This Cali-born old school vinyl DJ has provided the soundtrack for many evolutions of NYC nightlife over the years. He even beheld the birth of the Brooklyn Scene as we know it during his residency at a dive called the Wreck Room, and this week celebrates the 5-year anniversary of what is now one of that scene’s most vital industry nights. It’s Hot Fruit’s very own Ethan Eunson-Conn, aka DJ ECON!
Thotyssey: Hey DJ ECON, how was Halloween?
DJ ECON: No, I was thankfully off from gigging, and getting some well-needed rest.
You’e, like, the third person in a row I’ve interviewed who had a low key Halloween. Were you deterred by that bizarre terrorist car attack that happened earlier that day, or would you have stayed in regardless?
No. That didn’t deter me. I’ve just been too busy, and having to work a day job the next day. Then I had studio time booked after work – I moved a couple months ago, and just got the studio gear hooked up properly. And Monday is always long, so I just chose to crash out.
How about DJ mixes? Do you have time to make those?
I haven’t made one in a long time, but that’s more of a choice than an issue of time. No one really listens to DJ mixes, lol!
It’s so true! Nobody listens to DJ mixes; I feel terrible for admitting it! I guess our attention spans have gotten too small.
My current focus is on getting some tracks ready for pressing a vinyl over the winter, and relaunching my record label in spring. A record is a better business card for a DJ than a mix, these days.
I bet! What’s your label, and when did you first start it?
The label is called Public Works, and it was started in 1999. It only ever had a couple of releases, ‘cause it’s such a money suck. But I am very proud of it, and there is a lot of interest currently in the old releases, due to the 20 year loop return of style and fashion and stuff. So it seems like the right time to relaunch and sell some back stock of the old releases.
So, where’s your hometown?
I was born and raised in Santa Monica, California.
Were you always into music?
Yeah. I was always into music from a young age: collecting tapes since I was about 4 years-old, and obsessively going through my parents’ and older sister’s record collections.
When I was 7 years-old, I was super into breakdancing and rap music. I got a drum kit when I was 10, and studied acoustic bass from 11 to 14 – at which point I bought two Technics turntables and a mixer with the money I earned from my first summer job.
And rap / hip hop was always your genre?
It was always my favorite. But that also always meant lots of genres to me, because it comes from so many different genres. So I was always playing funk, jazz, soul, and new wave / electro.
When I was 5, I was in my oldest sister’s car, and she was playing Talking Heads – and I just fell in love with it. So she bought me the tape of Speaking in Tongues. It’s one of those seminal moments I always remember. So I was always pretty multi-genre. But I didn’t really get into house or techno until, like, ‘94 – around my senior year of high school, and moving to NYC to go to college.
When did DJing become a thing?
Well, my two best friends and I had always been studying the way hip hop was made – trying to find the samples – and had started a record pool to buy records together so our money would go further.
We were making pause tape beats (recording the part of the record we wanted to sample, and then pausing the tape and bringing the record back, and unpausing as the same part came around again; repeat until you have a few minutes of a beat), then we would sit around and write rhymes to it.
So when we had our first summer jobs, we each picked a different part of a studio to invest in. One friend bought a sampler and speakers, another a mixing board, and I bought turntables. The day I brought them home, we sat around and made simple beats on the 8-second sampler built into the mixer.
I started DJing at parties even before I had two turntables – using one CD player, one tape player and one turntable, and no mixer. Just switching between the inputs on a normal house receiver. But I guess in high school, it really became a thing: doing regular house parties for friends, and even my first couple of club gigs.
How did you discover the Brooklyn queer nightlife scene?
Well, I was working different parties in Manhattan – mostly one-off stuff, but at some legendary bars like Mother and the Cock and IC Guys. I had a friend who was a co-founder of this DIY space in Dumbo, Brooklyn called Dumba, which was really more of a punk venue. But at some point I was asked to do a dance party there, and that was probably one of my earliest Brooklyn gigs.
By 2003 I found myself commuting to Williamsburg for most of my bar gigs, so I decided to move over the river and have space for a home studio. Around 2000, a few friends had moved into a warehouse building in Bushwick. That and the music studio we built there slowly became the center of my world over the course of the decade.
In 2005, some friends of mine opened the Wreck Room Bar on Flushing Ave a few blocks from the studio space, and I started bartending and DJing there regularly in 2006 (including a weekly on Friday nights from 2006-2009).
Can you describe how the scene in Brooklyn was like during that period when you had your Wreck Room residency?
It was a very unique place and time, for sure. Wreck Room was just a run-of-the-mill dive bar, but that meant we were able to do whatever we wanted. Though while most of the employees were queer, the owner didn’t want it to be a “gay bar.” That all ended when a last-minute venue change brought a party for Amos Mac’s trans mens’ magazine Original Plumbing to the bar, and the bar grossed more money than any night in its previous history.
Sometime around then, Horrorchata moved into an apartment next door [to the bar]. We started getting all these Brooklyn queens coming in before heading out to their shows, or coming by for last call. And this led to a string of new queer parties being thrown at the bar – most notably Erica Kenia’s “Kitty,” which brought lots of new bands and DJs into the Wreck Room fold.
In the 2000s most of the big NYC DJs had moved to Berlin, and the Manhattan scene was really getting stale from so many venues closing and rent getting too high. Brooklyn made NYC feel like an open city musically and scene-wise, and all sorts of new party crews began popping up in that space. And I think that industrial neighborhood in Bushwick really was the epicenter of that movement. By the time I moved back to NYC in 2010 after a year abroad and in LA, it had really become its own Bohemia, rivaling that of the East Village a decade before.
At that time I was focused again mostly on production, but I started DJing and bartending at Wreck Room again. It was sometime after that I met Jody (then David Sokolowski) in San Francisco, when I was out there for Outfest. Soon afterward, Jody moved to NYC and started throwing parties with me at Wreck Room. At that point, I was booking and bartending on Saturday night, and Erica was booking / bartending Fridays.
After a good run of monthly parties with Jody at Wreck Room, we started a monthly at Sugarland. Soon after that, Jody asked if I would play vinyl every Monday at Metropolitan, and that turned out to be Hot Fruit.
Then recording artist and nightlife personality Will Sheridan (aka #GIANT) ultimately joined up with yourself and Jody at Metropolitan. How did that change the dynamic of Hot Fruit?
Will had always been one of our favorite performers to have at Wreck Room, or at Sugarland, or Hot Fruit. And eventually that lead to asking him to curate some nights and host.
Then a bit over a year ago, Jody was looking to do some bigger things – like a Saturday night, and the monthly Thursday night disco party at Metro. And so wanting to focus energy into those things, he decided he wanted to step aside and let someone else run the party. And Will was the obvious choice, if we could convince him.
Will said yes, and after the 4-year anniversary the party switched hands. At first Will wanted to re-brand and change the name, but I really like the name Hot Fruit, and we decided to keep it.
Will definitely brings a different approach to the party with a more classic “one live show,” or with a “one guest DJ and drag shows” type lineup. Whereas Jody loved to use the night for community building, with strange poetry readings or really avant-garde music or dance. Not that we don’t still do that, it’s just become a more professional platform and less freeform. Will is also a very good MC, and therefore a very good host on the mic. Which makes things flow in a different way.
Still, it’s a Monday night – so it’s an industry night out. And that is our goal: to bring real talent and shows to people who otherwise often miss them, because they are working or have shows on other nights. So, it’s really a “family night” for a Brooklyn nightlife family that we have all watched really come into its own over the past decade. You know – one week you will see someone slay on stage, and the next week they are there in the audience cheering on the performers. I find that really satisfying. Or, some big name DJs who just played a giant weekend party but don’t fly out til Tuesday or Wednesday will be chilling by the booth, giving me kudos for some record I play. And all that just makes it feel homey and approachable as a nightlife experience. Those more intimate connections are a large part of why I DJ, and work so hard to keep nights like Hot Fruit going.
Who have been some of your favorite Hot Fruit performers over the years?
Wow, there have been so many. I am always so impressed with the talent that comes through the party. But to name a few that always blow my mind, I would say: Mister Wallace, Three X’s, Charlie Sheena, Boy Radio, Church, and Gramma for live shows. And Zenobia, Merrie Cherry, Pan Dulce, and DiDa Ritz for drag shows. And I have to mention Jeremy Jae Neal and Mineko for dance. That’s really leaving out a lot.
Hey, I noticed that Zenobia’s been there a lot lately.
She did a run of four shows in a row last month. We called it her takeover month, which was really fun because she just gives so much energy every time she performs. We always love having her. We were sort of testing out the idea of having one queen doing a month-long residency at the party. We are hoping to do this again with some other folks and see how it goes. But it will likely happen again with Zenobia in the future.
Going forward with the party, Will and I are looking to branch out with more guest hosts and recurring performers. I think we need to keep it fresh, and make a place for other people to imagine their own Hot Fruit. Who knows what this turns into in the next couple years? But it would be nice to keep it alive and fresh and growing. Bringing in other hosts is a part of our plan for that.
And Jody still seems to pop in to guest DJ a lot, even though he’s no longer producing the party.
Yeah, as part of the deal of passing the party along, Will and I wanted to make sure there was some continuity. So we said, “hey, why don’t you come back and DJ once a month and just have this space, but not have to do all the booking and promo work?” And that just seemed to fit well with the idea of the party and what we are trying to do.
So OMG, the Five Year Anniversary of Hot Fruit at Metro is this Monday! Did that time fly by?
Yes and no. You know, a weekly is an intense thing. It takes a lot of work, and so in some ways it feels like even longer, lol! But on the other hand, it is like, “where did the time go?” I mean, it simultaneously seems like a lifetime has gone by, and like a blink of an eye.
I totally get that.
It’s the longest running weekly party I have ever done. And I think its taught me a lot, both as a DJ and as a host: keeping it fresh musically, and getting better on the mic.
And the anniversary looks to be a ki!
Well, as usual we are gonna have a whole lot of shows for the anniversary. I mean, on many years we hardly end up DJing much at all. And we are gonna start earlier than usual to accommodate even more shows this year, with more live stuff early and drag shows later on. You will see a lot of Hot Fruit veterans coming back, and of course Jody and Will and I playing some music in between. But we will really be turning most of the night over to the performers, as we do every anniversary. It’s more of a thank you to all of them, and their support. Without the shows, it’s not Hot Fruit.
Anything else that we should mention?
Thank you to Pietro Scorsone for bartending for the whole five year run, and to Nancy who has worked the door for most of the run. And to Steven the manager, for really understanding the party and its unique style and always pulling for it over the years. In total, Metropolitan has been really good and gracious to us, and we definitely couldn’t have pulled it off without that.
Yay! Okay last question, totally random: Cardi B, yes or no?
Yes! Will put me on to her song months before it charted, and it became a bit of an anthem for us. You would never hear me play it, but it does get played almost every week… and I gotta say i really like it.
That’s fair! Thanks ECON, and have a great anniversary!
DJ ECON spins and co-hosts “Hot Fruit” at Metropolitan Bar Monday nights (10pm). The 5th anniversary edition on November 6th, starts around 7pm. Check Thotyssey’s calendar for scheduled gigs, and follow ECON on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud & Mixcloud.