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▶ an ode to techno & the New York City soundscape

Words by Lily Moskowitz

Mix & Video by DJ DIZZY 



It is late afternoon in Washington Square Park. Two street performers battle to dominate the soundscape, one rolling out funk jazz on crashing drums and the other attempting some strain of Latin quartet.

A vlogger with a camera strolls up to where I sit with Ryan Scebelo: a Phoenix-raised, New York City- native, professionally known as DJ Dizzy.

“Do you guys make music?”

Coincidentally, the vlogger asks Ryan and I this question just as we are in the middle of debating the politics of what it means to be a DJ under the high pressures of our current socio-economic climate. A centerpiece of New York City nightlife and an avid partygoer, DJ Dizzy can attest to the role of music as both a creative outlet and a means of catharsis. For him, music is not only a “way to feel aligned with yourself” but a form of “release and a break from reality.”

Mixing tracks on his CDJS from his basement in Bushwick – an eclectic space tiled in checkerboard and metallic finishings yet spilling over with plantlife, somehow both metallic and mystical – Ryan immerses himself in an electric fantasy. Hypnotic and hyper-natural, it is as if the sounds spewing from his speakers open an interdimensional portal, ecstasy and escapism all at once. 

▶“I really like hard grooves in techno. With any good techno set, it’s about when the DJ takes you on a journey through time and space.”

Accessing another world through music is not, however, an individual journey; Ryan emphasizes the value of the club scene in creating community and offering a safe space for queer identities. In this way, nightlife is not just a sensory indulgence or a hedonistic pleasure, but a way to bridge difference and practice togetherness. Music presents the opportunity for healing in harmony, solidarity in sound. Ryan believes the bodies that we dance in at night are not the same ones we inhabit during the day: they are free to play, to flicker, to feel.

▶“The vibe of the music is going to translate into the people that are there for that music. I think that’s where the community comes in– you are all sharing something that you actually enjoy. The best thing about music is people coming together to enjoy just one thing together… That’s the most beautiful part.”

Wandering the streets of Nolita with Ryan, we find ourselves on a stretch of luxury designer boutiques. Inevitably, he is roped into the Balenciaga store, where he swoons over pierced leather bodysuits and studded platforms. Despite his affinity for grunge and countercultural aesthetics  – or perhaps because of it – he is not immune to the allure of high fashion. In fact, his sense of style is highly curated:

▶“I would describe my style as a space vampire. I stick to black and silver and white. Comfort is such a big thing for me because you never know how long you're gonna be out. It's always you against an industrial city, so I think of it like a city-warrior type of thing. Comfort in clothing also plays an integral part in clubbing. Sometimes you might be there for seven hours– you might be there till 7 am, you’ve gotta be comfortable.”

Notably, Ryan Scebelo wears black. Black cargos, black mesh, black McQueen hightops, black Harley Davidson T-shirt (with barbed wire lettering) that he bought shortly before our chat at a pop-up vintage vendor on the Lower East Side. Winks of silver glint from his wrists and earlobes and cheekbones. He is pierced in all of the right places to complement his features, avian and graceful and borderline nymph-like. Yet the gems on his canines and the glimmer in his eyes hint at something edged, mischievous, untamed. There is no mistaking it: DJ Dizzy is a force to be reckoned with.

▶“All black comes with the community. That’s how the community comes together. How we recognize each other. I like the all-black look a lot of the time because you think more about the fabrics and textures and silhouettes. Black is protection of energy. Because you can’t hide behind it and black in the nighttime… you’re kind of hidden. In dark clubs you don’t want to be standing out. That’s kind of the point– everyone’s kind of inconspicuous or incognito.”

Fascinated by the role of clothing in signaling group allegiances and communicating identity, I ask Ryan how personal style shapes the nightlife scene and distinguishes social circles. A firm believer in the overlap between the fashion and music industries, he explains that certain aesthetic symbols serve as a form of recognition for members of the techno, EDM, and queer communities.

▶“I've always seen techno as new age punk. Because of the countercultural values, the worldwide [techno] collective is anti-establishment but pro-community. You see that in punk and techno because the ethos of each counterculture was DIY: you're there to just get away from reality and be who you are.”

Elements of deconstruction/reconstruction, distressing, hardware detailing, O-rings, leather, and latex contribute to the recognition of a hardcore fan. Especially in New York City, a teeming metropolitan hub of hyper-niche subcultural groups, fashion functions as a way to associate a genre with its listeners and physically embody the textures of the noise. 

▶“Chains represent the industrial sound. In techno that's very common, to have industrial sounds like banging chains or loud screeching. To be able to represent the sounds in your clothes and jewelry and aesthetic.. adds a quality of vision [in which] the moods mimic each other. We are blending the audio and the visual within ourselves.”   


                                                                ▶ Don’t Be Obnoxious / On Your Phone

                                                                ▶ Respect the Safe Space

                                                                ▶ Look Good, Feel Good

                                                                ▶ Comfort is Key

                                                                ▶ Actually Dance

                                                                ▶ Let Yourself be Present

                                                                ▶ Enjoy the Music, For The Love of God

For the techno-virgins and rave-wannabees, I ask Ryan to explain the segmentation of the club scene, which he debunks as pure myth. Under the impression that a punk fan is something wildly distinguishable from a UK Garage loyalist, I am proven wrong– Ryan shakes his head and informs me that nightlife is more of a Venn Diagram than it is a pie chart. However, critical to note for those unfamiliar with the nuance of genre: EDM and techno are not to be used interchangeably. While the EDM scene is characterized with trading kandi bracelets, PLUR festivals, and furry/kawaii style, Ryan emphasizes that techno operates as a countercultural underpinning to pure electronic. Eerie audio elements and punk undertones distinguish techno’s sonic texture from traditional EDM.

▶“I think you can totally be a part of different scenes and blend your style. Mood reflects the sound you want to listen to. Louder bass and crazy industrial noises are more for getting anger out. Then there's more chill music–  psytrance festivals are more common in forests. When I lived in Flagstaff for two years, it was very much experimental bass and psytrance. We were more like hippies. That kind of music can connect you with nature. Whereas if you're in a warehouse in New York…”

With TikTok’s infiltration of mainstream into the EDM scene resulting in larger audiences and less-informed listeners – think Berlin’s infamously long lines at Berghain or Brooklyn’s steep cover charges at local clubs – I ask Ryan if he feels an instinct to gatekeep nightlife’s holy grails. He laughs. 

▶“Exclusivity – if we’re talking about who gets into a club or not at a doorman's discretion– is who is really there to enjoy it vs. who is just there to say they went. I think it’s valid for people to just want to go to big name clubs for sure. People should be able to experience that and it's not just an exclusive thing. A club is just a place for people to go and party for a night, it's not that serious.”

While the music scene contributes to Ryan’s sense of identity and enables fluidity of expression, he confesses that constant clubbing can be physically taxing and emotionally demanding. Benders will bend but bills are also billing– to strike up an equilibrium, Ryan recommends taking breaks from going out, as well as ensuring a healthy dose of rationality. In his case, this means securing plans for his future, which lies in The New School’s Sound Design program to earn his master’s and hone in on his speciality.

▶“Parties are a celebration right? To be able to enjoy a party –  if you're going to choose a lifestyle of frequent partying – comes with a lot of balance of reality. Having your shit together and really taking care of yourself [is critical in order] to appreciate something as a collective group together.”

My time with Ryan Scebelo inspires me to listen to the sound of things happening. Usually, I prefer music to the rhythm of the natural world, tuning it all out for the sake of some off-kilter alt rock singer who can’t even really sing. But today my headphones say “please charge” and instead of plugging them in I am going to listen. To notice, to absorb, to tap into the sprawl of the acoustic ecology– an act near impossible in a hyperdigitized world of constant stimulation. At times, the city feels so stuffed with noise that it swallows itself whole, horns and cars and conversation softening into a fluffy mass and sinking into a blanket of white noise.

Yet falling below our acoustic registers are these small and exquisite wonders:

clutter of pedestrians

rummaging through bags

and rushing down stairways
flip flops high-fiving cement

sharp point of a kitten heel on pavement

electricity whirring, heaters clicking on                                       crack of a window


           and skateboards

and sighs

clench of a closed

the groan of the gutter 

wail of the wind

racket of the upstairs neighbor

railing his third one this week

  flick of a lighter

the roar of a plane

how are you and have you found Christ and help me, any change to spare  

pleas and panhandlers and prayers to God 

the trailing whine of Bob Dylan playing off a speaker three doors over and two floors down

the inhale of a breezeway,
exhale of a breath

alarm of the crosswalk
some faraway laughter

brushing of bodies

           the whirl of a drain

                                                                           pop of a bottle

                                                                           hiccup of the train

                                                                           the fizz of the sprinklers

phone call from your mother 

the twinkling of ice cubes

static hot air

Ryan reminds me that to listen is a beautiful, mindful act.

I have gone clubbing with him in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Berlin. We have stayed in hostels with Italian mobsters, danced in windy warehouses, slept on the shore of the Dutch coast– where he reminded me each day that to listen is to observe culture unfurling. We have sat on the banks of the Danube and watched ducks float by. Laid in the sun for hours by the Spree. Haunted the Tivoli Gardens with no money for the ferris wheel but all of the patience in the world to watch the people play. No movement gone unnoticed, no stones unturned. Hearing it all, I learn that to listen is to root, to listen is to ground, to listen is to be present in the fleeting stillness of a moment.

Listen now to the sound of the city, brought to you by DJ Dizzy himself.  

ENVY Magazine