Fresh and Oxy-Clean: Making Music with Roxy Cottontail
Everybody I speak to who is opening a joint starts with “We’ll have great DJ’s and the best service in town.” Very few actually know what they’re talking about on either subject. With some exceptions like Lit, Santos’ Party House and of course the music-based clubs like Pacha and Cielo, good music means they will hire a DJ who plays what the crowd wants to hear and is known to their crowd. Some might argue, “Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?” Well, sort of. My viewpoint has always been the DJ is number 1 an entertainer, but almost as importantly, an educator. The pandering to the model/bottle crowd has resulted in a musically ignorant club scene. The people spending loot want to hear familiar mixes from familiar DJ’s to go along with the familiar faces that service them in familiar ways. Songs are played to death and then played some more. It’s mainstream music to a mainstream crowd that celebrates the superficial and obvious.
Nightlife has been stripped down to the basics. It’s ‘how much money do you have?’ ‘How hot are you to look at?’ Rich clones dressing in clone outfits and nobody wants to bring in the clowns anymore. Clubs have become a big business with layers of regulation and paperwork necessary to keep places financed and functioning. The artists and playboys who used to seek out the edge have given way to the business types who are comfortable in a safe middle and beautiful and safe crowd. How can anyone blame them? It’s all good. There is nothing wrong with this formula and there is always Brooklyn, where entire neighborhoods strive for creative diversions. And yes Brooklyn has it’s share, albeit different sorts, of clones.
I eternally wait for a club to have it all. Real, forward music that I won’t hear when I drive my car and a solid social scene where I can meet all types of interesting people. It will have to be sexy as well. Sexy, of course, is an opinion and my opinion is: there aren’t many sexy joints in town. There is a difference between having a lot of sex and being sexy. The model, bottle, table scene just doesn’t push my button— I eternally seek the lowly places and the crowds looking for adventure and whatever comes their way. Predictable isn’t fun. Today I talk to Roxy Cottontail, a DJ, a female, an innovator. She fills up rooms with future perfect music and a stylish crowd that just can’t stand too much else. If someone really wants to “start with the music,” I’d call Roxy and Justine Delaney and only a handful of others to get this party started right.
Roxy Cottontail sort of sounds like a drug that I never use. Why did you call yourself Roxy Cottontail? Roxy was a nickname that I had for a really long time since I had a band in high school called The Fox Deluxe. I don’t know it just kind of—well Roxy—and it was kind of an online message board name and my avatar was Roxy Cotton. Then I came across Peter Cottontail and I was like, “Roxy Cottontail, I am a little bunny.” And it kind of fit so it’s a mixture of rabbit, drugs, and booty.
2 out of 3 of my favorite things: You are a DJ and you are also a promoter. As a DJ, what kind of music do you play? I play everything. I play some house, some electro, disco, rock, indie rock, I play everything.
And you promote? Did you started off promoting yourself as a DJ having your own parties? No, I started promoting other DJs like Diplo and Low B. The Hollertronix Party was the first one I booked at 9 1/2. I moved to Philly after 9/11 because I went to Pratt and then I moved to Philly because I wanted a job. I was doing design and I wanted to just get away. Then I discovered these DJs and just started doing parties with them.
Where were their parties in Philly? It was at the Ukrainian Club, the Ukie Club. It was legendary because the beer was really cheap and it was like this big sweaty dance hall. They were doing something really unconventional with crunk music and dance music and 80’s. I don’t think it was really happening anywhere else. This was in 2002 and 2003.
So you were promoting other DJs and then what happened? Yeah, I was promoting Diplo and Low B and Spank Rock, who was an MC from Philly. I started booking his first shows in New York. I moved back— I only lived in Philly for a year, I was kind of bored. I came back and I started promoting them heavily—Spank Rock, Amanda Blank—I did the record release party for Kid Cudi too, for Day and Night when that came out. That was at Le Royale like 3 years ago.
What do you like about the club scene and what do you not like about it? I love music and I love bringing people together.
Well, that’s the standard answer but what do you like? What clubs do you like? I love Santos, I love Sway. Sway has been my living room for the past 6 years. Now I really like Bar 13, I’m working there now too. I love, like, the sound system there and I like 1Oak.
Do you go to 1Oak or do you do business there? I have, I have DJed there before and I’ve gone to hang out. I love GoldBar.
I love Goldbar too. Now, you’re a woman and you’ve been in this business a long time. 5 years ago we discussed how hard it is to be a woman in the nightclub business and now it’s 2010 and it’s just as hard. Tell me about that. I think it’s just the same. The only women in nightlife that I’ve had to look up to were like Justine D who pretty much put me on. It was a completely different music than she was doing, mine was definitely more hip-hop and 80’s electro-based, so she kind of gave me the confidence that I could able to do it.
Justine Delaney is Justine D and I guess she’s the director of Le Poisson Rouge which is the old Life space that I had. Justine worked with me there. I remember when she was promoting there. And Jessica Rosenblum too. I can think of other women, but not a lot.
Not a lot! I mean half the population is women and about 1/25 of the population is women working in clubs, something seems wrong. Why do you think that is? It’s just male dominated industries are hard.
What makes this male dominated? We’re supposed to be so liberal and forward-thinking in the club work, why do you think it’s true that we obviously are? I think probably men would feel, they would not want to lose power.
So you’re doing a party with Lady Fag, tell me about that. That’s Thursday nights right? Yeah, we met through out friend Jason, who’s a photographer. He was like, “You two are my favorite people in nightlife,” and he’s gay and her crowd is gay and mine is straight hipsters, so it’s a really amazing mix. We did it at La Pomme and we realized it was too far uptown and we didn’t want to do bottle service so we had to find a new space.
So where are you doing it? At Bar 13. Michael Magnan is our resident DJ and then we have guests and guest performers. This last week Spank Rock performed, he tore the roof off, he’s such a good performer. Then this week we have this crew from New Orleans. So it’s like Gulf Coast bounce music.
Stop there. Tell me what Gulf Coast bounce music is? Well, the Gulf Coast is like Florida and Louisiana and the music they make is like—
Slick and oily? What?
It’s an oil spill joke. Never mind me. Is it house? It’s house but it’s like—it kind of reminds of me GoGo from DC but it’s also dance and very gay-chanting and super up-tempo.
You spoke of crunk music? Now what is crunk music? It’s southern hip-hop.
You have always been on the cutting edge of music. When I was programming clubs and you were just starting out, we’d say Roxy knows her shit. We’d put you in and we’d try to get your DJs to play to musically main stream crowds. When I go to your parties it’s mainly a hipster crowd. Do you ever want to break out and have this music play to a broader audience? Eventually that does happen because I was screaming Baltimore Club like six years ago and no one was playing that in clubs, and now you hear a DJ play a full Baltimore Club set.
Give me an example of a Baltimore Club set. Well, Doo Doo Brown is a famous one, but Samir’s Theme is like the anthem that everyone samples. And that’s like a song that was taken and redone in many ways.
I’m asking you all these questions and I guess when I was running clubs I knew all the answers but I’m out of it. Are most of the club operators out of it, musically? Not playing, not aware of this kind of music but just going for the same old same old? Yeah, most clubs are in line for the same old thing, but like, Sway is really open-minded for me to bring in the newest genre of reggae, of house, whatever it may be.
Because few are playing very little forward at all. I think Santos does a really good job. And I think Sway has done a really good job.
Santos is one of my favorite places. I do hear great sets, there are amazing DJs out there.
Give me five great DJs in New York City and I’m not going to hold you. Start with you. Me and five: Michael Magnan, Melo X, Holy Ghost, Sinatra & Ni** Sky. So you go to 1Oak and you go to what other “mainstream” clubs. Yeah, I went to Griffin on Sunday and I’ll go to Griffin to hear Eli Escobar spin, but he hates that I’ll go to the commercial parties that he spins.
Eli has a good reputation as a DJ and the thing about him is, only the few times I’ve heard him play, he surprised me with something the other guys aren’t playing. But you know I will go there and bring a client or whoever, like someone I’m working with, and I’m booking a party for Manny so I’ll do like a guest hosting thing, it just depends.
Anything else you want to add? I think that’s good.