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Nightranger

Franki Chan Talks Check Yo' Ponytail, Steve Aoki, and The End of Electro

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Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 1:59 PM

click to enlarge The "final" Check Yo with Erol Alkan at the Echoplex 2 years ago. - LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
  • The "final" Check Yo with Erol Alkan at the Echoplex 2 years ago.
In our years covering the popular dance party Check Yo' Ponytail (which started at the now-defunct Safari Sam's) we always felt the best thing about it was the mix of patrons: from ironic indie rockers to day-glo-garbed neo-ravers to thrashers of all ages. It looks like an even more modern mish-mash--heavier on live instrumentation instead of turntable sounds--will set the tone for the new version, CYP2, which returns to what was its final resting place, the Echoplex, next Tuesday, Nov. 23 headlined by Midnight Juggernauts.

West Coast Sound got the first exclusive on the club's upcoming schedule and judging from the diverse bills, it looks like the party will once again be a real contender for live music in L.A. Hipster haters may slag on the club's creator--IHEARTCOMIX head Franki Chan--but like his former pal/club partner Steve Aoki, Chan's success as an events planner, indie label man and DJ can't really be disputed. Check Yo helped introduce some major DJs and live bands to L.A. audiences, including many that went on to play for bigger audiences including hot slots at Coachella afterward. And he may be sick of the association at this point, but it begs mentioning that the club will once again be on Tuesdays, going head to head with Aoki's Dim Mak Tuesday at Cinespace. (Which--as some may have forgotten--he co-created in its first incarnation.)

With two new partners this time around (Media Contender's Danny United and DJ Paparazzi), expect the hip to hop right back in for this re-freshed fete geared more than ever towards breaking acts in an open format. Here, the promoter talks about the bash's reboot, his relationship with Aoki and why the electro era is dead.

Why bring Check Yo back?


We feel like it's the right time for something like this to happen. Ever since the original CYP ended it's been a bit of a running joke as to when it would return. People ask about it a lot and have fond memories of the party. One afternoon I was at Danny United's place and somehow the idea came up. We began to deliberate it, and Danny--being someone who is a very positive and encouraging person--really got me excited and it all came together that day. I called up Cesar [Paparazzi] to ask him if he wanted to be involved, as he was in the original run and has built up his own empire since. He said yes and it was on. I feel we three as a team bring a really unique voice to the L.A. landscape right now, especially since CYP2 isn't really focusing on DJs, which the 3 of us are more recently known for.

click to enlarge Chan at the 'Electro Wars' screening in August. - LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
  • Chan at the 'Electro Wars' screening in August.
Another thing is that timing wise we feel like it's something that needs to happen. Over the last few years we've seen the L.A. scene really grow up. It's so good here right now, but as it's become larger it's become more segmented. It's just a natural thing that happens. CYP somehow always had an ability to bring people together and mix genres. I think it's because we focused on what's new vs just trying to be a dance club or just a show--I don't know, but I missed that feeling of going to one place and seeing a lot of different kinds of people I liked instead of having to go to lots of separate places. I think it creates a really unique and positive energy that leads to great things.

I saw this as an opportunity to do things right. The first two years admittedly had their ups & downs and had a sloppy start as it was born out of haste. The last couple years I've taken a break from doing shows pretty much. So, if this was going to happen, I wanted to do all the things we never got to the first time around--do them right and make sure that it set the stage as a representation of how IHEARTCOMIX as a company and myself has changed.

Collectively we see this as the next chapter in Check Yo' Ponytail versus a reunion. Think of it as the next record and not a 'greatest hits'. Bigger, better and more ambitious.

Always wondered this: What's the name of the party all about?

Check Yo' Ponytail came from a joke my friend Kelley Brooks and I had between us. It has no meaning, and I don't know if anyone would think it was funny but us, but it stuck in my head. I always thought it had a really fun ring to it, so when it came to pick a name for a new party in 2006, it was easy.

What acts did the club break? What do you think made the party special?

The original run had the pleasure of introducing Justice, Matt & Kim, Boys Noize, Spank Rock, The Ting Tings, Erol Alkan, MSTRKRFT, The Cool Kids, Crystal Castles, Simian Mobile Disco, Men, The Horrors, The Kooks, Switch, Diplo, Bonde Do Role, HEARTSREVOLUTION, Dan Deacon, Toxic Avenger, Surkin and a bunch more. What made it special was how diverse the line-ups were and, at the time, how much focus we put on the role of the DJ as musician. It was a club that was open to everyone and built it's name and reputation on breaking the best-of-the-best upcoming & new artists.

What is your final word on the "rivalry" with Steve [Aoki]? In some ways, it fueled this night after you two split, right? Did it push you both to seek out new, better music? Tell us something about this that you've never told anyone!
 What is your relationship with him like now?

It's funny that almost five years later this is even still a topic. I don't have a 'final word' per se on this issue. Ultimately I do feel the split helped us both. You know, my feelings on the whole situation have changed. I don't care anymore, or at least I'm not mad. It got to a point where I just had to let those feelings go.

To be honest, I'm proud of Steve. It's been rad to see what he's been able to accomplish from afar. Whatever our history is doesn't make any difference, he's still done it on his own and it's impressive. It's really cool to see the impact he's had and to see him take what began as a fun hobby and make himself into an internationally touring artist. How's that for something new?

What is the plan for the new club as far as music and vibe? Is "electro" dead? After that seeing the movie [Electro Wars], it sure feels like it to us. What's next?



Check Yo' Ponytail 2 is an open format night. Our goal is to 'break' acts and introduce the best up & coming music, whether that be bands, DJs, hip-hop, etc. I think consciously, to start, we're steering away from DJ only nights because L.A. has that pretty well covered right now. It's not that special to see so-and-so DJ for the bazillionth time.

click to enlarge Ponytails will fly again at the Echoplex - LINA LECARO
  • Lina Lecaro
  • Ponytails will fly again at the Echoplex
Take the first few shows we have booked right now: Midnight Juggernauts (Indie-dance), Big Freedia (New Orleans Bounce), Dum Dum Girls (Sub Pop Garage), Pictureplane (Witchhouse-ish) and Tocacco (a bit freaky). The shows are all over the place and still have DJs in the mix. About the only thing they have in common is that they are all 'hip' artists. Still, it's totally plausible that one person can like all those artists and that's the environment we hope to perpetuate.

As for the lifespan of Electro, that era is over. It has been for a while, but the artists are still relevant. They've changed too. Things evolve and right now music is going in a lot of exciting directions at once. I'm not going to attempt to tell the future, but I can guarantee you Check Yo' will be here to support it when it happens.

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