The Bunker's Bryan Kasenic On The Berliniamsburg Era, Throwing Parties For Electronic-Music Nerds, And "Amateur Night"
This week, the Voice profiled Bryan Kasenic, who throws the monthly Bunker partythe city's premiere techno eventwhich celebrates its ninth year tonight at Public Assembly with a bash featuring Chicago house legend Derrick Carter and Dutch techno great Legowelt. Below are some outtakes from our interview, in which Kasenic discusses his entrée to New York, the records that made him a techno fan, avoiding "amateur night," and not being the background to someone else's K-hole.
Seze Devres / www.sdphotography.net Bryan Kasenic (left); cake.
Bryan Kasenic: I moved to New York when I was 19. Now I'm 34. I did DJ at a few events in Pittsburgh, but I was primarily doing radio stuff. When I moved to New York, when I was 19, I had a really heavy interest in DJing out and just experiencing what was happening out in clubs in New York. In Pittsburgh we didn't really have much of any of that culture. I went to Rutgers for one year. Basically, that got me to within an hour [long] train ride to New York. I was in New York every weekend, [then] weekdays. I convinced my parents to let me transfer to NYU, which was more expensive than going to Rutgers. There was some hesitation, but after a while we all kind of agreed. I wanted to be in New York. We all wanted me to be in college. I was so excited about being around a big city that being in New Brunswick, was just... I thought it would be cool, but after a year I was like, this is not cool at all.
When I was younger I was more into indie rock and noise. When I started at the [Carnegie Mellon University] radio station there, WRCT, kind of opened me up. That slowly got me into the more abstract side of electronic music. The illbient thing was really big then, a lot of isolationist, drone music. I found all the old Nurse with Wound records and Coil records, and that opened up a whole new world to me. That was very exciting. I think that eventually led me to techno. The first year or two I was around New York, I was going to these Soundlab parties.
Is that where illbient began?
It wasn't where it began. There were a lot of parties where it really beganmore underground things, mostly right in this neighborhood, actually, when you could do those kinds of things in this neighborhood. Soundlab came around a little later, but they were the main thing happening at the peak of its mainstream popularity. When I came to New York, a lot of the stuff that DJ Olive and other people were doing that really got the movement started was kind of tapering off. "Oh, people put a name on it, it's just not cool anymore." They were tight with DJ Spooky. Really, they had everyone from that scene play at their events.
What were some of the records that got you into techno?
All of the Chain Reaction and Basic Channel stuff was really big for me. I think one of my first years in New York, I was working at Kim's, and it was after the fact [of] those records first coming out. They'd all just been reissued on CD in those metal tins. I got my hands on some of those. Then Plastikman's Consumed came out as a reaction to that. That was a really big deal. These Concept records Richie Hawtin put out before Consumed, with those red dots, were a really big deal. That's the kind of stuff that, when I first went into Temple and had no idea where to start, it was like, "OK, Chain ReactionI know those guys." I think I just [went] out from there and discovered [Jeff] Mills and Detroit stuff.
Have you always lived in Williamsburg?
At the time I was in Greenpoint for a little while. I've been in this apartment for six years now, and another loft in south Williamsburg with the guys who run the Br0klyn Beats label four years before that. I've been here in this neighborhood for ten straight years, and there were a couple years before them. At one point there was a year or maybe two when I was in Jersey City. I got an apartment there with a girlfriend and stayed for a while, which was fun for a while when I had a girlfriend. It was one of the few points in my life when I had a super-legit day job where I had to be in an office every day at nine. Living in Jersey City, getting up early in the morning, eating dinner, going to bed.
[In the early '00s], there was the whole Berliniamsburg thing. That was definitely what Williamsburg was known for. I think the Bunker moved in a little bit after that had died down. Larry Tee had moved on from Williamsburg. When I moved the Bunker over hereone large event that wasn't mine that was a key event [in 2005] was when Lisawho's my door person nowdid this huge [Kompakt vs. Warp] party. That was just such an amazing moment that also, in a way, kind of fucked me up for a year after thatevery time I'd try to book somebody at the Bunker they'd be like, "Well, it's a bar in the Lower East Side, and we heard there's these huge warehouses where they do Kompakt parties in Williamsburg." That was so awesome, but it happened once. It was the right venue at the right moment. It was the absolute peak of Kompakt's popularity, the absolute peak of that venue, right when that venue was on everybody's radar. It was a perfect storm. It made for an incredible party, a better and bigger thing than any techno party that had happened a few years before that and a few years after that. It was like, "What? How did that happen?"