August 29, 2014

Jeannie Hopper’s Liquid Sound Lounge Turns 20

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If you know anything about NYC’s underground dance culture, the name Jeannie Hopper travels in very good circles as an ambassador of the scene and ardent supporter on the airwaves.

She wears many hats—DJ, radio host, producer, label owner, music programmer and station manager for Art International Radio, the first online radio station dedicated to the arts. Her show, Liquid Sound Lounge, celebrates a 20-year milestone in 2013 at the legendary WBAI-FM and she continues to push soulful grooves on all frequencies and venues. We recently connected with Ms. Hopper.

DJ Times: Congrats on your WBAI show’s 20th anniversary.

Jeannie Hopper: The honor to be a part of this rich community continues to amaze me, and I’ve always called myself an ambassador in the scene in my radio personality and journalist role. In terms of listeners, WBAI historically has played a crucial role impacting the community locally and nationally, thus it feels especially humbling to be a part of this history.

DJ Times: Did you ever imagine that your show would have such longevity, global reach and impact on listeners?

Hopper: It’s my record label and productions, collaborations and DJing that have been the catalyst in having a global reach and come full circle in impacting the radio show. But, longevity does feel good! Record releases—like “Déjà Vu” by Jon Cutler and DJ Romain and “Guiding Light” by Louie Balo Guzman—have continued to be a true ticket to globally impacting so many and in such a grassroots way in my case, which is very different than the international impact of a dance record that has a major-label engine behind it.

DJ Times: So, which gear works best for you?

Hopper: I’m very tactile and have moved into mainly DJing via CDJs and Pioneer gear, which has remained the most natural for me from the creation of the CDJ-1000 to the new USB-capable CDJs. I love vinyl; however, my drive is to support new artists, which means managing promos, which are all sent digitally these days. I do miss record shops, though as they were also a community hub, especially pre-Internet. I’d dig the idea of vinyl interface discs with Traktor, which I do have, but I just don’t like staring at a computer when I have a live audience in front of me.

DJ Times: And for radio?

Hopper: I’ve warmed up a bit, as I’m surrounded with computer screens and it’s just a very different thing DJing on the radio versus a club. I approach the radio like a puzzle and the pieces are about how I can fit together all the amazing music into a show to squeeze in as many records as possible to support as many artists as possible in being played on the radio as a tastemaker, so to speak. At a club, having done radio for so long, I have a unique sense of time, thus I’d rather have less music than more with me and it’s usually based on my favorites of the moment. However, I do have my seven-hour gigs as well and do have fun being able to carry more with me, but yes, on CDs. I’m working in Ableton with regard to my band [The Super Dupers], however, more so for pre-producing some fun tools than manipulating on CDs, more editing and loops.

DJ Times: In 1999, you launched the LSL boat parties – “the original soulful house party on a boat.” Obviously, you were ahead of the pack with that. What was the inspiration?

Hopper: The changing club culture due to the impact of NYC’s “quality-of-life” campaign in the ’90s, which, thanks to our politicians, focused on the negative sides of clubs, and influenced the entire club scene. The city’s Nightlife Task Force [was excessive]. The impact all this had on clubs created bottle service, which to me is the corporatizing of the scene for us folks who were trying to have a grassroots party that focused on the music, dancing and the experience as a community, rather than bar guarantees and posing, which seems the only affordable model to be able to exist in Lower Manhattan where the scene historically developed.

DJ Times: So you sought an alternative?

Hopper: I partnered with Marco Polo Cruises in creating an event that would be welcoming to the vibe I was trying to create. I try to have every detail focused on the joy of the patron to walk away with an unforgettable experience. I was the first to head to a boat for the vibe I was trying to create for soulful house music heads. It’s been incredible—unique journeys with each cruise.

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