Circuit Chat - Rohan and Marco

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Rohan

An interview with Rohan and Marco
By John McHugh-Dennis (webmaster)

Rohan and Marco have created a whole new meaning for the word "spinster", having developed a loyal following for their after-hours club SPIN. SPIN has created an electric buzz amongst Los Angeles gay club-goers, and put L.A. on the map along with New York and Miami as a place to go for gay nightlife.

Rohan and Marco speak freely about their exciting plans for the future... Hold on for the Ride!

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Marco


John:

How did you get your start, and when did the two of you start working as a team?

Rohan:

I was working at Cafe Benvenuto on Santa Monica Boulevard, and the owner there also owned the Roxbury, as well as the place that is now called El Cantina. It was called Babylon, and he wanted to turn that into a gay restaurant. I said "I don't like the restaurant business, let me turn it into a nightclub". So I did a club there on Sunday nights called Release, and that's how I got started.

While I was doing Release and a couple of other clubs - I did HOOKER with Manny (Lehman), Marco approached me to open a club. We were already friends at the time.

John:

Was HOOKER the first (aside from Probe) after-hours club?

Rohan:

HOOKER wasn't after-hours, it was regular hours. We started a new club at The Park Plaza, and we were thinking okay, downtown, The Park Plaza... I had done parties at The Palace before and I said "What happens at 3:00 when everybody leaves?" And they said "We're closed." And I said "Why don't we start doing parties from 3:00 in the morning on?" And everyone said "You're Crazy, nobody's going to go out at 3:00 in the morning!". And then, I'm really good with the people and the camaraderie and everything, and Marco is really good with the business end of things. He's the businessman, and I'm the mouth... That's how it started.

John:

And what about you, Marco? How did things start for you?

Marco:

I was working a Nightclub in Montreal, and after that in Miami also. I moved to L.A., and I got a project to do The Shed restaurant. I got Michel, who was the Manager at Rage, and another partner, and we bought the place. It lasted for about 2 and a half years, and we got tired of the restaurant business. After that I was approached by someone to buy a location for a Nightclub, so I went to talk to Rohan to see if he was interested in partnering with me.

John:

You don't currently own a club do you?

Marco:

Not right now, but for our first project, we tried to buy the club on the corner of LaCienega and Santa Monica Boulevard. We went into escrow, and had some problems with it.

Rohan:

Our initial idea was to buy a club and build our own Nightclub from the ground up. We're still pursuing that right now, but in the interim, we're making our living through promoting, where you go in, rent the space, and promote it. We're still trying to open our own place; that's our goal.

John:

What are some of the problems that you encounter as a result of promoting a club at a venue that you don't own?

Rohan:

There's pros and cons. When you don't own the place, you don't have to deal with all of the problems with the liquor and the staff. When you're a promoter, you get to just walk in there and deal only with filling the place and making it successful.

John:

And when it fails, you can walk away.

Rohan:

You can walk away and go to the next venue.

John:

But you also carry your reputation with you.

Rohan:

Every time that a promotion finishes, you make sure that you end on a good note with those people, cause you never know when you're going to work with them again. Ever since we've worked together we've worked at the same venue... almost 3 years now, so we've got a pretty good reputation I think.

John:

It used to be that Probe (later named ICON), was the only after-hours game in town. Then came SPIN, and later Red Eye. What gave you the idea that another after-hours club would do well in Los Angeles, and what made you think that you would be able to get the numbers?

Rohan:

I didn't know that it was going to do well, because The Palace is one of the most expensive venues in town, and when we first started doing it we were losing money, and we were like "What the hell are we doing? This is ridiculous". But I knew from going out in New York, and going out in Miami and in Europe and Australia, that people go out at 3:00 in the morning, and it's only a matter of educating the community about the joys of going out at 3:00 in the morning. We didn't know if we could do it, but we just kept pushing it and trying and trying and trying and eventually we went from 300 to 700 to 1000 to 1500 people, and now the majority of the Saturday night crowd stay home until 3:00 in the morning and then go out. We had something to do with creating that.

Marco:

I was tired of hearing all of the time that "L.A. is so boring, there's nothing to do, everything is awful".

Rohan:

And now they say L.A. has some of the best Nightlife in the country.

John:

The schedules of The Red Eye and SPIN are conveniently placed opposite of each other...

Rohan:

We work with each other on that so we don't compete against each other because we're friends. The only times that we do compete is on Holiday weekends where there's enough people for everybody to go around.

John:

The subject of promoters using out of town versus local DJs crops up on my site quite a bit. There were really strong opinions both ways. A lot of this came from ICON, where they used resident DJs. Some people felt strongly that we should have some variety, something different, and others felt we should be promoting our own.

Rohan:

When we first started promoting, we were kind of fed up with L.A., we were sick of the same DJs all the time. We decided that we were going to hire all of these great DJs that we knew from traveling and bring them here, and we established ourselves... I think that we have really good taste in music... we know what we want. But then, over the last six months we looked at each other and said "There's some really good talent in L.A." Now, we're trying to change the way we work a little...

Marco:

Now the name of the club is strong enough that it's time to work on the DJs right in town.

Rohan:

Now we're also getting DJs from here that we know and like, and we're promoting them. DJ Paulo is exclusive to STEREO and SPIN right now, and we're promoting him as our resident DJ. We want to promote him so that we can have the opportunity to take him to New York and Miami and say "This is what L.A. is all about". So we've changed - we used to always bring in people.

John:

That's what STEREO is all about isn't it? Bringing in a different outside DJ each week?

Rohan:

It's about that, but we're kind of cutting back on that a little bit. We're going to do resident DJs and then guest DJs twice a month. We want to showcase the talent here in town. We want the DJs here to have a chance.

John:

What do you look for in a DJ? You mentioned earlier that you feel you have good taste in music. Can you put into words what gets you excited about a DJ?

Rohan:

The easiest way to explain it is that if you're at a venue... people send CDs all the time, you listen to them, and they may be great... but there's a difference between a live CD and a CD that someone works on for 3 months to make perfect. If you're at a club and you're looking down at the dancefloor and you see everyone's hands go up in the air, you know that that person's got something.

Marco:

And also, there are so many different types of music, and you need to try to please everybody. We look for DJs that are going to play a little bit of everything.

Rohan:

We have a definite style that we like, and there are some DJs that people highly recommend and guarantee will pack the club, but we don't like their style. We like a harder edge in the music rather than something that's a little more fluffy. In L.A., there's two camps.

John:

There's definitely a very fluffy camp in L.A.

Rohan:

We've kept to what we think we like, but like Marco said, we're also trying to get someone who is going to please the crowd as well.

John:

Both of you are from out of this country... Whenever I hear your names (Rohan and Marco) I can't help but be reminded of the show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. You weren't thinking of the show when you came up with the name were you?

Marco:

I didn't even know there was such as show. Rohan did.

Rohan:

We were thinking, okay, we have to get a web site address. I had HOOKER for the club HOOKER, and every time I changed clubs, I had to change the web site. I said, okay, I'm not going to change my name, he's not going to change his name, and then Rohan & Marco sounded just like Rowan & Martin, so it was Rohan & Marco... that's how it ended up like that.

John:

Tell us a little bit about what you have planned for the New Year's event. What's going to be happening there?

Rohan:

Well, on the ad I didn't want to tell everyone what we're doing. I think we have a good enough reputation in L.A. that we don't need to tell everyone, so I want to kind of keep it a secret. We have 2 DJs - James Andersen from The Roxy and Paulo. We have a big countdown show, a big dance number, and a whole bunch of things throughout the night, but I kind of want to keep it a secret, because I want to surprise the people.

Marco:

It will be 15 hours from 9PM till 12:00 Noon, so...

Rohan:

Believe me, they'll get their money's worth. It's going to be a good night.

John:

How did you come to select The Palace for SPIN?

Rohan:

Manny and I did New Year's Eve there for HOOKER, and I did another party there called Sunday Mass, and we originally planned on doing parties at The Park Plaza while we were trying to open our own club, but they had a lot of problems with the lease, and the neighborhood, and permits, and all these things. I've always thought that The Palace is the best venue in town. I had a lot of trouble making it work because it is so expensive, and that's when Marco's business expertise came along, and he made it profitable. It was always my number one choice as a venue, because I think it's the best.

John:

You mentioned that when you first started, you weren't filling the place. Did you get a lot of pressure from The Palace people to build the numbers?

Marco:

No, because we were the first promoters to attempt a club at that hour.

Rohan:

Now there's a promoter on the other night who gets just as many people. But there is no pressure because we pay a flat rental fee. She got her money, so it didn't make any difference to her. But we would work hard and we'd be like "Oh my God, we just lost all of this money!", but we kept saying"Okay, we'll give it another month, and we'll give it another month...". It was investment that if we were going to lose money in the beginning, we felt in the long run if we just kept persevering, it would pay off. Now it's doing great!

John:

It seems like The Palace pats down more. There's more frisking there than there is at the other clubs. Why is that?

Rohan:

Cause we get more people passing out. We have an average of 4 people a party passing out on GHB. We have to hire an ambulance and 2 Paramedics. If they (the patrons) stop passing out, they'll (The Palace) stop patting down. It's the people who come to the club who do GHB... it's the same people over and over again.

John:

Is it pretty much the same people?

Rohan:

The same people! Over and over again! We throw them out, and we don't let them back in. We don't hire the Security, we have nothing to do with it. The Management says "I don't care how much money you're making us... we're going to close you down if you have more people passing out. " That's why we had to start hiring Paramedics.

John:

Are people becoming more responsible with drugs, or do you think it's getting worse?

Rohan:

It's getting worse. It's getting worse and worse. They can't search someone's groin area... it's against the law. The Vice gave The Palace a set of guidelines regarding how people smuggle drugs into the clubs. They say they smuggle it in inside their chewing gum, their chapstick, etc. So The Palace took these things and they took them literally, and they take away all of these things. But that was the guidelines they were given. I would prefer that no one be searched, but it would be a giant hospital if that weren't the case.

Marco:

We would be shut down.

Rohan:

The community needs to realize that if they want to have an after-hours, they have to stop doing GHB.

John:

Do the straight clubs have these same kinds of problems? Are people passing out at the straight clubs from GHB?

Marco:

No, because most of what drug use there is at the straight clubs is Cocaine or Ecstasy. They don't have a problem with the GHB yet. The gay crowd really has the problem with the GHB.

John:

Name one of your worst experiences as a promoter.

Rohan:

Oh, that's easy. I can tell you that one. There's a thousand of them, but my worst experience as a promoter was an event at The Park Plaza. I had organized this giant Halloween party... I had people carving pumpkins and putting candles in them... I had the most incredible decorations you had ever seen. I spent weeks and weeks and weeks doing them... lots of time and effort and money. The owner of The Park Plaza called me 12 hours before the party and told me that she didn't have the necessary permits. So I had to go walk around West Hollywood with a staple gun and tack flyers up to all of the Palm trees, I had to call everyone and tell them that the party was cancelled. I had already sold like 500 tickets, I had to refund everybody's money. I wanted to just hide forever.

John:

You said you had another story to tell.

Rohan:

Oh, there's millions!

Marco:

At The Palace we had some problems one night. The Fire Marshall was there because of reports of GHB. We had to stop the music, tell everybody that we were in danger of being shut down...

Rohan:

The Fire Marshall came, he looked around and said "Okay, it's fine. You're not overcrowded". As he was preparing to leave, this intoxicated "gentleman" decided he was going to have a political discussion with the Fire Marshall about the rights of gay people. Sometimes people have the right intentions, but at the wrong time. He got right in the face of Fire Marshall and said "You wouldn't do this if it were a straight club". So the Fire Marshall is thinking "Okay, well now I'm going to shut them down". I don't like to make blanket statements, but I think the Fire Department is a little bit homophobic.

Marco:

They don't have many problems with them (the straight clubs).

John:

That's right. In a way, they have a reason to be the way they are, because it sounds like the gay scene is causing most of the problems. They're not having to bring in ambulances for the straight clubs (in general), so in a way, I can see their point. Even if they're not homophobic.

Marco:

They have to be more careful, because they have more problems.

John:

One of the things that I think is sometimes almost worth the price of admission at The Palace is the "changing of the guard" when the straight club clears out for SPIN.

Rohan:

You like that?

John:

I think it's interesting. When you're standing in line (we all break out laughing), and you're watching... it can be amusing. Have there ever been any problems?

Rohan:

There really hasn't been any... actually, I've never been out there, I've never seen it, cause I'm inside hiding. Robert (their CUTE co-producer) has to deal with all the crap at the door, so it's best to ask him.

Marco:

They (the straight patrons) are very young too... they're young kids.

John:

It does seem like a young crowd. Is there an after-hours straight club?

Marco:

Yes, when we don't do SPIN on Saturdays, there is a straight club during the same hours.

John:

So there haven't really been any incidents relating to the straight club emptying out while the gays queue up?

Rohan:

Sometimes people hid underneath the stage from the KIIS FM event beforehand because they want to go to the club afterwards, so Security always goes under there with flashlights, and there's all these little kids hiding under the stage waiting for the next club. So they wait for the next club, and then they discover that it's a gay club and not a straight club and they're kind of disappointed.

John:

Do you think that there's any possibility of having a club that's mixed after-hours?

Marco:

We'd love to do it actually. We get more and more straight people, maybe because people sometimes get confused, and come on the wrong week.

Rohan:

We always tell them it's a gay club, and many of them say "Is it Fun?", and we say "Of course it's fun!" So they go in, and then they stay, and they come back. And the same goes for the straight after-hours, as far as our crowd going to that. It's been my dream to mix up the crowds more like it is in New York.

John:

The Twilo kind of happens that way, where it's gay after-hours, and straight before, but there is definitely a straight contingency afterwards.

Marco:

It's still a mixed crowd.

John:

I don't think they have a "changing of the guard" at Twilo.

Rohan:

No they don't. One of the big promoters from New York came to SPIN, and he was looking at the changing, and he said "This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!" He said: "In New York, if we want to get rid of the straight people, we just play really bad music! (we all laugh)." I said "Well, we just throw them all out, and then do a whole new club." Everybody said that the transition wouldn't really work, they'll be all these fights... It's amazing - in 15 minutes you can get everybody out, and you won't see any of them after that... they're gone... just out of there.

John:

So your answer is that you think it could work?

Marco:

Hopefully it's gonna happen slowly.

John:

In Canada, it's fairly mixed as well, correct?

Marco:

Yes, it's very mixed. Montreal after-hours... Black and Blue...

Rohan:

There's no segregation. And you have the clubs in Europe... they're just big, giant dance clubs, and they have the "gay sections". There's no such thing as a gay and straight club - there are, but there's a lot of...

John:

They still have their "cliques", but they're still part of the same club. A friend of mine was telling me... I forget which city he was referring to... but he said "You can always tell the gay crowd, because they're the boys with the shirts off over in such and such a corner" (laugh). He would look down over the dance floor, and said you couldn't miss it.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

Rohan:

We're going to open our own venue. One that we own, that we produce, and that we... You see, the problem is that you go into a place like The Palace, and you say "There's a problem with the sound, and there's a problem with this, and there's a problem with that", you have no control over where it goes from there. If we own the club, we can fix all that. We can make sure it's the best sound quality, we can make sure the lighting is the best. We can make sure that all of the things that are out of our control like Security and bartenders are the way that we want them. Being a promoter, you don't have that luxury since you don't own the club.

John:

How close do you think you are to opening up your own venue?

Marco:

Hopefully about a year, a year and a half.

John:

And you're going to do that for the same price?

Rohan:

Yes. And we're giving the membership card to everybody (at the recent Card Party), so they have a chance to get in at a cheaper price. We're trying to develop a little loyalty. The Palace is an expensive place to get into (as a promoter). The price of the club is higher because of the rent that we pay, and because of the DJs that we hire.

In the meantime, for the year 2001 at The SPIN, we're going to give a lot more. We're going to do a lot more shows and bring in a lot more artists. It's also going to be a lot more theatrical.

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