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Interview: Rinsed

The Rinsed party's Dan Wender, Blacky II and A.Pop mark a milestone

Photograph: Razberry Photography
In late 2010, the Rinsed shindig debuted in the intimate (okay, tiny) loft space above Public Assembly, with 100 or so revelers bouncing around to party founders Bobby “Blacky II” Picciotto and Dan Wender’s wide-ranging sounds. Three years on, Rinsed is one of Gotham’s best soirees, with everyone from the iconic technopop outfit Inner City to the bass-music boffins of Sepalcure—not to mention hundreds of party people—stopping by. Now the resident DJs, along with their longtime “visual aesthetician,” Ana “A.Pop” Popescu, are gearing up for an ambitious third-anniversary celebration, with a triad of events over three weeks featuring Glasgow’s Numbers crew, the beloved house vocalist Crystal Waters and the premiere of Rinsed’s live set.

First of all, congratulations on your third anniversary; that’s quite an accomplishment.
Blacky II: Well, thank you very much! We’re very excited to be celebrating the fact that we’ve made it this far.
Dan Wender: Excited and nervous, really.

What was the motivation behind starting Rinsed?
Wender: When we started Rinsed, it was a year after [Greenpoint club] Studio B got shut down, and it seemed like there just weren’t many great places to go. There were great promoters, certainly: Fixed was happening, for instance, and there were plenty of other people producing amazing parties. And there were a lot of great DJs in town, of course but there weren’t really places to have an experience, you know? There were parties like Rubulad and TheDanger, but they were just about the experience; there wasn’t much focus on the music. We wanted to create a place that people could get lost in.

Both musically and otherwise?
Blacky II: Exactly. And we wanted a party that we would want to go to!
Wender: And then we met Ana, and she had all these ideas about changing the aesthetics and creating this whole immersive thing. And it’s been a really good fusion ever since.

Ana, what kind of mood or feeling are you trying to create at the Rinsed parties?
Ana Popescu: In the beginning, we had these set ideas, like making it rain blood.… We had all these Blade-themed ideas, which were all kind of dark and gory. [Laughs] But we got off that track a little bit.
Blacky II: I think we just wanted to push the envelope by being as weird and freaky as we could get.
Popescu: Since then, it’s stayed on a bit of a darker feel. It’s definitely not a rave kind of vibe.

Yeah, I haven’t seen much in the way of Day-Glo or smiley faces at any Rinsed parties.
Wender: Yes, we stay away from that!

What musical direction did you originally want Rinsed to go in?
Blacky II: I feel that a lot of parties focus on one particular kind of music—but I know that when I’m home, I don’t just listen to one kind of music. And we don’t necessarily want to play just one kind of music. We’re inspired by many different things, and we try to represent that in the talent we book, and in the themes we try to create.

Speaking of talent, Rinsed has attracted a pretty wide range of artists and DJs in its three years.
Blacky II: Well, if we listed our 10 or 20 favorite DJs and producers, I don’t think that they would have much in common with each other, besides the fact that they’re all really great. [Laughs]
Wender: One thing that we do try to do is to make it easy for people to dance. When we started the party, we didn’t have any guests; it was just me and Bobby deejaying all night, and Ana making the room weird. The idea was to simply have cool music with no pretense and no expectations, without trying to sell a bunch of tickets by getting some headliner. We wanted to make it accessible to people who weren’t necessarily looking to hear a specific DJ or weren’t all that into dance music; we were looking for people who just wanted to have a good time at a party. And that philosophy remains.

Having said that, you’ve been getting some real name-brand guests, especially in the last year or so.
Blacky II: Sure. We want to get people who are very much into dance music as well.
Wender: In the beginning, we didn’t even have access to people. Like, we were playing MK and Inner City records from the beginning, but we didn’t have the budget or the capacity to even think about it. As our productions have gotten bigger and more people have been coming, it was only natural to book some of these artists whose music we were playing.
Blacky II: It happened very organically. It wasn’t like we just said, “Hey, we should start booking huge headliners!” We first got people that were within our budget, and as our budget grew, the guests got a little bigger.

Whatever the budget, it seems as though you’ve been getting quality artists, and artists that are a good fit with the party.
Blacky II: We actually still book the same guests that we do when we didn’t have much of a budget. The difference is that now we have them as supporting acts.
Wender: We’ll always have local people playing at Rinsed.

All the Rinsed parties I’ve been to have been super fun, but do any moments from the past three years stand out for you?
Wender: There have been a lot of really great moments. When we did the night with Chris Malinchak and Gorgon City, the sun came up and was blaring through the windows, and some stripper chick got up on the DJ table and got wild. We finally had to kick everyone out of that one.
Popescu: That Sepalcure night was a pretty good one. Watching people in puddles of sweat, going home with smiles on their faces and not all bothered that they were basically wearing other people’s DNA.… That was fun.
Wender: I’ve destroyed so many pairs of sneakers and jeans.

That’s the mark of a good party. Let’s talk about the ones you have coming up, the three anniversary parties.
Wender: We’re doing the first one with the Number crew from Glasgow—those guys are probably one of our biggest influences. The Numbers label itself is pretty young, like three years, but the crew has been throwing parties for ten years. They started out doing them in little bars and clubs, and have just gotten bigger and bigger; this year they did this big festival in Cornwall. Basically they’re a bunch of DJs—there’s Jackmaster, Spencer, Actress and…some other dude, and they basically grew up the same way we did. They just wanted to have a cool party. And they also don’t just play one genre; they’ll play some filthy industrial track next to an MK track, and end it with Fleetwood Mac. They’re real DJs, and they’re insane. And now they’ve evolved into this great record label, which is something that we’d like to become as well.
Blacky II: They’re a huge inspiration. They are one of the few entities that we aspire to be like.

How did the hookup for this double anniversary come about?
Wender: I had been speaking to Spencer over the past few years; he’s been to a few Rinsed parties. When he reached out about collaborating on a Rinsed-Numbers anniversary party, we just had to jump. It’s getting more and more exciting as it gets closer.

Part two of your anniversary celebration looks pretty exciting too—you have Crystal Waters performing!
Wender: Yeah! “Gypsy Woman” has probably been played at every cool party ever. I don’t think Tiki Disco could operate without that track.
Blacky II: I don’t think Dan Wender can operate without that track, either!
Wender: It’s just such a classic. If you ever feel like your crowd is getting tired, that song will revive them. And we wanted to have something live, anyway. Like when we did the Inner City live thing, it was such a special experience. That was such a huge thing for us.

You also have Braille and Vanilla Ace playing at that one.
Wender: Vanilla Ace is awesome; he’s this up-and-coming dude from the U.K. We found out about him because we follow this label called Off Recordings from Berlin, which has just been killing it. When I look for new music, I start there. Anyway, I don’t think Vanilla Ace has played in New York before. And Braille has played at our last two anniversary parties.
Blacky II: He’s sort of our good luck charm.
Wender: As long as we have him play, we feel like we’ll have another good year. And he has such a versatile sound.

You’re calling that party “Nights of Future Past.” Is that a play on the Moody Blues album Days of Future Passed?
Blacky II: We did use the Moody Blues album for inspiration. But it kind of fit, since Crystal Waters is such a legend and Vanilla Ace is such a future-star kind of guy. And Praveen is a real forward-thinking kind of DJ as well.

And then there’s the third party, which looks like it’ll be quite interesting.
Wender: When we started thinking about the anniversary, we realized that we wanted to do three parties to symbolize and celebrate our three years. The planning for the first two happened pretty organically, but we wanted something a bit different for the third one. Bobby and I had been working on a live house set, with samplers and synthesizers and drum machines, but we didn’t want to have it just be something that would be leading up to somebody else’s DJ set. We wanted to have a proper dance party, but instead of having DJs, make it an all-live night.

Is it going to be you two all night long?
Wender: To do seven hours live would be crazy! So we’re going to have a ton of guests, but incorporate them as seamlessly as possible. We want it to sound like the music is being deejayed. It’s kind of uncharted territory for us.

Ana, you’ll be handling the visuals for three parties in three weeks. I’m guessing the preparation for that is keeping you pretty busy.
Popescu: Well, let’s just hope I make it! Especially for the live date, I want to go beyond just controlling the lights. So I’ve been busy learning about LED modules and decoders and all these crazy things. We’ll see what I come up with.
Wender: There’s a lot that goes into it. Doing one of these parties is usually enough for a whole month. Doing three of these in three weeks is going to be insane.

So after these three parties, what’s up next? Perhaps a little break?
Blacky II: Most definitely!
Wender: But we have big plans for early next year, with a bunch of really exciting things in the works. We’re prepared really well for 2014.

Rinsed and Numbers Anniversary Party
is Friday, November 29.
Rinsed Year III Pt. II: Nights of Future Past with Crystal Waters + Vanilla Ace + Braille is Friday, December 6.
Rinsed Year III Pt. III: Rinsed Live is Friday, December 13.

Follow Bruce Tantum on Twitter: @BruceTantum