10 Questions with ... Warren Gesin
August 6, 2013
1. What was your first music industry gig?
I started out in the nightclubs of San Francisco, doing the door at hip-hop spots where DJ Mind Motion (KMEL) and his Pirate DJ's crew were throwing parties. I was lucky enough to roll with them to New Music Seminar, Gavin Convention, How Can I Be Down, Mixshow Power Summit, etc. I was just there to hang with my buddies and drink for free. I still had a regular 9-to-5 job and used to plan my vacation days around the industry convention schedule! From there I started as an independent street team guy, putting up posterboards, delivering vinyl to the mixers in clubs. Then came mixshow promotions where I discovered what BDS was! I started out at a very small independent label then onto TVT, Priority, Universal and now Atlantic.
2. What do you love most about living and working in Los Angeles?
I live in Hollywood, and it is pretty much in the middle of everything. Obviously not having to get on the 101 freeway OR the 405 freeway to get into the office is a beautiful thing. The weather is absolutely a key to happiness as well. It puts me in an incredible mood and to be able to look out of my windows at home and see sun and palm trees and then to have a similar view at my job rules. I'm extremely lucky in that regard.
3. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I've always leaned to the non-conformist side of things, and knew I wouldn't last too long at a typical 'normal' job. I grew up heavily influenced by skateboarding and punk rock and hip-hop and that definitely fueled my desire to take some chances and go against the grain. Music is absolutely my biggest passion in life and knew I absolutely had to be involved. When my friends were getting rides from their parents to go the mall and buy baseball cards, I was riding my skateboard to the mall to buy a Black Flag album. I was going left when others were going right. That's what makes me love Atlantic Records so much. Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald and Andrea Ganis aren't afraid to take chances and pride themselves on thinking 'outside the box'. That cliche doesn't make sense and you can't fully comprehend the meaning until you work in an actual system that operates like that. I learn every day from them of new ways to think and act.
4. Which Atlantic artist you work with would have the most entertaining reality show?
Bruno Mars hands-down. He and his partner Phil Lawrence and two of the funniest people I have ever met in my life! I'm pride myself as being a guy that has a rather strong sense of humor aka a tremendously sarcastic smart-ass. When I get together with Bruno and Phil I realize that my wit, humor and sharpness pales in comparison to the things those two say and do on a daily basis.
5. When you have visitors in Los Angeles, do you have a 'go to' restaurant for dinner?
Well, we have a Morton's Steakhouse literally in our building in Burbank, so that gets a lot of attention. Obviously LA lacks the 'hey, lets walk out the door of our office and have 20 restaurants to choose from in walking distance' vibe of New York. Yatai on Sunset is a great low-key spot with quality sushi. El Compadre is entertaining and always packed and how can you go wrong with margaritas that are served lit on fire and flaming! Son Of Gun on 3rd Street has the best seafood menu of nearly any place I've eaten at. It's a place that is small and casual yet harder to get a reservation at than Mr. Chows, Mastro's or any of those over-hyped Beverly Hills spots.
6. Let's play Fantasy Record Company. Who is your first round draft choice?
In terms of artists or in terms of employees?
In either case, we can just substitute the Fantasy Record Company name with the Atlantic Records name because I'm already at my fantasy record label. That's real. I know most label reps believe the same thing about their own label. And they should. I have been at labels that have sucked the passion out of my life for music. Never again!
On the artist side. I get to work with artists that I truly enjoy as people. I know how lucky I am and trust me I've dealt with just about every single horror story/scenario/experience you can imagine. It may sound corny but when you develop that relationship with them, it gives you that extra push to drive their project home because they are someone you truly give a shit about.
On the employee side, I look for the guy that wants to bust his ass and take MY job. My boss John McMann knows when he hired me that I wanted to push myself to be just as passionate as him. When we hired Dan Posner and moved him to Miami as our local, I absolutely knew that he wanted my job and would bust his ass to get it. Now he lives in Los Angeles as one of our Nationals on the promotion staff. And ironically, Dan helped bring in his replacement in Florida and our next guy to blow up in the promo world, Johnny Coscia. We operate with no egos in our promotion department and we are always looking to promote from within. Andrea Ganis preaches that on the daily and it works for us.
7. What do you like to do to relax in your free time?
I absolutely have to surround myself with music 24-7, so my free time is consumed in the best possible way by music. I'm on Spotify all day, every day. I'm watching YouTube clips of anything and everything music-related. I'm watching every music documentary. I'm making playlists for every occasion under the sun. I'm at Amoeba. I'm on iTunes. I'm listening to KCRW app, iHeartRadio app, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, anything and everything I can get my hands on in order to discover music. Music relaxes me.
8. What markets make up some of your favorite road trips?
I just returned from a trip through the Carolinas, Tennessee and Alabama. Being able to get in a rental car and pass through all these small towns in between my destinations is a luxury that I never take for granted. When I first got in the game all I could think about was SF or NYC or Miami, bigger cities that I could go in and rage all night at. Now I understand it's about the journey not just the destination. I appreciate the other parts of the country that I would never have seen without my job.
Also, one of my favorite trips still is pulling out of the Atlantic parking garage, turning right, going 6 blocks down Olive Ave and walking into Power 106. (Yes, I drive 6 blocks. This is Los Angeles remember...)
9. You've been in the business quite awhile. You've worked with highly respected, veteran programmers and some exciting young programmers? Who are a few of the bright, young programmers you've watched develop?
I'm going to be a complete politically correct promotion guy and not mention any specific names. Because I would for sure accidentally leave someone out. But what I personally love are the programmers that have come from the same culture as me. The guys who came up in the night club scene, the guys who started out as mixers (and many of whom are still mixers on-air to this day!) and worked their way up through the ranks into programming.
This doesn't make them better than anyone else, and I still respect every programmer the same whether they come from these roots or not. I just know for me I always feel like I have a vested interest in what I do, because of the way my career path ran. I live and breathe this. It is everything for me. I still get goosebumps when I hear new songs. I still get goosebumps when I hear classics. Because they remind me of a particular and very specific time in my life. My generation used to scour through every detail in The Source, Rap Pages, Vibe, Mass Appeal, Gavin Magazine, Rap City, Yo MTV Raps,etc. We had a desire to keep ourselves updated with the life that we were living and with the artists we were working with.
If I'm at a record label and I'm working a rap record to a radio station, I can promise you I'm going to know everything there is to know about my artist. I have to be able to promote and present my artist in the best possible light imaginable. Listen, these young programmers bullshit-meters are just as strong and powerful as the O.G programmers in the game. It is getting harder and harder to fake it these days because best believe you will get called out on your shit! This new generation of young programmers is so in tune with their audience, their listeners and popular culture. It is refreshingly scary! Their passion for the music and their use of social media is remarkable and they know they have to be up to date and on point like crazy. It forces all of us, from the label side and the radio side, to either adapt to the times or get the hell out of the game and make way for the next wave.
10. Hypothetical question...If you were getting married in two months and you could have any group or singer perform at your reception, who would you choose?
I would probably have The Clash in the parking lot playing the entire Sandinista album as my guests pull up. Sade would for sure be singing the song where I dance with my wife (which may prove difficult as I would like her to BE my future wife. I guess she can sing and dance at the same time?) I would want to fit in The Five Stairsteps "O-oh Child" somewhere because that song makes me happy even though it's sad and emotional. Then at some point I would have all the guests on a boat and just have a yacht rock blow-out extravaganza with Doobie Bros, Steely Dan, etc. Of course Mobb Deep "Shook Ones" would have to be played right after we exchanged vows and finally when the party is over and I want everyone to leave and get the hell out, I would have Suicidal Tendencies or Bad Brains play at full volume until everyone ran away with their hands over their ears. Hmmmm, no wonder I'm still not married....
Got a favorite vacation spot?
Italy for sure. I went for the first time this year to Rome, Florence and Capri. It was amazing and beautiful and fresh and one of the places where I could live for the rest of my life. I'm a huge fan of architecture and mostly importantly Style and that entire country just oozes it without effort.