The Short List
Cullen Stalin and Scottie B lay No Rule to rest
The DJs deliver a postmortem for their weekly Monday night dance party
Published: June 22, 2011
Whether weekly, monthly, or “every now and again,” dance parties come and go. And many you won’t remember a year later. Some, whether it be through dogged determination or offering something different/unique enough, manage to lodge themselves into a culture: Deep Sugar, Fever, Orbit, Starscape and the seasonal Massive parties, TaxLo, the list goes on. No Rule, the weekly Monday night collaborative party between DJs Cullen Stalin and Scottie B, might look small compared to most of them, but falls in there courtesy of an ear-driven determination to curate something different and unique every week, and to bridge gaps. The party ended quietly earlier this month. Last week we sat down with Scottie B and Cullen Stalin (Cullen Nawalkowsky to the government) for a No Rule postmortem.
City Paper : Why stop?
Cullen Nawalkowsky: It’s always hard to do a weekly in Baltimore, especially on a Monday—that’s even crazier. It was going good, at a good level, but I thought I’d take it away, reflect, appreciate what happened for the past two years, and still leave the door open to do special events. And Scottie and I are still going to work together in various opportunities.
Scottie B: Well, being on a Monday, it didn’t really have anything else pushing its momentum, like if you did it on a Thursday or Friday or Saturday. Every week it was like starting over. It was tough.
CN: Now that I was offered Thursdays at Red Maple, doing two weeklies would have been crazy. Now there’s an opportunity to bring a lot of the acts that I had at Mondays, but with more of an ability to grow into more of a weekend thing.
At the same time, No Rule gave us an opportunity to see who in the city is really interested in new dance music. And there were a lot of people that came out on a regular basis. They didn’t all come every week, but they came through and really appreciated it, and took it upon themselves to promote it. I’m glad to know that those people are out there. I wasn’t sure. That was sort of one of the experiments when we started, to see who in this city right now cares about cutting-edge dance music, not just about what’s big or what has a two-dollar drink special and 16-year-olds. This was about music.
CP: It seemed like you didn’t really get the same crowd to move with the party from the Zodiac to the Metro Gallery. Do you think you can get the crowd you had at the Metro to come with you to Red Maple now?
CN: There’s a couple of different types of going-out crowds in Baltimore, and I think the people that came to the Metro are more likely to go to Red Maple than the people that came to Zodiac.
SB: I had a lot of people that had never seen the Metro [come to No Rule]—they wanted to rent it for parties. More mature people, obviously, not the Gucci Mane crowd. I appreciate the way that Cullen brought talent in. A lot of those people I wouldn’t have thought to see. The reggae girl that just played 45s.
CN: Queen Majesty.
SB: And Alexander Robotnick. There was no rule to it. No one was really associated with it. It was more of a come and expand your own mind; we’re not going to take you somewhere that you feel alienated. Just sit back and give it a chance. A lot of interesting musicians and DJs there. Hopefully people will take that with them.
CP: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned doing this weekly for two years?
CN: I’ve done weeklies in the past and obviously I’m still doing them. You can have the most creative vision, but you still have to deal with the cards you’re dealt. In Baltimore, it’s a limited demographic. The people interested in things often have jobs, or something resembling a job. They can’t be out every Monday night. It’s fine—I knew that going into it.
The other thing that was important and a reason that Scottie was important was getting people that are involved in the club-music scene to come through and see that there are still people approaching music with the original Baltimore club attitude. That block has history for Baltimore club music.
SB: My father went to Club Charles. And Godfrey’s used to be across the street. It’s the place I really cut my teeth as a solo DJ. Location-wise, it made a difference. We wound up getting a very, very diverse crowd. It brought me back to that time too. Clubs always have a target audience, but a lot times you get a mix of people. Stuff just happens that way. It makes the parties a lot more interesting. It makes you a better DJ. After a while we couldn’t really plan for it as a DJ.
CN: Little groups would come through and make the night their own for a month or two. Different groups of dancers or friends or a certain set of musicians or DJs or producers. That’s one of the other things I thought I could bring to the table. I know a lot of different types of people, and this gave people a time to meet and interact.
CP: How do you think dance-music culture has changed in Baltimore since No Rule started?
CN: A couple of big things have happened. The first thing is that U-Street Music Hall opened in D.C. For a while, people were coming up from D.C. on Mondays for this party. There was really no place around focused on this kind of progressive dance music. And now you have a venue that has it every night. We did lose a bit of the D.C. crowd for that reason.
And a lot of the people that came through for No Rule started their own nights, their own weeklies. Derek James, James Nasty, Uncle Jesse now has a Wednesday at Dionysus. It showed there was a need for this, a niche for this. And other people picked up on it. I feel like there’s a bigger adult dance-music crowd than there was a few years ago.
CP: What’s the status of TaxLo now? I haven’t seen Cullen Stalin and Simon Phoenix on a bill together in a while.
CN: We will be. You can definitely expect more TaxLo parties. It’s one of those situations where sometimes a brand is so successful, it gets stuck in being viewed a certain way and it becomes hard to break out of that. And at the time when it was established and ongoing, TaxLo was seen a certain way as what kind of party it was, and that kind of party has been replaced by, like, Bourbon Street. That kind of all-ages, or 16-through-23-year-old, crazy not-really-paying-attention-to-the-music kind of thing. That’s been supplanted. We’re not that. It’s about finding the right events.
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