“Sometimes it’s hard to keep both sides going, to balance the nightlife with the day-life because I’m the sole owner of D-Edge so I have to be there in person to check what’s happened last night. I also like partying a lot; when I go to the club at night, I drink, I socialise and party.”
Sitting in his sumptuous Sao Paulo apartment, Renato Ratier smiles as he outlines the difficult balancing act he maintains running his uber-successful Brazilian club D-Edge against indulging the temptations from being one of South America’s most popular and successful house DJs.
“For example, on Thursday night I went to another club first, then D-Edge then after that some people said ‘let’s go to your flat and have an after-party there’. So we came back to my house and my friends ended up leaving at 4pm.”
“Then I had to go to the club to take care of some matters immediately afterwards,” he sighs. “That’s the difficult question for me: balancing everything. Of course, business is important and I need to take care of things but I really like the nightlife. So that’s difficult. Sometimes I need to go home early.”
Today it’s Saturday early evening and he’s been out around Sao Paulo again last night though he’s lively and good company, offering chocolates and champagne and apologising for his (actually fluent) English.
Independently wealthy (his collection of cars downstairs includes a vintage Ford Mustang and brand new customised Range Rover with inch thick bullet proof windows) he’s both down to Earth and dressed down, sporting heavy tattoos, a baseball cap and nondescript club clothes.
A raver since the early 90s (after discovering electronic music culture during a stint in the US) he returned to Brazil soon after and started promoting parties in his home town of Campo Grande, before opening his first D-Edge in the same city in 2,000. Building the club’s reputation around a strategy of booking top quality international techno and house DJs (all selected personally by Renato), he opened a second D-Edge club in Sao Paulo in 2003, continuing the same music based policy of international stars and the best Brazilian talent.
Seven years on, Campo Grande’s D-Edge is long gone, though his Sao Paulo venue is rightly recognised as the most prestigious nightclub in South America. Holding just 400 or so revellers and open seven nights a week, the club regularly hosts everybody from Richie Hawtin to M.A.N.D.Y.to DJ Hell and Ellen Allien alongside local stars including Renato Lopes, Magal and Gui Boratto.
As well as being famed for its music policy, the club is also recognised for both its sound and light system designed by Muti Randolph. The same artist remains intimately involved in the next phase of D-Edge’s growth: the long awaited expansion of the Sao Paulo venue to near double its current size.
“It’s almost three years since we started planning and the problems started immediately, as soon as I decided to buy the building next door,” says Renato, explaining the delay.
“I talked to the owner about prices and details, he sent all the papers to my lawyers to check everything and after that I called him and said ‘OK, everything is fine, I’m going to sign and pay you, please send me your bank account details?’ He then then turned around and said ‘er, I’m now selling it to another guy’. That was the first problem of many,” he recalls.
Planning permission tussles were followed by an even bigger problem when architects discovered the club was sited on land perilously close to Sao Paulo’s infamously unstable water table, he explains.
“We needed to sink the new foundations 30 metres underground to hold four levels, which would normally hold up a 20 story tower block,” says Renato. “And then we also needed to resolve design issues.”
“Muti is the guy who designed the light concept and after he and I agreed on plans we talked to the two architects about how they could realise the designs and that process stretched out. Three years have now passed but we’re much closer to finalising everything."
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): What is the new club going to be like when it’s finished, what’s the plan?
Renato Ratier: “Firstly I decided to make the club a little bigger, we needed more bars and bathrooms for example. Some people like the club but sometimes they said to me that the club needs a quieter space that’s not so intense. We’re not changing the concept of the club. At first it was difficult, because we wanted to keep the same concept with the lights and the line of the club. But I think we’ve managed it ,because we’re using different materials.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): How about in size terms?
Renato Ratier: “Firstly we’re having a new entrance with a small boutique there selling records, clothes, we’re also partners with M Audio and Pioneer so we’re going to sell some of their equipment there. If somebody wants to be a DJ they can buy what they need at the club (chuckling). We’re also building another dance floor, for around 250 people and a lounge where we’ll also have a DJ, The lounge will hold around 150 to 200 people maximum of people, not more than that. Plus they’ll be an outdoor space that can hold up to 200 people. So if we have 150 on one floor, 80 in the lounge you’ll feel comfortable. The main room will stay the same.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): Do you plan to open all the rooms every night?
Renato Ratier: “No, no, we’ll be doing that at the weekend. At the moment we have some nights when we have three imported artists so it’s kind of necessary to have more dance floors. I’d say Thursday, Friday and Saturday we’ll be planning to open the whole club but having said that we can always be flexible and have different parties using different spaces. Sometimes I’m concerned that I’m being too ambitious and trying too much but it’s not good to always stay in your comfort zone.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What do you think of Sao Paulo- and Brazil’s club scene at the moment, how strong is it?
Renato Ratier: “I think Sao Paulo nightlife is really strong, it’s really happening. You have clubs like Hot Hot and Vegas doing some interesting parties sometimes you see a big name at Pacha but there isn’t one club that’s dominating.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): People here keep telling me that clubs playing pop and Lady Gaga are taking over Sao Paulo nightlife . . .
Renato Ratier: “Yeah but I think that’s happening everywhere. Sao Paulo has many, many clubs, nightlife here is going well. Some people complain that it’s too commercial but everywhere is like that. If you go to London or Berlin there are commercial clubs there too.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): D-Edge right now is a very dark club and doesn’t have a VIP area beyond a tiny spot next to the decks . .
Renato Ratier: “I don’t take a position that I’m underground or I’m this or that, the club is very modern and the new sections will offer more sophisticated spaces. I want to bring good music to the people and we want to attract people who respect each other. I go to A Loca, I go to Pacha and to mainstream clubs to see what they’re like and I like to break the wall: I want to show good music to different people who’ve not had the chance to hear it before.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): How much are you personally deciding which DJs you book for the club?
Renato Ratier: “I’m totally involved in the booking, totally. When I first opened D-Edge I started with the nights and styles of music that I wanted in the club, I work with the promoters and we talk a lot, I like to hear lots of people’s opinions but I close the deals, I finalise the schedule. I like to bring new artists and also to keep bringing people we’ve already built up. We’re going to bring a new generation of producers as well as continuing to book DJs like Jeff Mills, Mark Farina, Derrick Carter, Green Velvet, Stacey Pullen. We have Detroit, Chicago, Berlin, new producers making disco house. I want to maintain a balance between new people and the established people.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): The music business is collapsing for many people, why are you launching a label now?
Renato Ratier: “To support and help the new Brazilian talent. Lots of good producers and artists are coming up here and I also want to help the people involved in the club. It’s good for the club and good for the Brazilian scene. I don’t think ‘I want to do a label to make loads of money’ but I’m happy to invest.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): European clubs such as Pacha and Ministry of Sound have global clubbing empires, and Brazilian club Warung are presenting a season in Ibiza this summer how much is the plan to build D-Edge into something similar, to take the club to Ibiza?
Renato Ratier: “Yeah, I’d like to do that but I have to be careful. Many people have made me proposals to open D-Edge’s in different places, such as Portugal for example but I really don’t have the ambition to open D-edge everywhere. For Ibiza, I’d like to do a D-Edge party in a special place with special people not just anywhere. I started D-Edge with a lot of love., I didn’t start it with a plan to make money or build an empire it was because I like the music, the party and the club life.”
Skrufff.com (Jonty Skrufff): How supportive are authorities here about nightlife generally?
Renato Ratier: “It’s difficult, it varies from state to state and scene to scene. The South is very good, and I think people really enjoy partying.”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): How much are you in a community with all the other Sao Paulo clubs such as Vegas, Lion, Hot Hot etc?
Renato Ratier: “Not so much here in Sao Paulo but a lot of people talk to me from different parts of Brazil. We’re going to be holding one night in Florianopolis soon where I’m going to be a resident, we’re going to have a regular D-Edge night in Curitiba soon. I’d like to open another D-Edge at some point but I haven’t found the right place yet but now we’re starting these partnerships and we’ll see how they develop.”
Skrufff: Are you interested in franchising the club?
Renato Ratier: “Errrm, no, not really.”
Skrufff: Chatting about London’s Fabric going into administration last week, a London promoter blamed greedy agents and too high DJ fees, how much pressure do you have from European agents demanding huge fees or do DJs play for you for cheaper rates because of your reputation?
Renato Ratier: “(Sighing). I don’t know if DJs do us special deals because they want to play here, some do, some don’t. We book some of them and pay a lot because we really want their parties in the club, it’s different every time. The agents know that D-Edge is a small club for 400, 450 people maximum.”
(Richie Hawtin @ d-Edge: YOUTUBE)
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