Electric Daisy Carnival's Pasquale Rotella on When the EDM Bubble is Going to Pop
Dance music's least likely purist, Pasquale Rotella, head of Insomniac Events and the brain's behind this weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival, has been making people dance for the last twenty years, throwing parties everywhere from L.A. warehouses to New York stadiums. Yesterday, we spent an hour talking about how that experience sets him apart from other promoters, and when the EDM bubble will inevitably burst.
Going back before Electric Daisy and Insomniac, when did you get involved with dance music both as a fan and as a promoter?
I got involved in dance music in '91, and I just went with some friends to an underground party. That was the beginning for me. When walking through the doors, it felt like walking into another world. I pretty much went every weekend and during the week sometimes when special events would pop up to several underground parties.
What kind of music was this?
It was house and techno. It was all called techno and house. There was one room only at the time. Not my first events that I was going to, but a little bit later there were disco/funk rooms and rooms that had... they were called the funk rooms, but a lot of the music was the original tracks that De La Soul and old hip-hop acts would sample from. They would play the original tracks. There would also be some disco and funk that was mixed in there. That was kind of the fun little room that had these guys in it from L.A. Sean Perry would regularly DJ. I loved that room, but I was really into techno back then.
When did you start hosting and promoting?
My first event was in '90 that I went to. The first event that I did was '92. It was called the Unity Groove, and I had a DJ named Steve Lauria, and Sean Perry played for me. Then my first Insomnia was in '93.
What differentiated Insomnia from those previous parties?
Well there really wasn't much going on. The scene had died in early '92. It started off as underground even before I was going out. In '89. Then when I started going out in '90 it was underground. Then late '90, early '90 it started being called raves. They pretty much died in early-to-mid '92. When '92 came around, all there was was after-pop hours. There was a dark vibe. There was a period in '92 when there was more of a vibrant after-hours scene where it felt good. It felt like the one-off parties, the underground and the raves that were happening. They stopped being one-off and they turned into being these kind of weekly warehouse parties. But they also died and they turned into after-hours. They would start really late and there was this really dark vibe. People weren't bringing that good energy that was there in the earlier years.
That is why I started Insomniac in October of '93, because there was nothing going on. I was inspired by what was going on in the UK, and I was inspired by what used to happen in Los Angeles in the rave and underground scene. I missed it and I wanted somewhere to go for me and my friends, and that was my original reason for starting Insomniac. What I quickly found out was I wouldn't be able to enjoy those events that I was producing like the events that I'm attending. In my mind, I thought I'd put it together then enjoy it like I would as an attendee. But it turned into me enjoying it a different way. I was doing them every Friday; I would find a few warehouse every week to organize Insomniac. It was pretty much like a one-off every week, and I did that for a whole year. And it was rare it was in the same place. The first one was in South Central, on Crenshaw and a warehouse.
How long until these events caught on?
Insomniac happened very quickly because I was the only one doing it. We're talking about small amount of people. The first one had 300 people, and the second one probably would've had 400 if the cops hadn't busted it. The third one, it was back to 300. By the end of that year, I was fluctuating between 800 and 1200 people every week. Those were hardcore fans. It was the buzz, and when I was doing 1200 people, there were a few times we were doing as many as 1500 people, that was like their religion. They were there every week. The only time I really got up to 1500 was actually when I would use the same place more than once. It kind of built up because people just got comfortable with it, I guess. But then we would move it then it would be 800 to 1000 people. It was really well known amongst those people. Maybe it was a community of 4, 000, 3,000 people that would have some come every time while some would sprout up here and there.
How do you get from this to 1997, with the first Electric Daisy Carnival?
It was really hard for me to keep finding new locations every week, and I was getting out of doing illegal warehouse parties because I had gotten in trouble a couple of times. And I was now 18 so I just wanted to avoid any problems that would suck in the long-term with these warehouse parties. I was excited to have my one-year anniversary and close it out on a good note. There was about 3000 at the one year, and I had announced it would be the last one. I wanted to do bigger numbers and have everyone come all at one time so I could afford to do more at the event and blow the production up. My first event was Nocturnal Wonderland, and that was in February of '95 because Insomniac went from '93 to '94.