Combining his love for Brooklyn’s DIY warehouse party scene with his natural inclination towards wanderlust, Alex Kay created the party production collective, Unicorn Meat. Once a stockbroker on Wall Street, and always a rough traveller at heart, Alex feared not to dream big, and for this coming New Year’s Eve he prepared an event that is part spiritual experience- part the most amazing fantasy party you can think of- The Wander. Accompanied by world class DJs (Rusko, David Starfire, Skytree), and dreamy art installations to signify several iconic places on Earth (Amazonia, Costa Rica, Eiffel Tower and many more), the party is going down tomorrow at a warehouse off Morgan L stop, the exact location of which will be revealed tomorrow to the ticket holders. (They have still some tickets available for $60 and $110 (includes open bar from 12PM-3AM) and you can get them here).
I personally consider it mildly miraculous that we managed to catch Alex in the midst of preparation for what most definitely is one of the biggest parties in NYC of the year, to answer a couple of about a million questions we had. And what Alex told us was even better than we could have ever imagined. Read the fascinating story of a traveller, dreamer and a party promoter…
BD: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how that played a role when creating Unicorn Meat?
Alex: I spent a great deal of my youth going to art based warehouse parties and traveling around the country by hopping freight trains and hitchhiking.
My love for both passions came from a similar place in my heart. I’ve always had profound a love for meeting people from different backgrounds than my own and learning from them. The more people you meet, the more places you travel and the more inspiration you encounter the larger your world and global understanding becomes. I’ve always wanted to create warehouse events but I really took initiative for a strange reason. I used to work as a stockbroker at a small high net worth investment firm in Midtown. After working there for a while, I starting losing my mind. Having to work in a cubical everyday drove me nuts. I missed my early traveling days hopping freights in high school and I was worried I wouldn’t have another chance to see the world in my youth if I didn’t escape immediately! I left behind a lucrative career to instead buy a one way plane ticket to Thailand. I hitchhiked from there to Italy which was an amazing trip. It really grew my understanding of the world.
When I got to Europe, I received an email from a friend I worked with on Wall Street. I convinced him to go travel the world as well. We took different routes though. I like traveling alone because you tend to meet allot more locals. You’re allot more approachable as a single person. He got some land on an island in Costa Rica. I immediately jumped on a jet and cruised down there.We made an amazing small commune together for world travelers to come visit, stay and trade stories with us between adventures. We lived almost completely off the land with machetes and built our own jungle huts out of a plant that looked like sugar cane but was much stronger called Cana brava.
I’ve always lived NYC because it really is the center of the world. It has more diversity than anywhere else. Despite traveling to 30 different countries on foot and falling in love with many different places along the way, I still had an urge to come back to NYC. Costa Rica was heaven on Earth but I wanted to recreate our commune somewhere more connected to the rest of the world instead of hiding from society which is what living down there felt like. I came back to NYC to create a traveling based communal environment for world travelers to come and stay and I w ant to float it with my love for underground nightlife. I wanted to blend the two passions and have them somehow inspire each other which is what brought me to creating tomorrows event, The Wander. Although I’ve got the parties down, due to legal difficulties in permitting and zoning, it’s going to be very difficult for me to fit both passions symbiotically under one roof. I’m still working on my dream! I haven’t gotten there yet but I’m getting closer everyday!
2. Also, why did you choose the name Unicorn Meat?
I read in Richard Branson‘s autobiography that he chose to name his company Virgin at a young age with a primitive but natural intuitive understanding of branding because although somewhat abstract, it naturally catches your attention. As a promoter, I work everyday to catch people’s attention, hold it and then direct it. I’m good at creating concepts (even sort of abstract or silly ones) that people want to buy into. My first event had no DJs you’ve ever heard of and I pulled 3,000 attendees. The club only fit 350 people. It was nuts. We only got 900-something in. I have a love for branding and the ridiculous concept of mythical creature meat speaks to me.
3. What kind of crowd are you hoping to attract to this year’s The Wander?
Brooklyn art based warehouse parties have been around for decades. I’m inspired by the events I went to growing up and I’d like to carry the torch forward and add my own twist to the legacy. I work with a lot of artists and creatives on these events and I want to expand this naturally with culture creators. This year and every year for that matter, I want a forward thinking crowd that demands something more entertaining than living vicariously through what’s happening on a distant stage. I want creators who strive from something more experiential and want to build and add to the experience rather than stand by and wait to be entertained.
4. How does your collaboration with installation artists look like? How do you find them and how much creative freedom do you give them?
We are a community at this point. I’m pretty close to most of my artists. I’m not your typical “nightlife guy.” I don’t go out a lot. I keep the people I find truly important very close to me and I’m sort of closed off otherwise. The people I find important to me are modest, KIND, good people who are forward thinking and create. I’m also very close with my childhood friends. I don’t spend a great deal of time hanging out with “nightlife people” I meet through the scene. I think a lot of nightlife is superficial and cold. I think a lot of people who go out every night tend to be very selfish, self indulgent and I strive to surround myself with kind, creative souls who have good intentions. I’m also very close to my girlfriend. She’s my best friend and we spend almost every waking second together.
5. How many people are involved in producing NYE event?
That’s a very complicated question because many different people have extremely varying levels of involvement. There are about 25 artists. My internal team at Unicorn Meat is very small. I have an assistant and an amazing production manager who normally works as a Senior Production Manager for AEG Live (the second largest corporate promoter in the world). He’s a production rock star. Having him work on warehouse parties with us is sort of like having a formula one race-car driver drive a yellow cab. He believes in our visions and supports what we do. I’ve humbly learned a lot from working with such a sophisticated event producer.
7. You guys invoke a lot of DIY approach but also your events look very professionally. How do you personally see them?
I’m inspired by a heritage of Brooklyn based warehouse events over many decades. I want to provide a solid, quality production but keep the Brooklyn “rough around the edges” aspect to them that make us unique from what’s going on in the rest of the world.
8. Last year, your star DJ was Moby; this year it’s Rusko. How do you manage to score these big names?
I produce quality events that are unique more interesting to many DJs than vanilla club plays. At this point I get approached. DJs are artists too and many of them are creatives that hate the feel of clubs.