INTERVIEW: DJ Herbert Holler

by Reginald Duvivier

Along with DJ Cozi and Marc Smooth, Herbert Holler has been organizing New York City’s longest running friday night dance party for a DECADE. What makes it even more amazing is how little its changed over the years; if you want to know where a bunch of the cool people in NYC are hanging out on a friday night The Freedom Party is a good bet.

In addition to being an accomplished DJ, Holler is also somewhat of an online pioneer; his long running email distribution group has been letting people know what’s popping in New York City nightlife for over a decade well before blogging came into vogue. You aren’t going to find many people who care more about how the average person can party better. We at Couch Sessions got a chance to pick his brain about his long career and what exactly makes a successful party…

For the tenth anniversary show at Central Park you’re bringing out Cameo which is a surprising choice. You figure at this level there are plenty of other acts you could have chosen.

I always tried to work with people who are doing things that aren’t being done. When I do events I always try to think that way. Cameo is awesome and they rarely perform in New York.

Because when I saw it was Cameo, It just immediately stuck out to me as something different but it makes sense.

Right. And that’s exactly why I went after them. That’s really the goal. You have to be genuine and true to yourself and you’ve got to be doing different things because people seem to all be doing the same stuff these days. The ten-year anniversary is going to be insane. There’s going to be an after party at LPR. We are lining up live performances there and it will be just as exciting and just as rare for people to come see.

The Freedom Party has existed a decade. What’s changed in that time since you guys started way back when?

We also evolved. For instance when we started the classic throwbacks we spun were from the 70’s. As you go through the years you can’t just play the 70’s. not because the particular age group isn’t there, but you just get tired of them yourself. When we first started I love playing Tom Browne’s ‘Funkin’ for Jamaica.’ I can’t even play that record right about now (laughs) because I am so sick of it and there’s not as many 70’s babies on the floor because they’ve all grown up and stopped coming out. So the classics change. So we play a lot of 80’s, we even hit some 90’s. And we play hip-hop classics more like Joe Budden’s ‘Pump It up” instead of Biz Markie’s ‘Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz’. So we evolve like that. So Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ MAY be a classic. It may be. It may stand the test of time. I feel that when I play it. So I play it at Freedom. Freedom is about playing songs that either has stood the test of time or we believe will.

The Freedom Party has been going on for a long time, which is an anomaly particularly in such a fickle city like New York. How do you survive in such a place that seems to switch trends so quickly?

At one point, for a long time, New York dictated trends. And now I feel like it doesn’t really dictate anything. It sort of follows trends that other markets set. Like Las Vegas is setting the tone for New York and such a sad thing to hear but it’s the truth. So we try to just keep the vibe like the spirit of New York that we remember with the culture and the flavor as pure as we can.

Is that the reason you’ve lasted so long?

It’s not like I go into the set thinking., “How can I make this New York?” I would think that the reason we are so successful is because we always put music first. It’s all about that. I don’t care about anything else, and everything seems to fall in line with that. The right people come, the right vibe is produced, and the right energy is there. We didn’t start the event with a crowd of people in mind, or start the event with a trend or a style or a certain celebrity person. We started the event by playing great music and it attracted everybody from all over the world from all different walks of life kind of like a huge super magnet and that’s probably the reason why it’s so successful.

You can catch what makes The Freedom Party so great July 2nd when they celebrate their Tenth Anniversary with Cameo at Central Park Summerstage. You can also catch them at their normal haunts at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St, NY, NY) for the after party, or EVERY friday night where they have their residency