ART: Inside the Underground with REDness
BEHIND-THE-SCENE: Q&A WITH NYC EVENT PROMOTER REDNESS
Navigating the terrain of NYC’s nightlife can pose a challenge for the uninitiated wanting more than the usual, so take a word of advice from someone who knows firsthand: choose wisely. “Each event is different and it’s easy to get stuck because people are expecting a certain thing when you want to go off the beaten path or vice-versa … a Catch-22, if you will,” longtime event promoter REDness reveals in the following interview with Tania Fuentez Media. “You have to remind yourself that although it can become serious business, it’s still a party at the end of the day.” Passing fads, clubs all may come and go, yet this savvy creative stays on the pulse of Gotham’s underground culture while staying true to herself, hosting and promoting some of the best get-downs such as the summer hit, Seaport Soul Series, Shelter with DJ Timmy Regisford and Oscar P’s “I’ll House You” at Bar 13 (just off Union Square in Greenwich Village). “Most people who “are House” were House long before they found the party,” REDness observes. “It may not even make sense at first, yet it’s in you like being an artist or a dancer. You come that way even if your parents didn’t. Then you find the party or the scene and suddenly it all makes sense.”
NOTE: All photos provided by REDness unless otherwise noted.
TFM: You’ve established yourself firmly in NYC’s underground House scene as a promoter and tastemaker. Why did you opt to trade corporate comforts for a more eclectic career in the nightlife industry? Any words of wisdom to others testing the waters? And, who are your mentors?
REDness: Well, I didn’t exactly opt to do anything. It just happened that way. I was working in radio and TV advertising then got laid off. The opportunity to start promoting came up unexpectedly when my brother, Ejoe (Wilson), invited me to host Soulgasm and I just did what came naturally to me. That expanded into promoting other events and then having my own, as well. The rest is history. As for mentors, to be totally honest, I don’t really have any. There are people I have a huge respect for as promoters like Robbi and Evelyn Santos but, as they say I did it my way. I create my own flyers, do my own postings, built my own e-mail list and Web site (www.theREDness.com), etc. After years of going to parties and seeing many come and go, I saw a lot of what NOT to do from the outside before I ever got in.
As far as getting into this industry, it’s not easy because nothing is sure and you just never know what will happen. Each event is different and it’s easy to get stuck because people are expecting a certain thing when you want to go off the beaten path or vice-versa … a Catch-22, if you will. You have to remind yourself that although it can become serious business, it’s still a party at the end of the day and can you really depend on a party? I am both lucky and very grateful to have gotten as far as I have and would like to keep going further.
TFM: How did you get the name, REDness, anyway? Tell me one thing no one knows about you that makes you proud to be a New Yorker.
REDness: A very good friend of mine just called me “REDness” one day and I said, ‘heeeeeey, I like that.” REDness is an aura, a feeling not just a person … hahaha. I used it for my promotions to differentiate myself. Hmm, I don’t think many people know that I initially majored in psychology in college and used to work as an emergency services operator … like a 9-1-1 operator, taking frantic calls, medical charts, calling ambulances and the whole thing so at times, I know how to remain calm when people around me cannot.
When I was doing parties at South Street Seaport this summer I felt good every time I would walk down there because it’s a great representative of the variety of people who live in this city. As I get older, I can much more appreciate the fact that we are all just humans trying to make our way in this world, we all belong here and we can all dance together, no matter your looks or language.
TFM: Defining song or album that best represents spirit of House music at its peak. What drew you to the culture in the first place and how are you preserving its legacy?
REDness: I cannot say there’s a defining song or album because there’s just way too much. Now, for ME personally, what’s interesting is that the music of my peak (which I hope I’m still in) wasn’t all House music at all. I’m from the time when everything was played at a party. Nothing was genre specific and you just never knew what might happen. We heard Mr. Fingers and The Jacksons and Phil Collins and The Peech Boys and Boy George and Kenny Loggins and Malcolm Mclaren not just in one night but in one DJs set. I miss that a lot and don’t know when that got lost and we got all straight-laced with it.
What drew me was the music and the culture and the fact House fit me like a glove. Most people who “are House” were House long before they found the party. It may not even make sense at first yet it’s in you like being an artist or a dancer. You come that way even if your parents didn’t. Then you find the party or the scene and suddenly it all makes sense. There’s a whole musical world based on you, me, we, us. Tania, I’m sure you can relate as I can personally remember when this happened for you!
As for preserving anything, I don’t know, I’m just trying to keep the fun going and keep the people dancing. Things are pretty painful to watch right now as we are not only getting older but spaces and faces are dwindling right before our eyes. I feel like if WE don’t snatch this it’s all going to get lost in the source very quickly. We’re the only ones that know what happened and therefore the only ones that know how to pass it on but we are also very selfish with it. If we hold too tight we’re going to smother it to death. The city’s rents and rules aren’t helping at all. I don’t even mean nightclubs. I mean rules, rules, rules. Even if you rent private space they are watching and waiting to enforce …. rules. As kids at the party we ran WILD and FREE with no rules and we didn’t have major troubles or fights. Now you want to enforce rules? When we’re adults? Go figure …
TFM: Recently, you joined forces with another dynamic force, Joann Jimenez, to pay tribute to longtime NYC promoter Evelyn Santos. Describe what that felt like and its significance.
REDness: Ahhh Miss Evelyn … it felt great but even more so necessary. Evelyn’s been promoting since long before I got to a party and she is still doing it strong. What I see as special is, she helped to MAKE some of our parties via promotion. She helped to expand this entire scene and I think at times people are quick to forget. We all went to some awesome parties but did you stop to ponder HOW you knew to go? Long before all the Myspaces, Facebooks and even e-mails there was Evelyn … and there still is … and she’s still doing without a computer. Old Way!
TFM: Favorite place to party? Best song to get open? Ultimate destination?
REDness: My favorite place to party at the moment is WIP where Shelter takes place. I like the running around to different rooms and the dark corners. Outside of that … Club REDness aka my house is off the hook! There’s never a line, no security to bother me, my very own playlist, great visuals, private rooms, equipment which I am allowed to touch (sometimes I AM the DJ), dope after-hours and whomever I want in my VIP … not to mention great drinks and food too! Right now, on the dance floor I’m loving Ralf GUM featuring Monique Bingham, Take Me to My Love. It’s all the things a good song should be.
Ultimate destination … It’s pretty simple. I want to go to Africa and dance in the motherland and I want to find MY Indian Tribe, which I am researching now and dance with them, too.
REDness official site: www.theREDness.com
Find REDness on Facebook: www.facebook.com/1redness