A New York Tale: Giant Step

As Le Bain celebrates the reopening of late night dancing on Thursday July 1st with the iconic music agency Giant Step, its co-founder Maurice Bernstein looks back on 30 years of live shows and parties with the top musicians and DJs of New York and beyond.

LE BAIN: Crazy times. Crazy 2020. As the city shut down, you stayed very busy, celebrating the 30th anniversary of your music agency Giant Step. 
MAURICE BERNSTEIN: Yeah, it has been a crazy time. When the pandemic hit and everything shut down, it was the first time since starting Giant Step that everything pretty much stopped. And with that, we were also celebrating our 30th anniversary. So as we weren’t able to do any live events, I finally decided to take the time and archive Giant Step’s history, digitize it. That was a great exercise in looking back and remembering what the company has done over the years. 

You also ran two podcasts. How did you stay so inspired and productive?
Our first podcast Disinfect – where we talk about the worst music ever recorded – was actually something that we started working on pre-lockdown. It just so happened that we released it during the start of Covid. And the Giant Step podcast was something that came out of the Instagram live series we started doing. I stayed inspired by listening to music and the work of people who were dealing with real adversity over the covid crisis. 

Maurice Bernstein, Herbie Hancock & Jonathan Rudnick at Irving Plaza in NYC, 1998 (Photo by Monica Pineda)

"New York was welcoming to me from day one, that’s why I love the city so much and why I’m still here.”

All those past months, time slowed down, which was a weird, unreal feeling, especially in NYC. Did you learn anything from that slower motion?
It was the first time that things actually did stop, so you couldn’t fight it, you just had to go with it. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what was important in life. I wasn’t able to travel, so I was able to really reassess what was important, and also focus on health, family and friends. 

As you’ve been celebrating Giant Step’s 30th anniversary, I was opening your vault of flyers and posters through the 1990’s. What an amazing time to party in NYC. I can’t even list everyone: George Clinton, The Brand New Heavies, Gil Scott Heron, Maceo Parker, Roy Ayers, Massive Attack… And that’s just the first two years! How did you feel going through all those archives? 
I’ve never been a “back in the day person”, I’ve always believed in looking to the future and not the past. But with the fact that I actually took the time to look back at the legacy of the company, it brought back a lot of memories. There were certain things that I thought I knew, but had actually forgotten, and it made me very grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with incredible artists and incredible people over the years. It truly took a village. 

You settled in NYC from Manchester, UK, in the late 1980’s. And a few years later, you were running all those shows, bringing a new energy to Manhattan. It’s a great New York story: an outsider with a vision creates music history. Is that how you felt at that time? 
What really helped was being extremely naive, it was all about the music. When everything was happening, you appreciated the experience but you didn’t think that it was something that people would be talking about 2 years later, never mind 30 years. It was really just about trying to do a good job and enjoy the experience. 

Would you say the city was welcoming you? 
New York was welcoming to me from day one, that’s why I love the city so much and why I’m still here. 


From the Giant Step's Vault: early flyers of an iconic NYC party

"Not only do we understand music and culture, but we also helped shape music and culture."

In 30 years, Giant Step has evolved and grown up, from parties and concerts to a record label, artist management and a music-centered marketing and strategy agency, but I believe the foundations of what you do were built in those early years. Looking back 30 years ago, could you describe those foundations?
The mindset has always been about giving a platform for good music and creativity. That philosophy never changed throughout all the different iterations of the Giant Step brand. What makes us different from other marketing agencies is not only do we understand music and culture, but we also helped  shape music and culture. 

It’s very exciting and an honor to have you with Ron Trent reopening Le Bain’s late night action. It’s a great NY moment. Your connection with Ron goes back to the late 1990’s, when you were running together a weekly dance party at Shine on Canal Street. Tell us about those special nights with Ron. 
When Ron Trent became the resident DJ for Giant Step the club was already almost 10 years old and we felt we needed to have a shift in both our resident personnel and the music direction. It was also around the time that we started our independent record label, Giant Step Records. I saw Ron as the perfect person to be the resident DJ and in house producer. So Giant Step became a playground to play and test the music that we were creating as a label, which made our nights even more unique. 

As someone who has been close to so many great artists, tell us what made Ron Trent the perfect fit.  
Ron, since his teens, has been a musical trailblazer, and has a unique talent not only as a DJ but also as a music producer. When we started working with Ron, he brought a different sound to the Giant Step musical cannon. 

What would you expect from such a night in 2021?
I expect the same energy as always happens when great music and people come together to celebrate. 



Ron Trent playing for Giant Step at Shine in NYC, 2001 (Photo by Michal Rubin)

Tell us about Sinego, who will be doing his NY debut alongside Ron? 
Sinego is a young and up-and-coming very talented DJ and music producer from Colombia and residing in Mexico City. I met Sinego almost two years ago and we have been collaborating on a number of projects since then. He and I were in Colorado working on a project and he had to come to New York to finish it off, so it just so happened that the timing worked out and I could put him on the bill for his New York debut. He’s definitely a talent to watch with a tremendous maturity for his age. 

 We just all had an incredible Pride weekend in the city. What’s your state of mind for the coming summer? 
It’s just great to see New York really opening up. For pride, I was in Central Park to see Funkadelic and then at Danny Krivit’s boat party as well. It was just so amazing to see people out and having a good time once again, and New York really being back. I can’t wait for the rest of the world to be able to catch up, because we are very lucky to be in this situation. 

What’s coming next for Giant Step?
We have a lot of very very exciting projects coming up in the next couple of months and into 2022, which will be revealed soon. The important thing is we continue to innovate and lead bringing exciting experiences and ideas.

On Thursday, July 1st, Le Bain celebrates the reopening of its late night dancing with Giant Step, featuring DJs Ron Trent and Sinego. 10pm-4am at The Standard High Line. RSVP
 Header photo by Alice Arnold: DJ Smash & Vincent Chancey at Metropolis Cafe, 1993. 

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