While Ryan Scannura was getting his degree in biology in Springfield, Illinois, he started making house music. For a while, he was involved in a club night called Bit Crushed. When he graduated, in 2010, the job market was not encouraging. So Scannura, like many students, decided to pursue an advanced degree — in his case, at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus. “I was really bummed at first, because I didn’t think the music scene [in Colorado] was anything to speak of, especially for dance music,” recalls Scannura. “But once I got here, I realized there is a little bit going on and that there’s a lot that can be done. And it’s really easy to do your thing, which you can’t do in Chicago or New York. You’d have to be killing it there, and everybody else already is and has been for twenty years. It’s really cool to be able to get a foothold here and make something happen. I think that’s really unique about Denver, for sure.”
“Same with San Francisco,” adds Scannura’s friend, Miles Hurwitz. “It’s hard to start anything new, just because there’s so much established stuff going on already. It’s nice here that it feels like you have more of a chance.”
Scannura and Hurwitz are two of the artists that make up Deep Club, a collective that throws ’90s-rave-style parties (though much smaller and more intimate), featuring house and techno music, at venues ranging from rented warehouse spaces to Lost Lake Lounge. The group formed on February 5, 2013, when Scannura invited some friends over to spin records in his basement.
“I had this pretty amazing basement that I never thought about doing something with, so we got a couple of Mackie 450 [speakers] and had a great time,” says Scannura. “We did a good run of those for almost a year, I would say. Then we kept getting more gear and wanted to go a little bigger. We don’t want to go huge, like ’90s rave style. That’s ridiculous.”
A year into Deep Club’s existence, Scannura met Hurwitz, who, along with Pete Nyvall, brought the kind of technical experience needed to take their parties’ sound to the next level.
“Pete and I studied sound in college, so I like to think I know what we’re doing,” says Hurwitz.
“We’ve been somehow really good at sourcing used gear on Craigslist,” says Scannura. “We have pretty much a Craigslist P.A., which may sound shitty — but come hear it! I think if Miles and Pete hadn’t come along, we wouldn’t have had the logistical ability to pull off parties like we have. Luckily, we all bring something to the table, and I think that’s part of what makes us successful.”
The lineups don’t hurt, either. Past shows have featured choice local and national talent, including Jak Turbo, Dream Hike, Hurwitz’s own Lone Dancer, Thug Entrancer, Church Fire and the Black Madonna. The performances tend to be in a chill yet enjoyable environment where the music reigns supreme. There are no light shows or big theatrics to distract from the dance floor or the music.
“My ideal club would probably just be raw concrete and steel with one red light,” says Hurwitz. “I like the focus on the music, mainly, and I think all the cool decor and light shows have gotten a little out of hand and are taking away from that, in some cases. You hear about people going to a show at Red Rocks, and the first thing they talk about is the light show and not the music.”
“I wasn’t around when it happened, but I like to think that when house and techno got started in Chicago and Detroit, it was just in a warehouse, an abandoned building, in the packing district,” says Scannura. “The focus was on the music, and it was in a space they could get, and it happened to be a blown-out piece of junk. I don’t want to throw a show in an art gallery. I want to be back in a dark basement.”
“Dark is key — no one wants to be seen dancing at 4:30 a.m.,” quips Hurwitz.
Dance culture is often a late-night affair in cities like Chicago, New York, Detroit and San Francisco, where that music has traditionally thrived and bars stay open until 4 a.m. or later. Bars in Denver close at 2 a.m., but Scannura and Hurwitz are hopeful that a movement to extend that time will catch on and encourage a further flourishing of dance-music culture in the city.
“I don’t think Denver is going to get a really dope dance club until a club can stay open until four,” concludes Scannura. “I just hope Denver grows up sooner than later.”
Deep Club is growing up, too. Earlier this year, the collective entered a partnership with the Communikey Festival in Boulder. It also expanded its efforts by establishing a podcast called Deep Club Mix Series and launching a vinyl-only label.
“A lot of us play vinyl when we deejay, so it’s a preferred format,” says Hurwitz. “I personally like the record aspect of it in that it’s a physical record that can potentially last almost forever if it’s taken care of — unlike CDs, which deteriorate. And there’s still lots of good dance music that’s only on vinyl.”