Dancetracks Interview: BlkMarket Membership

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Started by party promoters Fahad Haider and Taimur Agha, BlkMarket Membership nights are known for many things, from the amazing sound systems to innovative use of space, be it in a warehouse, loft, club, or underground vault. When it comes to the guest DJs at BlkMarket Membership, it’s all about talent, not names. The BlkMarket is only for the best, both established and up-and-coming.

Dancetracks caught up with BlkMarket Membership’s Taimur to talk the history of the BlkMarket and let us in on the what it takes to make the best party in New York.

Where are you from and what do you do, aside from throwing great parties?

I grew up in United Arab Emirates for eighteen years and moved to New York for college back in 1999. I went to Pratt Institute and got a degree in Graphic Design. In 2003 I started working full time for Laird+Partners advertising agency for a few years. Currently I’ve been working at Halcyon where I am the buyer for all the house/techno/disco/electro genres. Shawn Schwartz asked me if i wanted to come on board as he felt it might work really well. I was asked to work there two years ago based on my broad knowledge of music. I have always been a crate digger, looking for that very special record that’s tucked away. Since I have been working there, I deal with ordering every week from seven-eight distributors. I’m very happy with such a position as I play pretty much ninety percent vinyl and will always use this format. I just also started up a radio show at Halcyon called “The Bandwagon” which is alternating every other Wednesday from 7-9pm EST time. It’s a show that features special guests, interviews, and all live DJ sets with no pre-recordings. I think it’s good to have such a thing going as podcasts are a great tool.

How long have you been DJing—where have you played?

I started DJing in 1999 after going on a hunger strike to buy my DJ set up! Back then we had the best club in New York called Twilo. It was this club that really made me fall in love with DJing. Seeing Sasha & Digweed every end of the month for over two years was a very special thing for me and many people in this city. So it’s been eleven years now I have been DJing. I haven’t played much outside the U.S at the moment, but I hope to start this year. With our BlkMarket Membership nights in NYC, we are bringing the best of the best right to our doorstep.

Did you go on a hunger strike so that your parents would buy the equipment?

No no, I meant that while I was in college, the money my father gave me to take care of myself with food, clothing etc, I spent it all on buying my turntables, mixer, and some speakers. I was eating eggs, bread, and potatoes every day for two months.

How did BlkMarket Membership start?

I met Fahad who is a very close friend of mine through a mutual friend in 2006. I would see him at the clubs, but it was in ’06 that one night we both ended up playing records at his place and found out we had almost the same taste in music. I had been DJing previously here and there, but never really anything substantial. After a few DJ sessions with him, we both thought let’s try and do a party and see what happens. Both of us would be resident DJs and we would bring a headliner to play for us. Our idea was simple. To bring in talent that inspires us as DJs.

“It’s all about the music. Good sound system, the best DJs, good vibe, good production, great staff and a very international crowd who come because solely for the music.”

We set up shop at the Vault at club Element in 2006. It was a cool venue and the space was actually an old underground bank vault with low ceilings. No one had done anything here previously in our genre. We did a monthly there for a year and brought in some good acts. The main management just didn’t like what we were doing as it wasn’t a big money maker for them, and we pretty much got sacked from there. Around that time we were in talks with Mehmet Erkaya (Memo) who is the GM at Bar13. I had met him in Miami for the WMC that year and he really liked what we had going and pushed us to do our monthly at Bar13. The chemistry between all of us was amazing and it was that moment that we just started doing bigger and better things. We did parties there for over a year or so, but decided to move locations as every other person and their mothers were trying to do techno parties at Bar13. During this time we also were doing events at LOVE which for us is still one of our favorite clubs in the USA, hands down. That club is made for the DJ. While doing this we also became in contact with Cielo and started doing some events there as well. Our parties name spread like wildfire and people started noticing what we were doing in this city. A big inspiration for us was the ROBOTS party and once those parties stopped we were handed down the torch by them to continue doing the best techno party in New York. We started getting more artists wanting to come play our party and that for us was an achievement on its own. Soon after we started getting very interested in doing exclusive parties in different venues. We decided to bring on Memo to the BlkMarket Membership team to handle the production side of our events, while both Fahad and I concentrate more on the talent, artist relations, and DJing. All three of us are very close friends and working together is amazing. In May 2010 it will be our four-year anniversary here in New York. Looking back from where we started to where we have come today is something we are all very proud of. We are very happy to say that we played alongside some of the best talent out there for the past four years at our own events. Musically it has really matured us in regards to the sound we are playing at the moment. The countless relationships built with all the artists who have played for us is also special to us.

How would you describe the party?

It’s all about the music. Good sound system, the best DJs, good vibe, good production, great staff and a very international crowd who come because solely for the music.

Tell me about your sound system and lighting.

Sound is the most important thing for our events and having it done right is essential. We brought on Grant Riddell from Basic Matter, he is our sound guru with fifteen plus years of expertise in sound. Our favorite rig is the Dynacord Cobra sound system and use we use it mainly for our events. Lighting is also important and we brought on Adam Burrows and his team at Oxygen Lighting Works. Our lighting is set up depending on the artists we bring and the mood that we want to create. We also hire different visual artists also.

Does it have that Berlin vibe — if so, how?

I haven’t been to Berlin yet so I cannot say, but to be honest we have our own thing going on over here. Our crowd is well educated in the music and the crowd response during the sets are nothing short of fantastic. We have revived energy back into the New York techno scene.

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Taimur and Fahad working the BlkMarket

What’s the crowd like?

Very responsive to the music. It’s a mix of people who have been very supportive of what we do. It’s like our big family. We love our crowd!

How did BlkMarket Membership get its name?

When Fahad and I decided to start our party in 2006 we went through a bunch of names on what we should call our night. We came up with the name as we wanted something that would represent the underground and a legion that you had to become a member of.

What kind of DJs do you feature?

All our DJs and live acts are artists whose music we love. We are constantly in the know and up to date with all our music, old and new. We don’t just book artists just because their agent wants them to play for us. We are very picky in who we bring to play. It can be an up-and-coming artist to a worldwide well known artist. We bring them cause we know they are good.

Can you name some of the DJs who have played BlkMarket?

In no particular order here are some of the top headliners we have brought in: Richie Hawtin, Sasha, Craig Richards, Ivan Smagghe, Terry Francis, Pier Bucci live, Cassy, Three, Robert Hood, Jay Haze live, Vincenzo, Thomas Melchior live, Cari Lekebusch, Italoboyz, Wighnomy Brothers, A Critical Mass (Ame/Dixon/Henrik Schwarz live show), Daniel Bell, Konrad Black, Reboot live, Will Saul, Damian Lazarus, Jamie Jones, Matt Tolfrey, Bill Patrick, Seth Troxler, Mr. C, Bruno Pronsato live, Danton Eeprom live, Dyed Soundorom, DJ Koze, Mountain People, Melon, Clive Henry, Agnes live, Barem, Ambivalent, Daniel Bell, Portable live, MyMy live, Adultnapper, Quenum, Ryan Elliot, Mikeal Stavostrand live, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves, Markus Fix, Dan Berkson & James What Live, Anthony Collins, Giles Smith, James Priestley, Derek Plaslaiko.

What did winning best of in NY Mag mean to you and BlkMarket Membership? Did you get a lot of feedback?

The last event we did was the Mobilee showcase, we had so many new faces at our party it was great to see a whole new crowd attending. New York magazine is a great publication and being part of their pick for ‘Best of 2010′ felt great. A lot of people who are not in the scene that I know e-mailed me or called me saying, “congrats, we just saw a feature about what you are doing in New York.” BlkMarket Membership has come a long way since day one and we are very happy to have one of the best DJ residencies which we put together and produced on our own. We pick talent who influence us in the tracks and music that we push as DJs.

What do you have lined up for summer 2010?

Our plans for the summer are pretty good so far. We are coming close to our 4 year anniversary which we are doing in a five-part series. We are also doing some events in other cities such as Detroit, San Francisco. I’m heading over to europe for a tour/vacation for most of June.

Lastly, do you have any plans to take BlkMarket further?

I have been working on a bunch of my own productions. We will be launching our label by the end of the year. Were very happy with our residency in New York and already we have taken it further than any North American party. Thats a big achievement for us.

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