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
An abandoned Detroit building with an infamous leaky roof. Twelve hours of sonic exploration and psychological liberation. Interdimensional Transmissions. Ten years ago, No Way Back became a party like no other that would last throughout the years, constantly evolving yet the unchanging threads have maintained that inexplicable enchantment.
Detroit native Brendan M. Gillen, otherwise known as BMG, founded Interdimensional Transmissions in 1994. Just a few years later Erika Sherman joined as conspirator. With years worth of history and memories, they celebrate their 10th anniversary during Movement Festival in Detroit this weekend (Saturday, May 27 – Monday, May 29) with three very special events. Coined “313: Return To The Source” the name draws parallels of each unique party, and how as a whole they create a story arc between them.
Gillen says, “My original inspiration for the Return to the Source name comes from the Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia “Exit 23” where they sample Timothy Leary saying ‘Return to the Source.’ That song still gives me chills. I heard it when it was new – it just became part of my brain, so when we were trying to name the whole weekend, it just popped in and I felt like it really said it. This is a chance to do just that, through carefully curated events, stellar sound, venue transforming decorations and a strong connection with music. It’s important to do this ritual at least once a year, it ultimately leaves you feeling inspired and refreshed. And in today’s insane news cycle, we need this reset more than ever.”
But first, let’s start at the beginning. A party’s growing years.
No Way Back came to fruition as a means of reigniting the local Detroit scene after a lull at the turn of the millennium. Derek Plaslaiko received a call from Gillen with an idea to throw a 12-hour party to get feet moving and reawaken the scene.
“We kinda just discussed what we thought was needed at the time in Detroit’s somewhat stagnant state. Don’t get me wrong, there were good things going on. But, we kinda longed for the old days when a great party was just 3-4 DJs in a dark room with a punishing sound system. There was definitely a party in mind to model it after: Hardware. That was a small set of parties that Dean Major (Syst3m) put together circa ‘95-96 in an old hardware store up on Jefferson near Belle Isle,” Plaslaiko says. “For me, it defined exactly what I felt an amazing party was. I’m guessing it was about 150-200 people maximum, completely losing their shit in just a simple sweatbox. Things were often like this in Detroit. While other cities were focused on making their parties bigger and brighter, Detroit just seemed to find a pure formula that worked perfectly for us. I hold those times extremely precious, and I think all of the No Way Back crew agreed.”
Plaslaiko continues, “Eventually he told me he thought he had a perfect space for it (he was right!) and Erika, Patrick and Brendan started putting it together. At this time, Erika wasn’t DJing and Servito wasn’t in the mix yet. So, the first one was just Carlos, Patrick, Brendan and myself. The party was perfect! Even with the rain/mud and sweat dripping from the ceiling, the party was incredible. Brendan, Erika, Amber and Patrick all did a phenomenal job of transforming that space into what I remembered best about Hardware.”
The location was an abandoned bank near the Woodbridge Historic District. Regardless of the dilapidated structure, the crew worked together to launch the first ever No Way Back. Gillen paints an image of what the party was like, the space itself and how in just a matter of 12 hours, something special was created.
“Fucking crappy building. It was so bad. We had to bring in a giant jet engine heater and porta johns, there was no running water. The roof shocked up and leaked all night, as the snow melted from the dancer’s heat. Maybe at it’s peak it was around 150-200 people. The party felt magic, I can’t describe it. We had imagined people needed this, and it turns out it was even more profound than we had thought. So many original ravers and promoters came through. A highlight was Dean Major, of Syst3m, volunteered to run the door for us, himself a major inspiration for these kind of parties. His Hardware parties were the last real underground thing in Detroit of the original rave era. This party was a nod to the rave, taking inspiration from that Detroit outlaw vibe, but advancing the music with much finer curation, insanely deep selectors. Many cycles of life experienced in one party, and the energy was just so amazing. We were supposed to end by noon, but went until 5 in the afternoon. Derek ended up running through the wall. It was crazy. It was so special that we wanted to share it with more people, it was what we wanted to show visitors about Detroit. What they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
A rekindling of the grassroots, underground world that the sound was born in, this party served as a reminder. The name deriving from the classic acid track by Adonis perfectly reflects the raw and unstoppable energy the party invokes. Plaslaiko, BMG, Patrick Russell, and Carlos Suffront played records that night into the early afternoon.
“Well, I was in attendance at the inaugural party, and these stories have been told many times…the leaky roof, Derek’s head going through the wall, etc. I had actually gone home and then I got a call around 9 in the morning from a friend who said the party was still going, so of course I gripped a cup of coffee and went back until the end,” says Israel Vines, who records for IT’s sister label Eye Teeth. “That was probably the first time I ever properly met Brendan, but I already knew the rest of the bunch. I do remember thinking early on in the night that this is what an underground party should be. And I must say that last year’s NWB was one of the most intense and immersive party experiences that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m really looking forward to the whole weekend at Tangent once again this year.
The following year the 12-hour party moved to the Atlas Building, this time as an after party during DEMF weekend. A few No Way Back events, including this one, were split-structured with Too Far Gone lasting from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and then No Way Back until 9 a.m. the next morning. Too Far Gone, presented by Dethlab, was the segment of the night that had some room to expand beyond just heavy-hitting techno and acid records.
“‘Too Far Gone…’ was a way to have a more free-form, open-minded exploration through music. It’s totally another kind of DJing. It didn’t have be dance floor, dark room, totally lost in it stuff – just appropriate for the time and context, before the main event of No Way Back. Music that represented our wider view on music, and a place for people to be before the party that wasn’t somewhere else,” Gillen says.
Added to the bill was Detroit native Mike Servito, now based in New York City where he also holds residency for The Bunker parties. From this grew a long lasting love affair between Servito and IT, as he played nearly every year following.
“My favorite No Way Back memory is the very first one I played in 2008 during Movement at the Atlas Building on Gratiot. I have such vivid memories about that late night into morning,” he says. “I remember the energy and that space and the excitement. I played an extra hour because someone was having a little too much fun (nudge nudge Plaslaiko!)”
For the next few years, No Way Back nestled into the Bohemian National House, a historic structure built in 1914 by the Bohemian Society on Tillman Street. By 1960 it transformed into a Lithuanian Cultural Center, and then in 1996 was sold and redesigned to be a multi-cultural performance and art space.
“The space initially was magical. Off the beaten path, in a neighborhood, kind of looked like a school from the outside. It’s a building from the 1900s that had been created as a space for people from Bohemia,” Gillen says.
The “Bo House” had a controversial foundation. John Sinclair, co-founder of the White Panther Party (a far-left anti-racist white American political collective) previously resided there and would be constantly bothered by the CIA after a political bombing in the ‘60s. Due to this the space became a target for additional surveillance, which would play into the transgression of the location a couple years later.
“This venue had the most renegade feeling of them all, even of the first No Way Back in the leaky bank. The building itself was a maze of rooms and corridors, with many different spaces contained inside – it had several levels, with many staircases and hallways and rooms,” Sherman says. “Over the years, I experienced so much different music there – bands performing on a stage, jazz musicians moving around the room, a disco party with an elevated dance floor installed for the night. For the parties we threw there, it was possible to create completely unique experiences for each party by using different rooms, dividing or orienting rooms differently – even using rooms that had never been used before, or creating new pathways and connections between spaces.”
Recorded live that night was Plaslaiko’s 4:30-6 a.m. set. Looking back over the past decade, he shares with Sequencer his favorite No Way Back memories over the years.
“Jesus, where do I start!? I guess everything about the first one would be the first favorite moment. Brendan at the one where Serge From Clone played (who was also incredible). There was also the time Traxx jumped on near the end and tagged a bit with Carlos. That was pretty mental. I guess I sorta think of every NWB as a continuation from the previous one. The party generally feels the same, but different records are playing. As a whole, I’ve always felt like we are all playing one long set together at each one so it’s rare when any particular set stands out for me. We are all attempting to play our absolute best because we know whoever is playing before and after our sets are in the exact same mindset. As I stated in my previous answer, this party isn’t for everyone. But, if you like crazy acid freakout records, you’re gonna hear all of us playing our favorites and you’ll likely go home happy and hopefully saying “that was my favorite No Way Back yet!”
The following year No Way Back took place within another area of the Bo House. Gillen says, “Our new space was the Ukrainian room. It’s hard to fully describe, because the place felt anarchic, I think that was the magic – it felt outlaw.” IT also brought back the Too Far Gone…No Way Back format that year, allowing the 12-hour party to diverge in energy as the sounds and sunlight shifted.
“No Way Back has a specific vision, but we enjoy so much more music than what fits it. Too Far Gone let us open up and explore different types of music by having bands play and inviting people to play non-techno sets, starting early and building the vibe before transitioning the room to NWB. It let us explore music within the confines of a single room,” Sherman says.
That year the venue’s longevity came to an end. Gillen recounts, “The owner started to focus on other projects, neglecting to renew his licenses, or to protect the building from mold, and in 2011 a special task force came right at the end of Carlos, Scott Zacharias and Sal Principato tagging as the Too Far Gone portion of the program was coming to an end. They had the crowd divide into two lines, one for people over 21, one for people under. Only one line formed, the youngest person was 23. Then they asked us if we had heaters. CCWs? The crowd had no idea what they were asking and spontaneously laughed when they finally asked us if we had guns. They threatened the sound guys with impounding all their gear if they had to come back. They failed their mission and were disbanded over wasting so much resources over nothing, but we couldn’t do our music safely there again. Rare moments like that never last, but it sure was special.”
A pivotal moment for future No Way Back events, and other parties thrown by IT, safe locations became paramount.
“The prime thing to us is that people be safe. I don’t want the people to have to deal with police, task forces, any of that. The place can’t have mold, toxic waste, all these things in old Detroit warehouses that could alter your health and change your life for the worse,” he says. “The place has to be legal, clean and safe. Tangent has one of the only 24-hour occupancy licenses in Detroit; it’s a very rare license. We even added another fire exit off the main No Way Back room this year, so people can get outside easier.”
From the Bo House, IT made their way deeper into Downtown Detroit to 1515 Broadway.
1515 Broadway was previously known as the Music Institute. Inspired by Chicago, the club was developed by Chez Damier, Alton Miller and George Baker. Sparking the second-wave of the city’s techno producers and performers it served as a unifying place for Detroit’s legendary DJs Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson among pioneers Eddie Fowlkes and Blake Baxter.
“I first met the place when I went to the Music Institute as a teenager. I had seen Derrick May annihilate the universe in that room in a way I wish he still did. I want everyone to experience that. The place was small, with a floor made of marble and terra-cotta. They had a few stage risers for shows that we would put out for a partially wooden dance floor, so the DJs and the dancers could be on the same level. It was really dark in there and you couldn’t see what was in front of you, barely. You entered off the street, we had a zone where you could buy records and shirts and buy a wristband to get in,” Gillen says. “That was the entrance, the exit was through the same door, but on the other side of a stairwell that went upstairs, and there they sold juices and coffees and fresh organic food. From either side you could walk into the dance room, which was a hot box. On the left of the DJ you could walk back to the bathrooms and the outside alleyway. The venue was already under siege by investors who were trying to buy the whole block. We had to hire a guard for the back door to explain to people where not to stand in the alley – because the building next door that was owned by a circuit court judge was experiencing ‘demolition by neglect’ – bricks would occasionally fall off of it.”
In addition to a new venue, New York City’s The Bunker began officially working alongside Interdimensional Transmissions to put on No Way Back. This collaboration came to fruition with the connecting link of Plaslaiko. Gillen explains, “Derek had moved to NYC and was The Bunker resident, and introduced me to Bryan Kasenic. I checked out Bryan’s taste in music and it was deep and we really connected on so many levels, we love so much of the same things, that it just felt natural. They had done some other weekend things at Oslo earlier and decided that No Way Back was what they wanted to be part of in Detroit, so we discussed it and it grew naturally from there.”
Kasenic says, “Despite the lineup being almost exactly the same every year, each edition of NWB is it’s own beast, and there are so many great memories attached to each one. I think that’s why people keep coming back for more every year, it always delivers, and is a unique event that can’t really be re-created any other place and time than Memorial Day Weekend in Detroit!”
“One of the defining things for me about NWB at 1515 Broadway was the small size of the room, it would be packed wall-to-wall with people – but not by cramming in like sardines at a rock venue. People were there to dance, so there was room for dancing and expression. The DJ booth was on the same level as the crowd, so you were connected right to the people and their energy, the vibe was a two-way street…the room had a very special, super tangible feeling when it was really going off.” – ERIKA
Carlos’ set was released under IT’s podcasts. The description of the mix paints a perfect picture. “Come experience the edge of your consciousness in distorted rhythms and dirty acid. Here is Carlos Souffront playing the prized 4:30 AM slot at No Way Back At All, Sunday 5/26/13 at 1515 Broadway during the Movement weekend, where Carlos fulfilled the promise of his legendary ‘truth in advertising’ set at the original leaky warehouse No Way Back. Vinyl artifacts intact, set includes one record that was stepped on at the first NWB. Set begins with Carlos mixing in the AFX’s ‘Elephant Song’ over BMG playing the unreleased Shake Remix of Alpha 606.”
Resident Advisor chose Mike Servito’s 2014 No Way Back set as Mix of the Year, which not only gave the party serious exposure but also helped fuel Servito’s career as a DJ.
“2014 was the last year the party took place at 1515 Broadway before it moved to Tangent Gallery. My friend Mike Servito’s set has become rather infamous from that evening. He smashed it. Mike came swinging with new records stitched together in a way only he can do. That was a pretty special moment! Things really took off for him after that.” – JUSTIN CUDMORE
Servito shares his reflections of that night. “All I can really remember about that party was that it was maybe one of the hottest on record, and by hot I mean warm. I can’t believe no one died, seriously. Orphx had just finished and they were so phenomenal. The room was waiting for more. No pressure there. I think I was ready to have a good time. I had specific records that I wanted to play and I think I managed to get it all in and deliver what I wanted to. It’s still a surprise to me that RA recognized that mix as online mix of the year. It was such an honor and a launching point for me! That night and that mix was validation not only for me, but for IT and The Bunker family; that we can doing things our way and succeed.”
Patrick Russell also reflects on that night as one of his favorites. “It’s difficult to pick one favorite moment from all the years, but I’d say the impromptu three-hour tag set with Carlos Souffront in 2014 is right up there,” he says. “None of it was planned whatsoever, it just happened in the moment. Packed, hot, and completely unhinged, I think that night as a whole really made a statement and set the bar for following years. Completely unforgettable!”
As interest grew for No Way Back, so did the need for a bigger space. Tangent Gallery became the new home for Interdimensional Transmission’s annual party. Among the varying transformations, even the decorations have had their own evolutionary process and have become an iconic visual for underground techno heads.
Gillen says, “Before even No Way Back, Amber [Gillen] has always been about creating fascinating environments. I will take this story back to Syst3m, who we threw the Love From Beyond party with in 1998, and Amber and Dean Major collaborated on the Burns Room at St. Andrews Hall. She brought this projector and a series of images, and Dean was so inspired by her aesthetic and her Infinite Dimensions crew that he created this clear plastic shell to the room that she could project on – it was an amazing collaboration.”
Beyond the doors of the Ballroom techno dungeon you become enclosed in womb-like darkness. Large parachutes stretch above with simple (but at times disorienting) laser projections. Military netting drapes throughout the room which sends you to another time and place and behind the DJ stretches the signature hand, glowing like a signal for your surrender. The room allows you to expose the deepest parts of your mind. Memories might rapidly make their way into your conscious vision. You start to deal with it. You have to listen to it. With simple but well-thought out decoration, a box with a door becomes something else.
Gillen explains, “At first the parachutes and netting were a nod to Syst3m and to Tim Price’s decorations at Plastik Produkt parties. But as Amber interpreted these things, they came out in an all new way. She was already an accomplished artist, but with her collaboration with IT a whole new thing has developed with it’s own organic logic. What started as very male and military has morphed into a very mentally liberating environment. She says she thinks about it like a cave, something that surrounds you. I personally feel that when you walk into the space, you see visually and feel viscerally that this is safe space to let go and be yourself. You can actually see that we are committed to this, which makes it easier for the audience to commit and be able to fully connect to the music.”
With multiple rooms the crew was able to construct lineups fitting for two very different, but complimentary, environments. The notable Outer Space Room is where the party explores a more ambient, cooled out setting. Sherman delves deeper into what makes this room special in the scope of the party.
“It’s somewhat similar to Too Far Gone, but since we can run two rooms at once in this venue, we are no longer bound by a strict timeline. So it is an evolution of this idea, designed as a companion rather than a warm-up, allowing the presentation of an even wider range of music, while being tied even more closely to NWB as its true companion, in that the chill out room was separate from the dance room at the parties we experienced in ’90s,” she says. “And it’s a rare opportunity to hear this style of music be so enormous, through such an amazing and enveloping sound system. The focus is truly on the experience of losing yourself in music without dancing, being able to come and go from the intensity of the dance room without leaving the overall experience. The room itself undergoes a complete transformation over the course of the night, beginning as a chill out room but in the morning, it transitions into a slo-mo free-form dance party, as a comedown, not a warm-up.”
“Most of my NWB memories are not for public consumption, however I will say Carlos playing Current 93 in the Outer Space room last year was one of the highlights of my raving career. I was super into Current 93 in high school and kinda put them on the shelf when, all of a sudden, there is Carlos radically re-contextualizing them to make one of the trippiest things I’ve ever experienced. Oh, and my track ‘Ground Score’ was inspired by real life NWB events, but that is all I can say about that.” – JASEN LOVELAND
The Outer Space room happens simultaneously as music beats down in the main room of Tangent Gallery. While the main room will send you into a realm that you may have not experienced before, the gallery is a perfect space to grab a seat, take a deep breath and experience consciousness in an easier environment.
“Ambient, chill, experimental music means so much to us. People deserve a place to decompress, to just be, and explore inner and outer space. That is what this room is about. It turns out that now this is the only place in Detroit where you can experience this kind of environment all weekend,” Gillen says. “Everywhere else you are being constantly bombarded with the beat. It’s at the restaurants, it’s everywhere. So here is a place where you can let go and experience the music. Chill out rooms were always such a pleasure, having seen Mixmaster Morris play so many cool weird records, or Clark Warner or Carlos in the chill room was always a highlight. But to me this is an evolved version of that, with music perfect to let your mind go. It is the perfect contrast and foil to the main room at No Way Back, it really completes the whole vision of a place where you can really stretch out your brain.”
313: Return To The Source will consist of three events: “Berlin / Detroit – Building Bridges” – a night presented by IT and Tresor, the 10th year of No Way Back, and an evening with The Bunker. For those dedicated to completely immersing themselves at Tangent all weekend long, the IT crew has offered a Super Deluxe Weekend Pass which includes entry for all three parties as well as a tote bag and T-shirt from Interdimensional Transmissions among other gifts. Gillen says, “The Bunker is giving us CDs of their new Gunnar Haslam album, one of my favorite artists and people, and he’s on our Acid Series with Tin Man as Romans. Tresor has a few special gifts, the one I can tell you about is Drexciya’s ‘Harnessed The Storm’ album on CD. Drexciya is such a giant inspiration for me, I was very excited at the idea of sharing this music with more people.”
Berlin and Detroit have a long-standing symbiotic relationship when it comes to techno. Respectively shaped by their own unique destructive history, from the struggle grew communities that sought freedom and unification. After techno originated in 1980s Detroit, the German sister city became incredibly influential in the growth, support and reciprocation of the genre’s creation. Among rusty safe deposit boxes, Dimitri Hegemann helped make music history by opening Tresor Berlin in 1991 after the fall of the Wall. “Detroit and Berlin – both cities represent the most singular, resistant and significant correspondence in the history of electronic music – the Techno Alliance,” he says.
On Saturday, May 27 the second annual collaboration of IT and Tresor will pay homage to that history. The title “Building Bridges” discerns this party as an effort to provide a continual bond between the cities that once fed each other during the birth of techno, and have continued to do so since. Gillen says, “The event celebrates the storied history of Tresor and it’s place within Detroit, balancing the past with the future.”
Hegemann offered Sequencer some exclusive insight about the significance of this weekend’s collaborative event.
“In 1989, when Mr. Gorbatschow opened the Berlin Wall, he triggered off an incredible euphoria in Berlin. People and families that had been divided for over more than 30 years came together again. Following the fall of the wall, from 1990 until 1994, authorities had to deal with fundamental issues, such as bringing a socialistic system and a capitalistic system together on one ground, under one administration. Subcultural movements used those years of freedom.
Berlin became the platform for many artists to start an international career. The circumstances of this historic moment were perfect: incredible energy, no curfew, many empty spaces and the new sound that came from Detroit. Germans from both East and West loved this hard instrumental form of music, coming from a hard city. Techno became the soundtrack of the country’s reunification. Yes, the real reunification took place in different dark basements of Berlin.
The peaceful togetherness of people became a mythos that lured people from all over the world into Berlin’s nightlife, to discover a new quality of freedom and tolerance. It was the start of what came to be one of the largest youth movements in the world.
With time, an entire economy shaped around the nighttime, influencing many new startups, transport, accommodation. The spirit of Berlin was the natural incubator for the recently found sharing economy. A new capital was rebuilt based on humane rules. Techno also gave yet another new direction to Berlin: Culture and appreciation for the alternative arts. Today they call it creative industries.
After 25 years, Berlin’s techno-club Tresor continues to identify with Detroit’s techno music.
Berlin’s history has shown how the power of disused spaces mixed with Detroit’s original music has changed the image of a city entirely. Let’s then compare both cities and their creative advantages.
Learning from Detroit – Learning from Berlin.” – DIMITRI HEGEMANN, TRESOR
Last year, the Berlin club celebrated its 25th anniversary during the evening prior to No Way Back during Movement weekend. Tresor’s Diana Alagic had been attending the Detroit party for years. Completely inspired she told everyone she worked with how much it meant to her. Eventually IT and Tresor collaborated not only for the anniversary but have delved deeper, further strengthening the already established trans-Atlantic connection. A round table initiative titled “The Potential” has developed on behalf of the Detroit-Berlin Connection to help bring even more growth to Detroit’s music environment.
Gillen says, “When I first went to Berlin in the early ‘90s, you could feel this visceral connection to Detroit. Underground Resistance had become to their scene what Minor Threat had been to American punk. The kinship is so strong. It was time for the Cold War to end, and who wanted out of that more than Berlin and the forgotten people of Detroit?”
A live debut performance from Berlin’s Flowing and Detroit’s Terrence Dixon will serve as the proverbial bridge. Flowing is prominently known as one half of The Orb and a founding member of 3MB with Moritz von Oswald. In the ballroom you will find an opening set from Silent Servant, a live set by Civil Defence Programme, Christina Sealey of Orphx with a hybrid live/DJ set, and a closing set from L.I.E.S. founder Ron Morelli. Moving the floor in the gallery will be Claude Young, Marcellus Pittman, and Intergalactic Gary. “This year promises to be even more sonically adventurous and fearless,” Gillen hints. “Not to mention all the surprises that you’ll only find out about when you arrive at the party…”
Extending its hours for the 10 year celebration, No Way Back will start on Sunday, May 28 at 11 p.m. and will continue on until Monday at noon.
“No Way Back is special for so many reasons. What started off as a raw ‘back-to-basics’ party in 2007, a real anomaly in the post-minimal Detroit landscape at the time, has grown into a destination of like-minded folks from around the world. Seeing the love, devotion, and energy the audience brings to this party makes my heart swell every year. For me personally, it’s where the IT family gets together to present something sonically unique; we get away with playing some really out-there stuff, music we wouldn’t dare play any other time, and yet people go nuts and love every minute. They just…get it. The party is a true symbiotic relationship, and I feel deeply honored to play for that crowd.” – PATRICK RUSSELL
Sounds from the usual suspects will be heard throughout the caverns of Tangent Gallery: Erika, BMG, Derek Plaslaiko, Carlos Souffront, Mike Servito, Bryan Kasenic, and Scott Zacharias. There will be a special lineup for the Outer Space Room, an unannounced guest, in addition to a live set from Outer Space (John Elliott and Drew Veres), as well as Grant Aaron.
A man who has been influential since the party’s inception, Plaslaiko expands on how he has seen No Way Back change over the past decade. “Well, it’s definitely gotten bigger! The first NWB probably had around 100 people come through the whole night? Maybe more, maybe less… I’m really bad when it comes to numbers for these things. When we started doing them during the festival, we weren’t concerned with getting tons of people there because the spaces used couldn’t necessarily hold tons of people anyhow. This party wasn’t for everyone, and we knew it. So, we started making sure NWB was thrown on Sunday because that’s when the boat party would normally take place. I guess we felt like anyone who might come to NWB and then complain about it would probably prefer being on a boat rather than a dark, dirty and sweaty party on the outskirts of downtown (when it was at the Bo House). It was all about quality, not quantity. It still is, but it’s gotten way bigger than I think any of us possibly imagined. I attribute that to the right people coming over the years, and then they in turn invited the right people for the next year and so on. It’s been amazing to watch, and we are all extremely proud of it.”
Wrapping up the marathon weekend will be the second annual presentation of The Bunker during Movement on Monday, May 29. Although the full lineup will be announced May 28, it’s already pre-loaded with Chicago’s Hugo Ball co-founder Eris Drew, Antenes, Israel Vines, Hot Mix (comprised by Servito, Cudmore, and Haslam) as well as a surprise international guest closing each room.
“I’m part of the extended [Interdimensional Transmissions] family, as it were. We’re all folks from the same era of Midwest techno, particularly the Detroit scene – so there is a particular background that binds the crew, but everyone has their own take on things, which is what I think makes this group a special one.” – ISRAEL VINES
Tweaked to be geared for the energy and context of Monday night, Gillen says one room during the party at Tangent will mirror the classic second room at a typical Bunker party. The Ballroom will have “echoes of the highlights that you would experience in the main rooms of their parties, again altered for this context, and a little more personal and fun – it’s Monday night!” he continues.
Although IT and The Bunker have worked so intimately for No Way Back itself, there is something particularly special about the dedicated Bunker night at Tangent. With many people gone home after the conclusion of the festival the floor is more intimate, elevated and lucid.
“No Way Back could only ever be on Sunday night. Saturday night people are still nervous, they want to achieve something, goals of what they imagined they would do in Detroit during the festival. On Sunday, people have invariably experienced something incredible and now are just in the groove. The Sunday night energy is what makes No Way Back so special. Monday has another energy altogether. People are exhausted but still up for it, the music now has another meaning,” Gillen says. “The whole night starts strong, so you can get there early and be already seeing headliners and if you need to crash early, you will have experienced something special, or maybe the music and the people will provide all the energy and motivation you need to make it through the closers’ sets. I remember seeing Voices from the Lake one year at a Monday of Movement Bunker and thinking I would just go check it out and becoming so captivated and excited for the music that I stayed to the end.”
He says he hopes that The Bunker party will resonate with more people and perhaps this can be an event to be held every year to come.
Interdimensional Transmission’s label has been picking up creative momentum with a project that will be unfolding most likely over the next year. Several records will be released for the Acid Series, each production drawing upon personal inspiration from the evocative energy of No Way Back.
“I began the project last summer after I got so excited by so many demos I was receiving. Anyone who runs a label knows how rare that is. I had been thinking about a way to celebrate there being 10 years of No Way Back and this record series seemed like the perfect way to do that,” Gillen says. “It was a chance for the ideas to come together, for there to be a series of music on IT that directly communicated the sound of No Way Back. The series will last until all the records come out, it may take until next year’s No Way Back because there are so many great ones (all so different from each other) to come.”
The Acid Series will include productions from Tin Man and Ectomorph, BMG and Derek Plaslaiko, Jordan Zawideh, Romans (Tin Man and Gunnar Haslam) and Dona. All of which will be packaged in a special sleeve adorned with a design inspired by the iconic decorations of the party itself. The first two records come from Jasen Loveland and Justin Cudmore and will be available at the merch booths of all three parties.
“NWB is not a party for the faint of heart. You will be uncomfortable. Amber manages to turn the space into a predatory jellyfish. It gets hot. People turn into animals. You can’t get away from the sound system. It gets into your mind. This was what I wanted to try to capture in the EP. The paranoia, the claustrophobia and even the fear that grips you when you are at a party that is too much for you.” – JASEN LOVELAND
Los Angeles-based Acid Camp producer Loveland kicks the series off with his debut recording. “I’m from Chicago and cut my teeth raving in the Midwest during the ‘90s. This record amounts to my raving resume. It’s what I’m about. Each track is stripped to its bare essentials, using only a couple pieces of gear. No superfluous bullshit. Intentionally demented, the tunes aren’t meant to be light-hearted party bangers or even playable outside of a NWB context. Music to embrace The Void to.”
Originally from Illinois and now based in Brooklyn, Cudmore lays down productions for Volume 2 of the Acid Series. The Bunker resident had his debut release on Honey Soundsystem Records in 2016, shortly after Gillen asked him to contribute a record for this series. With instruction from Gillen to “make it sound like No Way Back,” Cudmore says he had two months to produce the four-track record. He continues, “I tried to keep my point of view, but try something a little tougher, headier, bass-heavy. ‘Sleazy’ is the word BMG uses most often to describe No Way Back, so I tried to approach the tracks from that angle.”
Gillen explains, “The idea to represent the sound of No Way Back as a series of records was inherently absurd, we know we can’t do every aspect of the sound, but in a record art kind of way, this communicates something. In this kind of music, there is way through releases that we communicate ideas all around the world, you might connect with something and never meet the person, but still know so much about them. The series starts with artists I met in the crowd at No Way Back. They were inspired by the feel and sound of the parties and started sharing unreleased songs with me.”
With the commencement of this 10 year celebration, let us embrace the expansion of time. Let us reunite together on the dance floor as we share laughter and joy. May we heal together. Embrace the wounds from our past and relish in the beauty of a bright future. Return we shall to our roots. A return to the dark underground of which we were born in. Let us return to the beginning. Return to the source.