Conversations in Text: An Interview With Douglas Sherman, NYC

Douglas Sherman. Musical Host. NYC.

D: My name is Douglas Sherman and I’m here in Los Angeles visiting from New York. I was invited to host a party here for Music For Dancers, MFD. Josh and Thomas sponsored my visit here. The interest in me coming to LA is out of my experience with The Loft and being a student of David Mancuso, whom I’ve know since 1979 and have probably been involved with his parties a few years after that from tying up a few balloons to being invited into the booth where there was a great deal of trust in putting a record on the turntable. And I think a good deal of that trust has to do with the immense egos that passed through and viewed the turntables as something other than just a natural extension of just listening to music. It’s not about the individual. It’s about the music. David has an expression that he has always repeated to me, it’s kind of a mantra: music plays us. I didn’t get it in the beginning but I get it very clearly now. It does play us. Music, like anything, tells a story. If you come across a smell that brings you back to a certain point in your life. Records do the same. People ask about the first record I ever bought. I remember saving up all my allowance to get my first album. It happened to be a soundtrack from a movie: Shaft. That was my first album. I may even have it buried somewhere. It might be a little beat up. That was my first album. I think I paid $4.99 for it, which was top price at the time for a soundtrack. I remember getting home and unwrapping it and opening it up and the whole experience of albums and album art and opening it like a book and then putting on the record. Now I felt empowered because I had the full version, not the 45rpm edit, and it had that line, “Shaft, he’s a…” on this version it was all there. I was like, yeah, I got the full version. That was awesome.

T: How old were you then?

D: I was eleven.

T: So at 11 was your first recollection of really dedicating your time and money to invest into your music.

A: That was the first album. Before that it was just 45s so I was building up a little collection of 45’s. But the album was the next big step. I couldn’t afford an album. I said, “Ok. I’m not going to get any 45s for 4 weeks. I’m going to save my allowance. Do extra chores till I have enough money to go into the record store.”

My parents had divorced at that point and I was living with my mom in the Bronx in Co-op City. Going from Greenwich Village to Co-op City was the extreme. It was like going from a very progressive area to going to the boondocks. This was a newly built community. It was considered at the time, and may still be today, to be one of the largest housing projects in the world. You’re really talking about 33 story buildings, 28 story buildings, and maybe 24 story buildings and a conglomerate of schools and shopping centers. Of course, it had a local record store. That became my escape and my outlet for records. We had little 45s but then I graduated to my first album.

Now, I always was exposed to music because my parents were folk singers and they did a lot of practicing and recorded at home. When my parents were married it was just part of the landscape in my living room. We had this huge apartment in Washington Heights. There were always microphone stands around. My Dad, he loved music, and he had a collection of music from Classical to Jazz to Folk and he had a turntable and I don’t remember the name of the turntable but it only played 33’s. I remember I inherited the turntable but it was really no use to me because it wouldn’t play 45’s. I was like, “I have no use for this turntable.” But it was a really high end turntable at the time. There were always records and records kind of out of the sleeve sitting on the sofa that maybe were in some point of play then my father went on to something else. There were instruments. My father composed and played acoustic guitar. My mom played a sitar. So music was always part of the landscape for me. And the other end of that was my brother who was deaf. So there was that aspect of growing up with my brother. I never really learned formal sign language or American Sign Language so I kind of developed my own method of communication through growing up with him. It was kind of a combination of grunts and loud sounds to get his attention because he could hear but he couldn’t distinguish sound. He could hear loud sounds and that would get his attention. That along with developing my own kind of fingering and expression with my hands was how I was able to communicate with him. So I think that kind of combination of things played into, in a strange way, a love of music for me.

The exposure was early on but the actual buying of records and really getting into that probably took more formal shape around when I was eleven. I was born in 1960 and I’m 52 now. Yeah, so around eleven that’s when I bought my first album but I can remember the first record that kind of woke up a certain spirit in me where I knew that was the kind of music I would gravitate towards. So, I lived in Washington Heights. That’s where I was born and grew up. I think I was around 7. I had two best friends, Dwayne and Vincent. I lived on the 5th floor and they lived on the 6th floor. They were my age, more or less. Maybe they were a year apart. They were a black family whose mother was very accomplished in many ways. She was one of the first black women to open a business on 125th street in Harlem that, among other things, made dashikis. I was the first white kid on my block wearing a dashiki, I had no clue. I just thought that was a cool shirt, man. I would wear it to school. People were like, “What white kid comes in wearing dashiki.” To me it was just a natural thing. This was something from my best friend’s mom’s shop so I had no thoughts about wearing anything else but that. In any event, we had to run an errand. It was during the day. Their mom had some business that she was attending to at a bar on Broadway around 154th street. I lived on 162nd and Riverside Drive at the time. So we had to run this errand and I said, “So, I’ll go with you guys. Let’s go.” Their mom was at the bar and we had to run a message to her or something. We hiked on over. It was my first time going to a bar. It was primarily a black bar. I walked in and even though it was daylight outside it was very dark inside. The jukebox was playing. It was playing this record. I thought, “Man, what is that?” It just, yeah, that whole thing was like, just, a moment. It was Junior Walker and The All-stars. Shotgun. It was like, “Shotgun,” you know. When we went back to my friends house, Dwayne and Vincent, they happened to have the album and I said, “That record that was playing on the jukebox.” They said, “Yeah. That’s that one over there.” They pointed it out and I pulled it. That, to me, was magical. Junior Walker and The All-stars. That was my earliest recollection, around 7 years old, of really discovering the kind of music I thought I was going to gravitate to. It was primarily American black music, soul music, dance, rhythm, that kind of stuff.

T: And you have since then buying records?

D: Yeah pretty much. Then I got into being a mobile dj and I wanted to dj parties so I would try and get little jobs here and there. Never anything steady. For the most part, in the 70’s, in The Bronx, the thing to do was get some friends together, grab your speakers, and “Let’s get down to the park,” and see if we could hook this thing up off of batteries somehow, get some kind of power source running things and just blast music. Later it became the boom box. It replaced all of that. But we really wanted to attract some girls and see if we could get some kind of a scene going. We would show up places with our little beat up sound system and a crate full of records and just try to get a party going. So, at the time it was like, you know, Disco was really taking off. It was 1974, 1975, 1976. The 12” really kind of debuted around ‘75 or ‘76 and became the standard. Everything you were purchasing in the way of music you were trying to get it on 12” and that’s where we found you had either an extended version of the album version or just some different mix of it. The 12” became the standard and we were doing a lot of house parties and things like that.

T: So, since then you have been collecting?

D: It wasn’t until 1979 that my friend invited me to a party at The Loft. I had known of The Loft through some other friends who were dancers and at that time they used to hustle and they told me about this party that just went all night.

T: So that was the cool thing about it? That it went all night?

D: It was all night. Yeah. But I really didn’t know much more than that. It was in 1975 or 1976 that I had an older friend who used to go. But it wasn’t until 1979, it was late ‘79 that my friend said that he had an invite to get us into The Loft, which was, at that time, at 99 Prince Street. So I said, “Yeah I’d love to go. Lets go.” And so we went. It was my first time. I had been going to a lot of other clubs. There was The Inferno; right now I really can’t remember all the clubs.

T: The Gallery?

D: I was never at The Gallery. That would have been a different venue for me. Before I started going to The Loft I went to more mainstream clubs. Not so much underground clubs. Everything was above ground, closed at 4am that kind of thing. This was the first real underground. Otherwise it was just house parties or things like that but this was the first underground club that I went to. I was not even thinking of it as an underground party, it was just like, “Hey man, I’ve got an invitation to The Loft,” and I was like, “Yeah. Let’s go check it out.” The first thing that struck me was the clarity of the music. It wasn’t like anything else I’d ever heard. And then, the selection of the music: It was one tune after another. It was like somebody took everything I’d learned, musically, at that point, opened up my head, pulled it out, set it aside, and then closed it back up so it was like an empty vessel and said, “We’re going to start all over again.” And it was fine. It was like discovery all over again. And leaving was like, there was no ear ringing, there was not any of the fatigue that typically I experienced going out to clubs where the music is just generally blasted at you and strobe lights and all that. It was a more mellow kind of experience. It was dark in there. There were no lights glaring at you. There was no bar. They served food. There was one price when you went in. You checked your coat. There was not another fee for that. It was a complete experience unlike anything I’d ever had up until that point in time. From that moment I was hooked. So, I kept bothering a friend of mine, like, “Oh. Can you get me in? Can you get me in?” Which was standard among a lot of people because in order to get an invite to The Loft you had to have someone who already had an invitation to sponsor you. Everything required a sponsor. I kept going long enough. I went to enough parties till I got friendly with Buddy Hoskins. Buddy Hoskins worked for David Mancuso. Among other things he worked at the door, checking people in. I got friendly with him. It was one party I attended where it was my birthday and I happened to mention, “I’m so gassed to be here. I’m so excited to be here. It’s my birthday.” Buddy was like, “Oh really. It’s your birthday? You know what? First, You’re going to come in as my guest, and second, I’m going to sponsor you for an invite. You’re going to be on the mailing list.” And that was one of the greatest gifts I’d received from anyone at least at that time. It was awesome. Buddy, who has since passed away, really became a close friend of mine and supporter of my experimentations at that time in life. Buddy was awesome. Once I was on the mailing list and I got my own invitation, which was great because now I didn’t have to rely on anyone. But then there was also the responsibility that came with that because one of the things that David would express in different ways was, “Don’t bring people in that aren’t your personal friends that you wouldn’t invite into you own home. And of course if you stood in line there were people who wanted to get in and you didn’t know them and they didn’t know you but they would come up to you and say, “Hey man. Can I get in? Can you take me in?” There were people that would accommodate and others that wouldn’t. I think that David was aware of that kind of scene going on outside and he would try to discourage it the best he could. But for me it was really the music. I got so hooked on the selection that David would make. I wanted to get there to hear the very first record. No matter what it was. I had to hear what is he going to play first and what he would end with. Those parties would begin at Saturday midnight and could go well into Sunday afternoon till about 4 when the final record would be played and we all pretty much were ready to go. Some of us would go around the corner to The Greasy Spoon, where we would go eat, or head out to Washington Square Park, or go out to the beach if it was Summer time. It really depended on the weather, the head or whom you were with. Most times we’d just head home because you’re just pretty much spent.

We loved to dance. The group that I would go there with, we would just dance from beginning to end and at some point I would go up to the booth and I would say, what was that record, and David really, one of the beautiful things about David, music was never a secret. He would just tell you the title. At that time he was using these weights. I didn’t know anything technically about any of that stuff or his approach in terms of being an audiophile. So when I saw those weights going over the record, being as green and naïve as I was, I thought he was trying to hide what he was playing so that nobody else could know the name of it. That wasn’t what it was about at all. It was just a matter of physics, of creating a certain amount of weight beneath the record and a certain amount of weight above the record so that the cartridge and tone-arm really tracked across the record. I would go up to him and ask, “What was that record you just played?” He would either show it to me or he would pull the cover. It was never a problem for him to share music with me that way.

I could see how I could have been a pest with it because it wasn’t just one or two records. It was throughout the night. I began to get smart and bring a little pen and paper with me and started writing stuff down. I think that was my earliest beginning of becoming a student without having enrolled in anything except to come to a party and dance and make my contribution. Slowly, I started rebuilding my library, I thought I had a good library up to that point but this was an entirely different way of listening to music ad opened up the possibilities: everything from Classical to Jazz.

I was already exposed to that but never put it into the context of putting it into a party. When I was going around with my little mobile dj set the first record I put on would be a dance record. You’re not going to start with something easy. The idea of a beginning, a middle, and an end: that really is the concept of what David does musically in the course of a party. It wasn’t anything I would do until really experiencing The Loft.

T: In terms of first memories, what was the first record that really got you hooked at The Loft?

D: So many. I think one that was really memorable, because, in a way, The Loft was a very tribal experience. You get people together. A cross section. A diverse group of people from different socio-economic levels. It didn’t matter. We were all there on the same plane. David didn’t have a VIP room. David was on the floor listening to music just as we were listening to it. It was a different kind of experience of getting people together. I think the record that really stood out to my as one of the earliest records that David would play is “Going Back To My Roots,” by Lamont Dozier who was known for his work with Motown records at the time. When I heard that record, the transition in that record, it was just an explosion of energy in that room and everybody was a part of it and the shakers and the bells and the stomping. It was a complete release of energy. Today, the only thing I could tell you that comes close to that is if you’ve ever done a spin class and you’ve really done it right and you have a good instructor you really push yourself and in that real concentrated period that you’re really doing that spin class you have this complete exorcise, everything comes out. In a way that song did that in it’s own way. Yeah. That would be one of the earliest ones, “Going Back To My Roots.” That was a pure Loft record.

Music Plays

If there were one thing to really share in terms of what I have learned from David and I think more than anything what he has tried to instill in me of the importance of what we do as musical hosts is that we really have to be mindful. The responsibility we have in terms of when we gather people and invite people into a space that the number one concern should be the safety of those people because you never have the right to compromise the safety of your guests no matter what. David, over so many years, has experienced what other people do. It’s that recklessness, that lack of regard for responsibility and safety for guests that ultimately ruins it for everyone else. The most important things to remember are that you have secondary means of egress, pay attention to conditions that could potentially happen and then have a plan for that. So you have fire extinguishers and you have proper lighting. You may not have what the city mandates of you in terms of a sprinkler system. But there are some basic things you can do and they will see that. If the fire department came in they will see that there was some attempt and that you thought of them and their safety because many firemen get hurt in trying to keep us safe. So I think that over the years he has made that his highest priority.

From that you then move into what basically is the musical end of it, the technical part of it. Setting up the system. Which really means, once you understand the safety issues then you begin moving into the acoustics. Now you’re going to sit in the room and listen to what the room tells you. Listening to that bell right now, if it’s being picked up that’s fine because what that bell does is it gives you an idea of how the room is telling you something and you have to be able to hear it and that will determine what you have to do to treat a room acoustically. I’m not a sound engineer but I learned from being a student of David, you have to listen. Form follows function. You have to listen to what that room tells you and not necessarily alter the sound system but respect what the room is telling you and then go from there in terms of what treatments you want to do to dampen. (Claps) In here it’s a dead sound but if it was echoing and you had that reverb in the room then you know that you need more furniture. You know its going change when there’s a room full of people instead of an empty room. If you hang balloons that’s going to dampen it a bit. That’s going to absorb some sound. Maybe you’ll have to put some panels up to contribute to try to absorb some of that and deaden the room more and more and maybe put down some area rugs in strategic areas. That would be the first kind of treatment to a room. Then you would move to setting up your speakers. David always, in terms of learning from what Paul Klipsch did in terms of Klipschorn speakers, was to use the room as one extension of the speaker itself. Klipschorn speakers are designed to go into the corner and use the room as one extension of the speaker. If you really follow his schematic for setting it up properly you can really be pleased with the kind of sound you have which will be very clean. There’s no need for loudness. You don’t need a loudness button. It’s not about loudness anymore. It’s really about listening in a way that allows the person who is presenting, the musician, the record itself to be heard the way it was meant to be heard. I think that’s one of the things that David tries to be truthful to. One of things he hates more than anything in terms of recordings, because there’s no standards in the recording industry you could get one record, you have your volume level maybe at 6, and the next record it drops the volume so you have to bring it up a bit. Your gain is either going up or down from one record to the next. But I think that what he never appreciated is poor engineering on a record. The record might be great and the audience is requesting it but if it’s poorly done and pressed and the highs, if there’s distortion in it no matter what, he won’t play it. He’ll just say, “I’ll pass on it.” No matter how good a record it may be in terms of being an audience pleaser I think he would pass on it simply because it doesn’t meet a listening standard that should be there from the beginning. But that would be, so, you know, going back to what I was saying in terms of what I think the message David might wish for me to share with everyone, again, would be the safety of the folks your inviting, of your guests. Next would be setting up your sound system, the acoustics of the room. And then really, the last thing is the record and putting the record on the turntable. That really is like the end result. And that really is where you get to have fun if everything comes together correctly.

I think that’s why David is, in many ways, such a mother hen when it comes to getting everything ready for the party because I think he feels such a great responsibility that things have to be done correctly. If it’s not he has to have a plan B and a plan C so that everything still meets some minimum standard that he believes is what his guests are entitled to hear and expect when they come to The Loft. A big part of that can be seen in a record like “Going Back to My Roots.” Listening to it through a system that David evolved over the years was a treat. You wouldn’t hear it anywhere else sound as good as in his place. I think in the end, over time, musicians, David really didn’t have to search out records, it became, the records just kind of sought him out. If you did a record and you pressed something, what other place would you want to hear it for the first time than at a Loft party. If David was receptive enough or if you gave it to him in advance so he could listen to it, he would do homework before a party and listen to stuff he maybe got in the mail or was delivered by the record pool he was working with at the time, however the records came to him, David always made time to do homework before a party. Maybe midweek he made time to go through records. Something that was interesting he set aside and that was something he would play at a party. Where else to hear something for the first time and you get instant feedback off the dancefloor right there. It could be, for a musician, really satisfying, or a type of validation of what you did just to see how dancers, or, your audience responds.

T: One question that I have, that we have already, slowly, been touching upon, is what is the significance of The Loft? What is the importance of something like this? It is unique. It is private. Not that many people have really experienced it but I have noticed that those who do support it do so with their full support. People feel like this really ought to continue. One of my questions is, why? Why is this important? Why, in terms of, first, audio. What is the significance of The Loft and David’s method in terms of audio? What is the significance of The Loft and David’s method in terms of a cultural space, and last, what does it mean to be a student of The Loft?

D: These are great questions. I think my dad has asked me these questions at different points in time as well and I don’t think I was ever able to give him, at least for him, a very satisfactory answer to it because I don’t really know. For me it means one thing. For someone else it may mean something else. That’s why I think, in so many ways, and I don’t think I’m answering your questions correctly, I’ve found over the years that David is very protective of The Loft and very protective about who he would grant permission to penetrate beyond a certain point in The Loft. To actually be able to stand behind the turntables and put a record on the platter, for him to invite you in to do that really either represented a great deal of respect or a great deal of trust on his part of you as an individual. I think in large part it’s because so much ego gets tied to this stuff. Dj’s carry an immense ego. They assume, it’s not their given name they use. They take on an a.k.a. name, a tag that they want to be known as, and that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, it becomes a type of selling point. For David, The Loft was a given name. People said, “Hey. You want to go out to David’s Loft?” Then shortened it to, “Do you want to go to The Loft?” I think that David never really set out to do this with this idea that, “I’m going to make a lot of money, I’m going to create this thing and then I’m going to franchise.” It was never like that. Trying to back to the significance of it, I think it’s different for many people but it’s hard for me to answer that.

T: What would the world be like without The Loft?

D: It would definitely be a much smaller world, a much smaller world.

T: So it makes your world much bigger.

D: And less interesting. Without The Loft it becomes a little less interesting.

T: What does it do for you? What is it that keeps you coming back? What is it that keeps you interested over such a span of time to stay this dedicated and this willing to stay to such a specific form?

D: In my experience, I think that’s it’s rare. I don’t find many other people really doing what David does. There are not too many people who open up their home to strangers for the sole purpose of just listening to music and dancing. This is really, in and of itself, an unusual thing. It’s an alternative kind of lifestyle that some people would choose. I don’t speak for David. I’m not a spokesperson in any way. I’m only sharing with you and those who are listening my experiences being a student of this. To ask David that question, I’m sure you would get his answer and it would be varied from anything I’m sharing with you in that regard. For me, the significance is that there’s a certain principle and standard that he has put behind this idea of what we do to play music. While being a dj is one thing, being a musical host becomes another way of looking at it. Hosting music and then paying attention to establishing a standard around what that sound should be and respecting the sound and using a decibel level meter to make sure your levels don’t exceed anything that could damage the hearing. I think that without even knowing that, I think that people will connect with that and appreciate that level of respect that David gives to not only the listeners, but to the wholeness of everything he does. It’s always such a diverse cross section of people who get attracted to what he does at his party. Various socio-economic standings, you know. There were folks that were not able to afford to come into that party and David said, “No problem. Just put it down as an IOU and we’ll take care of it next week.” He didn’t want people who, because they were struggling economically, not to be able to participate in his party. It would just be as simple as, “Don’t worry man. We’ll just put you down as an IOU and we’ll take care of it next week or the week after when you can but you’re part of this. Welcome.” That didn’t exist anywhere else for me. That was something that was a learning point for me to say, “Yeah, you could do that. It’s not all about the money. It’s not about only those who can afford to come in should come in.” And then on the other hand, there were people who could afford to come in and expected to be comped. One thing David always, and not just David, but I think that when you’re putting together something, of course, contributions are needed to sustain and support it. There are bills that have to be paid and obligations that have to be met. You have to come in and contribute something. With The Loft parties, a comp is something that should be offered and never asked for. People would come in and wouldn’t ask for a comp. They said, “Listen, I really don’t have enough for the party tonight. Is it ok if I pay next week.” David would be fine with that but you would have a running IOU with him. I thought that was awesome. People developed a deeper respect for him because of that. So, maybe the significance of what he does is more along social lines in terms of bringing people together and having a positive experience.

When David was much younger, starting the party at midnight and going to Sunday afternoon was just, I think David loved discovering what a record does on the system as much as folks on the other side of the dance floor, listening, would discover as well. There was always that, “Yeah, We hear you David,” and David was like, “I hear you too.” For me, the significance of these parties, I’m coming out of one experience, I have some other friends here who were helping host me this weekend. Luis and JayTee have been part of experiencing The Loft for a long time now. Takaya is here too. He relocated from Japan.

Luis: Hi, I’m Loft Kid Luis.

T: Luis, what is the importance of a place like The Loft? What’s the cultural significance? In terms of hi-fi audio? It’s hi-fi audio played for a lot of people in a big room. That’s not generally what hi-fi audio is made for. It’s made for sitting down on your couch and closing your eyes. This is dance music hi-fi.

D: But that, what you just said, David, because it was his home, it essentially was his living room so to describe it as a club is probably something David wouldn’t repeat because that’s not how he would describe it. It was by invitation. It was his home. Really, we were just guests in his living room which happened to be a really big living room to accommodate listening to the music with him. It was by invitation and Luis, what would you add to that?

L: What makes it more important than a lot of situations is that it’s a simple idea. It’s truly that place where you can ultimately be yourself and release that person that always wants to dance. For myself, personally, I dance the way that I want to dance. I’ve always seen myself dancing. I’ve always relaxed to the point beyond most places because there’s no apprehension. There it is low lit. There is a sense that everybody in the room is dancing. No one is standing there watching you do your thing. Everybody is doing their thing and together we do the thing together. It becomes,

D: Kind of a tribal experience.

L: It’s so tribal. It’s so tapping into that energy at the same time. All of us expressing the same love at the same time. Feeling that rhythm and that beat. Laying back. Laying back into the music. Not hearing it. Not being in it. But laying back in it and feeling it and riding the wave.

D: It wasn’t only just music. He had food. It was his home. It wasn’t a club. There was no membership fee. If you were lucky enough to have someone sponsor you, you could be on the invite list. Whoever was sponsoring you would be responsible for you as a guest so that if something occurred during a party, whoever that guest was, David had someone to connect them to. The sponsor would be responsible for that behavior, especially if it was some type of negative behavior that may have effected the party at some point that David had to be distracted by. David, The Loft, never hired bouncers. It wasn’t that kind of a scene. There was no need for that. In all the years that I have gone, and I think David would say that in all the years he has been hosting parties there was never the need for that. He never had violent events where the police had to be called or fights broke out. There was never anything like that. It was always very mellow and respectful.

Luis: The community itself policed itself. If someone was having a problem or an issue, the friend who brought that friend was the first person to jump and rectify, or correct. and if he wasn’t able to then his friends were going to do it. It just wasn’t going to happen. We weren’t going to bring that negativity. All of us had so much love and respect for it. We didn’t want the party to end. We did everything possible within our circles to eliminate snuff, correct, if the person had to be taken out his friends were taking him out. His friends were the ones saying, “Listen Johnny, we’re leaving, I’m going to take you out.” It wasn’t no police, nobody was coming in to get you. You’re friends would say, “Hey. I’m going to take you out. I’m going to get you out of here. I’m going to help you go.” If there was a problem then David would hold you accountable for bringing your friend. “You’re friend Johnny was acting up. His problem is your problem.”

Doug: So again, there were no membership fees associated. When I started going in 1979 I think the fee at his door was 5.99. David used to keep a small jar of pennies at the window where you pay and you take the penny change at the window if you wanted. There were no other fees for the rest of the night. He had a coat check. There were no tips accepted. You just check your coat. He had a kitchen and he would serve food. I remember some of the parties where things were seasonal. He had fruit. If he put out strawberries they were the freshest strawberries the size of your fist. They were so good. David really took the time to put things together. Because he knew the kind of head that, I guess he thought of it like, “If I was at someone’s home and I was partying then at some point you’re going to get parched your going to get hungry.” He had all that laid out to make it a sustainable and good night for everybody. There was always food. He had a punch bowl that he would make. There was always this kind of talk about, did David lace the punch with acid, none of that was true. He did not do that. I want to make sure that everybody knows that. No one at The Loft intentionally did that. David would never do that because again, you’re respectful of your guests and there are folks that maybe they don’t eat meat, they don’t eat this or they don’t ingest that, they don’t drink alcohol, they’re at some point in their life where their trying to avoid ingesting certain things Nothing would be done without someone knowingly choosing to do something. That was never the case but he always had water and juice and a variety of food. Even today he has food prepared. Hot food. There’s a point in the party where people line up and they get a plate of food and they load it up and they eat and David adjusts the vibe, musically, because ok, people are getting food now so he’s not going to put on “Give it up, or turn it loose,” by James Brown. He’s not going to have a peak moment at that point. He is mindful of the flow of the party. It has taken on a different timeline because now that he’s hosting parties on Sunday, they start at 5 in the afternoon and finish at midnight. It’s more of a truncated party for him now from when he was doing it Saturday nights and it would go as late as 4 Sunday afternoon but maybe end earlier at 9 or at 7 Sunday morning. There was always that flow to the party in terms of musically and in terms of when certain foods were put out. In the morning there might be certain things put out that might be representative of breakfast, it might be just bread or something. It was a nice way to ease into that point in the party and that point in time where your winding down now and moving on to whatever the next part of your day is going to be.

T: Were all of these things, some of them, most of them, provided by those guests who put in effort to help make the party happen?

D: David had a crew. At one point, I think at Prince St., I wasn’t part of the crew at that time, but he had up to 30 people working on salary and they all had different areas of responsibility whether it was putting up decorations, cleaning, maintaining the mailing list. For David, his biggest responsibility, in part, was making sure that everybody took care of their area of responsibility. On top of that, he made sure that everything was working properly right up to the point that the party would begin. That included him getting his rest so that he would be awake and alert and felt good. That was part of the preparation too. It wasn’t only what everyone else should be doing and making sure certain things were in place, but also his own head and making sure he was mentally prepared so that when he would start he was fresh and energized. I think that is still true today. David spends a lot of time preparing, making sure that sound system is functioning properly, that it meets all the standards in terms of the levels for the speakers, the balancing, checking the turntables, making sure that the cartridges are set up properly, that the weight is done, double checked and triple checked. He’ll do one more sound check before each party and before the first record is put on. There is always a test (record) and he makes sure the speakers have the proper left right balancing and that they are in phase and all of that stuff. That can be very stressful for him because if you don’t know what it is then you have to trouble shoot, while it’s not this, it’s not this, it’s not this and you go through until you isolate a certain thing. It could be the simplest thing. It could be an interconnect that’s not fully plugged in or it’s a bad, you know, and so, he has learned over the years, always have a backup, always have a plan b, and even a plan c, at minimum you have to have a plan b because you’re only as good as that backup plan. There was a time when his mainline that connects his preamp to the amplifiers, which is a critical connection, something went wrong with the interconnect, if he didn’t have a spare interconnect what was he going to do? Especially on Sunday, where nothing is open, there’s no theater district, there’s no place you could run to on a Sunday afternoon. Now you’re calling people, “Do you have a spare I could borrow?” Out of those experiences he has better prepared himself so that if he has custom made an interconnect he will have a third interconnect so that if one goes bad, just link in with the third one. So the way he sets up the actual tools he uses he tries to incorporate a plan b into them to alleviate some of the stress when something is not working properly and you don’t know what it is. Sometimes during a party a speaker will go out and there’s nothing you can do at that point. You’re in flight. You just have to fly with it. You’ll adjust your levels accordingly. It may not be the best party, listening-wise for you, but some people might not even notice. Some people who are attending may not even realize a speaker was out but some people will tell you, “Hey man. Your side channel is out.” But going back to your question, what is the significance? Again, for different people it means different things.

T: We find the students of The Loft, here, over at my house, and we throw a party and we have fun and we dance all night. This question is about the future. Now that there are people who can say that they are students of this certain method of hosting audio for people, where are we going in the future with this? Also, lets talk about how it was on Saturday night. How was it for you, Doug, playing records for us, and how was it for you, Luis, coming out here and working from the moment you got here until when you’re leaving, just to set up and follow this form, how was that for you guys?

Doug: I really wasn’t sure what to expect until I came out and we met you. We were corresponding over emails. Once I got out and saw your space, it’s something that’s very raw and I see that you’re really trying to build on something you’re doing here in L.A. I could tell you I had a great experience. It’s my first time coming out to Los Angeles. The folks that I’ve met out here and the guests that you had at your party last night, seemed like an amazing group of people. The vibe, the spirit was so positive. One of the things, musically, in terms of selecting records, was always songs that incorporate the concept of love, “Love is the message,” MFSB, or “Going back to my roots.” These songs are expressions of love in their own way. That’s what I saw last night at your party, an expression of love. Maybe that’s the significance of David’s party. To me, at the end of the day it really is an expression of love. For David, because it’s so important to get it right, it’s because of the deep love and respect he has for what he does and people respond to that and they respond and reciprocate with love and I think that’s what I felt last night at your party was an expression of love, man. That’s what sustains us at the end of the day. These parties go on and on. That’s why I say safety and what you dedicate and commit yourself to in terms of trying to make this a really enjoyable experience ultimately truly is an expression of love. That’s really the significance of it. In one word. It’s love. I think it’s the same for Luis, and I hope you don’t mind that I share this. David always welcomed children and still welcomes children to his party. He does ask because he is not in a venue that is his own home that at least guests who plan to bring their own children, let him know in advance so he can plan accordingly. But they are always welcome. Children have always been welcomed to David’s parties. Luis’ mom would, for whatever reason she couldn’t get a babysitter that night, or whatever the case may be, she brought her two young kids. Luis, and your brother.

Luis: Pedro.

Douglas: Yeah, Pedro. At the time, Luis, how old were you?

Luis: The first time I was five and he was three. It was a Wednesday decorating party. It was just balloons and a couple of records here and there. Then, probably it wasn’t until I was nine or ten that I went to an actual party. First in the morning, then early evenings, we would go and come back and all kinds of things. We were there.

Douglas: Luis literally, from the age of five, grew up at The Loft. I may be a student of The Loft but he is a child of The Loft. He and David have a very close relationship and friendship. It’s kind of unique along those lines because David has known Luis for so many years, and his mom as well. His mom still comes to The Loft and to where we are doing parties in Brooklyn, called Joy. That is a place that is following a similar kind of blueprint for hosting parties and really having a deeper appreciation of the musical side of it.

Luis: As far as what we do and how we do it, it truly is a labor of love. You really couldn’t pay us enough for the amount of effort that we put in it because it’s really not about that. It’s truly about being in that room and to experience that same thing that we experience together and to enjoy the art of expressing it at the same time. In the concept of the world and their perception of art that does not fall into a normal category of things, so that we have no protection in terms of how the world looks at it, but what we do together and the expression of that love is art. What makes me drive forward and do this stuff for free, in many cases doing it for free, is for the love of that art, for being able to express the enjoyment of singing a song together in a room of fifty people who are all singing about that love, of feeling that bass, that love from that music, that hook and it’s back, Grace Jones singing in the night, MFD is throwing that bass, you just lean back, you close your eyes, you think, “Man, I remember that time I was ten, I remember that time I was thirty, I remember that time I was fifty,” I remember all those moments combined into the same moment and you open your eyes and everybody has got their eyes closed at the same time and everybody is feeling that moment at the same time. Talking about it gives me chills. Feeling the balloons. Looking up and seeing those psychedelics. The balloons are almost vibrating and moving and pulsing and the flash of light that catches the ball at the right moment and you say, “Damn, we are here together in this moment, sharing this present moment, being present, not being somewhere else, not plugged into a world by ourselves but being together with this group of people that love the same thing for the same reason.”

Doug: I think David may describe it as a sense of musicianship and what unites us, in a way, as a family.

Luis: We all share that moment together. We are all perceiving it differently but at the same time, the same thing. It’s such a ribbon in the universe. You can unplug it for a little while and at any moment plug back into it and be there. Young and old. Beautiful. Tall and grey.

Doug: I should add, going to The Loft for so many years, being so involved with it over time, eventually, I met my wife there, at a Loft party. Syriah. We have been inseparable since. We have a daughter together. Sarina Sherman. She is 16 now. She was born three days after David. David was born Oct. 20th and Sarina is the 23rd. She is also a child of The Loft, like Luis. She has been going since she was an infant. At one party, Sarina left behind one of her baby toys. A rattler that David, to this day, puts on his turntable and has told her that whenever she is ready, she can take the toy home. Sarina is also a child of The Loft and has experienced that since she was an infant. I think that has had somewhat of an effect on her. And again, going back to what I emphasize in terms of safety, because she is starting to go out to parties now and she has The Loft parties for a reference for what she does, what she hears and sees. I tell her, when you go to these places and I am not there that I want her to be safe. I tell her to check out the layout and if she had to get out, could she. She always says, “Yes Dad, Ok, I got it.” But I think that is also a unique aspect of what David does in terms of The Loft is that it’s open to children and adults and we all look after each other. If we don’t look after the children then who will?

Luis: In the dark, with those lights, we are all the same color, there is nothing different. People go to The Loft in wheelchairs, crutches. People getting down with one leg. Def. Blind. It never matters, ever. Children. Old. It never mattered. It was always about, “Thank you for coming.”

Doug: It probably had to be one of the most diverse groups of dancers. Before The Loft, going out to the club scene, it’s primarily people in your age group, give of take ten years. David would have people just bouncing and some of these people were in their 60’s. You never saw just one age group. To this day.

Luis: To this day. Then they turn on the lights and you realize who is there. There’s doctors and lawyers and accountants and that’s one of the main reason that The Loft has been so private and there’s no pictures being taken. These people are off. This is there vacation from life. This is their moment to be…

Doug: Free.

Luis: Free. To be in someone’s living room and just cut loose.

Doug: And maybe they may indulge in certain behaviors that they don’t want to be photographed doing because they have another part of professional life and they want to keep this part of their life private and it is private and should remain that way. David has always been respectful of that as well and has always asked people, If you’re going to take pictures then keep it in one corner of an area that won’t include people who may not have given you permission to include their image in a picture to take. He has always been respectful of that. For a lot of folks, like Luis said, most folks who work the 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, now they get to let loose and let off some steam and let that stress level diminish.

Luis: I’ve got to say, MFD tore it up. Great party.

Doug: Great party.

Luis: Thanks for letting us into your living room.

Doug: It was memorable.

T: We all came together and we worked really hard.

Luis: It was really an effort to get it there, but, man, when we got it there we totally kicked back and totally cut loose and it was nice. We totally had a great time. Thanks so much for hosting us. Thank you. Spectacular.

Doug: And hopefully we’ll have future opportunities to come down and just dance. We’ll just come down and do that thing with you.

Luis: Keep it up. Keep the love up. Keep that energy going.

T: We built a platform, this last weekend, for the audio, mainly, and we are only going to build further upon that.

Luis: Constant improvements make better parties and eventually you will find yourself at a place where you don’t have to work so hard and still get the same fruit. When that happens, it’s just, gangster. You know? When you tell the team to go, go, go, and then you work on other things, and then other things, because, you know, it’s a house and all houses take work constantly and every effort calls for more effort but when the day comes and you get to sit back and enjoy your house, your fruit.

Doug: A lot of work will go into it. A lot of planning will go into it. When you can sit back and enjoy it and it’s your home…

Luis: You guys are really going in the right direction in a lot of ways. There’s only greatness ahead. Whether it be in that location or somewhere else, you’re doing the right things and you have the right mindset.

Doug: It all comes back to what I said. It’s really about love. Friends will come down throughout the week and share what they have to offer. Those people who have another agenda, that will show itself and that’s all part of how you have to navigate this whole experience, as David has done over the years. And right now we have Dejan here. He lives here in Los Angeles and has been so gracious in hosting me and Hugh Herrera was also instrumental, so, a shout out to you, who may be on his way back to San Diego right now, or he might be going the other way to Las Vegas, I just wanted to say thank you.

Dejan: I was happy that everything came together and that they were able to share a piece of what goes on in their town. It was nice to have the boys out here and I wish they could stay a little longer.

Doug: Dejan has been out to New York and has attended that last few parties at The Loft. At the last party, at one point he asked me, while we were breaking things down and going into the clean up mode, and he asked me, “Man, would you be interested in going to Los Angeles?” And that’s not the first time that someone has asked me, and I’d say, “Sure, whatever.” But Dejan was the first person to mean it. He was on the phone, he was emailing, he said, “Doug, Are you serious? We are extending an invitation for you to come out from New York,” and I was like, “Yeah.” So, of course, I spoke to David about it and David has been extremely supportive of that because he know it was my first time. David was the one who used to travel and be the representative of what he does. This was the first time filling in for him that came out of that experience. So, I shared it with David and David was very supportive of it. He said, “Doug, Go out there and rock it. Do your thing. All the best. Have fun.” That was his message for me. Have fun.

Dejan: For me it was exciting because Doug is one of my top favorite djs. His programming is phenomenal. To have him out here and to have Los Angeles experience that, to have my friends from here and from New York, I couldn’t ask for more. That was worth everything. Happy to have everyone here. Los Angeles and New York coming together like this. Vibing off of each others energies. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what this whole journey was about for me.

Doug: I really hope all of you have a chance to hear David when he plays because all of this comes out of what he does. Everything I do in terms of a musical selection is an offshoot of listening to David. It has been a reprogramming of how I listen to music and what makes sense and in terms of responding to dancers and musically in terms of a set. David is phenomenal with that. He will make people cry from one record to the next. Everybody’s saying, “Did he just?”

Luis: It’s like, I met my wife to this record.

Doug: It’s amazing to see the response that David solicits from folks on the dance floor. There’s nothing else like it, and that’s love. Love for the music. Love for the presentation of the music. Love for the people that come out. And not just love, but to care. He cares about what he does. At the end of the day, if this is a body of work that is representative of you then that means you care about it. Otherwise you can hire someone and dictate to them, I want this color and this shape. It’s a deep sense of care for what he does. I think that’s what gives him a great sense of credibility and a sense of being accomplished in what he does. That’s why I think The Loft is an institution, as it should be, because of what David has elevated this thing to.

T: Well, for someone who told me that they would not be an interesting topic for an interview, you are about to miss you flight back to New York.

Doug: What time is it? Yeah we have got to bounce.

T: Part one is now concluding.

Doug: This will be continued. More chapters to come.

T: Until the next chapter.

Doug: Thank you Thomas, I wish you all the best in your journeys, a safe journey. I thank you for the opportunity to do this interview. I appreciate it. All the best.

DougMFD4 DougMFD1 Decor10 Decor9 Decor8 Decor7 Decor6

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