Posted on October 4, 2009
Todd Patrick is the major force behind the explosion of independently booked and promoted rock shows in Brooklyn, New York since the dawn of the millennium. His shows are characterized by a DIY ethic in the tradition of the D.C. hardcore scene of the 1980’s: inexpensive covers, unconventional performance spaces, and intermingling of performers and audience are the norm. When he moved to New York in 2001 he had already sharpened his teeth booking shows in Austin, Texas and owning an all ages rock club in Portland, Oregon called Seventeen Nautical Miles. Patrick’s simultaneously furtive and egalitarian approach to the business of event promotion has made him a minor symbol of a Brooklyn music culture that is beginning to attract attention nationwide. The growth of this culture has coincided with the growth of a culture of urban redevelopment in Brooklyn that has seen high-rises sprout along the Williamsburg waterfront and condos encroach on Mccarren Park in Greenpoint. I met with Patrick in April to discuss the parallels and divergences of these cultural trends, the branding of his practice, the urban and spatial dynamics of a burgeoning rock scene, and places of musical performance.
D: Was this (Seventeen Nautical Miles) the first time you had done something like this and had a space of your own? How did you acquire it originally? I understand it was a Laundromat before.
T: It was a dry cleaner. We happened to walk past it a lot because it was next door to the Delta café. It’s now part of the Delta cafe. And we noticed it was not doing well and that it was on its last legs and we inquired and sort of got the jump on it before the Delta could get it.
D: So this was already a neighborhood and part of town where other similar events were going on?
T: No it wasn’t. Reed (College) was nearby but that’s the only reason there was a creative culture of any kind. The Delta was located there because the Delta had pretty poor business sense. The people who originally opened it – Anton and Angelina - Anton had good business sense but the other woman did not and she just poorly chose where she was going to locate. And the rent was very cheap in that building. Rent on Seventeen Nautical Miles was 625 dollars and they had signed a year earlier so I bet their rent was five-something, so it meant that it was easy to rent there. I was familiar with that area because I lived there and because I liked the sort of country-fied vibe of it and I knew that Reed was nearby and I sort of mistakenly thought that Reed kids would come in great numbers.
D: It seems like a very separate world from the rest of Portland
T: They’re a bunch of elitists. They’re essentially the west coast equivalent of east coast blue bloods. I don’t have any respect. It’s a bunch of kids who convinced their parents to spend too much money so they could go somewhere where they can get drugs. I think those kids suck.
D: So how long did you own Seventeen Nautical miles for, four years?
T: Two years.
D: And then eventually you had to shut down because…
T: We didn’t have to shut down. We opened another space that was much bigger and we put notice in on Seventeen because we didn’t want to do two places. I didn’t think I needed two places. And not to mention it was a bad location. The other place was right next to the Office Depot on MLK Blvd.
D: I know exactly where that is. There are a lot of clubs down there now.
T: There are a lot now. We were the first. Well the Stage Four Theater was there before, which became the Meow Meow but there’s a lot of stuff down there now and we were the ones who sort of brought it in. And we thought we could get away with it for a while and we certainly would have. The problem was at the time Portland was having a big political struggle wherein the lefty hippy dippies who run Portland decided that they were going to have this really tight growth plan where everything was going to be located within the city limits of Portland, Gresham…
D: You’re talking about the Urban Growth Boundary.
T: Exactly. Which they were all proud of and they got written up in the Times Magazine for it and they thought it was a really awesome idea. On paper it looks amazing. In reality it doesn’t work at all.
D: You don’t think so?
T: Oh it’s bullshit.
T: Because it’s just fake. Because it’s not real. It’s all political maneuvering. There are tons of exceptions. It doesn’t really work.
D: So it’s not about limiting sprawl?
T: It’s about getting press. And so that’s what they were getting at the time. And so they had decided that the east coast of the Willamette (River) was going to be all industrial. They were going to create all these working class jobs. Without thinking of the fact that because they had this tight growth zone that was poorly thought out and not realistic they didn’t have any place for working class people to live. So how could there be working class jobs in the center of town and why would there be? Plus all the factories there were very outdated, all the warehouses would need to be retrofitted to fit current needs and so they had this huge industrial enclave written into their plan right on the east coast because it made it look like they were doing something for poor people. But they weren’t doing anything for poor people. In fact these warehouses were all vacant and empty which is why I decided to locate my club there.
D: So this second space you located in wasn’t originally a club space?
T: Nothing is originally a club space. There’s no such thing as an original club space. Everything is a converted building. Nobody builds a club. You always use a building that’s already there and you convert it. So we used a warehouse space. Which seemed like a perfectly good idea. Our landlord couldn’t rent that space to anybody. He couldn’t get anyone to go there. And nobody could get industrial warehouse space to get in there. The only things down there were us, the Sheridan fruit company, and the Montage Restaurant. But the city wasn’t pleased. The city was unhappy that we were doing this. And granted we were breaking the law but we were breaking the law with Seventeen Nautical Miles and they didn’t shut that down. But they came in and shut us down hard for two reasons.
D: You were located at the center.
T: It wasn’t about that. It was because we were located in an area that they wanted to keep an inner city manufacturing district, which was totally misguided, because look now. It’s not a manufacturing district now.
D: It still is. But there’s more of a mix of cultural venues, bars and manufacturing.
T: And now they’re going to put condos there. Because that’s what happens whenever the city gets involved in things. The only thing they can ever really get to have happen is to have high end developers come in and build high end bullshit, just like the Pearl District. Just like everything else. And it’s the same in New York as it is in Portland. The city can’t do shit. Those people are incompetent and they can’t accomplish anything. But anyway the city came in and they shut us down. They didn’t work with us, didn’t do anything, just caused all kinds of troubles and the level of red tape that they thrust upon us was ridiculous. And at this point our landlord got really cold feet and evicted us. By that time we had already put in notice on the other space so the landlord there had already negotiated a new lease on that space. So it meant that we suddenly went from having two spaces to having none. But Seventeen was never shut down or anything.
D: At what point did you move to New York?
T: I moved here in 2000…2001 I guess. So like maybe a year later.
D: And you immediately started doing the same thing.
T: No I did other things for a while and I had a job and I didn’t want to do this. This is not what I wanted to do with my life. But it just came to the point that I was getting really bored because there weren’t many good shows happening in New York and all the shows that were happening were happening in places that I didn’t want to go. Places like the Mercury lounge, places that just aren’t fun to see a show at. So I slowly started doing it. People started asking me. The only shows I was going to were in-stores at this record store but then he didn’t want to do those anymore. This other guy from Portland, Peter, he owned this record store that used to be on Orchard called Sound and Fury. But he didn’t want to do in-stores anymore because he was upsetting his neighbors and sort of exacerbating his chances of getting kicked out. And so I was like, if you don’t want to do these in-stores, which are the only good shows happening in the whole of New York City, why don’t you send them to me and I’ll see if I can get them a show in Brooklyn or something. These were all for like really small bands. At the time this scene which is now seen as being so dominant and so huge was completely marginalized and unimportant. And this was 2001. In 2001 all anybody wanted to talk about was electro and the White Stripes. So to do something in a different kind of vein, which was more intellectual music – there was no scene for it. So you could do it in really tiny places. So we started doing it that way and it just sort of grew exponentially from there and the scene grew around it and now that’s what people see as the Brooklyn scene.
D: Where did you start booking initially?
T: Loft spaces. And dive bars.
D: So residential spaces.
T: But they weren’t really residential. I mean they were illegal lofts.
D: You mentioned before that there’s no such thing as an authentic club space.
T: What’s that? I don’t know what authentic means.
D: There’s no such thing as an original club space.
T: You don’t build a building to be a club. You retrofit an existing space.
D: You do if you have money.
T: But I don’t know anybody who has. I can’t think of a single one. I can’t think of a single rock club in New York that was built to be a rock club. The Bowery Ballroom used to be a shoe store. Terminal 5 was a big warehouse. Hammerstein Ballroom was built as a ballroom in the 1800’s
D: But these are all places that are recognized as clubs now.
T: These are all places that have developed the legitimate paperwork.
D: Which is different than what you’ve been doing in Brooklyn.
T: I don’t think it’s so different.
D: You don’t think so?
T: It’s a different level of paperwork
D: So the repurposing of a space like Uncle Pauly’s for example…
T: Exactly the same process. They just put more money in and have more resources and have more capital.
D: They also establish a certain level of duration though don’t you think?
D: The space permanently becomes a club.
T: I don’t think there’s such a thing as permanence because none of these places last forever. Because the moment these places stop making money they stop existing and the fact of the matter is there are many places that have come and gone. Brownies used to be the big club in town. Not a club anymore. Used to be that the Cooler was the place where all the shows happened. Doesn’t exist anymore. Used to be that shows happened at Sound and Fury. Doesn’t exist anymore. Legitimacy is simply a matter of what you do to create a space that will weather the elements that are thrown at you more than another. They have spaces that have weathered certain elements but at the same time they’ve created a much higher watermark financially for what they have to do to work. And so when you have a big place that has all these investors and all this paperwork its limiting to what you can pull off. I can guarantee you that when the Bowery Ballroom closes people aren’t going to miss it. I mean they might miss that place but they sure as fuck aren’t going to miss the Music Hall of Williamsburg, they aren’t going to miss Studio B.
D: Do you think they miss places that you used to book at that you no longer use?
T: There’ve been many many, many of them. There are tons of places I used to book. I mean some of them still exist but I don’t want to use them anymore and some of them aren’t there anymore. But there are places that occupy a consciousness. We’re not just talking about a transaction, we’re talking about an event that is a community coming together and defining a certain moment in their own culture. As much as we can think that what we do is unimportant – because we’re just privileged white people, we don’t do anything important, we’re just privileged white people who consume – it’s not true. We are thinking individuals who are -
D: But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not being that cynical.
T: And I’m not saying you are. But that’s how people think. We’ve all been taught to think that our own culture is unimportant and disposable. Well the one thing that isn’t disposable is what we create with out own hands. And I think that what we create with out own hands is this small thing. And the moment it gets to be this commercialized thing is when it becomes disposable culture and that’s when it no longer has permanence. Culture is supposed to be the definition of how we are as a people, as a group of individuals making a mark on our history. I think the only events that make a mark on peoples minds, that stand out in people’s minds are the ones that are more intimate.
D: Then is this use of different spaces or hopping around booking shows in different spaces rather than one single space an effort on your part to disrupt a sense of permanence or disrupt a largeness?
T: Not at all. I think the Seventeen Nautical Miles was a far more important place in people’s memories that anything I’ve done in New York. And that was a permanent place. So no I don’t buy into that at all. What I do now is an effect of the capitalist system. I have no option but to move around frequently because these places get shut down. And they get shut down for two reasons. One they get shut down because of pressure from existing clubs to do so or they get shut down because of real-estate interests. These are all direct effects of capitalism, money and power. The last one is a reflection of the other two. The people who write the rules for what you need to have to be a legal and safe place are the very ones who have monopolistic control over the market as it is. The people who are writing the code for what a club has to have are the same people who already own the club. The rules are written to discourage competition. This is not to say there isn’t such a thing as safety regulations that need to be followed but when the safety regulations are being written, when the rules of how much money you have to have – we’re really talking about money here – when the rules are written about how much money you have to have to open one of these places by the very players who would suffer by a new player being on the market – then you have a problem. And that’s really a problem throughout America in everything that people do. That’s a problem across the board in America and the West in all things. All code, all regulation, is written by the people being regulated. Which means that they can pick and choose what will be too difficult for independent people to do. And that’s what you run into with rock clubs. So I have no option but to move around. Now I’ve luckily learned how to do it in a way that places have a lot of long-term value at this point. The Silent Barn has been operating for four years. Market Hotel has been operating for a year. Death by Audio has been open for two years. Monster Island Basement has been open for four years. There are many places that have found a sweet spot where they don’t get challenged. Now that will not last forever. All it takes is a tiny bit of pressure from vested interests to get these places shut down. If somebody decided that the Market Hotel was taking away from their bottom line – and most of these people are very short sighted and would think that way – right now they realize that it’s a farm team for Bowery Ballroom, it’s a farm team for Live Nation. If somebody were less smart about it than the people who are currently in power are, these places would be instantly shut down. And this happens this way in most towns. New York is in an interesting renaissance of independent music because the powers that be have decided to tolerate this for a while.
D: What I’m hearing you say is that this condition of having to constantly relocate is a result of a situation that is thrust upon you, that you are forced in to. But surely you realize there is a pleasure in this as well. You benefit from this.
T: How so?
D: Because it sells. Because people are really attracted to it. There’s a real pleasure in this “destination-show.”
T: New Yorker’s are real estate voyeurs. We want to see property. For some reason New Yorkers want to see how everybody lives. They want top see what’s inside that building. Also most New Yorker’s, most white New Yorker’s, most white middle class people are actually terrified of New York. Terrified of anything they don’t already know about. So this gives them an excuse to feel like – oh I can go into this place where a lot of my peers will be. And they’re not just terrified on a crime level, they’re terrified on the level of not being cool enough to go there.
D: So they’re curious and they’re real estate voyeurs but they want it to be safe.
T: They’re curious on an adventure level.
D: But they want some kind of assurance that the outcome is going to be good.
T: So by becoming a brand that people trust, which is what has inevitably happened with what I do – and it won’t last forever because that kind of stuff is incredibly fickle – maybe I can keep that brand identity lasting longer by switching around and making changes. Because the whole idea with having clubs – and I never wanted to be club or a rock space – but by being sort of a virtual club, a club in exile, you have to follow all the rules of what people think about when they go to a club, which is that it’s a destination, it’s a set of things that are cool right then, and cool is the most fickle concept in the world. So yeah, by moving around all the time it does inject a certain amount of newness and novelty. But I think there is a detriment. And the detriment is that there are tons of people, who are either quiet and not seeking the party or else not quite socially confident enough to come out of their shells, that find this kind of situation intimidating. Intimidating or else not pleasant.
D: Or elitist even.
T: Even though it’s not elitist but they have it in their heads that it is. So suppose you come to an event and there’s no sign on the door and you go in and its really dark and all you see is a couple of attractive people and you’re suddenly self-conscious and the music is bands you’ve never heard of and you suddenly feel like oh maybe they are all judging me. And that’s bullshit because honestly nobody gives a fuck. But people feel that way and I don’t care how illegitimate that feeling is. What I care about is that it’s keeping people away who I desperately want to get turned on to an underground world. So the fact of the matter is there are a whole lot of people out there who could benefit from exposure to a more intimate, more homemade, more real, more “I could do it myself” kind of culture and instead all they get is Law and Order on TV or the Shins playing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I want those people to be exposed to the idea that they can build things themselves. And so by moving around all the time, if we’re losing some of those people who are exactly who I want to turn on, than that’s a problem.
D: I want to talk about the neighborhoods that you throw these shows in. Do you agree that there’s a destination mentality that revolves around shows that you book?
T: Sometimes. These days I book most of my shows at Monster Island Basement which is right in the middle of Williamsburg.
D: That’s true. You aren’t as active. Or there aren’t as many events you do in crazy weird locations as there were a couple of years ago.
T: Probably because the crazy weird locations simply aren’t crazy and weird anymore. But that was because there weren’t any other options. It had to be where it was. It was always about what you could get away with legally. I do throw weird events. From time to time there will be something in a warehouse. That’s because the event will be so big that I have to find a new place. I’ve never fetishized…I mean I love the spaces and I sometimes love the experience but the thing is that new spaces bring new complications. New spaces bring a new set of assholes you have to negotiate with. Be it the people who run the place, be it the people who are neighbors, be it the cops who respond. None of this is fun.
D: So finding new spaces is not a major aim.
T: No I’m not trying to be a real estate agent. I’m not trying to expose beautiful properties. What I want to do is find functional places that work.
D: In this vein, do you ever think about the relationship between your activities, between the work that you do, and processes of gentrification in these neighborhoods?
T: I don’t think it matters. Because, bottom line, our culture is important. Me, as a white guy or a middle class guy or whatever, I need to be exposing and having a chance to express my culture just as much as the next guy and if the cultural and legal obstacles force me into using a certain area than so be it. There is nothing evil about visiting neighborhoods and I will not accept that criticism because I think it’s bullshit. For one thing the people who most want to bitch about gentrification are exactly the people who are most likely to move into the neighborhood. Be it the punkiest of the punks or the leftiest of the lefties. They’re the ones who are moving into Crowne Heights. I will never feel guilty about finding a place for my culture.
D: Again, I’m not being cynical about this and this is not a moral question.
T: So what am I supposed to do? Make my culture cost more money because I have to do it in Williamsburg? Williamsburg itself is gentrification. There wasn’t a majority of hipsters in Williamsburg fifteen years ago. What about the Lower East Side? Let me tell you something about the Lower East Side. That same fifteen years ago it was a largely Hispanic neighborhood. Nobody owns the neighborhoods.
D: I’m asking because I think there’s a big difference between gentrification in downtown Manhattan in the late eighties and gentrification as it’s happening now in Brooklyn. It’s not as…
T: It’s not as sudden.
D: It’s not as sudden and it’s not as sinister in a way. In Manhattan there was rampant speculation and flipping.
T: That happens in Williamsburg too. The thing that’s really different and the reason you see such a different process is that in Manhattan all of the prices are so high that nothing is rent controlled anymore. The reason you don’t see such a dramatic flipping situation in Williamsburg or Bushwick or further out is that the rent control keeps people in their buildings so the buildings stay diverse. Now most of those buildings are getting kind of close. The rent control limit is 2,000 dollars. Last year in Williamsburg, pretty much everyone who still had a lease that they signed in 2000 or ‘99 or 2001 finally saw their rent creep above 2,000 dollars which meant that every one of those people, at the time that their lease came up, got kicked out on their ass, which is why so many people now live out by the Market Hotel, because its a lot of people who used to live in Williamsburg and just last year their leases came up. Just last year they got kicked out. Now that happened probably to the original residents of the neighborhood just a few years before. I wouldn’t say its less sinister its just that the law protects it from happening too much. Honestly I’m not a big fan of rent control. Even though I live in a rent control building and I benefit from it I think in the long run its makes rents more expensive. Because what it makes is it makes the few vacancies that do exist in an area much more expensive. So the average rent in the neighborhood can be low but the vacancies are incredibly high.
D: you don’t think that your activity or the work that you do fuels speculation
T: It might but so does anybody’s. Like somebody might open a coffee shop somewhere. I think what I do is temporary. I’m not doing anything permanent. I’m coming in, throwing an event, and getting out.
D: But there’s still a value that accumulates.
T: Sure. It gets eyeballs in the neighborhood. Yeah, so? That would happen no matter where I did this. Would it be better for culture and society if I forced these spaces to remain in what we see as white enclaves which would make the events much more expensive to do? Which would mean the prices would be higher? Which would mean I’m limited to what I can present to people, which means the art is less edgy because I’m making this hamfisted attempt to not fuel gentrification? When that term itself is very vague. There’s a lot of gray area there. Again there are still a lot of Latin people in Williamsburg. It may be hard to believe but there are many kids who live in suburban areas of New York City who have never heard of Williamsburg. And I’m sure some of them would come to the shows, and some of them still do come to the shows for the first time and some of those people are being exposed to Williamsburg for the first time. And we all know that Williamsburg is already gentrified and already lost right? Not to those kids. They’re going to be driving up the rent in that neighborhood and they’re going to kick out those last Latin people who are still there and those last Black people who live in the projects, those last poor people of whatever variety. You’re getting into such a ridiculous concept when you think we should be self-policing ourselves to not encourage gentrification. How does that work on the ground? What am I supposed to do? Only locate in the suburbs? Where all the white people are?
D: What I would really be interested in seeing is you doing this in a deli in midtown Manhattan.
T: You can’t get those spaces. I’ve tried it. The rent is so high in those areas that the people who own those delis are people who are making like one percent profit because their rent is so high, their expenses are so high, the amount of payoffs is so high. Every detail makes their business so expensive that they run their business like a war. And to them they see an event happening in their upstairs as being an unnecessary risk that they don’t want to take.
D: Even if it brings in business?
T: Why would they think it brings in business? Based on what I have to tell them?
D: Because you’re known. People know what you do.
T: I get press in our community. In our community maybe there’s some currency to what I do. Outside of my community of little white hipsters who went to college, or middle class hipsters, I keep saying white hipsters but it’s really middle class. One of the great things about America and about bohemian scenes in general is that they’re generally relatively color blind as long as you’re making enough money and you’re into the right stuff it’s colorblind. That’s not such a bad thing. We hate ourselves over it but its not. There are lots of good things about hipster culture and cultured white middle class America that we should stop hating ourselves for. But getting over that…The reason that I can’t do those things and those events is because they don’t want to do it. I could give them a pile of positive press and they’re going to see it as risk and the reason is because their insurance is already ridiculously high. They’re already worried. Do you realize that if you’re only making one percent profit, can you imagine how terrifying the prospect of two days of interrupted operation is?
Its easy to think of all these opportunities being there but they aren’t in reality and the reason they aren’t is because when the stakes are as high as they are in New york City, because of the cost of doing business here, people are more apt to say no than to say yes. And in my opinion if you’re worried about being predatorial and upsetting hardworking poor people, what about those people that work at that bodega? What about that bodega owner who you’re basically taking advantage of and saying, “oh don’t worry about it there’s no risk in this.” If some little rich kid from Williamsburg falls down the stairs and cracks his skull open he’s gonna get fucking sued. You talk about trying to avoid predatorial situations where you’re taking advantage of people but there are always situations where you’re taking advantage and trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. And you can only do what’s reasonable and by renting the space for myself like Market Hotel or Silent Barn I’ve taken the risk onto myself and off someone else. In some ways that’s really charitable.
D: And like you said before you don’t want to be a real estate speculator.
T: It’s not my job and I don’t care. I mean I just don’t think that what I’m doing…It’s very easy to look at what I do through this lens of how important it is in our particular little community. We’re a very small part of New York. In the grand scheme of things there are so many other things at play that effect where people are living. Yes, there are a lot of people of our variety who now live near the Silent Barn and the Market Hotel but that’s not really the main force of gentrification. When you think of the main force of gentrification you’re talking about actual yuppies. You’re talking about people who actually have enough money.
D: But you are highly visible. And the culture that you facilitate is research and development for what will become mainstream popular culture, or for the culture of groups who are the main force of gentrification.
T: I’m not a household name. I’m not that visible. It seems visible because everyone we know knows about it. Everyone who goes to shows. But the amount of people who go to these shows is a tiny droplet of the city. It’s so miniscule.
D: But it gets spread around. It gets detached from your name – the culture that you facilitate.
T: It depends how wide a lens you let it be. If you talk about everything up to MGMT sure but that was never really part of our scene. These things never really existed on any level on the underground. You talk about TV on the Radio, sure they’ve heard of that. But that’s not me. That’s not what I do. That’s very much the property of the bigger players that only do things at these crazy legitimate places. And not to mention that none of these bands have ever played a warehouse show in Bushwick. So yeah, it’s true. You talk about the McCarran park pool as being part of it but its not. They’re taking what we do and painting a veneer of what we do to make it seem more legit. But in reality they’re just corporate America doing it in a different way. There’s nothing independent. I’m happy for them that they make a lot of money for themselves and that they do occasionally good music. Maybe half the time the music is pretty good. And that’s cool but they’re totally at the mercy of and play to the tastes and whims of the power structure. Yes, that stuff is a household name. That stuff is well known to a lot of people. What I do – even though they sometimes use what I do without using my name in order to paint what they do in a better light, and they certainly steal the bands – does that mean what I do is part of that? I don’t think so. They’re just co-opting. Even when MTV runs a story, they may mention my name but they’re really marketing MGMT.
D: But you yourself were on MTV.
T: Because they were trying to market MGMT and make MGMT seem more legit. And I know those guys and there’s nothing evil, there’s no evil anyway, its just the way their marketing machine, which is a combination of major label might, press marketing and their management who is trying to get their songs in commercials because that’s how you make money now. They’re trying to paint them as coming from this underground that they don’t come from.
D: But this is completely related to what you do.
T: It’s just an extra element. It’s basically an accessory. They’re wearing a little ring that says Brooklyn DIY.
D: But it’s incredibly important. It’s essential.
T: But it’s phony.
D: But that’s how it works. It’s how culture circulates.
T: It hasn’t helped more people be at our shows. It hasn’t helped more people care about what we’re doing. They’re just using the legitimacy we’ve built up to paint what they’re doing. And I’m only using this to discount how well known what I do is. It’s not that well known. It’s something that’s useful…You take a pre-existing look that has some legitimacy with a certain crowd and has very shadow awareness among a larger populace and then you use all of it’s good qualities to make you’re mediocre thing seem better. It’s very common. What I’m saying is that it’s really easy to mistakenly think that that means that we have mainstream, legitimacy. We don’t. We’re still very much marginal. It’s still very disposable. If anything it actually makes us more disposable. It makes us more in danger because it means that it makes us look like a trend. Which means we’ll be unseated by the next trend.
D: Someone will always come in to fill you’re role.
T: What I’ve tried to do in the last several years is create a framework by which people are encouraged to replace me. And it’s working. There are enough people doing it as well. And I list everyone else on my website. And also I’ve tried to mentor certain people and try to keep certain clubs alive that I don’t even use. I haven’t put on a show at Death by Audio for six months. You know how often I have to field calls from Death by Audio telling them how to keep from getting shut down? All the fucking time. The point being I want there to be an underground that is not dependent on me and I think its there. So that’s great. If anything it means that I have a lot less authority than I once did. Which is great.
D: Do you consider yourself a promoter?
D: Do you consider yourself a curator?
T: Those are just words that mean the same thing.
D: Not exactly. For me what you do is more closely related to an art world curatorial model than it is to the world of popular music and club booking.
T: Perhaps but I’m not the first person. The problem is nobody respects music as being a serious art form. It’s seen as teeny-bopper bullshit which is sad. I mean I don’t think I’m the first one who’s tried to do things in a more heady way. I’m glad that maybe there are people who have noticed this. And I certainly try to talk about it as being what I care about. That the show is more than the sum of its parts. It’s about relationships between different bands. And it is curating audiences as much as it is curating bands. You can’t just book a bunch of bands you think are awesome. You have to book bands where everyone in the room is going to at least on some level be pleased by the other bands playing. Even if they’ve never seen them or heard of them before. That is a challenge. A friend is not just someone you like or someone who likes the same things you like. It’s someone who hates the same things you hate. And this is all about friendships and scenes and coolness and hanging out. So when you book a show it’s a delicate balancing act so that you don’t just fill the room with people you think are good. It’s booking with the people who are good who also have this in common with this other band so that the audience that is attached to one band is going to find interest in the other. So it’s creating scenes and communities of bands. The good news is that as bands get more popular there’s more overlap.
D: And this is where the curator role comes in.
T: So it’s kind of a combination of those two things.
D: Would you ever do a show in a museum?
D: Has anyone ever asked you to?
T: Yeah, the Brooklyn Museum wants me to do a show very soon. The problem with that is that it’s a headache. Usually the sound is really bad but that’s not even a part of it. It’s just that I don’t like working with bureaucracy. I don’t work well with them. I’m an independent person and I’m headstrong and it’s my way or the highway really. It’s just the way I work. I see what I do as having an element of being an artist to it. So working with these institutions where I have to jump through hoops and where its more about playing the game and working the system than it is about the nuts and bolts of booking a show. Being institutional is something that I usually shy from. I’m doing it more now because I’m getting older and I’m a little less hotheaded. As much as I may sound really self-righteous when I’m telling you the basest elements of how I think, these days I’m much more practical and I think about how things are. So I would do it now. And I’m starting to do that kind of stuff. Like institutional work, trying to do work with museums, trying to curate city funded stuff, even curating stuff that’s corporate funded if its in the right framework. The PBS model is the one I like to go with. I don’t mind the idea of an underwriter. I don’t mind the idea of a quiet corporate funder who simply wants to be attached to the ideas. But somebody who wants to sell their cell-phones at the event? That’s tacky.
Upcoming Todd P. shows are listed at www.toddpnyc.com.