bunker family has grown exponentially over the years, the core residents of today include NYC-based Kasenic, Mike Servito, and Patrick Russell, with Plaslaiko and Cloutier hailing from Berlin. 

Being a resident of The Bunker means quite a lot. Not only has it been great to align with a New York techno institution, but also to join the ranks of talented residents Derek Plaslaiko, Mike Servito, and Eric Cloutier, who were all friends of mine back in Detroit. It just makes sense,” Russell says.

Cloutier adds, “It’s family at this point. Bryan’s been one of my closest friends since damn near the time I moved to NYC and still since I’ve left, but everyone that’s a part of The Bunker is a brother or sister at this juncture. I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of something I believe so strongly in and wear as a badge everywhere I go on this planet to play. I’m well aware of the responsibility and I would never want to let The Bunker down. And, to be honest, there’s a comedic irony that every single resident DJ, save for Bryan, is from Detroit, so…there’s that connection as well.”

But in 2006 there was one very influential person who joined the team: Seze Devres. Not only did she work the party as hostess but she was Bunker’s photographer and graphic designer. For years she documented every event, as well as created each flyer and poster.

The Look

Before her photography career really blossomed, Seze Devres was a freelance graphic and web designer for about 15 years. She originally taught herself HTML, WordPress, and Photoshop to promote her photography and party Kiss & Tell. Kasenic needed a designer so Devres stepped in to take on that role for Bunker.

“It was still a weekly party at subTonic then, I mostly used my own photography as a base and then we had multiple weeks listed in the same flyer. The initial images we used were my fine art work, abstract camera-less images, called photograms. They were very psychedelic images overlayed with blocky text. Eventually, I made a separate flyer for each party. Those were especially fun to make; I would take a new studio still-life image for each one. We would hang the new flyer at the party to announce the new lineup and it would be awesome to witness people’s excitement.”

seze devres

SEZE DEVRES, 2007

Looking back at the flyers now I am still pretty happy with the images I used even though the fonts seem kind of a bit dated to me now. My favorite flyers showcase my cats and botanical images, obviously. I also had a blast designing the Blood & Thunder flyers, a debaucherous New Years Eve 18-hour rager we threw a few times. I created an iconic crest for each DJ, which was great for the promotion. Another design I am especially fond of are the Unsound Festival postcards I created by scanning vintage Polish stamps from my stamp collection. I also really love the brutalist font and abstract grainy images I used for the Ostgut/Berghain residents collaboration we had.”

In addition to constructing the visual aesthetic of the parties she worked as Bunker’s photographer and hostess for ten years until her divorce with Kasenic. Devres became the eyes and mirror of the party’s dancefloor. She documented each party with photos, and would also take resident portraits in her at-home studio for visiting artists who would stay in their loft.

STUDIO PORTRAITS BY SEZE (CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT) ANTENES, TIN MAN, CARLOS SOUFFRONT, ERIKA, ROMANS, JUSTIN CUDMORE, MIKE SERVITO, ATOM AND TOBIAS

Taking photos at the party gave me really amazing creative outlet that defined how the party was represented online. It helped me socialize, feel less awkward at the party by giving me something to do or escape to. I often met people many years after I took their photo at the party. For most people who didn’t live in NY, it was a way for them to live vicariously through my photos. Shooting and editing the party photos every week really trained me to get super good at my craft and learn how to take well exposed photos in almost total darkness, even if I wasn’t remotely sober. I can take a photograph in any lighting situation now. Most of the time I caught people dancing and they were not even aware I was there. I was always respectful and tried not to post any unflattering images, since the guests were often high or deep in their dancing vibe. I even edited out some incriminating stuff, let’s leave it at that,” she says with a laugh.

But as Bunker began to evolve and grow, as did she. “Social media started to consume us more, and people wanted to tune out, dance, and become more anonymous when they went out. The need for the photos of each party seemed less relevant,” she says. The audience became more concentrated with “heads” and nightlife photographers became more popular which made her role feel less special. Eventually, “I wanted to just go to the party and enjoy myself without having to carry my precious camera and worry about taking photos all the time.”

She adds, “I have a photo of almost every single artist that played The Bunker. My images have spanned through so many avenues and it is wonderful to be a part of the fabric of the music I love and enjoy so much. I am proud to have this huge archive of images, and it also helps me trigger my memory of what happened each night.”

Not only did she experience the ebbs and flows of the party itself, Devres was witness to the growth of Bunker’s infrastructure. “I loved seeing younger guests eventually start to make music influenced by the party and become quite successful. Kids who would help Bryan carry speakers and break down at the end of the night became residents and some are now artists on the label. Basically if you want to be a part of something, roll up your sleeves and help make it happen. The Bunker is and was a special community of so many people working together.”

Devres let go of her role as Bunker’s designer in 2012. She says, “The silver lining was that by no longer doing design for anyone but myself, I was able to focus solely on my portrait and event photography. Eventually, I created new press photos for all the residents, many of which are still being used today.”

By January 2013 Common Name took over Bunker’s graphic work. The New York-based design company, comprised by Yoonjai Choi and Ken Meier, create all of the event flyers, images for podcasts, label artwork, and did a re-design of the website and logo. “It’s been super nice to see their system develop, and to have a look that is consistent across everything we do,” Kasenic says.

The Bust

Although Bunker felt right at home at subTonic they began outgrowing the space and most weeks it would become uncomfortably packed. Manhattan at the time, Kasenic adds, became an unwelcoming space for parties and subTonic was “one of the last decent places you could really party in Manhattan.”  

There was one fateful party at subTonic during February 2007 that changed everything and impacted the Bunker evolution. Matthew Dear was playing; NYPD shut the party and the basement space down as it became apparent it was operating illegally for about seven years. Bunker threw parties upstairs at Tonic for a few months until the entire venue was shut down for good.

CROWD AT MATTHEW DEAR, SUBTONIC, 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

The crew relocated to Lunar Lounge in Williamsburg. Kasenic and most of his friends lived in the area at the time “so it just felt like a really natural move (even though quite a few people told me I was crazy for moving to Brooklyn at the time.” Shortly thereafter the party moved to Galapagos “which was really just the perfect fit for the natural evolution of the party.” This era was also when Kasenic bought a soundsystem, and each week for about five months he and Plaslaiko would setup and teardown. It spurred a new timeline and growth of Bunker’s attention to impeccable sound.

By 2008 Galapagos sold and became Public Assembly, where Bunker continued to refine their parties. The decor got darker, the crowd got bigger, the parties went later, and began to engage dancers with two rooms of music.

Public Assembly Shuts Down

Public Assembly was an integral venue for the party. But after a six-year run the venue closed in May 2013. Kasenic approached Shawn Schwartz of Output to help transfer all future bookings to the Williamsburg club.

Still never leaving the underground entirely, that year Bunker threw some parties at Trans-Pecos and K&K Buffet, a Chinese restaurant in Ridgewood. To this day Bunker has a keen eye and understanding for space. Solid venues stay in rotation depending on what works best for their programming.

In the past few years most of their local parties have been frequently hosted at Good Room, Nowadays, Elsewhere, Bossa Nova Civic Club, and Trans-Pecos, to name a few. Output and Good Room and all the other venues opening in Williamsburg came years later, and I’m honestly not sure any of that would have happened without The Bunker proving techno could succeed in the neighborhood,” Kasenic says. The multi-faceted party is not limited to one space, as Kasenic chooses venues based on the needs of the party.  

Most clubs that are going to present the kind of music we do at The Bunker tend to bring me in to check out the space before they open and Good Room was no different. I immediately liked the layout of the space and the folks who were working there. Right around the time Output really started to feel like it was no longer the right fit for The Bunker, Good Room opened and I moved my bigger events over there. It’s been really great to watch the space evolve over the years and become much more organized. I don’t feel like we have a single space I’d call home base at the moment, it’s kind of a roaming party. I try to put each party in the space that feels best for it.”

The Sound

While the location shifts made things interesting, it kept the crew on their toes and into a state of fine-tuning. Although not everyone knows Bunker’s entire origin story, there is one characteristic of the party that is blatantly apparent: a dedication to high-quality sound. The process to get to their current state all started with the “Beyond” system.

We used my personal soundsystem that I bought when we left subTonic, because we moved to bigger venues that didn’t really have sound that was up to our standards,” Kasenic says. Chris McNaughty [McNaughton] became Bunker’s sound guru after they met in 2005. With a dbx DriveRack and an ear for speaker placement at Galapagos “he really helped tremendously.” During this time they stored the system at the space and set up each week. “It was a huge pain in the ass but I think it was worth it. In retrospect the system wasn’t much compared to what we play on these days, but it was probably the best system in town where interesting techno was being played every week,” Kasenic continues.

BUNKER 8 YEAR ANNIVERSARY, OPTIMO, 2011 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

The biggest difference between Bunker then versus now according to Cloutier? “I don’t have to load an entire SUV with Bryan’s sound system and set it up at 8 p.m. anymore,” he says with a laugh. “Seriously though…if I never have to build those stacks ever again I’d be thrilled. But to be completely honest, that was actually one of the things that really brought me, Derek and Bryan together every week – the sweaty work making something from nothing in the backroom of Public Assembly and feeling massively connected to the party from start to finish. I’m not as connected that deeply because I’m in Berlin and not at every event, but I’m still a part of the team, obviously, but its one thing to toil it out, then weekly and eventually monthly, as hard as we did compared to a bit more hands-off with Tsunami sound and ‘real’ clubs with their own staff. But definitely one thing that has never changed is Bryan’s unending love for the party, his residents, his staff, and the attention to detail that makes every person that comes through the door feel like they’re welcomed in to his home.”

Nik Grabowski (aka NikSound) helped engineer sound for Blood and Thunder III and every party following until 2015. Taking things to the next level, Kasenic says “Nik was a true professional and I still think about how amazing he made that back room of Public Assembly sound from then on out. He really set the tone and set us above and beyond our wildest expectations of what The Bunker could sound like.”

Lately the parties mostly take place in venues with established professional systems. Sometimes Bunker will bring in some extra sound. “We’re very lucky to have a group of venues we can use in Brooklyn now that all have great sound, so we rarely need to supplement or provide a system, but that was just a far off dream when we first got started,” he says.

The Collaborations

The tiny basement party has since grown not only in size at home in NYC, but has partnered with numerous high-caliber institutions and festivals.

A transcontinental connection in 2010 became a pivotal moment as Bunker started a collaborative effort with Berlin’s Berghain/Panorama Bar. Kasenic reached out to Ostgut with an idea for a quarterly showcase series. “I was just really enthusiastic about everything they were doing at the time (and I still am), so it just felt like a great fit and those parties were very successful. I think it started a bit of an exchange between The Bunker and Ostgut, which continues to this day and has always felt perfectly natural.” One of the highlights of his entire DJ career, he says, was being asked to play Panorama Bar alongside Plaslaiko and Cloutier in 2012.

The series itself took place at Public Assembly, with two rooms dedicated to reflect the two spaces of the legendary Berlin venue. Guests have included Germany’s beloved residents Marcel Dettmann, Steffi, Ben Klock, nd_baumecker, Surgeon, Marcel Fengler, Ryan Elliott, Tama Sumo, Tobias, and Prosumer.

 

berghain bunker

BERGHAIN x BUNKER (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) SURGEON, ND_BAUMECKER, TAMA SUMO, RYAN ELLIOTT, TOBIAS, PROSUMER, MARCEL FENGLER, BEN KLOCK, STEFFI [PHOTOS BY SEZE]

I think that both Ostgut and The Bunker appreciate a proper party in the right environment that puts the quality of music first, so the relationship has always worked,” Kasenic says.

Switching roles in February 2015 and 2016 Bunker residents made their way to Germany for a full label showcase for Klubnacht. Those bills included Kasenic, Voices From The Lake, Peter Van Hoesen, Plaslaiko, Cloutier, Marco Shuttle, Len Faki, Mark Verbos, Romans, Løt.te, Patrick Russell, Function, Clay Wilson, DJ Nobu and Efdemin.

“Those were just tremendous honors, really special nights that are impossible to put into words. I do remember having a conversation with Derek at the 2015 one where we were both just kind of like, ‘Holy shit can you believe The Bunker has come this far??? We NEVER would have believed this was possible when we started this thing!’” – BRYAN KASENIC

During 2010 Bunker’s reach stretched even further, as Kasenic started working with Unsound (a festival based in Kraków, Poland) to host a sister event in NYC. This experience, he says, was eye-opening. “Mat and Gosia from Unsound taught me a lot about working with cultural institutes to get grants to make things happen, which is something I’d barely thought about until then. It also kicked my production chops up a few levels as accommodating so many artists in town at once provide challenges on a level I’d never experienced before. I think doing those bigger Unsound events proved to me that I could do even bigger events on my own, and helped the party grow.”

And it truly did.

Bunker started to really spread on a global level. After falling in love with Montreal’s MUTEK Festival, Bunker hosted an annual Brooklyn preview party for three years in hopes of inspiring others to make their way up North. Those lineups included names like Claro Intelecto, Andy Stott, Pangaea, Efdemin, Vincent Lamieux, Cheap & Deep, Akufen, and Stephen Beaupre, to name a few. There were a few collaborations nights with Netherland-based Clone Records, also. Bunker itself was being showcased internationally at Air Tokyo as well as Stereo Montreal. Even back at home, Bunker teamed up with the critically acclaimed Unter to host a 36-hour party at Paperbox and the Market Hotel in March, July and September 2016.

Russell says, “The Bunker filled a significant gap in NY when the underground techno scene was somewhat in remission, so in a way Bryan helped keep a particular part of the scene alive and thriving during those times. In addition, he brought in global talent that the run-of-the-mill clubs weren’t quite hip to yet, and helped make them household names here in the US – artists like Donato Dozzy, Demdike Stare, and the Ostgut Ton crew, just to name a few.”

The list goes on, with events at the Compound in San Francisco, Communikey in Denver, a partnership with Osgut Ton, a 6-hour showcase at Sustain-Release, Concrete Paris, and also Inciting in Philadelphia. Not to mention Bunker had its first full label showcase during Denver’s Great American Techno Festival in 2014. That evening in October featured live sounds from Clay Wilson, Leisure Muffin, Løt.te, Zemi17, and DJ sets from Servito, Ulysses, and Kasenic.

Most notable, though, is the long standing relationship between Bunker and Interdimensional Transmissions. The energy and connection between these two crews is symbiotic. With many Bunker nights in the caverns of Detroit, or the Midwest bringing No Way Back to the East Coast.

ERIKA SHERMAN, 2011, BRENDAN GILLEN , 2010 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

Interdimensional Transmission’s Brendan Gillen says, “We really get along on a creative level, they recognize what we do that’s unique and we see that in them. We share much of the same taste, especially for heady jams and incredible Midwestern DJs.” When it comes to the compatibility between the two crews he says, “It’s effortless. We just happen to love so many of the same things, that it just makes sense to collaborate. And through the collaboration we’ve become good friends.”

The New Year Parties

Ringing in the New Year with Bunker became a staple for many. On one of the biggest party nights of the year (especially in NYC) their aim was to provide a party space for friends and family free from amateurs. Sattinger and Kasenic continued the tradition from the Polar Bear Club into the first year of Bunker with a very intimate party. 

Then on the first of January 2007 they hosted the first in a series of parties called “Blood and Thunder.”

BLOOD & THUNDER FLYERS [ARTWORK BY SEZE]

Derek Plaslaiko came up with the name. The idea seemed pretty ridiculous at the time: to do an 18 hour afterparty on New Year’s Day,” Kasenic says. It followed an all-night party he threw at 12-turn-13 with Wolf + Lamb. “Basically, Seth Troxler, Derek Plaslaiko and Taimur Agha played together for the entire 18 hours [of Blood and Thunder]. If memory serves they took a break at some point so Function could do a brief set, and that was shortly before he moved to Berlin and the whole Sandwell District thing kicked his DJ career into overdrive. This one really set the tone for the next few years to come and is one of my most memorable NYEs. I actually met my current girlfriend Catherine Eberhardt for the first time that night. It seems like we were all so young at that point and there weren’t a ton of crazy afterhours, especially public ones happening in NYC at the time so it really caught NYC by surprise in a way.”

The following year “another pretty legendary” Blood and Thunder took place at Galapagos, the former Public Assembly. By 2009 the third edition of the party expanded to both rooms of Public Assembly. The fourth and final Blood and Thunder took place in 2010. Kasenic says it was “a good time, but it felt like the party had really run its course and competition had become pretty heavy with lots of other late night afterhours things in Brooklyn, so we ended it with that. The Alex Smoke set was particularly amazing and was for sure the highlight of the night.”

BLOOD & THUNDER 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

But this did not keep Bunker from continuing the annual toast to auld lang syne. Newworldacquarium played for the first NYE edition of The Bunker Limited. “Mike Servito blew the roof off that night and I think it’s when I decided he HAD to become a resident DJ. He accepted that offer and the rest is history,” Kasenic recalls.

From 2013-2015 the New Year’s parties were held at Trans-Pecos with lineups limited to family and friends “and the crowd was always the best mix of our close friends and mega fans, so those were all amazing and the perfect way to spend a nice NYE away from the crowds.”

In a constant state of balance, as the party grows Kasenic understands and pushes to maintain a space where roots can be revisited. The early days. When Bunker was an intimate community.

The Bunker Limited

BUNKER LIMITED 2011 [ARTWORK BY SEZE]

As big as things were growing, the crew knew it was important to keep alive that tight-knit atmosphere that the party was born in. It was November 2010 when Kasenic used the 70 North 6th Street Loft to throw a party. Just above Public Assembly became home to the Bunker Limited. These loft parties – which would run from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. – kept Kasenic in touch with the original vision of Bunker. Narrowed down to a maximum of 150 presale tickets, Bunker Limited allowed DJs to really take the dancer on a journey with an extended set in an intimate setting.

A lot of my closest friends and biggest fans (and myself) were missing the earlier, more intimate days of the party,” Kasenic says. “So the idea was born to charge a higher ticket price, just bring in one DJ for the entire night (something I had grown to love in my early days of NYC clubbing), and limit the number of ticket sales to keep it from getting too crowded inside.” No cameras and no guestlist.

The concept was a huge hit with my core audience and I continue those parties to this day whenever I have an appropriate venue for it,” he continues. “I think the energy and vibe of these parties really kept things interesting to my closest friends and biggest fans of the party and breathed some new life into it.”

The Podcasts

Since 2008 The Bunker Podcast has been churning out music, with a total of 169 episodes released. Each mix of the series can be found archived and available for download.

We started it at a time when very few techno podcasts existed (before SoundCloud made things a lot easier). It was originally made up of recordings made of sets at the parties,” Kasenic says. “Now the podcast is mostly recordings people make at home. It’s really just meant as a way for people around the world who can’t necessarily make it to the parties to hear the kind of music we present at The Bunker. With the growing label roster over the past few years, it’s become a really nice way to keep everyone from the family in the mix. We also often present podcasts now from artists not in the immediate family who will be performing soon at one of our events. As a whole, I think the podcast really does a great job of tracing the musical evolution of the party over the years.”

Additionally, in 2016 Bunker New York launched a “a trip through psychedelic electronics“ radio show on Red Bull Music Academy. Airing every first and third Thursday of the month past shows have hosted residents and artists that exude that Bunker energy. 

I always do somewhat extended interviews with the artists on the radio in addition to their DJ or live sets. I think this really gives our fanbase who don’t personally know all of these artists like I do to get a view into their personalities and learn more about them,” he continues. “I was a bit skeptical about starting a radio show, but found out I missed doing it (I started out doing many years of college radio), and really enjoy producing the show.”

The Record Label

Kasenic always wanted to start a record label but couldn’t find the right time until his motivation became serious in 2012. That year Bunker parties were being hosted frequently at Output which helped lighten the load enough to get the project going. In the hopes of forming a deeper connection than just throwing parties, the creation of the label helped Bunker’s concept grow in complexity. Two years later the label launched.

Throughout 2013 he was reaching out to artists (both established and unfamiliar) asking for productions. By year’s end he had four EPs ready to release. Now, there are 31 records, including one digital-only compilation for the 15 year anniversary of Bunker.

Conceptually, the record label really stretches beyond itself. Each release is like a snapshot of what The Bunker is while somehow simultaneously creating the evolution of its own identity with each new production. Pieces of wax and soundwaves become fragments of a whole, constantly morphing while somehow still maintaining a core essence. Even beyond the dancefloor, there is still a kinetic energy unfolding.  

Creating this label continued to teach Kasenic even more about the meaning of the creative process, how relationships with each artist vary, and how each connects to their creativity in a totally different way. The label has always served as an outlet for music from artists who feel inspired by what they’ve experienced at The Bunker parties,” he says.

The Agency

In addition to the parties, the label, and everything else Bunker entails, Kasenic also runs a North American agency – Beyond Bookings – along with Michelle Erfer. The growing list includes 28 resident DJs and label artists that Bunker represents. 

The Celebration – 15 Years In The Making

This year The Bunker celebrates 15 years of music, parties, and memories. To commemorate the anniversary the label released 15 Years Of The Bunker [BK-031]. The 26-track digital-only compilation was released in January this year featuring work from some usual suspects and more.

I really think the music speaks for itself on that one, I’m incredibly proud of how well that turned out and super grateful to my family of artists for doing such an amazing job,” Kasenic says.

Of course The Bunker will also be toasting the milestone with parties around the world. Coming up during Movement weekend in Detroit, Interdimensional Transmissions will host Bunker on Monday night at Tangent Gallery for the second edition of 313: Return To The Source – a three-day party series. “It’s our third Monday night party produced by Interdimensional Transmissions at Tangent, and it’s been great fun to evolve the concept of the party with Brendan and Erika each year,” Kasenic says.

This year the party will run from 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. on Monday, May 28. The Dance Room will present specially curated DJ pairings from Jane Fitz and Eric Cloutier, Function and Adam X, and Mike Servito with Bryan Kasenic. A new addition will take form as The Come Down Room where dancers are invited to take a breather and chill-out. Seating will be available for music that is “not quite beatless ambient music, but not really pushing the dance floor either, exploring the mind via incredibly strange music. We’ll be exploring the more downtempo and straight up demented side of The Bunker, the stuff that falls between the cracks of boring genre distinctions.” Sounds will be provided by Gunnar Haslam, Abby Echiverri, Clay Wilson and rrao, Beau Wanzer, and Stallone The Reducer.

Gillen says he is most excited for “all the collaborative sets, from the closing set of Jane Fitz & Eric Cloutier, to whatever happens for the Function & Adam X thing, we look forward to hearing those sounds, but also in the Come Down room hearing what Beau Wanzer & Stallone the Reducer have chosen to blow our minds.”

I.T.’s Erika Sherman adds, “We just saw Abby Echiverri deliver an amazing live set at the Gays Hate Techno campout, and really looking forward to hearing what she comes up with for this context.”

What is it about The Bunker that has inspired 15 years of creativity? For one: serious dedication and undying passion as the foundation.
Plaslaiko says, “I think a lot of it has to do with the underground aesthetic, even though the parties are all thrown in legal venues. The music is always stellar, and Bryan really doesn’t want to just get whoever is the hottest thing in dance music. He’s very careful about who he decides to bring out. Nearly all of the artists who play The Bunker are of the same mindset when it comes to this music, and they’re not trying to be superstars. And we all seem to make new friends when someone comes out. I know that’s more about our experience with the artists, but I think that same mentality gets transmitted to the people who attend the party. So, when you’ve kinda been doing things the way Bryan has for the last 15 years, the right people seem to notice.”
People have, people do, and will continue to notice. Join the celebration if you find yourself in Detroit this weekend. Pre-sale tickets are still available and can be purchased through Resident Advisor.

Sequencer asks: Did you ever expect Bunker to become what it is today?

“Well no, but I invited Bryan to take over because I knew he would do something with it. Mike and I just liked to play records. Occasionally I would make a flyer. We did book some great artists though.” – Chris Sattinger

“You know, I’m really not sure! I guess I’m not surprised that it’s still going strong, but I’m somewhat surprised (and proud) that it’s gotten to where it has. It’s been a long journey! And Bryan has done a fantastic job of keeping it up to code for the tenure of the party.” – Derek Plaslaiko

No.” – Ivy Feracco

I don’t think you think about the future when you are enjoying the moment. In hindsight, it’s not surprising. Bryan has an incredible work ethic. Has spent his life building up a community and surrounding himself with great people. And he loves what he does. Passion and dedication typically make big things. But no, If you had asked me then I couldn’t have guessed.” – Shel Kimen

Yes, Bryan always had a very clear vision to promote a specific group of artists through the radio show, booking agency, party, record label. It is exactly what I envisioned it would become. The only surprise is that I am no longer a part of it all. And I am ok with that.” – Seze Devres

“I don’t think I realized what I aligned myself with at the time. I knew it was special and I knew a connection was made early on with The Bunker New York. I think we are all in that kind of ‘surprise!’ moment by the growth and success it’s having after all these years! I also believe it was inevitable that The Bunker would evolve and make its mark. I think we all believed in the establishment and what it stands for. You don’t have this kind of longevity just by luck. Bryan Kasenic is brilliant and intelligent and has a vision that’s being realized. I think The Bunker New York is a very special work in progress with ideas and intentions that stay true to it’s sound and aesthetics. I think we are all looking forward to the future of it all.” – Mike Servito

Honestly, yes, totally. I’ve seen how Byran has slowly and steadily built the brand in a very calculated yet entirely genuine way, and those kind of honest maneuvers resonate with people worldwide easily. The whole aspect of The Bunker has been to tell our musical stories truthfully and without outside influence and I think Bryan, and every one of the residents and artists on the label, have done just that, and thusly its become a ‘thing.’” – Eric Cloutier

The first Bunker I attended was in 2006 at subTonic, and it’s been great to watch it grow larger and stronger over the last 12 years. With the addition of the label and now events all over the globe, I can’t wait to see where it goes next.” – Patrick Russell

Yes of course, the concepts are strong, open minded and they get the message out there. Also, the group of people they’ve cultivated in their home city that attend their events and make them so special… you would just expect the waves of this to resonate.” – Brendan Gillen

ANTHONY PARASOLE, MARCEL DETTMANN, SEZE DEVRES, 2009 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

DEREK PLASLAIKO, DANIEL BELL, BRYAN KASENIC, 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

MIKE SERVITO, 2010 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

DONATO DOZZY, 2010 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

BLOOD AND THUNDER, 2008 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

PATRICK RUSSELL, 2011 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

BUNKER 6 YEAR ANNIVERSARY, MARCEL DETTMANN, 2009 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

BUNKER CREW, 2011 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

TIMEBLIND, 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

303 PARTY, CARLOS SOUFFRONT, 2006 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

BRYAN KASENIC, 2009 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

WOLF & LAMB AT GALAPAGOS, 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

DEREK PLASLAIKO, 2010 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

BLOOD AND THUNDER 2007 [PHOTO BY SEZE]

Signal > Noise Mix Series Shines Light On WNY

The I-90 might be just a stretch of pavement but it has served as an influential link in the growth of the Western New York dance community. When told there’s a scene Upstate, those who don’t know might respond with a look of surprise. But Rochester and Buffalo in particular have a strong rave history and future. These two cities are filled with pockets of people absolutely passionate about house and techno, and everything the music entails. There are folks throwing parties that leave DJs in awe. There are DJs in these cities that are deep diggers and ripe with talent. There are dancefloors in these symbiotic scenes that are intensely energetic.

Signal > Noise is a party in Rochester, N.Y. that really helped fuel the WNY scene to its current state. The first party was in 2015 and they have since booked high-octane artists such as Shawn Rudiman, Claude Young, Noncompliant, DJ Minx, Derek Plaslaiko, Eric Cloutier, Norm Talley, Bill Converse – the list goes on.

Joe Bucci, one of the founding S>N crew members, delves a little bit deeper and shares his perspective of the WNY network, its history and its current significance.

“The role we are playing as a region has grown immensely. I know that historically WNY played a huge role in the community. During the ‘90s and early 2000s this was a hub for the rave community. Hosting parties connecting cities. Caravans of heads driving from Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo to the Midwest and beyond. This predates my time here in the community but the guys who make up S>N with myself were part of that scene – that was their coming of age. It’s what helps fuel what we do now,” Bucci says. “What our community has morphed into is a powerhouse in my opinion. In four short years WNY has went from EDM, Bass parties, almost exclusively to what we have now which has evolved into a harmonious community. While those events still dominate the landscape just underneath that, you’ll find a rich scene. With ourselves and Sole Rehab operating out of Rochester and in Buffalo you have REDUX, Strange Allure, Aural Shift, and Pyramid. That’s not even including the one-off local nights, and Rufus Gibson‘s other venture at Gypsy Parlor with his monthly.”

He continues, “What I’m getting at is the local scene is on fire right now, each crew pushing the other to up their game in the friendliest of ways. We all try to work together to balance calendars, bookings. Trying to support each other. While bringing in some of the finest talent that is out there. At first it took some selling to get artists to come play our corner of the state. Perennially overlooked for NYC or Toronto. Now tours are being booked with WNY in mind. That is a quick change in four years. Each crew puts in work to create their vibe and aesthetic. But if the people do not show up it might as well be done in a vacuum. That hearkens to the people who attend the events and make up the community. They are the fabric of it all.”

Don’t Trust Humans, based out of Chicago and Portland, published a run of mixes that showcased each cities talent. Inspired by this Bucci established the Signals mix series about a year ago. It is “a great way to learn about what the local artists sound like and gives you almost an overall vibe of what is defining the local sound,” he says. “Our local community is made up of primarily Rochester and Buffalo artists; let me tell you there are some really talented people between these two cities.”

Each week for the month of April Signals hosted a “/WNY/:Love*” series showcasing five artists from Buffalo and Rochester. “Everyone we chose for this are fantastic artists in their own right. Each has the ability to craft a set and move a party,” Bucci says. “It’s fun to listen to how each artist can craft a mix. Is it just grab what I’m diggin’ right now and enjoy? Is it more of a journey? To see what story is told by each contributor is exciting.”

BFLO LYDIA [LYDIA WROBEL]

Bucci: “I absolutely love Lydia’s style. Energy, knowledge and an ear for great tracks. She’s played a few of our parties and we consider her close family. Watching her move from vinyl to digital has been fun. I was surprised when she cut the mix it wasn’t all vinyl. Her ability to craft a set is on full display with this one. A lot of fun. Lydia truly is a foundation member of our community. It was only fitting to have her contribute.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Lydia: I love that there are layers (generations) of people who’ve experienced the WNY scene who may not have known each other at the time they experienced it, but that WNY still provides that connection as people move on to other/different/bigger scenes. Example: I might tag a friend living in Berlin or Toronto or wherever who I met through the Buffalo scene because another DJ with WNY roots is playing a night there in that city that I think the first friend needs to check out. I also love that while we go out in our scene for the music, I feel a lot of times in Buffalo the dj or the music is an excuse to catch up with friends we’d not otherwise see. Obviously we go for the music always, but here it’s also quite a bit about meeting up with the good friends, despite or in spite of whoever happens to be playing. That’s what my nights were about when I threw them – getting the locals together for a raucous night of dancing and yelling and joking around.

 

NEW SPHERE ELECTRIC [ALEX FRENCH]

Bucci: “I asked Alex to contribute because his curating with Strange Allure is fantastic, their parties are fantastic and a not miss. Always bringing in amazing artists who are just flying under the radar or bringing in strong innovators like BMG and Erika. I wanted to showcase the local talent but as well the people behind the parties and what they dig. This guy knows music. He performs as New Sphere Electric on his own and as a duo in Pure and Supreme. Very talented guy. I was very excited to hear what he put together. It was most certainly a journey mix. Which I love – take me on a ride. Mission accomplished.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Alex: I’d say my favorite thing about the WNY dance community is how unpretentious it is. You get folks from a variety of backgrounds, some with little to no knowledge of underground dance music, all coming together simply to get down. The artists get to cut loose and the music can get as weird or wild as they want it to. It’s a very unifying experience as everyone gets to take chances and share in a unique experience that couldn’t take place in a lot of other cities.

 

NICKL [NICK GIORDANO]

Bucci: “I don’t know where to start with Nick. He is easily one of my favorite people. Very loving person who has a vibe about him that is magnetic. He does a great job putting together very danceable sets. High energy with a healthy dose of Diva. Nick has played for us a few times. Opening for Black Madonna as well as appearing at our Sunday Shit Show last year. Nick’s collective Sole Rehab throws killer parties. Great underground location, fantastic guests, thick vibe with a ton of raw energy. We are also fortunate to call Nick and the rest of his Sole Rehab crew as co-conspirators. For the last few years we’ve joined forces to help put on an unofficial Rochester Gay Pride event. Much like Jim and Lydia, Nick has been one of those people who are in the fabric of our WNY community.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Nick: The dancers (both the new and the veterans) trust the DJs. They are totally along for the ride. Which of course, makes for some really fun trips!

 

UVB76 [SHERRI MILLER AND MARIO FANONE]

Bucci: “I’m going to be honest these two are a mystery to me. I know I fucking love them both. I met them both at one of our first parties and have stayed friendly with them ever since. Sherri and Mario are each members of the Buffalo collective Strange Allure. Sherri has a magnetic energy about her and a very creative perspective. Mario: I know he is a strong well-rounded musician, but he is also a man of few words. That being said when you see the soon-to-be husband and wife duo together it all just flows. So the music they make together as UVB76 is represented of that. All live gear oriented style. I approached Sherri if they would be interested in doing anything after I heard a few things they had put together. Almost a year later here is the finished product. I’m pretty sure her and Mario went up to a cabin in the woods one weekend and recorded a bunch of stuff. This is the finished product of that cabin session. A 45 minute live belter of a mix.”

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?

Sherri: I love that our WNY dance community consists of some wonderful sweeties who are genuine, unpretentious, and pure fun. Our dance floors are happenin’ and the sound is on point. There’s a reasonable variety of quality events in interesting non-club spaces.

Mario: Even though the community here in Western New York may be smaller than other bigger cities I’ve visited, I feel like the passion and excitement for events is greater. I believe people tend to appreciate what we have, and don’t take the experiences we offer for granted. And we have so many talented people in our area that always inspire me to create music and art, and be more engaged in the scene myself. It’s a wonderful creative cycle that I hope continues for a long time.

 

JIM KEMPKES

Bucci: “S>N member and resident Jim also holds a title that I personally hold him to. Best DJ in WNY. He tells me ‘whatever,’ whenever I tell him this. But it’s my opinion. This guy is a encyclopedia of music. From Jazz to hip-hop to electronic. His ear for a track is fantastic and a hell of a technical DJ. When I relocated to Rochester from Chicago, Jim was one of the first local DJs I heard. After I heard the first five mins of his set, I knew I was going to be OK. At least there were guys like him around to keep me dancing. The fact that he is a S>N resident, color me lucky. Needless to say Jim, like Lydia, is another foundation member of our community who has been at this since the ‘90s. No better person to help represent what Rochester has.”

 

What do you love most about the Western New York dance community?
Jim: The intimacy, family-vibe, collaborative spirit, and authenticity.

 

Head on over to the Signal > Noise Soundcloud and dig into these stellar mixes, or perhaps one of the live recordings from their parties like when Sassmouth and Shawn Rudiman rocked a warehouse space, when Gay Marvine brought sounds for Pride, or Derek Plaslaiko‘s 6-hour set. Keep an eye on Western New York, and if you get a chance to hit one of their dancefloors – you should take it.