The group D.O.G (Dirty Old Gangsters), a crunchy, guitar driven, have a good time, in your face hard rock band, fusing elements of Punk, Glam, and Classic Rock, creating a familiar, fun “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” sound, just released their music video for “NOT TONIGHT BRO,” Guitarist and frontman Wass Steven’s iconic go-to door rejection phrase he is known for saying at the velvet ropes of the hottest nightclub.
The musical diversity of DOG’s members including lead Singer, Guitarist, and Front Man WASS STEVENS, Bassist ALEX (Alex V) VALENTI, Guitarist JJ SANSAVERINO, and Keyboardist (producer, and bandleader) RICKY (Ricky T) TEPPERBERG is what makes it special. The group can be found rocking out at top NYC music venues like BB Kings, Brooklyn Bowl and Highline Ballroom.
Hillary: What was the inspiration behind your first music video?
Wass: For the first video, we decided to shoot the first song that I ever wrote, the first original song. The impetus for the song, first before the video, was the fact that I use this phrase “Not tonight bro” and have been using it over and over. I’m kind of famous/infamous for it. The people who come to the clubs that I’ve worked for all of these many, many, many years kind of have heard it thousands of times and they actually say it back to me now sometimes at the door.
I decided to write what I know, essentially, which is what they say when you first start writing. I also just thought that the band audience would kind of love to play along and sing along with that phrase, because it’s been a catch phrase of mine for so many years. When I wrote the lyric, I didn’t want it to be about the self-entitled, egomaniacal doorman just beating people down. I kind of wanted it to be more in line with how I think. I’d like to believe I do the door, which is very fair. Ultimately, it’s a song about pay back. When I introduce it when we play live, when you hear the lyric, you find out that the person who gets rejected right at the beginning … In the video, I played the rejector and the rejectee.
The guys in the band play several different roles. We all play many roles so that it’s really fun, because you see us all not getting in and then inside having a good time. The video, I directed it and we shot it in New York at a lot of the venues that I’ve been at home, which are parts of the Tao Group, which I’m a partner. We decided to just shoot it in line, very linearly, with the lyrics so that you can follow the storyline. It’s just kind of really about a guy who can’t get in and does whatever he can to figure out a way to get in and then has the greatest time when he is in.
Every song that Dog writes, and basically it’s myself and my bass player, Alex Valenti who is my partner in the band and we collaborate on all of the music. We call it Doggifying everything. We put a very fast kind of chant along section in almost all the songs, because we want the audience to kind of have a good time and be a part of it. We don’t want it to feel exclusive in any way. We don’t want it to feel like the band, because they are elevated on a stage, is better than anybody else who comes. Just come and just have a big party with us.
We include the audience in all of the songs. In “Not Tonight Bro” there’s a line that the audience gets to chant along with the tagline, which by the way has been trademarked. We trademarked it.
Hillary: In real life, have you ever been rejected at the door?
Wass: I think you are the first person to ever ask me that.
Hillary: Oh, really?
Wass: In all the interviews that I’ve done, I swear to god, all the many decades that I have gone through the door and been involved in New York City and Miami and LA nightlife, I think you’re the first person to ever ask me that. When I was younger, I’m a Brooklyn guy … Back in the day, and I’m not going to date myself, although I’ve been around a long time. I used to work with Steve Rubell, so that would give you a timeline.
Yeah, I was rejected at Studio 54 back in the day. I was just a neighborhood guy showing up like everyone else without any juice. I was one of the retched refuse. Yes, I have been, so I know how it feels. I kind of channeled that version of lost in the retaliatory sections of “Not Tonight Bro”. I don’t know if you’ve gotten a chance to see the video, if the guys sent it to you. The guy who gets rejected, who is played by me and rejected by me, is a neighborhood guy. He’s wearing a Yankee shirt. He’s got an apartment in Queens. I mean, I’m Brooklyn, that was Queens, but it’s probably semi-autobiographical.
I can’t believe I just outed myself. Yes, I have been. Yes!!
Hillary: I guess karma’s a bitch, right?
Wass: Yeah, well, the good thing is once you do the night life thing anywhere in this country, eventually the reputation will precede you. I’m kind of like the OG of OGs in the industry. I don’t think there’s anybody left that has done it for as long as I have. Fortunately, most of the time, I’m not going to wait if I go somewhere. Someone is going to know my name or know who I am.
Hillary: What do you miss most about being a doorman? Or working the door?
Wass: It’s interesting. I still am a partner with Tao Group, so intermittently I still do man the ropes of some of our venues. I don’t really have an opportunity to miss it because I can do it basically whenever I want. I’m still at the rope at Avenue in New York City and opened Avenue LA.
Hillary: Oh, wow. When was that? Congratulations.
Wass: Opened almost a year ago now. Yeah, I went out to get that off the ground to set up the right vibe and the right system. At this point, now, it’s not a necessity. It’s more of a choice, because a, I like to keep an eye on my businesses. That’s the professional response, but truthfully it keeps me in the mix and in the loop. I think night life in New York is a microcosm of everything that happens in this city. I’m constantly in the mix and in the flow. As an actor, you spend a lot of time in your own head. I get to interact and steal mannerisms and personality traits from people that I might not normally meet if I was not at the rope. It’s also the great equalizer.
Doing the door at a popular night spot, you run into everyone. There’s never any kind of intimidation factor if I see them in another part of my life if I audition for them or work with them on a show or on a film. Or if I play in front of them with Dog. It’s an extension of all of the things that I do. It’s a giant performance. You have to think of the velvet ropes as a stage and the performance, one giant improvisation. That’s one of the things that I love most about Dog and playing in the band. When you act, you have a lot of people having input into your performance. Ultimately, you are making your choices.
Hillary: Is this going to be a start of an album? Do you think?
Wass: We’ve already released an EP entitled “New York City Hustle”. That’s on iTunes, Spotify. It’s on our website. Yeah, so the answer’s yes. “Not Tonight Bro” was the first of a series of songs which we wrote and produced independently for New York City Hustle. We have already written a second EP worth of material. As soon as this video is released, we’re probably going to follow up with another video for a song off the first EP called “Pole Dancer”, which is about an obvious subject matter. Then, we’ll go back into the studio and we’ll record the second EP, which we’re going to call “Year of the Dog” after the Chinese year of the dog. Hopefully, it’s going to set the cosmos in the right direction and make it the year for Dog.
Hillary: What was the craziest scene at the door that you’ve ever witnessed where someone was trying to get in? What was the craziest thing they’ve tried to do to get in at all odds?
Wass: Oh, you know, people will do a lot. Back in the day, someone offered to give me his Range Rover. I think that was the most absurd offer. I mean, people offer all kinds of things.
Hillary: Of course…Like?
Wass: Money and sex and whatever. Clothes. That’s kind of minute compared to a Range Rover. The guy had the title in his hand and he was seriously ready to sign it over to me to let him into a club.
Hillary: Oh, my gosh. Did you let him in?
Wass: NO! I still didn’t let him in. I feel pretty proud of that. Although it would be cool to be trucking around in his Range Rover.
Hillary: Wow. There was no getting past you. It was almost impossible once you said, “Not tonight bro“.
Wass: Yeah. I pride myself on making a decision. In addition to “Not tonight bro”, another one of my expressions is, “Do I look like the kind of person who changes his mind?” I’m going to have to make that another song. Because when I make a decision, I don’t change my mind. Coming at me with some kind of financial or vehicular withdraw is not going to change my mind. I make a call and make the call and it sticks. I think it’s what is making Dog and everything else so successful. It’s because when I kind of see something, I do whatever I need to do to make it happen. Fortunately, it’s been working in the right direction thus far.
Hillary: Yeah. How do you feel night life in New York has changed since you started going out?
Wass: Well, it’s like how the world has changed. When I started, it was much more raw, much more down and dirty. A lot of what happens now is about how much you can spend, not how fun or cool or interesting or creative you are. Back in the day, that was pretty much the standard. Nowadays, a lot of it has to do with just because of the basic economics of the industry of night life, it’s about how much can the places earn.
Hillary: How do you make your selections on who gets in and who doesn’t?
Wass: I’m not going to tell you that. Then, you’d have my job.
Hillary: I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone can replace you.
Wass: That’s the Emeril Lagasse hidden ingredient that I’ll never divulge. Let’s just say an amazing foresight, a very carefully honed ability to read people. A certain degree of crystal ball predictive powers. Let’s just throw it out there in that bizarre way and leave it at that.
Hillary: Okay. What do you feel is missing in night life that you would like to see more of?
Wass: I would like to see less options. It’s a supply and demand thing. If there’s more options, there’s only a certain number of people who are going to go out at night. The fewer options, the more selective and the more fun a party’s going to be. If anybody can go anywhere and there’s a million different options, then it just becomes homogenized.
Hillary: Yeah. Of course.
Wass: Yeah. I think things are a lot more fun when there’s less places to go. That’s an old school viewpoint, I think.
Hillary: Okay. What are your favorite places to go out to when you’re not working?
Wass: Well, the truth is I don’t go to night clubs anymore, because I spend a lot of my life at them. Of course, as a partner for Tao Group, I’m going to talk about my venues, of course. I love our venues, actually. I think that we’ve done an amazing job and they’re very diverse physically and structurally. Yeah, I’m more of a dinner, rock and roll show kind of guy. When you work in the industry, it becomes difficult to enjoy them. I realize that not too long after I started as a bouncer 1,000 years ago, you start analyzing the room. It’s very hard to separate the business to work part of it from the enjoyment part of it.
You’re looking at where security is, how the bar is ringing, if someone is getting out of control. It’s very hard to just go in and relax and have a good time. For me, I can do that at a restaurant or just to go and watch a rock and roll show. I have a very strange and broad artistic kind of interest. I’d rather go to the opera than a loud house club. Call me crazy.
Hillary: Yeah. Great. Then, if you could ever perform at one of your venues, which one would you choose to?
Wass: Okay. Well, we have performed at Avenue, which is my second home. I would be remiss if I even tried to say that it’s not my favorite of our venues, because the truth is it is. I love it and it’s home. It has been for many years. I’m also a huge fan of Marquee, because since our rebuilding of it, it is an amazing venue. We shot the performance parts of “Not Tonight Bro’s” video at Marquee.
Hillary: Oh, okay.
Wass: I love the venue. The sound system and light system is just second to none in New York City. I also really love Electric Room, which is kind of a much more gritty rock and roll bar kind of place. That’s another one of our venues. We plan on playing that very soon. The only problem with Electric Room is it’s a smaller venue. At this point now, we play much bigger venues. We’ve been playing at BB Kings and Highline and Brooklyn Bowl. Those are 1,000 – 2,000 person venue if it’s packed to the rafters. It’s hard to play 150 person venue now, because the band has a pretty good draw.
For an intimate kind of performance, I think Electric Room would be a great place to play also. I like them all.
Hillary: Do you have any night life icons that inspired you from the past or futue?
Wass: Well, interesting. I learned how to do what I do from Steve Rubell and an old school doorman who passed away several years ago, Haoui “Howie” Montaug. I also learned from Sally Randall back in the day. She was amazingly stylish and did her job with pizazz and kindness, which was rare in those days for a door person. I think I’ve taken and learned from every person I’ve worked with. Most recently and most probably significantly my partner, Noah Tepperberg, I think is probably the person I would want to emulate the most because he’s the hardest working guy I know. I’m not saying that because he’s my partner and he’s my dear friend, I’m saying it because I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he does. He is relentless. Still a sweetheart of a guy.
Hillary: Oh, great. Finally, what were the biggest life lessons you’ve learned in your career as a night life impresario?
Wass: That anything is possible. That’s probably the most significant. Let’s see. Let’s make this into a more succinct soundbite. Work hard. Stay focused. Anything is possible. And Say please and thank you, it goes a long way.
For more on Wass Stevens and D.O.G visit Wassstevens.com + www.dogrocknyc.com
Instagram: @Wassstevens + @dogrocknyc