Ten Questions with Terry Gotham: Michael White talks Silent Disco & bassAware

(I got to sit down with an amazing underground hero in NYC, Michael White, who is responsible for the Silent Disco and is currently crowd-funding a new way to listen to music that just might change everything. Get at his Kickstarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/996007929/bassaware-holster)

1. You’ve been the standard-bearer for years now, do you find Silent Disco is catching on? Definitely. There’s another whole outfit now, called Quiet Events that is doing lots of stuff. It’s run by a friend of mine named Will Petz. It’s huge, there’s a need for it. I think it’s something that will become more and more common and I think it’s great that more people are doing it.

2. Is the tactile transducer like haptic feedback on a cell phone? Can you explain for the average listener, what’s going on when the bass kicks on while listening to your favorite track? Sure. There’s just a speaker that sits on your back, instead of being connected to a cone that pushes air, it’s connected to your body and it makes vibration. It works exactly the same way a speaker driver does, and it just operates on the sub-frequencies. In your phone there’s a little pezo driver that shakes. But those aren’t very good at making lots of different frequencies, but they’re inexpensive…

3. If everything goes your way, you say Estimated Delivery date is Dec. 2013. Does that mean if I support enough to get one, I can get it by Christmas? That’s the hope. The first 50 have a delivery date for December, and the rest are for January. All indications are that we’ll be able to deliver those 50 in December. But, this is a new project, we might have unforeseen delays, it’ll be January at the latest though.

4. Do you think there could be any down-side to just wearing them all the time? I could get a bit addicted to my own portable club. It is definitely a very immersive experience. I’ve been wearing these for almost a year, like walking around New York. You definitely need to be more careful & attentive to traffic and other people on the subway. But I don’t think it’s significantly more severe than just listening to good headphones.

5. Have you addressed any possibility that there will be health concerns to wearing a speaker? As far as any kind of health concerns, we hired a neuroscientist to do a review of the medical literature for us. Their determination was that the device was innocuous. There were a couple of specific design decisions that we made because we wanted to reduce any harm that even might be possible. We don’t think there will be any issues.

6. Would you consider sponsorship from either a club, a brand or an artist when it comes to funding the project? Conversely, if you could show these to one person or company in the world, who would it be? I definitely am interested in commercial partnerships. It’s a commercial venture, I hope that in 2 years, all the kids are wearing these on the subways. I think it’s a good thing. The slam dunk endorsement would be Skrillex. He’s a cool guy and is reaching a lot of people right now. I am pursuing a bunch of partnerships with DJs as well, that’s already happening.

7. What are the immediate plans post-Kickstarter for Silent Disco? Any events on the horizon? The basic game plan is after the Kickstarter, we’re gonna build our own inventory for doing promo events. So we’re going to start doing 100-200 person parties in New York, LA & San Francisco. Silent Disco are going to feature bassAware as well. These will basically just be really good parties. We’re gonna get good DJs, keep em affordable but they’re not going to be free. We just want to create a quality environment for you to check out the gear. We’ll do standard marketing within the events where you can get more information right there. We hope to do a larger launch at SXSW in March.

8. What are you listening to right now that you think needs to be listened to by more people? Mostly I’m listening to dance music right now. I certainly have my favorite artists, but as far as something new that I really love, I probably have to go with Wildlight, which is a collaboration between the Polish Ambassador and a folk singer named Ayla Nereo. It’s just this totally dope, bassy, kinda downtempo awesome. They’re on tour right now.

9. Do anything fun this summer? Did Silent Disco have adventures anywhere? I didn’t do a lot of Silent Disco this summer…well, that’s not true. I did one awesome Silent Disco this summer at Transformus, which is a regional Burning Man event in North Carolina. They have a sound curfew on the last day. Sunday at midnight all the sound has to turn off, but everyone stays until Monday afternoon. So one of the organizers asked me to bring the Silent Disco. So we started a Silent Disco at the sound curfew and ran until sunrise the next day. That was pretty awesome.

10. If this went viral and became wildly successful, how do you see it changing the electronic music/dance community as a whole? If you’d indulge me. I just think Silent Disco or the bassAware gear are just more tools in the toolbox. If you go out to an electronic dance scene in Milwaukee or anywhere, people have speakers and sound systems and they put on parties. I just think this is just another tool. I don’t think it’s a replacement for big subs & big clubs, I love all that stuff too. But this is going to create more, how to describe it, weird parties in interesting places, that weren’t really possible before. Because you’d be disturbing people.


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