When it comes to underground house and techno music, look no further than Rochester, New York. Local party collective Signal > Noise has taken leaps and bounds to push the local music scene beyond what the rest of Western New York has to offer.
On January 31, 2015, Signal > Noise hosted their debut event at 45 Euclid featuring an impeccable 4-hour set from the mesmerizing Eric Cloutier, which completely sold out despite numerous events occurring in both Rochester and Buffalo on the same night. The small intimate venue combined with minimal yet quality lighting and sound, as well as an educated crowd, truly set the stage for Cloutier to lock the dance floor into a groovy trance all throughout the night.
In order to keep the momentum going, Signal > Noise has recruited Detroit native Norm Talley to further enchant Western New York with the sound of the underground at their next event on April 25, 2015. While we are certainly impressed with the lineup that Signal > Noise has spoiled us with thus far, we also wanted to dig deeper for more information on the dedicated team that brings these events to the area and the variety of incredible sounds to our ears. When you leave a Signal > Noise event, you are already anticipating the next event–something events this intimate can hardly do for me anymore.
Fortunately, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet some of the guys such as Rob, Joe, and Brian, albeit rather briefly. Continue reading to find out what motivates the group to do what they do, what they have in store for WNY, and why they are absolutely my new favorite party collective.
An interview with the Signal > Noise team
Please introduce yourselves. How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Rob Dunn: Signal > Noise is Rob Dunn (Bobby D. Light) , Eric (Flex) Harris, Joe Bucci, Brian Shelton, Danny Kornreich (Kornwalis), Rob Morley, and Jim Kempkes. Many of us have known each other for years as close friends/cohorts/local dance music scene acquaintances. Others, Joe and Danny specifically, are relatively recent imports to Rochester, NY. Despite any prior associations, hanging out at local parties and having conversations on the many awesome Rochester FB groups played a huge role in bringing the crew together in the year leading up to Signal > Noise v1.0.
Flex: Rob Morley and I go way back, like since the early 90s. Back then, he was a part of the Brainfroot Crew as a DJ while I was Djing at clubs in Rochester. Jim Kempkes and I never hung out, but we knew each other from the scene in also going back to the mid-90s or so. I’ve known Brian Shelton since the mid-90s when he was throwing events with his crew back then. I met Rob Dunn a few years ago–I forget exactly how but I think he’s a good guy who loves house and techno. It’s always a good time when we hang out. It’s fun to mix at his place and go b2b with some Vinyl. I met Joe via Rob Dunn; Joe recently returned from Chicago and really loves house music so naturally we get along really well. I only met Danny Kornreich when we got the group together; I asked the RRC Facebook group if anyone would like to be part of a team that invests in parties and he was down. Danny is a good guy–he promotes the parties on Facebook groups that we would never had thought of.
Jim: I just joined recently after the Cloutier party although I was a big supporter since the get-go.
Thank you all for all that you do in order to bring true talent to Western NY. What inspired you guys to start Signal > Noise?
Rob Dunn: Well, all the dudes in Signal > Noise have experience as both DJs and event promoters, whether in Rochester or other cities (e.g., Pittsburgh, Chicago, Albany, etc.), so this is in our collective DNA. Over the past year or two, there has been an uptick in the number of local dance music events and a larger, more enthusiastic local crowd. We were becoming aware of other people in town enthusiastic for deeper, more underground house and techno sounds who we had not known of in the past. At the same time, I think we were noticing quite a few “EDM Baby Boomers” or younger folks who may have been introduced to electronic music through EDM artists/festivals/etc. but whose tastes were evolving, leading them to seek out more underground music that lie below the surface. Sure, I think we all wanted the type of music and events Signal > Noise brings in our city, but until recently I don’t think we had a sustainable market for it in Rochester.
Joe: The idea started as me trying to get Eric Cloutier booked here in Rochester. After relocating to Rochester from Chicago I noticed their was a great scene here just there was a bit of a gap in the bookings. I met Eric Cloutier a few years ago in Chicago and stayed in touch with him throughout the years. I reached out to him jokingly asking when he is coming back to the states from Berlin ( this was nov of 2014) His response was Jan of 2015. He said I should book him. I told him no way in hell as my wife and I just had our first child so bringing in a DJ was not in the finances. So, the first person I thought of was reaching out to Flex who I knew threw parties here in Rochester. He had just tapped the brakes on doing larger events but put together the idea of investing and putting together a collective. So the ball started rolling. Through the miracle of social media, Signal>Noise was started and it was conceived in about a weeks worth of FB conversations between Rob Dunn, Eric “Flex” Harris, Rob Morley and Danny K. Jim was a supporter but didn’t really get into the fold until after Cloutier. Within a week of forming, the contracts were signed and Eric was booked.
Flex: It’s funny–last year I lost a lot of money on some events. One day Joe Bucci gets on Facebook and says his buddy Eric Cloutier will be touring and someone should book him. I told Joe, I was not going to risk losing any money again for a while. Somehow, the idea of getting a group together was conceived. I think at this point, Rob Dunn, Joe Bucci and I were in agreement that this would be of interest to us. I then posted up that we were looking for more people who were interested in investing in a party knowing that they would probably lose money but if they lost it would not be that much. A few people asked me what the return on the investment would look like and I knew at that point that they were not the right people for this group. In the end, it was the six of us followed by Jim, who just joined recently at the beginning of the Norm Talley project.
What is the process like for finding talent to bring to the area? How does the team manage to pick and choose who comes? Are there any artists that you’re dying to bring to Rochester?
Joe: We all have varying taste in music. But we try to keep on eye on artists who are left of center. We share mixes and artists that we are digging and use a consensus on who we book. Keep in contact with booking agents and see who is touring and who is available. I would love to have a chance to bring in some of the people who I had the pleasure of seeing on a regular basis when living in Chicago. There are some crews who are just killing it. Sassmouth from God Particle/Smartbar/ NBFC, Steve Mizek, Olin and Saville from Argot/Tasteful Nudes/LWE as well as the Tied Collective comprised of Max Jacobson, Ari Frank and Mantas Steles. Then there is Don’t Trust Humans label who does some far out Techno and has some great artists.
Jim: First, we just try to stay on our toes and keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on with the music we love. Then, we’ll think of some specific names that might work in a market such as Rochester. We’ll run the ideas past the other members to discuss thoroughly, troubleshoot, perhaps. Finally, we have to decide whether the choices are financially viable.
Flex: Eric Cloutier was the catalyst and he happened to be a friend of Joe’s. We basically chat on messenger all day long or we will pop in and throw some ideas or suggestions on people. I myself trust my partners when it comes to thinking of whom to bring in, I check out the suggestions and for the most part I do like who they want to bring in.There’s a few folks I want to bring in:
- Derrick Carter
- Doc Martin
What was a funny/frustrating/scary/redeeming behind-the-scenes experience with the team or an artist (or two)?
Joe: We really didn’t expect Eric Cloutier to sell out. I figured it was going to be about 75 people getting down. So to have it sell out and be able to sustain a packed room until 4am really surprised me. I was proud of Rochester.
Flex: The only scary thing for me was making sure Eric Cloutier arrived in Rochester. After throwing so many events over the years, the biggest fear is the DJ not being able to make it to the event.
The Signal > Noise inception party completely sold out despite it being the same night that Buffalo had its HUGE Just Rave 3.5 event as well as other events around the region. How happy and proud were you and your team?
Joe: Proud of our team for pushing the promo and spreading the word. But more or less proud of Rochester and Buffalo for giving us a chance and showing support. We are bringing in music that doesn’t traditionally get booked in Western, NY or at least within the last decade.
Flex: I really could not believe we sold out. When we started to put the party together, I was only expecting approximately 100 people would show up if we were lucky. That night was just amazing; I felt that old school raver vibe at the party and it made me feel so good in my soul. I looked at the venue during the party and I really think this was one of the best events I was able to be part of. It was one of the smallest but to me it was all of the pieces that were put together in this jigsaw puzzle of a show. The decorations, art pieces, and the tables that had these dishes. Last-minute, we thought of getting candy and placing them on the dishes–that was a great idea. The amazing light show we had went great with the color scheme; we did not want any white lights or too much strobing. The extra sound for that extra-low rumbling bass, the images on the TVs. Everything that we did in regards to the little details, I was in awe.
Will 45 Euclid be home to all Signal > Noise events or do you have plans to expand elsewhere?
Joe: Tommie at 45 Euclid has been very gracious and kind and we will continue to grow on our partnership. But that being said we are also keeping our eyes out for spaces that we can switch up the vibe a bit and give a different flavor.
Flex: 45 Euclid has been great to us. Yes, we will definitely continue to use them but we are always looking for new venues and maybe now after this next event, there may be venues that perhaps will look for us.
What can we expect from Signal > Noise in the future? Where do you see this project going down the road?
Joe: The sky is the limit. As long as Rochester is supporting us we will keep doing our thing. Really its bringing in music we want to hear and see and hoping others will enjoy along with us. We are music geeks first and party people second. For whats to come ya’ll are just going to have to stay tuned.
Flex: I myself would love to see a website, Record label, clothing line, and an amusement park.
Oftentimes, it can be difficult breaking into an industry where competition is extremely high. But Signal > Noise is a game-changer; their ability to permeate through the local music scene so easily and swiftly speaks highly of their skill to throw a bangin’ party. To quote Norm Talley in Signal > Noise’s latest interview, “… Rochester, NY. April 25th, Signal > Noise. Let’s do it. Let’s rock ‘em down.“
Recomended: Signal > Noise 1.1 ft Norm Talley