Phil Meynell on Creating the World’s Stage in Times Square
Let’s start at the beginning.
I grew up in Camden Town in the 90s, right in the middle of the brit-pop movement. Hanging out at the Good Mixer pub with bands like Blur, Oasis, and Pulp was a normal Friday night for me. My start in nightlife was at the age of 15 when I joined now-legendary producer & DJ Erol Alkan to start a club named TRASH which would go on to become a cultural phenomenon. Basically, the Studio 54 of our generation.
Tell us more about this nightclub.
At that time, there were segregated subculture scenes. There was a rock and roll club, a hip hop club, an electronic club, and so on, but no one really did it all – what we now call open format. TRASH started mixing genres, blurring the lines, and creating a melting pot. We didn’t care who you were as long as you were into the music, and girls and guys in makeup and glad rags were the dress code.
Our crowd varied from fashion icons, creatives, magazine editors, club kids, and LGBTQIA+ kids all hanging out together as well as bands like The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, and LCD Soundsystem. We even had our dear friend Amy Winehouse stamping your hand at the door when you entered. Being in London at that time in the late nineties was just magic.
You’ve been in New York for two decades. How did that happen?
I came to New York in early 2002 on holiday and fell in love with its energy. I went back to London, packed up my life, and moved two weeks later and have never looked back. The famous line “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” couldn’t be more true. I have lived a million lives and done so many things in my years in NYC. So many opportunities to get involved in different projects present themselves to you here. Since I have been here, I have opened a bespoke tailor shop, opened bars, nightclubs, and hotels, toured with Amy Winehouse and The Libertines, produced albums, worked on Oscar winning documentaries, established a solid DJ career, A+R for record labels, drummed for a bunch of bands, and that doesn’t even cover half of it.
How did you get involved with TSX?
I met Nick on a previous project when he was the Global Head of Music for Spotify. He and I hit it off from the start. We would have long chats and get excited about the concept of merging live music, fan, and artist interactions and creating a cultural hub and one-stop shop for artists and fans together. So when this project got greenlit, I got the call. It feels like right now is the time to make this happen – for fans, for artists, and for New York City. We are creating a movement with music, hospitality, restaurants, nightlife, and digital experience all in one, which is incredible. It feels like my 20 years in NYC has naturally led me to this, and it’s just the beginning.
TSX is an ambitious project. Where do you start?
The number one thing for me is to boil down the big picture into the origin, which to me, is authenticity. It’s got to be authentic to New York, to New Yorkers, and to artists and to the fans. We are building a cultural platform from the ground up by meticulously looking into each of the working parts, from the restaurants, clubs, bars, stage, merch, artist suits, metaverse, etc., seeing through the lens of the artist and the consumer at either side. We’re bringing in good collaborative partners who already have amazing talent, authentic backgrounds, and following. Veterans in the industry are already reaching out and asking, “how can we be part of this?” Everyone wants to be part of “the world’s stage.”
What’s your current focus?
My focus right now is to identify the best partners from nightlife, restaurants, and hospitality and combine them into a one-stop shop. There will be no need to leave our building to have a day and night full of unexpected experiences. To create a true home for artists, we know how artists should be looked after and it is important to have all the simple things set up already. This includes entering and leaving the building to roam around the back-of-house anonymously, safely and completely away from the chaos and excitement of the front-of-house. We know the areas they want to hang out in. We know the exposure they want. We know the stage they need. We can anticipate their needs in a way that creates a one-of-a-kind experience that you will only get right here in the heart of Times Square.
TSX is going to be a luxury experience for artists compared to what the norm is, more so than anywhere else. For example: if you play at MSG (Madison Square Garden), it’s amazing because, well, it’s MSG, but if you walk backstage, it feels like you’re in a car park. The artist’s dressing room has a ripped red couch with a plastic ice bucket with a few beers in it.
TSX will be a game-changing experience for artists where they can feel for once they have a living room in New York with the world’s stage at their fingertips. They can come to the artist lounge and hang out, record in the studio, and do press interviews, all in the privacy of their own world. Gone are the days where you’re zooming around doing a press day, going to Tribeca to do iHeartRadio, and coming up here to do Jimmy Fallon.
The media is going to come to you, and you’ll have a space and studios where you can create. You can do a show for an intimate group at the supper club or something much bigger on the main stage. You can turn it into whatever experience you want to create for fans.
Could you talk about what community means to you?
Community is making it feel like home for everyone. It’s bringing everyone together to experience something all at once in different capacities. Whether you are an A-List artist, a super fan, or a consumer who just came to check it out, there will be something amazing to experience. You will feel at home and part of something special.
What’s exciting about working at TSX?
This is the first project I have ever worked on where it started as an idea, and I get to work on it from soup to nuts, literally building it from the ground up. We are shooting for the moon, and we have the expertise and technology to get there. We’re creating an experience and a cultural movement in an environment as massive as Times Square with 400,000 visitors every day. This is revolutionary. Where better to have a physical address for the center of the metaverse than in the heart of Times Square? We’re going to be the number one tentpole in pop culture. It’s going to be TRL (Total Request Live) on drugs. New York hasn’t been cool for a while. I think this is going to bring it back and give it a little bit of velvet rope, glamor, and exclusivity that has been missing.