After Hours in Hawaii: A Look Inside Asylum Afterhours

Author : Lee Trotter
July 09, 2015

After Hours in Hawaii: A Look Inside Asylum Afterhours

It’s a part of the lifestyle that is musically and culturally embedded in cities around the world. An afterhours embodies an atmosphere where people can enjoy themselves and be musically liberated into the deep hours of the night. People often claim that an afterhours is where the magic happens, and it allows for the opportunity for some serious extended sets to occur. As opposed to a standard club night where there is a grand spectacle and high energy programming, an afterhours can go in many directions in a wide array of settings.

In 6AM Group’s new feature series we go in depth at various afterhour venues around the world to see what makes it so special for the respective city. For our first stop we venture into the middle of the Pacific Ocean to take an exclusive look at the world famous Asylum Afterhours in Hawaii.

Located in Honolulu on the island of O’ahu, the most urbanized of the Hawaiian Islands, Asylum Afterhours is at the forefront of a burgeoning house and techno scene. Through their intimate venue and record label, Asylum Confidential, they’ve become the most influential group in Hawaii when it comes to underground dance music. There wasn’t much of an electronic dance scene in Honolulu let alone a thriving underground; but when there’s a will there’s a way. Under the ownership of Darren Zane and Willis Haltom, Asylum Afterhours has made a deep impact in the musical and cultural landscape surrounding the area.

Before Asylum Afterhours there were three popular spots on the island that catered to underground dance music. At the time, current Asylum residents, Adam Kaneoka ‘Fathom’ and Ernie Kaneoka ‘Bernies_Diction’,  owned Epix, Darren Zane was involved with The Living Room, and Willis Haltom was getting involved with a club called Next Door. All these individuals play a pivotal role when discussing the history of Asylum, and it wasn’t until the closure of Epix that everyone crossed paths to create the Asylum Afterhours that we know today. Upon entering the cozy space you realize that there is something special about this place, and many are overcome with a feeling of pure intentions while preset on the dance floor at Asylum.

“Our location is an important factor to our success. The part of town that the club is located sits nicely in between our downtown and Waikiki, which are the two main hubs for Honolulu’s nightlife. It’s really cool, because since we have opened our doors, we’ve seen our part of town really undergo a cultural make over. When we started there wasn’t much going on around us, but now there is really cool street art everywhere, forward thinking businesses opening up and a lot of really cool block parties on the regular.” – Darren Zane (DJ Zane)

“The biggest challenge of running this after hours is being in Hawaii.  Hawaii has always been way behind the intelligent music revolution.  We have been very fortunate and somehow managed to influence the ears of many people.  Our goal is to build the scene as much as possible and to keep pushing the boundaries of Hawaii’s electronic music scene.” – Adam Kanekoa

Any challenges aside, that hasn’t stopped Asylum Afterhours from hosting A-List talent from all over the world. Since the clubs inception they’ve hosted artists such as Dubfire, Nina Kraviz, Matt Tolfrey, DJ T, Mr. C, among many others, and maintain a reputation as the most influential outlet for house and techno in Hawaii.  Bookings like this paired with an incredibly tight knit family of residents has allowed Asylum to curate and execute their vision of underground dance music in Hawaii to the fullest. With parties lasting until 8:00 AM and beyond, the club and everyone involved is always exposed to very special extended sets from residents and guests alike.

Asylum Afterhours has consistently been named one of the Top 100 Clubs in the world, and was also listed as one of the Top 5 most intimate venues by DJ Mag. The club has a capacity of approximately 75 people, and is certainly up there as one of the smallest in the world; but in no way does the capacity affect the vibe and atmosphere that is achieved in this small Hawaiian club. Ask anyone with an appreciation for afterhours and the consensus will be the same about creating a unique and memorable atmosphere; it becomes the driving force behind any and all locations around the world. Asylum achieves this and in turn must go through certain methods to maintain the vibe.

Asylum Dance floorBecause of this intimate capacity, Asylum Afterhours must undergo a very specific entry/member  policy in order to maintain their desired environment within the club. While this might sound like the exclusivity similar to that of Berghain, there’s actually a method to the madness

Thomas Tarpley, Operations Manager for Asylum Afterhours, explained the process to us, and it starts with the good word of an existing Asylum member. “In order to become a member you have to know someone who is a member to vouch for you, then you receive a temporary membership card.” explains Tarpley. “With that you get in five different times, and must get it signed by 5 different members…”

Admittedly, it’s not the simplest process, but these are the efforts that the club must go through. Asylum Afterhours embodies the idea of quality, not quantity, putting the vibe and music above everything else. It’s this mentality that allows them to host artists from around the world, and has contributed to their recognition on the global club circuit. The club and the vibe associated with it is the epicenter of success for Asylum Afterhours, but to further spread their music they started their record label, Asylum Confidential.

Asylum Confidential

“Asylum Confidential was born out of want from the resident Dj’s of Asylum to put out their own music. Around 2012 to 2013 many of the resident Dj’s were actively producing a lot of music and it just seemed like the logical move to start the label.” – Jimmy Lee

In addition to being one of the most respected clubs in the Pacific, the Asylum family also oversees their Asylum Confidential record label. The label roster is made up primarily of Asylum residents such as Zane, Willis Haltom, Fathom, Loic Tambay, Russell Trent, Bernie’s Diction, Cryptik, Jimmy Lee, as well as their respective aliases and collaborations. But every now and then you get someone like Butane or Clint Stewart to come in on remix duty to deliver some serious dance floor treatments. The sound and catalog is a euphoric blend of tracks primed and ready for the after hour. From the slick and groovy to heady cerebral trips, the Asylum Confidential catalog is an outstanding representation of the club.

Between the after hours and the record label, Asylum has made incredible strides in the advancement of underground dance music throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It takes an incredible amount of passion to achieve world-renowned recognition such as this, but with a family this dedicated everything comes together so naturally. With Asylum leading the charge in underground dance music on Hawaii, you can be certain that the scene will continue to grow, develop, and evolve into something great.

Asylum Afterhours: Facebook | Resident Advisor
Asylum Confidential: Facebook | Soundcloud | Beatport

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Q&A with Asylum Residents & Staff
Questions were answered by the following artists and Asylum family: DJ Zane, Adam Kanekoa, Ernie Kanekoa ‘Bernies_Diction’, Jimmy Lee, and Thomas Tarpley

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How did Asylum begin? Can you give us the history of the club and vision? 

Ernie and Adam (Bernies Diction & Fathom) owned an after hours club called Epix before Asylum was conceived. Darren Zane was heavily involved in a popular club called The Living Room.  And Willis Haltom was involved in a popular club called Next Door.  After Epix closed down, there was no longer an after hours in Honolulu.  Our entire group joined forced and gave birth to Asylum, and the rest is history.

What were/are the challenges of starting afterhour parties? 

Adam and Ernie Kanekoa: The biggest challenge of running this after hours is being in Hawaii.  Hawaii has always been way behind the intelligent music revolution.  We have been very fortunate and somehow managed to influence the ears of many people.  Our goal is to build the scene as much as possible and to keep pushing the boundaries of Hawaii’s electronic music scene.Set

Where would you say the Hawaiian scene is at right now? Aside from Asylum’s work and presence on the island, are there other avenues that influence people?

Darren Zane: There are quite a few crews that are throwing different types of electronic dance events. It’s been pretty awesome to see some of the Asylum resident djs branching out to do their own events over the last couple of years. My boys Jimmy Lee and Ramyt Islam have a crew called Foundation that has been doing some killer parties, that are really help to bridge the gap between what people are used to hearing when they go out to the club and the afterhours sound that we play. I would say that we are leading the charge as far as the underground dance music, but our reach is a lot smaller then that of the guys that are throwing the more main stream EDM events. The EDM scene is pretty big on O’ahu, so we absolutely benefit in a number of ways anytime there is a big event. Besides the obvious benefit of more heads through the doors, anytime there is big EDM event we usually get a lot of new faces at the club. Making sure the music is on point and tuning these first time visitors ears to the music that we like to play has been the most effective tool for building our scene in Hawaii to what it is today.

Being an island, I’d imagine that many of the attendees are local and frequent the club regularly. Do you guys see any tourists? Be it for the music or just random tourists who happen to have a keen sense for finding awesome parties.

Darren Zane: Yes, we definitely have a dedicated crew of Asylum regulars that have supported us over the years. As a matter of fact we’ve had at least three generations of “Asylum Family” that have supported us over the six years that we have been around.   It takes a special breed of human to maintain the Afterhours lifestyle for more then a couple of years. Although I’ve seen many put in their time and then move on to new adventures in life, you can always count on the fact that they will eventually find an excuse to come back and dance with us.

As far as tourist go, yes we have our fare share of non-locals too. We’ve had visitors from all over the globe. I guess the word is out, because many foreigners will get in contact with us weeks prior to arriving in the islands, just to make sure that they won’t get turned away at the door.

Do you remember some of the first after hour parties you experienced? If so, can you tell us a little about it? 

Adam Kanekoa: One of the first after hours spots Ernie and I attended was in Tucson, Az in the 90’s.  That was the best time for underground raves and after parties.

Many after hour spots pride themselves on the residents, and Asylum certainly has a great roster. What do you enjoy most about playing and being part of such a great musical family? 

Ernie Kanekoa: The answer is exactly that:  Family.  We have such an amazing family and are lucky to have very talented DJ’s and producers.

Asylum has hosted the likes of Matt Tolfrey, Sasha, Mr. C, Nina Kraviz, and the list just goes on. Who have been some of the most memorable sets for you? 

Darren Zane: Some of the most memorable sets have been from Claude Vonstoke and the entire Dirtybird crew.  Also Benoit & Sergio, Marc Marzenit, Danny Howells, Mr. C, And Martin Buttrich were all amazing.  Honestly, we have had so many epic sets from so many great DJ’s.

How late do you guys usually go during the afterhour? Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Adam and Ernie Kanekoa: 8:00 AM, sometime later.  We always have awesome after parties after the club. Beach parties, boat parties, house parties, and pool parties.  Sunday fundays are our favorites.

Afterhours operate in the late hours of the night, or early hours of the morning, depending how you look at it…So we must ask, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at 6:00 AM? 

Adam and Ernie Kanekoa: Wow, that’s a great question.  We once had a girl walking around completely naked. We had to ask nicely for her to put her clothes back on. Unfortunately we have had multiple men poop in the urinal (WTF?).  This one guy was swimming in a puddle in of street rainwater after we closed.  So many crazy things!  That comes with the territory.

I suppose all expectations and standards go out the window at a certain point. So that’s some of the craziest things to occur, but on a brighter note…what have been some of your fondest memories at Asylum?

Darren Zane: I always have a hard time answering this question, because I’ve had so many epic nights. Over the years we’ve been so lucky to be able to listen to so many amazing sets from some of the best DJ’s in the world

For you, what’s your preferred musical style for an afterhour? Some people like to keep things very deep and hypnotic while others keep the energy and the groove at the top. 

Darren Zane: A mixture of both.  It’s very important to have a diverse range of genres. We mostly keep it consistent with intelligent four on the floor music.

Can you show us a track that defines the Asylum Afterhours sound? 

What’s the capacity for the club?

Darren Zane:75 is the comfortable capacity, but we’ve had 3x that number of people on occasion.

Can you tell me a little about the record label, Asylum Confidential? 

russell trent island vibesJimmy Lee: Asylum Confidential was born out of want from the resident Dj’s of Asylum to put out their own music. Around 2012 to 2013 many of the resident Dj’s were actively producing a lot of music and it just seemed like the logical move to start the label.  The main artist roster is composed of our residents: Zane, Willis Haltom, Fathom, Loic Tambay, Russell Trent, Bernie’s Diction, Cryptik, and Jimmy Lee.  We also have aliases from our artists when they work together such as Dozeguise, Voltaic, and Rareform.  The first EP by Higher Concept and Willis Haltom was released on August 2013 and featured an amazing remix by Butane.  Our sound is something that is hard to catagorize but we all want to make music that is forward thinking and reflective of our sound at Asylum Afterhours.  We all have our own styles which makes for an interesting mix of tracks that get released.  We currently have Russel Trent’s EP on promo called Island Vibes, and a very diverse compilation album coming up after that.

After a solid night at the club, what do you guys like to do best to unwind? 

Darren Zane: We usually have a couple of options. Sometimes you just don’t want the party to end so we hit up the after after party for Sunday funday. Sometimes we just feel like chilling maybe work on some music in the studio. I usually end up sleeping.