True House Stories® Youtube & Spotify Video Podcast
TRUE HOUSE STORIES W/ BENNY SOTO # 088
Benny Soto interviewed by Lenny Fontana for True House Stories # 088
For Benny Soto, it began, as it has for many New York club land veterans, with a visit to 84 King Street in downtown Manhattan. He says, “I had already been going out, but the first clubbing experience that really mattered was the Paradise Garage…just walking in there, it looked different, it sounded different, it felt different.
As soon as I walked in, I knew I was home.” For Soto, then a poor kid from the South Bronx, the Garage opened up a whole new world. It was through the club that he met, and befriended, the late Keith Haring, eventually serving as the iconic artist’s studio assistant. It also expanded his aural horizons: “Because of the way that Larry Levan played,” Soto says, “I became more musically open-minded.” But perhaps importantly, the Garage provided an avenue for escape.
“Back then, I didn’t have much joy in my life,” he admits, ‘Clubbing gave me a way to get away. Places like the Garage, though they were primarily gay, were so inclusive; it didn’t really matter who you were, what mattered was the freedom that you could find there.” And that feeling—that passion for freedom, both musically and personally—would set Soto on a path that has led to a lifetime in club land.
He had no idea that it would also lead to a career, but even in those early days, he recalls, “I was very curious. If I was at a club, I would be checking out the sound and looking at the lights, trying to see how it all comes together -it was like a Broadway show, except the show was the crowd itself.” Eventually he secured a gig doing odd jobs at another iconic address, 6 Hubert Street, only blocks away from the Garage.
The spot had once housed Area and Club Shelter; during Soto’s time there, it was Vinyl, home to the iconic Body & Soul. It was Body & Soul resident Danny Krivit who convinced Soto to take the next step. “He said to me, ‘I think you should be a promoter. People like you, and you have great energy. You’d be good at it.’ Of course,” Soto adds, “I had no idea what ‘being a promoter’ even meant!” Listen to him tell you what he learned and how you should be..
Benny Soto quickly learned, and learned from one of the best; the late, great super promoter Rob Fernandez. “The first big thing we did together was Roger Sanchez at Vinyl. I can even remember the date: 2/2/02. I was learning so much—contracts, dealing with managers, hospitality riders, everything.” Soto continued working with Fernandez until his sudden passing in summer of 2015 – but at the same time, he was gaining the confidence to branch out on his own.
Danny Krivit was an early partner (2002), teaming up with Soto to launch what became the still-vibrant 718 Sessions; another stone-cold vet, DJ Harvey, was an early accomplice as well. From its inception, until its closing, Soto was an integral part of the promotion and bookings team at the now revered, and recently closed, Output in Brooklyn, NY.
The dates started coming fast and furious—flash forward to today, and Soto, who currently spends his time promoting shows around NYC and juggling various independent projects, is in the very top tier of NYC’s party wranglers. So what’s the next step for a guy who’s spent the better part of his life in dance clubs? DJ’ing, of course! “I’ve been going out and listening to DJs for 30 years,” he says, “and after that amount of time, I think you almost have to learn something.
You gain a sense of what to do.” But as anyone who has spent time in the DJ community knows, there can sometimes be attitude toward those perceived as usurpers. “Sure, there’s been a bit of controversy, like people asking, ‘Oh, so now you’re a DJ, too?’ I just answer, ‘No. I’m Benny Soto.’ I’ve given my life to music, and this is just another layer of that life.
” Nowadays, you can find Soto opening up for superstars or holding it down at after-parties, often spinning back-to-back with his fellow dance-music lifer, Nervous Records label head Mike Weiss. “Very few people have the legacy that Mike does,” he says. “I mean, the Nervous catalog…those were some of the songs that shaped the sound of global club music.
”But Soto’s got his own musical identity as well. “I love to play music that feels good to me, that matters to me, that say something to me. Danny Tenaglia said the best thing to me: ‘You have to listen, and you have to find the candy.’ And that’s what I try to do—find music that’s special, that can take you to a different space.” Watch his life for Act 3 “The Final Curtain Call”
Benny Soto YouTube Video Part 1
Benny Soto YouTube Video Part 2
Biography Benny Soto
Benny Soto is a well-known figure in the New York City nightlife scene. He is a promoter, DJ, and co-founder of the iconic dance party “Body & Soul.” “Body & Soul” was a legendary Sunday afternoon party that gained immense popularity for its diverse and soulful music, attracting a devoted following. Benny Soto, along with his partners François K and Joe Claussell, played a crucial role in shaping the dance music culture in New York City. “Body & Soul” was celebrated for its inclusive and eclectic music selection, blending various genres such as house, soul, disco, and more.