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In Conversation: The Loft, Paul W. Klipsch, and Dope from Hope with NYC’s Love Injection
Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele follow the signal chain from Mancuso’s Loft parties to Klipsch and Hope, Arkansas.
Love Injection is a monthly print-first music fanzine, record label, and long-running Lot Radio show founded by Brooklyn-based DJ duo Barbie Bertisch and Paul Raffaele. Over the past eight years, the pair have documented underground dance music culture in New York City and around the world through conversations with artists, producers, DJs, record labels, promoters, and dancers. More recently, their experiences at David Mancuso’s legendary Loft parties, JOY, and related events have led them to a world of sound with Classic Album Sundays, hi-fi, and deep listening now part of their ever-expanding musical vocabulary.
In the spring of 2019, Paul and Barbie attended the Klipsch Pilgrimage in Hope, Arkansas in search of an elusive document known as Dope from Hope. The duo had first learned of these cult audio newsletters from Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy at David Mancuso’s memorial service, where she highlighted Dope From Hope as one of Mancuso’s favorites. Their journey led them to Jim Hunter, the head of the Klipsch Museum of Audio History and a dedicated Klipsch conservationist, who has kept an archive of the papers. The documents have been described as “a heady mix of genius-level schematics, reasoned rants against mediocre manufacturers and dry, self-deprecating humor.”
After years of planning, the duo have now launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish the first-ever compendium of Paul W. Klipsch’s long lost audio newsletters. The cloth-covered 300 page hardback book will be available exclusively to contributors of the Kickstarter campaign. Those interested can support now to reserve a copy. Only seven days left:
In Sheep’s Clothing’s Phil Cho spoke with the Love Injection duo over Zoom to discuss the current status of the project, early hi-fi experiences, and their favorite Klipsch jams.
Hello Paul & Barbie! Congrats on the Dope from Hope project. Really amazing to see it all come together over these past few years. How are you guys doing / how’s the project going?
Paul: It’s going well! We’re cautiously optimistic. We set some early campaign goals and met them quickly, but it hasn’t, like, shot into the stratosphere. As of this moment we’re 77% funded with 13 days to go (Update: The campaign is now 96% with 7 days to go). We’re in the middle plateau period which we’ve heard is generally a challenging time. Regardless, it’s heartwarming to have people support us in this way. It’s like an $80-$90 commitment for folks in the US and even more outside. When I see the backers’ names, I get choked up. Most of our friends are artists and freelancers, so for them to support us in this way really means a lot.
Barbie: Yeah, it’s been huge to be so well funded having passed the halfway point of the campaign. Feels good, but like Paul said, we’re not celebrating yet. We put in so much effort into having a strong launch day and the first week of support, and we knew that there was going to be a period of slow building, but now we definitely are not letting our guard down. No stone unturned. Thank you for your support this whole time. It’s been really valuable.
We’ll definitely keep pushing it! You’ve been working on this project for a few years now. Have you learned anything new about the Klipsch community through this whole process?
P: Totally. We’ve been doing this “Friends of the Campaign ” series on our Instagram where we reach out to Klipsch dancing communities around the world. Dance culture was our entry point, specifically through David Mancuso’s Loft parties. So we come from dancing in front of Klipsch speakers more than listening and sitting. We thought we knew that landscape, but we didn’t know the breadth of it. We learned a lot about how these systems ended up in the places that they are.
B: The network is loose, but also kind of quite connected at the same time. Our biggest revelation was learning about the “Home” parties, which is a network exposing people to hi-fi sound in an immersive welcoming space, with satellites all over the world. It’s an ever growing network of people setting up gatherings wherever they are – we had an idea, but through this process the common thread was revealed.
Another big learning: the staying power of the online forums and bulletin boards. The more traditional Klipsch fanatics are still on the online forums. The bulk of the meaningful conversations about audio are happening in places like Audiogon, Audiokarma, Dynaco, the Klipsch forum, etc. Through this campaign, I’ve become a member of so many new ones! A lot of these folks don’t mess with social media and it’s another avenue for communication that we sometimes take for granted. I feel like Discord has the feeling that the forums used to, and a lot of people are bringing their communities there from the popular social sites.
It’s amazing how you’ve connected the dots with different Klipsch communities. Circling back to you guys personally, I’d love to know about your first experience listening to music through hi-fi / Klipsch speakers?
B: My dad had a hi-fi setup when I was little and I remember playing with the equalizer and the lights on it. I’m sure that wasn’t something that he appreciated [laughs]. I would say my first adult hi-fi experience was dancing at the JOY parties here in New York, which have sadly ended, but they keep a place forever in my heart.
P: Mine was probably the Loft. I had read about the Klipschorns and the Loft party in Tim Lawrence’s book Love Saves the Day. I was excited to go to the party, listen, and understand the difference in the sound approach and quality to other systems. Once I went, it was totally transformative and brought the words on the page to life.
The familial feeling of the New York party with the intergenerational dancers is also very special. That’s what I love most about dancing in New York. We seek out parties that have that feeling and that mix of people. Finally, observing the freedom of dance was liberating. When you find a place like that and you get permission to move your body in ways that you might’ve felt self conscious to do elsewhere. It’s all very idealistic.
For our readers who are unfamiliar or have never been, can you describe the listening experience at the Loft, JOY, and other related parties?
P: The volume level is what you might notice first. I think a lot of people new to the Loft are surprised by how low it is compared to other parties. Then after being in the space for 45 minutes to an hour, your ears adjust to that volume and you realize that most places are too loud. Once your ears settle, you start to notice the clarity; you hear things in the records that maybe you never heard before.
B: The JOY parties for me felt like a spiritual experience, and that’s largely a combination of all of these different things that Paul was talking about. You are entering someone’s home. You have a sound system that is not abrasive, that’s rooted in home audio components versus a club system. There’s the nourishment aspect, like food and snacks that are made available. All of these things combined result in this familial feeling. It allows you to let go of your inhibitions and makes you comfortable enough to let your guard down, and that’s not something that is easily done. I think these days, if you go out to a club, it’s a totally different approach. Being able to walk into a space that feels like home, that sounds like home, smells like home, where you can really sort of just let loose and forget what’s going on outside. The sound is a big part of that experience, but it’s a combination of all of these different elements that comes from the Loft blueprint.
How did these experiences from the Loft and JOY lead you to Paul Klipsch and Dope from Hope?
P: PWK didn’t really come into view until much later. There was an article from 2015 that Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy did for Red Bull Music Academy on Klipsch and the Loft. She had gone to the Klipsch Pilgrimage in Hope, Arkansas and learned about the Klipsch Museum of Audio History, which holds Paul Klipsch’s archive, and met Jim Hunter and Matt Sommers from the Klipsch team. She wrote the first story about the connection between David and Klipsch. Dope from Hope was mentioned in that as well. Later, she delivered a eulogy at David Mancuso’s memorial and had mentioned that Dope from Hope was something that David used to read and photocopy for people.
We had read this article, but then when we were sitting and listening to her that reignited the flame, and we thought, “I’d love to read this thing she’s talking about.” So we went looking for a book called Dope from Hope, which we thought existed, but it didn’t. That spark led us down this rabbit hole of finding out how many issues are out on the Internet, how many are unreleased, and in what state they are in, quality-wise? That’s when we really started to read Paul’s words and get into the Dope from Hope audio papers.
Did Paul Klipsch and Mancuso ever interact directly? I’m curious about the connection between these two obviously incredibly influential people.
P: From what I understand, Paul and David never met or corresponded, but there’s a quote from Colleen’s article about David praising the Klipschorn saying it must have been an honest person that built such an honest speaker.
“I mentioned to David that I felt the Klipschorn was an honest speaker. ‘Totally,’ he says, ‘and that reflects on the person who built them. It replies to whatever you feed it. If you feed it correctly it will respond correctly.’ David has always endeavoured to ‘search for the truth’ and recalled a moment when ‘I was listening to Nina Simone and it sounded like she was sitting in the room. I could sonically see her.’”
B: In the interview we did with Jim Hunter for the Dope from Hope campaign video, he states that PWK spoke in “words of one cylinder” – keeping things honest and uncomplicated. You can really say the same about the Loft. Over the years David experimented and added components to his system that he later stripped out because he felt they were unnecessary. Alex Rosner, who worked with Mancuso on the Loft’s soundsystem, did a series of lectures at the JOY space and talked about a sound system interpreted as a consecutive series of glass panes. Also explained in this great profile by RBMA. The clearer each pane is, the better you can see through all of them at once. The more panes you introduce, the more opportunity for there to be obstruction. If just one pane is dirty, the entire image is distorted. So I think there’s something about keeping things honest, direct, and “no bullshit.”
I’d love to hear more about Hope, Arkansas… What was it like going over there to the start of it all? Any surprising / amazing discoveries within and outside of this project?
B: Having gone to the Pilgrimage in 2019 to Hope, Arkansas and being the only people there who have this uncommon association or experience dancing in front of these speakers was enlightening. It’s such a unique perspective to add to this group of people, and we’re just really starting to make this Loft connection clearer.
There’s a ton of hi-fi knowledge presented in the Dope from Hope newsletters. Are there any specific pieces from the newsletters that were especially impactful for your own listening practice at home or at your parties?
Toe-in of Loudspeakers and Stereo Geometry
Vol. 15 No. 2 / August 01 1975
This edition deals with speaker placement, specifically well performing speakers in corners. For those of us who happen to have two speakers at home and put effort into where those live, often shifting furniture around to get a better ‘sweet spot’ this feels particularly helpful. This newsletter is an expansion on PWK’s earlier version from 1961.
Updating Klipschorn Speakers
Vol. 12 No. 5 / October 25 1972, Revised June 1974
This newsletter to me speaks to the long term commitment to making the Klipschorn the best loudspeaker that can be. It outlines which components have been upgraded over the years from the production end, which shows a level of transparency that often isn’t seen in audio companies. The audio industry can often be prone to bullshit, as he said, but he certainly didn’t seem to fall into industry tropes.
Vol. 1 No. 4 / December 16 1960
This one has to do with room acoustics, something which isn’t talked about much in the new era of hi-fi but that we feel needs to be a bigger part of the conversation. PWK talks about optimal measurements and room treatments and asks readers for their experiences so he can ‘build a file’ with them.
I’ve read that one of your goals with releasing Dope from Hope is to “debunk hi-fi’s perceived impenetrableness.” This might be a broad question, but how do you feel about the state of hi-fi today versus say 5 or even 10 years ago?
B: I think if you would have asked us this in 2020 when we were originally set to launch, it would have been a very different response from what we would tell you today in ‘23. Having this forced stay-at-home order put people in a space where they started to rethink how they listened to music, which had a lot of them running to upgrade their systems or be turned onto records for the very first time. I was working at a record shop during the pandemic, and once we reopened, there was a whole new group of people who were like, “I just got turned on to records. I’m getting a soundsystem.”
Then there’s the rise of listening bars, and the insertion of hi-fi as a lifestyle category next to streetwear brands and other adjacent accessories. Devon Ojas’ work with Virgil Abloh, Supreme, and popular clubs and bars worldwide are all part of the culture now. Hi-fi was once synonymous with older white men in their man-caves, and while that’s still the case by and large, new people are being exposed. All of this feels like a changing tide. There’s a whole new generation of audio-curious people, and I think that’s for sure who this book is meant for also.
@gee_derrick Paul Klipsch’s newsletters. Dope from Hope #hifi #audiophile #speakerdesign #klipsch ♬ original sound – Derrick Gee
P: When we first started hosting Classic Album Sundays New York chapter, Colleen’s global listening event, part of the incentive to us was to bring a more inclusive approach to communal listening through high-end sound. One of the first things we preach when presenting a CAS session, is that the first step in getting into sound isn’t to buy expensive speakers. It starts with you and your interest to listen better and more intently. You can start whatever you currently have, but instead of passively listening, stop everything you’re doing and listen actively. Teach yourself to silence your phone, teach yourself to be still and without distraction, heighten your other senses by closing your eyes. The gear will follow.
You’ve also been promoting the Dope from Hope project in physical spaces. How have those been going? Any highlights from these events?
P: They’ve been great! The first event we did was at our dear friend Alex & Moscö’s art bookshop and café HeadHi in the Brooklyn Navy Yard co hosted by Mixtape Shop. We brought over our La Scalas and invited everyone to bring a couple of records that they felt would sound great on Klipsch speakers. Some people were playing music in public for the first time, which is rad, and all the music was fantastic. We didn’t really need to over explain what it was, just this very vague filter “Klipsch jams,” and people got it. We used that opportunity to hang out with people, talk to them about what we’re doing, present the video, and listen to music.
B: Then we went to Toronto and did pretty much the same format at a new venue called Standard Time, which we learned after is actually part of the “Home” network. It’s really heartwarming to have people’s undivided attention while you stand in front of them and you tell them about this wild, hyper niche project in a new city (or country!). They were very enthusiastic and people were asking questions, coming up, and telling their friends about it. It’s just been incredible. Posting stuff online is so transient, when you can come together in-person and really get to know the people face to face, it’s just that much more real and reinforces how important in-person experiences are compared to the stuff that lives online.
I love the whole “BYOKJ - Bring Your Own Klipsch Jams” concept. You guys are longtime DJ’s, what are a few of your personal favorite Klipschorn records?
Steve Miller Band – Macho City
The Winners – Get Ready for the Future
Alan Parsons Project – I Robot
Michael Hedges – Aerial Boundaries
Booker T and the MG’s – Melting Pot
Grace Jones – Ooh! The Crossing
Any final thoughts or things you’d like to let the people know?
B: We are truly sorry for the relentless self-promotion, and we look forward to taking a social media break when this is all over [laughs].
P: It’s so weird to be asking people for money for a luxury item as the world literally crumbles. It’s impossible to overstate how grateful we are for everyone’s support, no matter how small or large.
Support the Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1243483657/the-dope-from-hope-book
Follow Dope from Hope: https://www.instagram.com/dopefromhope/
Visit the website: https://www.dopefromhope.com/
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