‘A Disco Ball Named Jessica’ — Verboten Gears Up For First Anniversary
As the NYC club scene continues to boom, Verboten has emerged as a top destination for those in search of a proper dance. The club's co-founders Jen Schiffer and John Perez, long time veterans of the NYC club culture, had been throwing parties at various venues in the city for over a decade before finally settling into Verboten's permanent home in Brooklyn. Now approaching it's one-year anniversary, the venue is gearing up for a massive celebration which they are calling Verboten 001. We got a chance to chat with John and Jen about Verboten's history, their disco ball named Jessica, and how they manage to put together their stacked lineups. Here we are offered a glimpse of Verboten's aesthetic vision and what it takes to run one of the busiest night clubs in the city that never sleeps.
Verboten has been hosting top-notch talent since before there was an official venue and events would pop up at a number of different locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Can you tell us about the history of Verboten and what was it like in the beginning?
John Perez: We were nomadic party organizers for a decade, bringing pretty big talent to clubs, theaters, hotels, warehouses and lofts. While some spaces were pretty cool (Good Units, Sullivan Room and the 1896 warehouse come to mind) none were perfect, and we were often at the mercy of shady venue owners, bad sound systems, and police crackdowns on venues. We dreamed of a venue that was custom tailored to our needs, where the energy of loading in better sound, video, and our own staff could instead be applied to taking our parties to the next level.
Since opening it’s doors in 2014, Verboten’s permanent home has stood out as one of the top dance clubs in North America. What was your vision when you decided to establish the venue?
John: We worked hard to create a venue that could really serve as a home: something with amazing sound and visuals, flexible enough to be used for different kinds of events, and an open, warehouse-style feel. Our primary goal was to make everyone (fans AND DJs) feel welcome and treated well: a low booth to allow a connection with the crowd, an access hallway from the front door to backstage, a green room, service bar and bathroom for the DJs and lots of seating, bathrooms and bars for the customers.
The club is definitely unique with 3/4 wall video mapping, a giant disco ball, and special decorations for specific events which help to create a distinct atmosphere where fans can have a complete sensory experience. How did you arrive at this current setup and how do you think this aspect adds to the overall feel of the venue?
John: We remember the days when clubs would put lots of effort into special events, changing decor and themes frequently. The open layout made adding new production elements like aerialists, decor and performers for holidays and residents parties easy to do.
As for video, we've always incorporated visuals by the amazing Waking Dream at our parties. We are so happy with how that wall came out, how if fills your entire field of vision when you're on the dance floor. In year two, we plan to expand on that with more projection mapping, a TV wall, and lots of guest VJs.
And the disco ball (her name is Jessica by the way) is a staple of any proper New York nightclub, and a focal point for our killer light guy Gary Hunt to work his magic.
You've been doing this for a long time and haven’t slowed down one bit. Verboten is as busy as ever and there has never been a drop-off in lineup quality. What makes you continue to have the drive to bring in these outstanding artists?
Jen Schiffer: We grew up as club kids in NYC while going to grad school. Now when some of those legendary DJs play our club it's inspiring. I still love the "club kid" and we fight to train them and keep them safe while bringing in the best DJs from around the world. Nothing is better than pairing an icon like Carl Craig with an avant garde Matt Dear. But Verboten has been like that since the beginning, always looking for interesting new ways to build a great line up. It's a thank you to ourselves and to the fans.
Verboten's lineups are always cutting edge, bringing in the best underground and legendary talent. Can you fill us in on what the process is like when you’re putting together these lineups? It’s amazing to see Verboten residents like Carl Craig and Maya Jane Coles who have been spinning at these events for years now.
Jen: Putting together a line up is 1/2 creative and have 1/2 war. We love artists who love us and we're lucky to have people like Carl who bring new ideas and a history of talent relationships to the club. The process is hard and fees are rising faster than the market may bear. So people like Carl are really unique and a treasure.
With dance music booming in NYC, do you find it hard to compete with the neighboring venues and events?
Jen: We don't think it's harder. I think the scene is growing more fans every day, and we actively try to educate and introduce fans to new sounds. We strive to bring our customers the best experience, always wanting to bring them "more," so this growth in the market is rather inspiring. Although we do work too much.
For the 1 year anniversary Verboten will host a stacked lineup of artists who have made their mark on underground dance music. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of these artists who are coming through and what can we expect from these events?
John: Thursday we kick off our VerbotenLIVE concert series with the US debut of Damian Lazarus' new live project, The Ancient Moons, along with PillowTalk live and Verboten residents (who you'll be hearing a lot more about in the next year) Bedouin.
Also planned for this week are special editions of our Deep House Yoga, Wasabassco Burlesque, and Sunday Brunch. The last one is a nice giveback featuring $1 pancakes and mimosas all day and music by all our favorite locals, staff, and Radioslave at night!
Verboten has also been announced as a curator at this years Mysteryland Music Festival. What do you have planned for this showcase?
John: We're very excited to be curating a few stages at Mysteryland this year, including a Verboten tent, focusing on our signature house & techno, and a Zeitgeist stage that's a bit more nu disco and indie dance. In addition to bringing a bunch of our favorite Djs, residents, and parties, we're also working with Mysteryland to really recreate the full Verboten experience: Deep House Yoga with a DJ in the morning, cool aerial and burlesque performances and some great BBQ courtesy of our very own chef.
It's evident that Verboten is fast becoming a staple in the NYC dance music scene with Ida Engberg stating, "Verboten is an amazing club. It is a spiritual place created by dedicated passionate people with pure intentions to connect the music with the people." Receiving high praise from artists and fans alike, the club is seeing a surge in popularity that is a product of the talent they continue to bring in week after week.
Be sure to make your way to what Mixmag is calling “Brooklyn’s underground techno cathedral,” and witness what everyone is raving about. Purchase tickets to Verboten 001 and all upcoming events on the club's official website.