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 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.”
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).”
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.”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!”
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.”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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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.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.”
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.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 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.
“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.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.”“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.”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 LimitedAs 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.
April 2, 2011 / Prosumer 8-hour set @ Public Assembly Loft
July 22, 2011 / Petre Inspirescu 8-hour set @ Public Assembly Loft
September 10, 2011 / Daniel Bell 8-hour set @ Public Assembly Loft
October 29, 2011 / Function 6-hour set / Eric Cloutier @ Public Assembly Loft
December 31, 2011 / Newworldaquarium / Mike Servito / Spinoza / Eric Cloutier @ Public Assembly Loft
February 17, 2012 / Peter Van Hoesen 8-hour set @ Public Assembly Loft
December 31, 2013 / Chris Madak aka Bee Mask / Mark Verbos / Bryan Kasenic / Patrick Russell / Clay Wilson @ Trans-Pecos
February 22, 2014 / Carlos Souffront 8-hour set @ Trans-Pecos
June 12, 2014 / Derek Plaslaiko 8-hour set @ Trans-Pecos
July 19, 2014 / Objekt / Leisure Muffin / Zemi17 / Bryan Kasenic @ Trans-Pecos
August 16, 2014 / Patrick Russell 8-hour set @ Trans-Pecos
August 30, 2014 / The Black Madonna / Mike Servito / Bryan Kasenic @ Trans-Pecos
September 27, 2014 / VRIL / Ketteknkarussell / Konstantin @ Trans-Pecos
October 31, 2014 / Silent Servant 8-hour set @ Trans-Pecos
December 13, 2014 / Henning Baer / Mike Servito / Bryan Kasenic @ Trans-Pecos
December 31, 2014 / Prosumer / Mike Servito / Bryan Kasenic @ Trans-Pecos
February 21, 2015 / Regis / Talker/ Karl Meier / Mahssa @ Trans-Pecos
August 8, 2015 / Atom™ / Clay Wilson / Mike Servito / Brayn Kasenic @ Trans-Pecos
October 9, 2015 / Konstantin / DJ Dustin @ Trans-Pecos
November 21, 2015 / Ectomorph / BMG / Erika @ Trans-Pecos
December 12, 2015 / Marco Shuttle / Coward @ Trans-Pecos
December 31, 2015 / LA-4A / Patrick Russell / Bryan Kasenic / Nihal Ramchandani / Ken Meier @ Trans-Pecos
December 31, 2017 / Patrick Russell B2B Nihal Ramchandani / Antenes / Justin Cudmore / Unjust @ Brooklyn Warehouse
February 17, 2018 / Patrick Russell 8-hour set @ Nowadays
March 30, 2018 / Mike Servito 8-hour set @ Nowadays
May 19, 2018 / Marco Shuttle 8-hour set @ Nowadays
“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.”
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.
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.”
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
In a world where society is structured by gender being categorized in two opposite forms, Jarvi Schneider’s gender identity lands fluidly somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, free from segmented definition. Fully enveloped in Chicago’s queer scene, the self-identified nonbinary artist and DJ was raised as a child in the house and techno scene of Detroit.
Jarvi spent their adolescence in Ann Arbor, Mich., eventually moving on to Commerce Township until the end of high school, to finally land in East Lansing, Mich. before moving to Chicago in 2012. The move, Jarvi says, was “to finally free myself from a state of no jobs, lack of public transit, and extreme queerphobia and racism.” Due to this atmosphere and being a hairstylist by trade, the salon was a difficult environment to find comfortable footing in Michigan.
While living in Michigan Jarvi says that “even within the queer communities, there is a lot of ideas of what a queer person ‘should and should not be’ or ‘look like’ to really be accepted.” They came out officially as nonbinary about two years ago.
To identify as nonbinary means one does not identify as exclusively masculine or feminine. “I have always been androgynous. I have always been called a boy. I think the worst of it all was being forced into a queer identity (lesbian), because anything outside of the binary was even too much for suburban Detroit queers to grasp. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the term ‘nonbinary’ until I moved to Chicago, and even then I could hardly grasp it because of what I was accustomed to all my life. After some major trauma in my life, I realized that I had to make sure for the sake of my own brain and my chosen family, I had to be true to myself and who I am.”
Chicago for Jarvi meant better opportunities and was a cheaper and easier move from Michigan. “I sold my car, packed everything I owned into a Ford Excursion, and my cat, and I moved to Chicago knowing only a couple folks from high school, to start my new life.”
Jarvi is a member of the Naughty Bad Fun Collective crew, a resident of Planet Chicago night at Smartbar, and also runs and curates freaky queer club night Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel. Their introduction to the NBFC became a pivotal moment for Jarvi’s life in Chicago by experiencing an open, free environment and eventually learning the art of DJing.
“I found this crew (or maybe they found me) shortly after I moved to Chicago. They threw the best undergrounds in the city, always had the most welcoming vibes, and even outside of the rave we all became more than just people you hang with at the party,” Jarvi says. “After meeting Sam and the crew, I pretty much attended everything that NBFC did and started to help out with setup and tear down. Somewhere between that and the DJ lessons, I became one of the crew!”
It was just before Jarvi’s birthday in 2013 when God Particle label owner and NBFC’s Sam Kern (otherwise known as Sassmouth) gave them their first ever DJ lesson as a birthday gift. Jarvi says that “after two lessons we just vibed and kept working together. I think the bond we share is incredible because I have been listening to and attending techno and house events since childhood with my father, and not one friend or other DJ I have ever met had ever offered to teach me the craft. I’ve always known the music industry is a boys club, and having the opportunity to try to do something I loved and admired for years with a person who understands the struggle of not being a cis man in this scene, is easily the best gift I’ve ever received.”
The NBFC is comprised by Kern, Jarvi, Pat Bosman, Ryan Kelley, and a slew of other DJs, producers and artists that overtime have helped create and maintain the collective. The core crew shares roles collectively when it comes to bookings, design and direction. “That’s one of the best parts about working with these folks is that every last little bit of the vibe is created by all of us. I will say though that setting up sound has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can barely set up my TR8 to Ableton without referring to notes,” Jarvi says with a laugh.
For the month of March both Kern and Jarvi continue to use their established music platforms as a vessel to push and strengthen female, female-identified and queer artists, DJs and promoters by participating in Daphne. The month-long festival hosted by Smartbar will incorporate workshops and events to emphasize that mission. According to Jarvi, the biggest obstacle for women and queer persons is commodification.
“The constant struggle of, do you suck it up and go through it in hopes that you will get closer to being seen, heard, understood? I can’t tell you how many times I read an article about some white cis techno dude talking about his struggle not getting booked and having to work his awful 9-5 when all he wanted to do was play his Surgeon records for a packed underground rave. Sometimes it feels like there’s only a certain allotted amount of women-identifying and queer artists, and the recycling of the same ones can be frustrating not because they shouldn’t be getting all the gigs, but because there are so many of us in the world without exposure simply because so many people who are in charge of bookings don’t want to look. Probably because they don’t REALLY care. I think it’s also important to point out that if your women-identifying idols in music don’t help any other queer, women-identifying and nonbinary, or POC artists, they probably aren’t as progressive as you think.” – JARVI
Motivated by the frustration and with a desire to maintain personal and creative freedom, Jarvi started Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel a little over a year ago. The stage persona Acid Daddy came to fruition for Jarvi during Plastic Factory, the first party they were ever involved in at Berlin Nightclub.
“The party was a wild latex club-kid party with wacky installations and performances. La Spacer and I were the resident deejays for the Thursday night monthly, and it evolved somewhat from a joke in our group about how me and one of the other members were the ‘daddies’ of our group, and my love for acid house – among other things.”
Long after the Plastic Factory parties, Jarvi continued on harnessing the Acid Daddy energy. “I was up at a camping trip, Tentsex, when at some point in the weekend our generator runs out of – you guessed it – diesel. In a loopy state, I’m arguing with someone about how to get more fuel for the generator so we can get the music back up and running, and in stubborn Taurus fashion I storm off back to my tent. Sam happens to be in a porta potty and overhears me mumbling to myself something about ‘Acid Daddy, gimme that diesel’. The phrase stuck, and when I was given the chance to do my own party at Berlin [Nightclub], Acid Daddy’s Haus of Diesel just made sense!”
Acid Daddy is so much more than just a name. Jarvi says, “I think what is so important to me about this stage name (that may in the future develop into a moniker for music) is that it really represents the evolution of my gender identity and the happiness that comes from no longer being forced by society to be something I am not.” The name encapsulates and empowers Jarvi’s freedom from the oppressiveness of gender normative roles.
The house and techno scene is historically rooted in providing a free space for people of all types and expressions. There are so many artists, promoters, writers and DJs out there that continue to use the electronic music environment as a platform to promote cultural and social awareness, by cultivating a safe welcoming space. Yet, there are places within house and techno where those roots have been lost somehow. Our music scene is just a microcosm of our society at large.
To deviate from the normalities of any facet can result in a negative response from others. That’s what makes the dance floor so unbelievably significant. That’s what makes artists like Jarvi and so many others equally important. To understand that gender and sexuality are on a spectrum is to see that by inherently breaking binaries we are simply forming unity.
“The gender binary is just a way to keep cis men in control and women-identifying folks subservient. Even the most progressive cis folks I know still show me totally innocent ways of being affected by the binary. I think the most obvious is the inability to use gender neutral pronouns. Folks can learn a new hobby, how to operate a vehicle, or get a certificate/degree in a field they’ve never understood in their life but can’t incorporate a plural, nonbinary pronoun into their vocabulary when they already know the word. I struggled with the use of ‘they/them/theirs’ at first, and I identify that way. Sometimes I think folks can’t grasp the use of neutral pronouns because they still don’t really believe that it exists. I connect very much with femininity and that identity, but not 100 percent. I cannot really say that I relate to anything masculine, and honestly spent a lot of time trying to dismantle the binary connection with words, for example, ‘daddy’. NBD (nonbinary daddy) is a term we use out here in the Chicago queer scene a lot. I highly doubt I started that term, but it definitely fits like a glove.”
What does being nonbinary mean specifically for Jarvi?
“Grey area. In between. Not this, not that. I truly believe there are more nonbinary folks in this world that exist than cis folks. Once the term becomes more common in mainstream queer entertainment (because it has to start there before we get it across the board) I think a lot of folks who realized that this binary they’ve been forced into because of tradition and fear, really is not for them. Some days I feel like wearing a dress, sometimes I feel like wearing a suit, sometimes I feel like growing out my mustache and being topless in a leather chest harness, but not one of those outfit choices express any binary gender to me. when you erase that, you have so many less things to worry about because you just get to be you. However you want to feel or look, it’s just you.” – JARVI
Nonbinary folks fall within the overarching transgender category. By definition transgender denotes a person whose identity and gender do not correspond with their birth sex. Gender expression and identity is expansive and complex, yet simple at the core: people are who they are, and they should feel comfortable being and expressing themselves. But we live in a society where transphobia is very real, causing harm (in varying degrees) to those who identify beyond the binary.
Jarvi spoke a little bit deeper about experiences had alongside Chicago DJ/promoter Ariel Zetina. “My relationship with Ariel, be it romantic or platonic, has always provided us with struggles from the outside cis hetero and cis gay male groups. Whether it’s slurs stemming from binary-loving cis hetero normies, or the hyper-sexualization of both our nonbinary trans identities. By cis gay men, we both encounter negativity even in the most unlikely of places (i.e. queer spaces). I have learned so much from her, especially about POC trans and queer-related events, artists, and struggles that are otherwise swept under the rug so to speak in primarily white queer spaces (which is most of the spaces in Michigan).”
How can we help? Javi says: educate. “If you hear something offensive or hurtful, it’s pretty easy to respectfully explain why that isn’t tolerated and to enforce that strict no-tolerance of hate in spaces, whether it’s rave spaces or the dang super market.”
Music will continue to be the space for Jarvi where there is safety and love. It is so very clear that this deeply rooted passion has helped them evolve and grow into a true representation of themselves. Isn’t that what we’re all really striving for?
“I love music because it saved my life. It can say everything I can’t put into words. The music itself doesn’t judge me, it guides me. Without music I would never know the rave scene. I would never have found my chosen family in the underground where you can be anyone you want to be, as freaky and weird and out there as you want. Like-minded individuals all there together because the world doesn’t see us as the creative and beautiful individuals we are. PLUR forever.”
If 2016 did not already achieve the accolade, 2017 seems poised to be the year in which Acid House and Techno retake the forefront for DJs and connoisseurs alike. You may have noticed that European label Get Physical Music has started a pre-order page for their satirical hat declaring “Make Acid Great Again”. And it’s entirely true that if you’ve spent any time in reputable dance clubs in the last six months, you’ve probably heard the squirrely synth work of the coveted Roland TB-303 take an energetic and throbbing lead in techno sets the world over.
As the series name suggests, Alien Rain is a stamped white label limited press Acid series that embodies celestial strangeness. The tracks are foreign, frightening, and fortuitous, making listeners feel all sorts of weird. Alien Rain records lack any sort of accreditation for producers and bear only the entry number and a mysterious extraterrestrial friend on the stamp. The first installment actually came out in 2012, well before the resurgence of Acid styles into the mainstream, and with the current fondness for acid enticing new listeners while making old heads smile, this particular entry from 2013 is ready for any dark and dusty warehouse.
The lead track “Alienated 3A” is a true techno purebred that makes no attempts to appease people who need percussion to get into the groove. There is a sole pounding 4×4 kick drum and undulating sub bass that set the vibe from the first measure to the last. The filter on the 303 does not open much, creating a wonderful sense of anxiety. When it does, a very simple hi-hat on the upbeat pays the listener a visit as well, sending the tune into spaceship overdrive – only to land again on a distant planet when it calms back down. Discordant washes intermittently keep up the spacey vibe while the lead synth does its nasty, relentless work. What I love so much about this tune is that the notes in the acid loop itself stay intact for the entire nine and half minutes, which is more akin to classic techno than actual acid roots. Where originally acid was defined by exploratory solos of the 303, this tune causes the brain to naturally pick out different frequencies of the sound over time even when the filters are not changing. This fusion of techno purism with acid bass leads are what make this record sound like an old gem made in modern times. Absolutely scary stuff you’ll want to get abducted to.
“Alienated 3B” has a bit more accessibility to it. The kick drum is still in a straight 4×4 pattern, but is more distorted from saturation. There is a more defined sense of separate sections here thanks to a back-and-forth of the elements. A constant techno clang does, however, keep the pace every four beats but gets louder throughout the composition, and the 303 opens and closes more commonly than the A-side. The tune periodically lets in a sort of gust sound that I would imagine the wind on Neptune sounds like. A cymbal ride sample also adds a new dance floor-friendly dimension to the track, but the strict adherence to the same acid notes from start to finish solidifies the theme set forth by the first on the record. The tune comes off like a soundtrack for illegal street racing in a nebula far, far away – excellent peak hour material.
So if you’ve been excited about the slamming high tempo trip down the Acid music rabbit hole, be sure to set your sights on the Alien Rain entries if and when you come across them. The deviance from the old Acid formula while retaining the best aspects of it make each 12” worth owning.
These tracks are everything Acid Techno should be: hypnotic, terrifying, and of course – alienating; there isn’t a single snare drum on the entire record! As incessant as precipitous downpour, and alluring as Area 51, they’re sure to be pleasing those brave enough to weather the storm for years to come. Of course, they are not the easiest records to find due to the limited run and the fact that most of them have been purchased already. Expect to pay over $12 for Alien Rain III unless of course you are savvy enough to scoop the single copy available through a domestic seller currently on Discogs for $5. Until then, be well earthlings.
Wax Runoff is a weekly feature that will showcase new finds and crate favorites. Nick States, of Boston, bought his first vinyl record in 2010 and has been hooked ever since. The record shop tends to be his first stop in an any city he visits.
DETH Records presents: ACID BATH 011
live techno set by Khobra
visuals by: Stacie ANT Inc and Kevin Holliday
limited capacity come early
If you so choose to explore the dimensions beyond your structural consciousness – and seek expansion of how you might define spatial extent – you will find Interdimensional Transmissions. For more than 20 years the Detroit label has been creating inspiring techno, and continues to develop a realm to truthfully reunite with music, the concept of self, and universal consciousness.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994.
“I was born in Detroit and raised in the dream of where the edge of the forest and the city meet, that so much of Michigan urban sprawl is based on. I grew up on Detroit radio with the likes of the Mojo and the Wizard (Jeff Mills) and Mike Halloran and Peter Werbe. That alone should get you ready for a revolution. If you add all that up, you can see it in the music we make and play,” he says. His favorite memory as a child was visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts and watching six of Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs spin around.
His creative inspiration derived from a visionary esoteric place during a trip to Europe in 1991, when he realized that techno stretched to a global level beyond Detroit. During his trip he also had an experience at Dún Aonghasa, a fort on the Aran Islands near Galway, Ireland. An individual that is both scientifically-driven and spiritual, Gillen heard voices that told him to change his life path and to start creating music. Eventually, he listened and Interdimensional Transmissions was born, named after the guiding ancient voices that seemed to permeate into his reality. The label went on to become essential to the Detroit scene as Gillen had a mission to create techno for the city itself, not just for export.
“Detroit’s history is profound, corrupt, confused, inspiring and crushing. When you move to the city of Detroit you enter into a who-dun-it. Who killed this city? Why? What factors? What confused byproducts of previous wars are left here? You’d be quite surprised at the answers.” – BMG
For several years he worked as music director at WCBN, a radio station at the University of Michigan. Erika Sherman, deemed co-conspirator of the label – joined the station’s efforts her freshman year. “We met pretty quickly through weekly music review meetings. I was spending a lot of time at the station volunteering and learning about music, and we became friends,” Sherman says.
She eventually became program director of the Ann Arbor station and in 1997 Gillen asked her to join Ectomorph. “There was a personnel change in Ectomorph and Erika seemed like a very interesting solution; she entered into the project and it was a long-term evolving education thing from which she later fully emerged as the artist you know today,” he says. The two have been creating sounds together with all analog live hardware sequencing under that name ever since.
Daughter of a famous scientist, Sherman was born and raised in a home of technology and music. At a very young age she was well-known for developing a BBS (Bulletin Board System) as well as launching erika.net – a freeform streaming online radio station.
Sherman says, “My relationship with Detroit has always been primarily about music. I started going to Detroit right around the time I joined WCBN to see bands play, go to raves, etc. — all while studying music at the radio station. During this time period I learned the most about jazz, rock and techno: music forms that are a part of Detroit’s cultural makeup. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Detroit’s place in music history/music present.”
As both a DJ and a live performer her mission has been to gather collective human energy and transfer it through sound. The energy is palpable and can be seen above the crowd in a cloud, according to Gillen. In a means of call and response Sherman says she loves how the energy on a dance floor is “visceral and raw. At its best, it’s both pure individual expression while also a shared experience. It brings people together, forcing a group of friends, acquaintances and strangers to channel their energy into a collective moment, even when dancing by themselves. As a dancer, I like to be lost in the music, dancing by myself, but also feeling the energy of others around me having this moment with that track.”
“You can’t see it, you feel it. It exists without boundaries. It works within your mind but also on a multitude of primal levels. It connects us all, and reconnects us to things far beyond what we can see. For me it is my place of meditation of mental and personal growth, mental relaxation or mental exploration. Freedom for the mind,” Gillen says about why he loves music.
Both Sherman and Gillen perform live as well as DJs. Sherman is well-known for her rare use of The Octopus in her live PA, which is a midi-sequencer that was discontinued by genoQs Machines after the company shutdown in 2010. With her upbringing in a science-based environment, it is clear she uses that influence in her creations; as an example, her video for “North Hex” takes tones of the song which are sent to different machines including computers, a World War II submarine oscilloscope and video synths, all of which are captured with real-time modulation.
Through both of the artists productions and performances, it is clear that space exploration is a driving force for inspiration. What about this science and thought is so intriguing to these artists?
“First, that we know so little about it, so there is tons of room for speculation and contemplation. I can imagine it to be so many different ways inside nebulas, on planets, circling moons… I also like the idea that when we are looking up into space we are actually witnessing ancient history; the light that travels to Earth from the stars has taken so many millions of years to get here. So what’s going on today?” – ERIKA
Gillen continues, “We are stardust. We are the result of a random cosmic collision … We are not unique, but we should stay alone for now. We are totally responsible for what has happened here. Our culture, our achievements, our failures of past societies – that is us. The way we have treated this living organism of earth, you would hope that we never explore beyond our planet. A defining aspect of civilization is that it destroys wherever it is. When I look at the stars I don’t ask myself, ’Is there life out there?’ I already know. The answers are not in the sky, in the stars, in alien lifeforms. I am not waiting on my angel. I don’t need the cosmos to answer a mystic question. I just enjoy witnessing the endless creation, destruction and rebirth.”
In the early 2000s the sound of the scene changed, as did the environment. Minimal became hyper-prevalent and events in Detroit were being held in bars and clubs. It was that time in techno that many are familiar with, where there was a lull followed by a resurgence.
Gillen made a phone call to Derek Plaslaiko, a Detroit native, and pitched an idea to reawaken the local scene: a party that would last 12 hours. In 2007 at an abandoned bank, No Way Back was created. The party has been housed in many places but is mostly known as an after-party at Detroit’s Movement festival and is now co-produced with New York City’s The Bunker.
No Way Back is more than a party. It is an experience that is deep, contemplative and psychologically expansive. In the environment created, the dance floor is a place to transcend in the most primal and honest way. In recent years, it all takes place at Tangent Gallery and from moonlight to sunrise people are flowing in and out of the industrial blank art space building. Nearly 10 minutes from downtown Detroit – just beyond the entrance gate – the floor and the patio are packed. There is a chill room that glows in cool colors, music on the ambient side lets you flow into the space and there are chairs to sit back if you need some ease for just a moment. Past the bar, through the hallway, beyond that door, is the main room. It’s dark, and the temperature is high. Giant parachutes hang from the ceiling and military netting provides background behind the DJ; the label’s recognizable symbol of a hand can be found there as well. The environment is created to inspire certain feelings and vibrations – what you do with the experience is up to you.
In regard to No Way Back Gillen says, “We live in a world of accelerated time, where everyone is multitasking, living these 24-hour lives always pushing but so rarely in the moment. I like to think about vast concepts when you remove the gradation, like music is continuum that we divide into 12 tones, but there is so much more there when you apply different scales or look for notes in between notes. Gagaku [ancient Japanese music] uses only seven notes. Another very fun one to think about is time — how we divide up time. Like there are currently more than 14 calendars on Earth right now, in some places the year is currently 1437. The October Revolution that started too much in Russia happened in our November. Astrologers still use the Julian calendar. Yet my favorite to ponder is Eternity. The absence of time moving forward.”
“That is the space I hope you can return to at our parties where the past the present and the future all exist on the same plane, and you are experiencing that without thinking about it. Our culture robs us of so much of the tribal highlights of living, and nothing beats the dance for actually stretching out your brain and resetting yourself for daily living. So the party must be a place where the mind can go free, and we respect that and structure our parties around that. A free open space for you to be you and to reunite with music, which was our language before words,” he continues.
At No Way Back you will see performances from the likes of BMG, Erika, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Patrick Russell, Scott Zacharias, Orphx, Bryan Kasenic, Derek Plaslaiko, and others. Many factors and well-thought planning are at hand to create a party that for many is inexplicably life-changing. Sherman says “with No Way Back we hope to provide a safe environment in which you can lose yourself in sound and time. How we construct the environment – with an emphasis on the quality of sound system, top-notch DJs, and immersive environments – is something we bring forth from the heydey of rave culture in Detroit. This party is an attempt by us to not look backwards, but to bring the best parts of our early rave and warehouse experiences to today’s crowds.”
We forget in the daily minutia that our innocence is there to be embraced. We deny our darkness for fear of what we’ll see. Our concept of where we are and who we are with is sometimes not as clear because we do not take the time to really be aware. Interdimensional Transmissions in its cognitive and visionary nature brings you into the depths of what it all is, what it all means. Once you get a true glimpse, there truly is no way back.