A few years after moving to Denver, I went to La Rumba on a Friday night. After more than one embarrassing "dance party of 1" as a teenager rocking out to "How Soon Is Now" I suddenly found myself in a sea of 300 like-minded others. I had a chance to talk with Tyler "Danger" Jacobson for a chat about Lipgloss as it celebrates it's eighth birthday
Sean: Nightclubbing seems to be dominated by fads and flavors of the month, but Lipgloss is celebrating a monumental eighth birthday in a few days. What do you think keeps people coming back? How do you feel the night has evolved from it's mod scooter-and-britpop roots?
Tyler: Adapt or die. I think we've done a pretty good job of adapting. Within that, we're still a pretty genuine alternative to the typical club scene. I think Michael and I have always strived to create a night that we would want to hang out at ourselves. The fact that we have different tastes and find common ground on what we want the night to be helps create a pretty attractive destination. There's also something to be said for believing in what you do and sharing music with others because you love music. I like to think that philosophy attributes a little depth to the night that wouldn't be there otherwise.
Sean: Other than Michael's discriminating taste and your rugged good looks, what makes your DJ partnership work? How has it changed over time?
Tyler: What has worked in the partnership, in my opinion, is that Michael and I are two different people who both have very strong opinions and different ways of dealing with things. We have learned to rely on each others strengths. It's a very Yin and Yang type of thing.
We can and do argue on just about everything and that really tends to hammer things into the best possible condition. When we do come to an agreement, we both know that it's been scrutinized enough to execute with confidence. I don't think people do that enough. No one person has the best idea every time.
“I definitely think there's an art to what we do and I think with how much the importance of Lipgloss has been argued it's been proven to be art. Some people hate it. Some people think we do it wrong. That used to bug me but I don't mind so much anymore...”
Sean: Do you think of DJing more as an art or more of a service -- how do you personally thread the needle between playing obscure stuff you alone love and drunken Prince requests?
Tyler: I have buttons that say "Tyler Refused To Play My Request". It wouldn't be entirely true if I said that I don't pick and choose. I do hear music with a different ear these days because I do ask "Would the crowd actually like this?" - Sometimes it's a hit - sometimes it's not. Both of us still try out new songs every week and see what we can do to keep the beast breathing. My idea of selling out is still very very compartmentalized. There's a thimble of where I will go and a landfill of where I won't to please an audience.
I definitely thinks there's an art to what we do and I think with how much the importance of Lipgloss has been argued it's been proven to be art. Some people hate it. Some people think we do it wrong. That used to bug me but I don't mind so much anymore because there are enough people out there, obviously, who appreciate what we do and find some merit to it.
If you still don't think it's art, consider all of the copy cat nights that were better funded than Lipgloss that have just failed. Consider the brilliant and technically apt DJs that have come through Lipgloss that have failed to stir our crowd - sometimes to the utter confusion of Michael and myself. Jackson Pollock's work looked like some artists drop cloths... He's still one of my favorite artists. Yeah - I did just compare us to Jackson Pollock. Go fuck yourself.
Sean: What's the moment for you in the booth when it's all working? What does that feel like?
Tyler: A good performance is a fantastic high. That's a cliche answer but it's absolutely true. Even after all of this time. I've had some nights when it was like the beats were magnets attracted to each other and they snapped in place perfectly and it was just like math and emotion and the balance of nature all functioned in harmony to create this one perfect set. Then there are other times when I have no concern for a beat and it's just all fueled by passion and I set the rule book on fire and I just play what I want... sink or swim. Sinking is miserable and I just had a gig where that seemed to be my theme and it was crushing. It actually took me a while to recover because I was angry and sad and disappointed and I reviewed all of the things that were in my capability to correct. It's easy to go over the "should'ves" when you fail. But when I swim... it's the spectral opposite. It's an extrovert's wet dream.
Sean: I've heard a few late-night confessions from harried Lipgloss guest DJs that they were whisked off the decks after a few disastrous minutes; which has to mean that you guys have a pretty good idea of what works for your crowd and what doesn't. Is it something you can put your finger on and elaborate?
Tyler: Well, let's be fair - I don't think we've ever kicked anyone out of the booth no matter how poorly their set has gone. We rotate 30 minute sets - we try and keep the schedule tight and organized. I personally think it's disrespectful to kick someone off of a stage. I never take for granted that I get to do this every week and have been able to for the better part of a decade. I also dig the idea that Lipgloss provides a venue for everyone from members of Joy Division to someone who's only gotten into DJing in the last few months. That said, when your set's over, it's time to let the next guy up to do his thing.
I wish I could put my finger on what makes it work. What makes it work in 2009 isn't the same thing that made it work in 2008 which isn't the same thing that made it work in 2001. If anything, I'm trying to seduce my audience. I ask myself 'What can I do to engage you?'. Sometimes my read is just dead wrong and luckily, we've created a format flexible enough to jump in a completely different direction without it being awkward or off theme. Maybe it's taking those jumps that makes it all work. I have been known to mix Calvin Harris into Pulp into Tom Jones.
Sean: Now that you guys are hitting your presidential term limit, what's the plan for the future? What does Lipgloss in 2017 look like?
Tyler: I didn't even think about the term limit... nice catch.
I'll be 42 in 2017. That means I would be trying to impress and please people who are literally half my age. At least one of The Jonas Brothers will be making "serious" music by then or at very least have some sort of Justin Timberlake kind of revival where everyone just suddenly forgets his crimes against music and considers him "one of us". I've been bitter about and critical of music from about 5 minutes after I became aware of its existence. Unless something comes to knock music on it's ass and forces society to re-evaluate it's concept of "good music" I think it's safe to say that instead of DJing, I'll spend 1/2 rotations on stage playing a single song and then just yelling into a microphone the rest of the time about how music and music fans are beyond saving.
Now, before I get my cane out and yelling for you to get off of my lawn I am finding some bands that are giving me some hope. I'm hearing songs from those guys who are making music because they have to, rather than from those people who play music because they took music lessons and are now writing songs about how they have nothing to complain about. The "everything's dandy" revolution in music really does need to come to a close. What asshole is sitting around connecting with a song thinking 'Hey - I get that because I've no complaints either!' ? That music is junk food and will pass through you like so many gummy bears. I'm looking forward to the next wave of music. Hopefully it will do to todays music what The Beatles did to Perry Cuomo, or what The Ramones did to the Beatles and not what Poison did to The Ramones.
What was the question?
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