April 2005
By Steven M. Housman

The Whites of Spring

The last weekend in March proved to be much more than water-colored eggs and little bunny rabbits. Sure, it was Easter, but in Palm Springs, that means you’ve got to fight for the WHITE to party. Sorry for the pun, but how could I not be in a festive mood this time of year?

The White Party – Palm Springs has become THE event of the year. With over 30,000 party-goers, this gathering has become bigger than Jeffrey Sanker could have ever imagined when he started this little shindig 16 years ago. And believe me, Jeffrey thinks of everything on a grand scale. But even he has been amazed at the immense growth and success this event has taken on over the years. The City of Palm Springs also rates The White Party as its number one annual tourist revenue generator.

People came from all over the globe to celebrate The White Party – Palm Springs. It has become the most unified event for gay men to express themselves and celebrate the rights of spring. It’s also become a place to make new friends, meet up with some old ones, and has been known to spark some great long-term relationships.

Besides Sanker, the people who are most responsible for the success of the party are the DJ’s. Without the DJ’s, there wouldn’t be music, and without the music, it just wouldn’t be a party.

Before the big weekend, I had rounded up four of the DJ’s that set the town on fire for The White Party weekend. The beautiful and talented Kimberly S and renowned Manny Lehman spoke of the parties of the past, and most importantly, this year’s “Main Event,” where they were the headliners. The stunning South African-native Adien and the talented and hunky Tony Moran took over the events of the final day – Where The Boys Are pool party and Encore, respectively. Each of these world-renowned DJ’s is exceptional and I was fortunate enough to speak to them individually and get a taste of their fabulous and talented lives.

These interviews took place March 14-17, 2005.

DJ Kimberly S

I’ve noticed that more females are involved this year than in past. Do you feel that you have influenced this trend?

I’m not going to take responsibility for something that’s that big, but I think all of the female DJ’s have played a part. I mean I have set an example in a male dominated arena. I guess a lot of careers are like that. Actually, I feel good to be a part of the trend. It goes this way in many different areas. Take sports – You have Billie Jean King and then Chrissie and Martina and there seem to be more and more role models to encourage other women to get involved. It’s also the confidence to get out there. I feel we do have to work harder and there’s more exposure. I do know that I’ve encouraged some other girls. I get letters all the time. I get a lot of letters from boys, too!

Are there any vast differences from the music of the past to what you’ll be spinning this year?

One of the differences is I’ll be playing “The Main Event” with Manny Lehman, which is going to be different than a tea dance or an afternoon pool party. I’ll be playing more of a primetime set. It’s still happy and upbeat and positive. I like to use the word “positive,” as far as my spinning goes and the music choices I make. Also lots of energy and primetime oriented as opposed to an afternoon tea. There’ll be lots of vocals. It’s a different setting. It’s still going to be all about good vibes! For me to be able to play with Manny, someone I admire so much, is such a great feeling. I’m really happy about it.

Last year you noted that the girls enjoyed Hip Hop and R&B and the boys enjoyed more circuit and trance. Is this trend still strong?

Definitely! I actually stopped playing for the girls last year. It had been 17 years and I was basically playing Girl Bar once a month and I felt it was time to move on. It was something that I was doing extra as opposed to something that was geared towards my career. If something isn’t fulfilling you anymore, it’s time to move on. I think 17 years is a long time.

And you only look like a kid!

(Laughing) Oh yeah! I’ll actually be 38 on March 22nd.

Just in time for the party!

Yes! It’s always my birthday just in time for Dinah. One thing I do want to say is that the trends for the girls and the boys remain the same, but Hip Hop has moved into the guys arena as well, but not into the circuit. It’s a lot of the younger boys – the 18 to 21 year-olds. There are a lot of clubs popping up that are playing Hip Hop and Pop stuff that is radio mixes of things that’s very popular. I don’t think this is going to last. I think what’s going to happen is the classic dance music will be around forever, especially among the gay men’s community. It’s always something that’s been important.

Any new DJ’s on the front that you’re excited about?

I’m actually excited about one DJ in particular. I know people are going to think I’m plugging him, I’m not. He is one of my favorite DJ’s and this is from the bottom of my heart, and that’s Jack Jones. He’s a good friend of mine – yes. I love him – yes. Is he one of the DJ’s on my roster? Yeah - but my roster isn’t about making money, it’s about mentoring these guys, but he…I just see BIG for him. He’s young and he just has that feel good vibe, but he can also play darker if he wants to. He’s just musically savvy, like me and Manny. We just have a big music knowledge, and Jack, being so young is willing to learn. He has played the violin for the Seattle Orchestra so he’s very musically inclined and he’s just really good. He’s one of my favorites.

It’s nice that you’re giving him this recognition.

I need to because he’s just so good. Another guy I really like is Tyler over at the Abbey, better known as DJ Tye. Sometimes I go over there and hide and just listen to him to see how he’s playing and just be blown away. I will only represent people who are extremely talented. My reputation is important.

I’m going to get a little personal. Last time we spoke you were in a committed relationship - Is that still going strong?

Yes! My relationship is still strong. She’s a keeper! You can’t have eleven tats together and it not good. (Laughing).

What music have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been into Jack Johnson. He’s been my mainstay lately. He’s a guitar player and has a small band with a bass player and a drummer and his lyrics are super cute, super deep, super intense. He’s got the most soothing voice. It’s a mix of Reggae and Hawaiian style folk. He’s a surfer, which is something that I love to do. He’s from Hawaii. He’s just awesome! Of course I’m also into a lot of dance music because it’s my work. But I’ve been listening to Jack and kicking my Alicia Keys around a lot. She’s just the bomb!

When you’re not spinning for the parties, what is it that you like to do?

I don’t go to clubs because I’m in clubs all the time. I rarely have a weekend off, if I do, I like to take care of my animals. I have eleven animals. I also am big into martial arts.

What kind of animals do you have?

I have five exotic birds, and the love of my life besides my girlfriend, is my Yorkie, Webster, who’s been to many White Parties (Laughing). We also have a Chocolate Lab, a Golden Lab and three cats.

Is the music taking on a new direction?

I think there’s still a slew of DJ’s who like to play Tribal and darker after hours music and some up and coming DJ’s who are playing this genre of music. I just read an article that was an interview with Manny and Abel and Ralph Rosario, and what was interesting is that the more experienced guys are, the more they want their Diva’s back. They want some vocals. I’m the same way. It’s hard to find some good vocals. We sort of have to make due. I’m hoping that this will start happening again. I can’t find any good vocals that are new that are turning me on.

Obviously you have the same affinity for the old-school Divas.

Yep! The last we heard anything good as far as vocals was in ’98, ’99 and 2000. Those were some great remixes back then. There are some good vocals out there now, but the remixes are just not laid down good at all. They’re all taking on the same sound. I can’t sit here and say that I see the trend of Tribal disappearing because I think it’ll always be around. I played Tribal in the mid-90’s when Tribal was considered out. It’s always going to be around. Music seems to fluctuate and now I’m heavy into trance. But even though I like the Tiesto kind of stuff, I spin that stuff like crazy, but these aren’t the crowds I can play it to. I guess when you get to a certain point, you can play pretty much whatever you want as long as you’re respecting the audience and giving them some of what they already know.

Do you have any touring plans after White Party – if so, where are you headed?

I’m headed to the Philippines in May, which I’m excited about for Circuit Asia. I feel there’s always a warm welcome there. I’m looking forward to the people a lot, but I’m not looking forward to the immunizations (Laughing)! I’m also going to be playing D.C. for the first time. I’ll be playing Nation there. I’ll be playing Pensacola. The name there has been changed to “Hurricane!” I’ll also be in Dallas that weekend to play an event called “Valley of the Dolls” for Memorial weekend. Of course I have the club events where I have main stage on weekends which is important.

The reason I ask is because there will be throngs of people who will read this and be interested in your schedule.

They should check my website because my entire schedule is on it and it’s pretty current.

Any surprises you can discuss for The White Party?

I’m supposed to be pretty mum, but truthfully I’m clueless as far as the performer’s lineup. I think it’ll be a little different this year. Some of the talent will be a little younger and then us, what should I call us? - The moms and the dads will be playing!

You’re not old – you’re experienced!

Absolutely! Reaching 40 is actually a good age. 30 killed me for some reason. Little did I know DJ’ing would be my career. After I turned 30 I was all ready to open my Karate school. But my career is great and it’s going to take a lot to get rid of me at this point! I’m not going anywhere!

DJ Manny Lehman

Are you still having as much fun as ever with the White Party?

Yeah! I get to bounce around from different parties to different parties, it’s never the same. Also I’ve had the chance to play all of the different parties there as well. It’s nice to return to “The Main Event.”

Do you see any DJ’s that you’re impressed with – and if so, are they taking newer risks?

I’ve been hearing a few newer ones that have made me go hmm…; this one is fun to hear. I see how some of the people who have been around for a while have grown and evolved and become better artists as we all should. Everyone is getting a bit more progressive.

What’s the talent line-up for the big night?

I’m staying hush, but I give you credit for trying! (Laughing)

I know you’re a fan of the Divas – will there be plenty of anthems to look forward to?

I’m a great fan of the Diva vocals and I also love great progressive tribal tracks. They make up a lot of my set. I like everything! But what you can expect is what it takes to make it fun. The White Party is such a humungous party and you can’t get niche into one kind of particular sound, you have to make a lot of people have a good experience. When you have such a wide variety of people, you need to be a little more diverse in how you play. The expectations are so high.

Speaking of Divas – anybody new we should know about?

Nothing off the top of my head. Although, I love the new pop Diva, Joss Stone – She’s unbelievable! She sings about so many experiences and she just a young and innocent girl. I love her and she amazes me

Donna Summer has now been in the spotlight for thirty years. Does the younger generation appreciate her as the guys who grew up with her?

She’s been so influential, too. But, no, they can appreciate her and listen to her songs and say ‘Oh wow, this is historical and she was great’ but they don’t have the same type of appreciation. They don’t get it. It’s musically and esthetically different. You had to be there for the ride and see this rise of this disco Diva to the top of the pop charts and become the Diva.

There such a diversity of age – Do you see the younger generation respond in the same way to this music as our generation does?

It depends on the party. There’s a lot of retro disco going on where there are 70’s and 80’s parties, and then you put on a Donna Summer record and everybody knows all the words. At a 70’s revival party, when I put on “MacArthur Park,” everyone is singing along at full throttle. There’s such an emotional connection to her from our generation where the younger people just like the song. There tends to be a lot of mixes of Donna Summer stuff like thousands of mixes of “I Feel Love.” It’s such a progressive song and it still sounds progressive when they add some bottom or some kick to it. It still sounds futuristic, and that’s something, considering it came out in the mid 70’s. There’s also samples of Donna Summer’s stuff from Four Seasons of Love like “Summer Fever” and “Autumn Changes.” The music is always coming out because the music is incredible, the vocals are incredible and she’s standing the test of time. There aren’t a lot of Diva’s who can say that.

What do you do with your days and nights when you’re not spinning?

I’m just a simple kind of guy. I hang out a lot with my friends. When I’m not in the studio with my music, I get a couple of DVD’s and sit around with my friends and watch a lot of movies and just kick back.

I remember when I used to see you at Crunch a lot – are you still keeping in shape?

Yeah, I still kick box three times a week to keep myself sane. I’m pretty much in shape for an old man.

What music do you play for your personal listening pleasure?

I listen to anything and everything. When I’m at home, I do my homework on the dance music, but for myself, I really like old R&B, Everything But The Girl to Joss Stone to the last George Michael album to movie soundtracks.

You’re pretty eclectic.

Yeah, eclectic is a great word! I’m totally eclectic in every aspect of life. (Laughing).

Last year, the trend seemed to be heading in a very tribal and progressive direction. –Has that peaked and is music off into another direction yet?

I think it’s still in the area. I don’t feel it’s peaked yet. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – I hope they continue to incorporate more vocals, or at least, good samples of vocals so it’s not just a drum. Make it an emotive drum with a vocal behind it.

Besides White Party Palm Springs, any other cities you absolutely love to play?

I love playing in New York City - I’ll always love New York. I love playing Miami as well. I love playing at Space. I love playing in London because it’s so progressive - They really like the funky music over there. They understand the old-school, so when it comes on they go crazy for it.

Do you have any projects you’d like to tell me about?

My new CD comes out March 20th and it’s called “Freedom.”

Very cool – What can we expect to hear on it?

It’s a double-disc CD. One is big room sessions and one is tribal sessions. There are some original tracks that I did. One of them is called “Action Anthem” for the club I do in LA and we’re putting that out as the first single.

Look forward to seeing you at the Party.

I can’t wait to play there. I’m playing with Kimberly S this year so that’ll be great.

I know, I spoke with her and she absolutely adores you.

Well, it’s right back at her. She’s a sweetheart and a top-notch DJ. I can’t say enough nice things about her.

Have you got a grip on being referred to as a legend yet?

Oh, stop it! As long as I don’t fade away into memory like some other legends do! (Laughing).

You’ll be ‘What becomes a legend most?’ With black fur on your sneakers!

(Laughing) Yeah - Edith Sneakers, that’s too funny!

Have a great Party!

Thanks for the support. I really do appreciate it.

DJ Tony Moran

Does White Party still give you the kick it has in the past?

In the past years before I started working the parties, I had always gone as a patron just to dance - The White Party in particular. So when Jeffrey [Sanker] had asked me to play the White Party I was almost hesitant because it had become such a commercialized party. We had tried to create something that would be a special production and try to create some kind of spectacle that wouldn’t make it so generic. The White Party became something that had two or three events that would make it special. I haven’t lost anything for it. Since that first time, I’ve now done so many parties all around the world and this one party really stands out to me. Not because it’s the “Mama” of all of them, but rather because it has been one of the few to set the standard for production value. A lot of these parties aren’t easy to get to. A lot of people can shop around to see where they’re going to invest their money and vacation time, so we try to make this the spectacular that’s expected.

I know you don’t like to repeat yourself as far as the music goes – what are you bringing to the White Party this year?

I’m doing the closing party, so it’s not like a tea dance or anything; the energy is going to be different. It’s probably going to be higher octane because now you’re approaching the end of the week and you want to keep everybody up and festive, and I want to be able to make and create a lot of feeling that’s very positive. I want people to be able to leave and say ‘Wow that was a great experience.’ The choice of music that you play can really determine and grade the whole weekend. I want to make sure I create something special. I created all of these special numbers that nobody has and nobody will have, so when you listen to me it’s not going to be the same song you’ve heard 15 times over the whole weekend. I have to make sure it’s fresh, especially because I’m doing the closing party.

Considering that people have been partying all weekend – Do you find it’s more of a challenge?

I think that all depends on the DJ. For me, I don’t find it difficult because it gives me the opportunity to deliver something different. Sometimes when I play a main party, I don’t feel like I restrict myself from playing any number of hits, but rather I feel people want to hear a lot of these songs. For example, last year it was very difficult to play a party and not play “Easy As Life” by Deborah Cox, because I had been playing it for so long. I could understand that they wanted to hear it and I want to give it to them, but now I’ve played it so many times and it’s lost a little bit of its luster for me, but I understood it hadn’t for others and I just wanted to make sure I was going to give them what they wanted, on top of giving what I felt was creative. This time I can be even more creative because now I know that people will be ready to hear something different. Plus, I’ll have that positive energy but I’m not going to do anything to diminish the amount of sexual energy that I love to produce when I’m doing these parties.

Have you heard any new artists lately that excite you that you’d like to play or even work with?

I did the new Deborah Cooper record and I also wrote it. The message is really great. I also love Deborah’s voice and I love the fact that I was able to take her down a different road where it wasn’t just belting. I was happy where I could just give her something different. It was a very special collaboration with my partner, Warren Rigg, who I make all a lot of my remixes with. He’s very talented and I feel we share common goals. We have the same standards. I recently worked with Kristine W on her latest. I love to work with people of her caliber who always strive to give their best. I’ve been with superstars in the past that have said to me “Can’t you fix it?” and I don’t enjoy working that way. I love working with people when it’s not just me, the ones who want it to be as good as I want it to be.

Do you sense very different tastes among the younger set and the older set at these parties?

You don’t have a lot of the same people going to the after hours parties. I’m older! Age doesn’t necessarily change the music at the after parties. A lot of the people who are over thirty at these parties are giving it! I guess the “Main Event” parties get a lot of the people who aren’t all going to the after hours parties. I’m not sure this answers your question. People find a place where they unite energy-wise. Positive energy is contagious, and once you see enough people around you having a good time, you all of a sudden start having a good time.

Is it hard to please so many different demographics all of the time?

I don’t try to over analyze it. I just try to feel it out. I don’t know what I’m going to play and at what time. I test things out and I wait for the reaction. It takes that one song, not to make everybody jump through the roof, where all of a sudden you feel I’ve connected. For me, it’s the best feeling. Then all of a sudden, it’s not like I’m paying attention anymore to what it is I’m going to play next. I’m just going through the book and I say “That!” and I’m caught up and all of a sudden, it’s 6 in the morning and then I say “What do you mean I have to stop?”

I recall you discussing projects with Lara Fabian and Cyndi Lauper – how did they go?

They were pop projects. They came out great, but you know I’ve been in that realm for so many years and what really bothers me about it is the fact that there are so many people involved when you have an artist on that scale. Then you have to wait for everyone’s approval. All of a sudden, I’ve done this record and it’s almost a year later, and it’s still not out. When it takes forever for some of these records to come out, I just started passing on a lot of them because I like to make dance records. I’m feeling it, I DJ’ing it, I’m testing my stuff and I don’t feel like I have to prove myself anymore.

Are you a fan of the Diva anthems?

Yeah! Unless you give so many that they can become generic. I choose them carefully and I don’t always play every single one that’s the biggest, but I know how to play and make people feel moved, because the ones I do play are always special. There’s not a whole lot of vocal records out now that I’m that crazy about, but every time I play “You’ll Never Stand Alone” by Whitney Houston, every hand goes up in the air, every time. Even the guy from Arista Records who didn’t put it out as a single (even though it’s not his fault) comes to see me at different clubs all the time and I make sure that every time he’s there, I play it. I look for him first, and then I play it and I say to him “See, you guys chose to put out the Enrique Iglesias and Whitney Houston doing their ballad together.” It’s just satisfaction that I know what I feel.

What music do you like to listen to when not spinning?

I listen to more chill-out music. Even though I get music every day sent to me from everywhere, and I make music, I like to listen to mellow music and R&B, and then I watch as many CSI episodes as I can. I don’t want to overdose on audio.
What locales have you got lined up?

I’m off to Paris in a couple of hours and after that I’ll go to the UK. Then Atlanta, and San Antonio, oh yeah, and New York!

Have a great trip and have fun in the desert!

Will you be there? Come and see me at the party - It’s gonna be great!

DJ Adien

What makes White Party - Palm Springs so special for spinning?

I love the mountains and I love Palm Springs. There something about that town that’s very spiritual for me - and I also like the energy.

I understand you’re from South Africa - How long have you been in the US?

On and off for the past 10 years. I’ve been in the US for two years.

Do you feel you’re in a man’s domain – if so, how do you deal with it?

You know, I never thought I would say this, but for the first time, yes. I do feel it sometimes, but it’s also a positive feeling. I don’t know if it’s just a single experience I’ve had, but there’s just a lot of boys around. Don’t get me wrong - It’s a good thing. It’s easy for me. In my previous career, I was always on a ship with men. I was the only woman for 6 and 7 weeks at a time. So I’m very used to being in a man’s environment.

How does your music vary between playing for the boys and playing for the girls?

I don’t really play for the girls much. The lesbian scene, somehow, they like Hip Hop mixed with in Top 40 and I play more sophisticated House, European House, and it doesn’t seem to go over with the lesbians here.

Do you have your favorite DJ’s?

I have favorite producers. I know more of them than I do the DJ’s. This year I’ve been playing a lot of Tribal. There’s a DJ from Canada named Paranoid Jack who’s just amazing. He’s just so inspirational. There’s a whole wave of Canadian producers who are from the “underground.” They also own some great record labels there that’s a cross between American House and the European House and they seem to incorporate all of the aspects of that into their music and it’s amazing.

I understand you’re quite the heartbreaker – I read in your bio that you were taken.

No, I’m not, actually. I have to update that bio! (Laughing) We’re still good friends and we might be together in the future, but we’re not girlfriends.

It must be a very different vibe playing for the boys.

I have so much fun with the boys. I’m still shy around all the girls.

What does your choice of music say about you?

First of all, I do a lot of research about the music I’m going to play, I’m very picky. Up to this point I’ve bought everything I’ve played on vinyl and I’m just starting to get into CD’s and productions of lesser known artists and also doing my own stuff. I’m moving into a digital thing as well. I work really hard. It’s not as easy as it looks. A lot of thought goes into every set.

I understand you lived in Miami after moving from South Africa – Is that where you’re based now?

I lived in Miami and I still have some really good friends there. I’m actually going to be there to meet with my business partner, we’re setting up a new business. But I live mostly in LA now.

What’s your new business?

It’s going to be a new recording label and it’s going to encompass so much more than what’s out there now. I have an obsession with submarines, I’ve always thought submarines were super sexy (Laughing).

Wasn’t that your former profession?

Yes, I was on submarines studying geophysics. I’ve always had this thing for submarines, so I told my business partner that I’d like to incorporate that into the name of the company. So the name of it is going to be SubTek. What we’re going to do is provide a record label and we’re going to be involved in scoring and getting producers and the TV movie industry together providing a platform for artists to get together and get their work on TV shows and in film. It’s very much in the beginning stages. We’ve been working on it for only a bit over a week and getting together with a web site designer. A big part of the business is going to be online. So it’s going to be a digital record label as well providing downloads.

That’s where the industry seems to be now.

Absolutely! With the music industry and the state that it’s in, I think that people are more likely to pay for a download for a dollar fifty for a quality song than to swap music, not only for the legal obligations but for the moral obligations, to keep the artist in work. We want to keep these people working, otherwise the music industry is going to die down completely. Everything will be finalized within the next month because we want it ready before the Winter Music Conference.

Where do you feel music tastes are heading these days?

I think music tastes is getting to the point where everything is mashed together. You get samples of rock with house beats. It’s becoming sort of a hybrid. There’s going to be a lot of music that crosses boundaries, whatever it is, between Hip Hop, Chill, House, Break Beats. I’m really starting to get into Break Beats. Break Beats is basically the drum beats of Hip Hop, but it’s house with a break beat that is still very driving and still very up. It’s kind of a fusion between different genres. I definitely think that’s the direction music is heading.

Do you have any touring plans coming up?

I have something in the works that’s not sealed yet, but it involves going to Europe. I’m in the process of setting that up now. Hopefully we’ll be able to combine that with the launching of our business and the label. Wrap it all up into one.

Well, you’re a busy girl!

Yes, it’s all good right now and I’m very blessed to have all of this and have it happening now.

© 2005 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.