Colin Chmielewski and Mahesh Patel have both been men-about-town in the electronica scene for more than a decade now; after both taking a break for various reasons, they teamed up for a New Year's Eve party at the Clocktower that was a big success. That inspired them to team up for Inception as Afterhours Anonymous and Mahesh Presents (AAMP); on Friday night, they'll host Marcus Worgull for his first-ever Colorado appearance. We caught up with Chmielewski and Patel to ask them about Inception, the event format, their return to the world of promotion, who's next in the lineup (it's gonna be a great show) and what's next for AAMP.
Westword: What led to you guys throwing your own parties?
Colin Chmielewski: After I moved down to Denver from Boulder after college, I started to go to Miami and New York a lot and places where DJs can play till four or five and people can hang out and not have to change venues. We started doing house parties after Vinyl; people were able to have a good time and stay out late, and then we found Space Gallery. We did Afterhours Anonymous there from 2003 to 2005, then I went away to grad school, and it kind of died off. I moved back here and threw the New Year's Eve party at the Clocktower, which kind of sprouted on a whim, and I was like, I've gotta start doing this again.
Mahesh Patel: Mine started in '99. I was throwing more raves back then. That's what I was attending, and I had the entrepreneurial spirit along with that love for the music. It was fun, but I started to get older, my musical taste started to differ. I started moving into more 21 plus events, more clubs and high-end lounges. I also had a nightclub downtown, Spa Audiotherapy. After Spa, I took a break for a while. Just one of those things. It's so hard to get out of when you have such a love and it's part of your life. I started throwing events at bars and clubs. And Colin gave me a call and wanted to do an event on New Year's.
What led you to continue the idea after New Year's?
CC: The idea was for the original Afterhours Anonymous events and these new events, we didn't feel like there were enough places for really good techno and house DJs to be able to come for the 21+ crowd to go see them. Beta (didn't do well financially) on a lot of those underground acts, they weren't taking as many gambles, there weren't as many options of what to do and we wanted to give people an alternative.
MP: There's a big void right now, the clubs are pretty much bringing out big names and we felt the kind of artists that we like and a few hundred other people around Denver, that sound isn't being represented nearly as much as it should.
How do you find the DJs?
CC Justin Sloe from Droog was supposed to be on the April 8 lineup and was replaced by Three in the last few weeks because of another booking in Europe or something like that. We'd heard of him from a partner of ours, Joe Sekiya. He lives in L.A. and flies out for all the events. With Marcus Worgull, we were working with the same agent on a couple of other things, and he just kind of fell into our laps, and a friend of mine that does events in New York said, "He's awesome, you guys should have him out." We try to bring people out who haven't been here before, and we have the opportunity to do two at once.
How would you describe your personal taste in music?
MP: I think for the most part it's about the same: Colin likes it a little bit deeper and soulful, and I like it harder and faster. Nothing like what you would hear in a rave, of course. I like to have a certain kind of pace to it, a really good, high-energy type of crowd.
CC: I will say this about myself, I think techno has been a new experience for me in 2011. I really re-immersed myself after the New Year's event in a ton of different music, been listening to more and more and just discovering this kind of stuff that I'd taken a break from listening to for a few years. I've been moving more toward techno from my house roots, but as far as events, we're pretty good about finding people that we're both excited about, or I'll sell him on the artist and get him pumped up about it.
MP: As with anything, it's all about compromises and happy mediums, a lot of times we end up bringing in two artists from out-of-state and one can go in one direction or another direction, we have some formulas as to how we like our music.
Are you planning on doing these events throughout the rest of the year?
CC: We have, I guess, ideas planned out for the months for the rest of the year already, through New Year's. The summer series thing was just an idea to just market what we're doing and the fact that we're going to mix in Sunday rooftop outdoor events -- starting with "Up In The Air" at GrooveTop at Bar Standard this Sunday -- and that would be a little bit different.
MP: We're kind of expanding. Originally Afterhours Anonymous was strictly 21-plus afterhours events. I did a few of those in my career, and I had an after-hours club, but I liked doing a lot of things that were -- I had a lot of varying interests -- so sometimes they're at high-end lounges in town ending at 2. Sometimes it's a club thing. Sometimes it's a club with an after-party. Sometimes a party from 10 to 6. So right now we've been focusing on all-night events, we're trying to expand out. Sunday the 12th, that's going 3 to 9. And throughout my career, I've made a lot of contacts with a lot of venues, so we're buttoning up some agreements on clubs as well.
Do you have any goals as to where you want this to go?
CC: At least for me, we have more goals for artists. We've pinpointed some artists -- "We want to bring this person, that's kind of landmark achievement" -- but as far as where we want it to end up -- there are certain artists that haven't been to Denver, and to be able to bring them to an underground event, I think would be a huge achievement, at least for me. We have Radio Slave coming in on July 2, which we're really excited about. He lives in Berlin now, but he's from the UK. Huge artist and a huge producer/remixer. He played at DEMF last weekend, he's going to be at Space in Ibiza and Panoramabar in Berlin and a couple of other huge spots, so we're definitely excited about that. As far as beyond that, I don't think anything's secured enough for August and September to mention.
MP: Goals for me: I just want to one time look back at fifty or sixty years old and say hey, I was part of something pretty cool. How many people -- say my favorite artist is Lady Gaga -- how many people can say, "I like her," and bring her out. Our love of music is on a smaller level in terms of the stature of the artist, but still, how cool is that?
And how do you select the local support?
CC We try to mix it up and get -- there's a bunch of different promotion crews around, we like to try to get people from different crews to build the network of people that support us and that we support as well, because those local slots at our events and a lot of other events, the MESS events, those mean a lot to people to get a chance to play. Through the people we already know and friends that suggest and say hey, you should check this person out, send us a mix, we're always open to hearing new people.
MP: Part of it is musical, maybe we need this style of music to set the tone, so let's select DHA, Denver House Authority guys, they can do a proper opening house set. And the other part is on a business end' as well, to a point where there are certain crews who work really hard promoting themselves, especially at events they'll be playing in, but most of it's music related. Both of us have developed relationships with 75 percent of the local crews and DJs and what not, you start to have friendships with them and ask them to play.
What's the feedback you've gotten so far?
CC: New Year's and the main one April 8 -- we did like a regular little club event at minibar -- but as far as the big events, Inception would be our fourth total event. Most of the feedback we got was really strong. People were very pleased with how professionally the event was run.
The thing for us is, there's a certain price point for a lot of these events in Denver, and based on what we wanted to do with production and the artists, we had to get our price point up, some people were like, $30 at the door, but they had to come and see the fact that we had LED light, professional sound, 21 plus refreshments included and a gorgeous venue. I got some emails from people who at first were like, "$30, I'm not going to come," and they said later, "you were right; it's a great deal if you're going to spend $30 for a night out." That was good feedback.
To preface that, we were coming off the New Year's event at the Clock Tower, the response on that, the fact that we had 600 or 700 people who wanted to go and we could only accommodate 175 to 200 -- there were a lot of people who were upset about that. We kind of had to show people, that's not the norm. We basically learned from that experience and are providing this going forward.
MP: We're taking kind of a big risk with our price point, but at the same time, after a couple of shows have passed, people will see the level of production, the high quality of venues, and overall how professionally the show is run. It's a little bit different - "I'm not used to paying a certain dollar amount, but it's worth it."
CC: The key for us is that's what's going to have to happen -- it's going to have to work at this price point to pull off what we want to do in the fall; to bring some of the top artists in the world you have to charge a certain amount to make that happen.
MP: It's not like we go in thinking, "Let's charge this much!" It's, "Wait ... it's going to cost this much?"
What are your thoughts on the scene in Denver right now?
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MP: I think right now the dance music scene in Denver is probably at an all time high. You've got a great club like Beta, several great venues in Soco, as far as the club, 18-plus club life, and then you've got promoters like Triad Dragons where they're throwing these huge, monster massives -- they're going to sell out Global Dance Festival yet again. It's kind of like a nursery for dance music, bringing in a lot of new people. Whereas Triad Dragons is catering to a younger crowd, the clubs are 18-21, and we're like 24, 26-year-old plus. We're kind of on the more mature side. But it seems like now in Denver there's something that can satisfy everybody who has a love for dance music.
CC: I'm really impressed with the amount of quality talent that's come through in the past six months or year, quality DJs you can see outside the club, weekly or every other week basis, there's something pretty strong going on. The one thing I was going to say as far as the Summer Series or where we're at going forward, we just hope people come out and take a chance with these events, what we're going to do going forward as far as production and lighting, we're going to step things up, taking some chances and investments as far as stuff that hasn't been done in an underground-style party, stuff you'd see maybe more at a club that I haven't seen at any underground events.
MP:What we're trying to do is take the music and the style of music and that vibe, underground, where it's a little bit different from going to a mega-club, but we're adding the mega-club experience with LED lighting, lasers, and all that stuff.