“Goodnight Brooklyn - The Story of Death By Audio is a Documentary film that explores the glorification and the exploitation of the DIY Scene in Brooklyn, NY; in the hands of the few rock and rollers who saw the rise and demise of one of the greatest underground venues NYC has ever seen. The film is not a nostalgic story about how Rock and Roll brought together a few hopeful musicians to a single space to create a DIY Punk and cult-like community. But about the everyday oppression and devaluation of art by american capitalism and the faux journalism media companies use for profit
Death by Audio gave birth to its own new self-sufficient ecosystem that homed the hopes and creativity of an entire community, it was the system that allowed fans and artist to exist in the same space with pride and a similar philosophy ‘To Rock The Fuck On’. Such an unconventional way of living is what brought the attention of national media and the single entity that would strip them from their home.
Although many industry giants got their kick start at this sacred cultural space; there is a common misconception that the DIY Industry is not profitable, that it doesn’t correlate with the mainstream guidelines of consumerism and that the shows themselves are not suitable to please the average concert goer. Now the only appropriate way to contest all those theories is to say “Who Fucking Cares” no one is asking for approval, they are asking for respect. Respect for their music, for their ways and of their goddamn space. I could really go on about telling you exactly what happened to DBA and about what role VICE NEWS played in their conclusion but I think we would rather let Matt Conboy (Co-owner of DBA and Film Director of ‘Good Night Brooklyn’ )do the talking.
Manuel Frayre: Hi Matt, we want to start by saying congratulations on the film, it’s great that the world can be exposed to your story because it represents the story of DIY kids and people all over the country. How has the response been so far from the press and from the fans?
Matt Conboy: So far its been amazing and yesterday [at SXSW] was the first time anyones seen the film but it’s been overwhelming and really positive on both fronts. I’m kind of in a whirlwind with the whole thing to be honest.
Manny: It seems to me like the Death By Audio attitude was something kind of like Fight Club. There was a certain commitment to keeping the music going. Always underground, getting lost in the sweat, drugs, the frequencies of the music and the vibe of the whole room. Do you think that your shows were therapeutic to the people that were attending them?
Matt: Yeah, I hope so. I’m not a religious person and I think most of my friends and community aren’t religious. But I think that the kinds of experiences that you can have in a space like Death By Audio or in any kind of music or art experience that hopefully is like visceral and physical and maybe can give you some sense of transcendence or connection with your peers or community at large and [make you] feel like you’re a part of something that’s powerful.
Manny: Do you think that the people of New York or Brooklyn were waiting for that, that they needed that spot?
Matt: We weren’t the only underground venue in New York, there were other places. But I think the reason there were places was because people need them. I think part of the reason we even kept doing it was because it felt like people really needed it and wanted to be a part of it. We were kind of in a sense providing a service.
Manny: How was the buildup from becoming a project with your friends to actually being a nationally recognized venue?
Matt: You know, it never really felt any different. We were still just kind of doing it as friends. It’s nice to get some amount of recognition but that didn’t really change the way that we were interacting or feeling about what we were doing. You know, Eden, who is like the star of the film, his whole vibe is just like “on to the next show” like “I want to find some new amazing band that no one’s ever heard before” like he was constantly trying to find new stuff. I don’t think that any of us ever really were like “Ooo great we made it!” it was always a bit of a struggle but it was a worthwhile struggle.
Manny: I think that there is a misconception of the DIY scene, that theres no revenue or success that it’s mainly just friends throwing shows and things like that. Do you think theres a real business in the DIY industry or does it matter if theres success or business in that industry?
Matt: I think that it’d be great if there was more financial success for people because I see so many people in my community struggling to afford to live and keep making art and so in that way it would be great if there were more financial rewards. I don’t think anyone is expecting to get rich but you know it would be great if you didn’t have to kill yourself to keep it going.
Manny: Do you think Death By Audio would still be running and going today if VICE hadn’t stepped in?
Matt: I think, probably. It would’ve lasted basically as long as Eden was down to keep doing it. I was there to help and support him and I obviously started the venue but he really made it into the thing it became and he wasn’t, ya know, even in the years before we found out that we were getting kicked out of there, he never really backed off from his dedication so I don’t have any indication that it would’ve stopped. The reason it’s a little hard to answer is because if VICE hadn’t been the ones who came in and kicked us out it maybe it would’ve been Chase Bank or McDonalds or something and that’s the only part of it that I don’t know that I can predict. But if our landlords had just been willing to just roll with it, I think we would still be open today.
Manny: I’m not familiar with Brooklyn and the specific location of where you were at but do you think that location wouldn’t have gathered attention if it wasn’t because of the media coming?
Matt: I can tell you that, like, that part of New York City felt pretty desolate for most of the early 2000’s. It was the kind of thing where there was some houses and some people around but you kind of felt like if you were to walk in the middle of the street at three in the morning like, you could scream at the top of your lungs and no one would hear you, ya know, and that’s like a weird thing in New York ya know, the city that’s so densely packed so I think that’s part of why it was so attractive to us cause it was like “oh there’s no one around so we can just do this weird shit and no one’s going to complain” and I think that having us there and a lot of the other stuff that was around us definitely made that part of town more like “Oh yeah we should open some restaurants on this block and we should have a condo on this block” I don’t want to overstate our impact but I think we contributed in some way to people being like “Oh yeah this area is good and cool and we can do shit here”.
Manny: I really appreciate the whole vibe you guys have in dealing with this because it really shows that inner fan of music and that you’re loving people and it’s great to see your outlook even in dealing with this bullshit with VICE. Have they reached out to you guys in any way about the film?
Matt: No, no. I think its safe to say that they have intentionally been pretty brick walled with us from the moment they decided to kick us out of there. And that kind of does feel weird because we never..it’s strange because it’s not like we wanted to pick a fight with these guys like we were just doing our thing and this huge company that kind of definitely was aware of us and had done lot of stuff with us and dozens of people who worked there had come to our venue or been in bands that played at our venue and it felt a little surreal and a little crazy to have this big company just show up and pick fight with us haha you know we were not looking for a fight. But on one level it was frustrating and difficult and on another it really helped the movie that I made because it was the source of a lot of conflict from a story perspective.
“I’m really proud of the work that everyone did there and I’m really proud of the stuff that we did and I don’t have a whole lot of regrets, I feel especially by the end that we did a really good job of having our exit be positive and thoughtful. Cause most of these places that close, I’m sure you guys know, is like any DIY space. It’s open for a month, it’s open for six months, it’s open for a year and one day its over. I feel really fortunate that we were able to leave that mark…it’s not about my ego or wanting it to be some commercial thing but I really hope that it [the film] can be a part of other peoples lives. So hopefully it is on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or whatever, probably not HBO because of the whole VICE thing hahaha”
Manny: Thank You for your time Matt and I hope the best to you and the Film.
You can catch the films next screening with an exclusive performance by ‘A Place to Bury Strangers’ at the Oak Cliff Film Festival in Oak Cliff, TX on June 18th and purchase the LP containing live recordings of the last few shows played at the legendary venue ‘Start Your Own Fucking Show Space’