Becka Diamond and Spencer Product at We Bite at Happy Endings (Photo by Nicky Digital)
In honor of our 9th annual Nightlife Awards taking place next Thursday, October 17 -- go vote for your favorite nominees HERE! -- we're looking back at all of the folks who took home an award during our ceremonies past. From now until the 17th, we'll post a new story each day that tracks down all of the winners' exploits, closures and rebirths so you can find out what's been going on with your favorite DJ, door person or nightclub since they last witnessed you downing tequila shots and belting out Maximo Park lyrics at 4 a.m at Luke and Leroy's.
Next up: Spencer Product, "Best DJ" Nightlife Award winner at our 2005 inaugural ceremony, founding member of New York's early-to-mid aughts electroclash scene and one of the first people to recognize Williamsburg's nightlife potential. We caught up with Spencer about his parties at Happy Endings and Luxx, found out about what he's doing now and reminisced about the days where you'd see Hedi Slimane and Green Day hanging out at the same dingy bar on the LES.
What do you remember from 2005?
2005 was such a pivotal point for me because I was in a departure from electroclash and was exploring new venues and new people and new music. That sort of manifested in the Happy Ending party I did [We Bite] on Tuesdays with Stephen Lockdown. It was such a wonderful success because it was just this really great energy and mix of people from my electroclash scene to Lower East Side rock 'n' rollers. That channeled into the music we played as well. Winning that award in 2005 was great. It was such a reward for experimenting.
That time period was great, as much as it was a rough time. Right after the first Paper Nightlife Awards, Stephen died. I could only do the party at Happy Endings for another eight months after that because it was too much of a graveyard for me.
What was the crowd like at your Happy Endings party?
The crowd was very LES in that it was very young. There was an element of fashion but there was also the grunge, dirt punk vibe as well. It was a real hybrid between high and low. I remember days when there would be some sort of bar fight between some hoods and Hedi Slimane and Green Day would be upstairs. It had such a high brow / low brow mix of people. It's hard to encompass it all in one word.
What music did you play?
It was indie rock and this sort of new danceable version of indie rock. Bloc Party had just come to town. I had my band Black Moustache and was doing a lot of electro punk. LCD Soundsystem was merging those lines between indie and dance music. The Rapture was really fun. Hot Hot Heat. Louis XIV.
Backing up a bit, tell me more about how you started DJing and how you became involved in the electroclash scene.
I started doing parties in 1999 at the Pyramid Club on Sundays with Larry Tee. At that point, I wasn't DJing, I was just interested in throwing a good party. We did that for a year and then we moved the party to Joe's Pub and that's when I started DJing -- the summer of 2000. I was inspired by all the music I was hearing from Fischerspooner to Chicks on Speed and Peaches -- the combination of New Wave and electro and '80s hip-hop and all these different genres that were coming together. Music was really exciting. I couldn't wait to get behind the decks. I remember we moved to Luxx in Williamsburg on Saturdays [to do the Berliniamsburg night] and then we started Fridays after the Saturdays got too busy. I remember our first party was on September 17 of 2001 so it was just barely a week after 9/11 and it was weird how after that blow to NYC, people sought cover in nightlife.
Spencer Product. (Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Billy Farrell Agency)
What do you remember about Williamsburg from that time?
Ahh, Williamsburg. It was great. It was such a nice community of people that lived there. [Back then], it still wasn't the popular place on the map to live. It was only if you knew about it or lived there, you knew how great it was. It was hard to convince people otherwise. Doing a party there, I'd been trying to convince people that there was a scene in Williamsburg. People were like, "I don't go to Williamsburg, I don't go to Brooklyn." I lived in an awesome loft on N. 10th and Bedford and paid $500 for it and we would throw parties in my living room and I started to gather a scene there. Then that paved the way to actually do something in a venue and Luxx was one of the first newer, gentrified dance spots when it opened on Grand and Driggs. It took some finagling to get people over there.
There were lots of other great little spots, too. Different warehouses would have parties -- it was just word of mouth. I think I had a cell phone or pager. We weren't texting people. You'd hear about something and try to find the address. There were little local bars, too. There was definitely a community of people.
What is your impression of Williamsburg today?
It's amazing. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of new business that's there. Saturday night on the LES feels like Times Square. Williamsburg is just behind it but it still feels crazy. I wasn't around when SoHo evolved, but but it feels like a SoHo. It's now viewed as so posh and desirable and it used to be so not desirable. But it's a great neighborhood -- I can't blame people for wanting to live there. It's still a home to me, even though I don't live there for the moment. Those are my New York roots. I moved in '97 and lived there basically the whole time I was in New York.
What have you been up to since 2005?
After Happy Endings, I went on to do the Ruff Club party, which won a Paper Nightlife Award for "Best Party" the second year you had the awards. Post-that, I've been DJing, though I've been party-less for a while. I've done the This Is New York parties at Paris Fashion Week, though I'm no longer a part of that at the moment because I've been doing art work. My art is very mixed media and experiments with video and sound, 2D posters, printed work, blurring different media from digital print to silk screening and combining it all together. I'm currently in an MFA program in Design & Technology at San Francisco Art Institute and living in San Francisco. It reminds me a bit of East Village back in 1998, actually. There are some real interesting types.
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