“Twinks Are Persisting”: A Ten-Minute Cig With Club Rash Boss Jen Sillen

jen sillen


In this week’s installment of Smoke Break, we lit one up with Jen Sillen, the nightlife don diva behind the newly-reopened Rash nightclub. Two years ago, Bushwick club kids were shocked when an arson attack left the dance spot in ruins. Since then, Sillen, who’s also the boss lady behind music collective Club Cringe and Bushwick’s other hottest venue, The End, has been hard at work on its revival with business partner Claire Bendiner. Now, the red “R” flag is at full mast once again, a victory for hyperpop heads and techno queens alike. On one of those weekends in New York when there were way too many things to do, it still seemed like everyone was at Rash, where Isabella Lovestory was hosting a single release party featuring a full-blown medspa installation right on Willoughby. After downing a tequila shot chased with house-pressed melon juice, we stepped out of the fog to talk twink death, shitting in the club, nootropic cocktails, and the research chemical renaissance.


MEKALA RAJAGOPAL: Where are we sitting right now?

JEN SILLEN: Okay, so we are sitting underneath the M train on the back of the Isabella Lovestory “Botoxxx” truck in the triangle formerly called Grimes Square. 

RAJAGOPAL: None of these words are in the Bible.


RAJAGOPAL: But actually, we’re at the refurbished, reopened—

SILLEN: We’re at the new Rash.

RAJAGOPAL: Are you smoking?

SILLEN: Yeah. Do you want a Seven Star? They’re these Chinese cigarettes that my bartender Zach imports.

RAJAGOPAL: Maybe. I’m more of a menthol girl but I love that it’s a charcoal filter. It feels like you’re almost doing something healthful.

SILLEN: I just love how simple they look.

RAJAGOPAL: What’s the vibe in here tonight?

SILLEN: We’re at capacity, or we’re close to it.

RAJAGOPAL: Mind you, it’s like, 11:30.

SILLEN: I mean, Isabella brings them out. We are sitting on the back of an installation truck that’s wrapped with Isabella’s face and looping her music video. Last week in the same spot was a Red Bull truck where Umru was playing out of the top of it. It was a DJ truck, so like—

RAJAGOPAL: Oh, they have a school bus like that at Silo.

SILLEN: Yeah, this is more of a cyber truck. This is our third weekend and it’s been great.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s already been so hype. 

SILLEN: It’s been so much fun to see everybody come out. New York has such a range of scenes and we try to cater to so many, so it’s been fun each night to see a different wave of people take it over and put their spin on it. I’m still taking in all the data because it’s so new. I couldn’t tell you from day one how exactly this was all going to go, but now I’m starting to get a good picture of it. 

RAJAGOPAL: Which kids are pulling up tonight?

SILLEN: Tonight we’ve got Manhattan in Brooklyn. We’ve got Dese DJing, which is a rare treat.

RAJAGOPAL: She doesn’t come to Brooklyn.

SILLEN: No. I think she played “Party Rock Anthem” twice tonight, which tells you where she’s at. Everyone who says they don’t come to Brooklyn lies because they do once a month. It just has to be the right night.

RAJAGOPAL: Tonight’s the night. 

SILLEN: We’ve got Isabella performing later with Sausha DJing. That’s going to be a really fab pairing. And Isabella’s mom is here.

RAJAGOPAL: Her mom’s here?

SILLEN: I met her mom tonight. She is a baddie. 

RAJAGOPAL: What were you up to before you came in? Oh my god… let’s wait for this train to pass.

SILLEN: Yeah, it’s so loud. I’ve been really into vitamin infusions. I’ve really been on my wellness grind. I’m working on a project with some wellness icons that really inspired me, so I’ve been in that bag.

RAJAGOPAL: I love that. I’ve been trying to get into the IVs more.

SILLEN: They’re amazing, but if the price tag of IVs shocks you, I would go for vitamin infusions.

RAJAGOPAL: Wait, what’s the difference?

SILLEN: So a vitamin infusion is basically just a shot where you can mainline one strain of—

RAJAGOPAL: Like, when they put B12 in your butt?

SILLEN: Exactly. If you feel deficient in something, what’s $45 to potentially fix it. Right?

RAJAGOPAL: Right. What was the inception of Rash?

SILLEN: I was 25 and I had come out of working for a series of artists online who really had their come-up in the pandemic. So I was working in the hyperpop scene, for Dorian Electra and 100 gecs, and I wanted to bring it back in person, but nowhere was booking what I wanted to hear. It was really born out of that. 

RAJAGOPAL: Do you feel like it’s a different vibe after reopening?

SILLEN: I think we’re a little more grown up. I think the kids who were listening to hyperpop and breakcore in 2020 are different now. 

RAJAGOPAL: What are we into now?

SILLEN: Trance has had such a moment. I feel like right now it’s really about electro house. It’s a mix of small room and big room. It’s so hard to categorize.

RAJAGOPAL: All the micro-genres.

SILLEN: I used to be able to point to scenes and countries and neighborhoods that were making my favorite music, and now I’m pointing to individuals more than ever. One person in Brazil is making what I want to hear. One person in the Philippines is making what I want to hear. One person in China is making what I want to hear. I feel blessed that I have the ability to bring those three people to New York.

RAJAGOPAL: Who’s your dream artist from outside of America to book?

SILLEN: I think it would be Capsule, from Japan. The front man of Capsule, Yasutaka Nakata, is an incredible DJ, incredible producer. He’s produced for Perfume. I think New York’s ready for him. So Yasutaka, if you’re reading this, it’s an open call.

RAJAGOPAL: Come to Bushwick.

SILLEN: We’re bringing you to Rash.

RAJAGOPAL: Speaking of DJs, do you have a crush on any of the DJs you’ve booked?

SILLEN: I have a little bit of a crush on… In a couple of weeks, we have Mijk van Dijk coming out, who is a personal hero of mine. I think he’s one of the most interesting house and techno producers. He’s based in Berlin, but he also spent a lot of time in Japan. He’s got a night coming up with Miss Parker that is going to just be fabulous. It’s going to be for the heads. And I think he’s really cute. He’s kind of got that aged twink look in a really nice way. Kind of a roadmap for a lot of people downtown right now.

RAJAGOPAL: Yeah. This is where you want to go.

SILLEN: It’s like, imagine if you could get here. Everyone talks about twink death. But we don’t see a lot of aspiration.

RAJAGOPAL: Twinks living on.

SILLEN: Yeah, twinks are persisting.

RAJAGOPAL: What’s been the littest moment since opening for you personally?

SILLEN: It was definitely 4/20 with Surf Gang and Swisha, which I feel like says it all. I think Swisha is one of the best local acts we have.

RAJAGOPAL: Has any drama occurred in this building?

SILLEN: Since the fire?

RAJAGOPAL: Since the fire. 

SILLEN: I mean, we’re so new.

RAJAGOPAL: Do people fuck in here?

SILLEN: Oh, absolutely. I got a lot of hate for installing bathroom doors that actually had tops and bottoms. I don’t know if you remember back in the day, Rash was kind of viral for having saloon doors. I want to go on record and say that that’s because I didn’t want people shitting in there. I’m like, “Why are you shitting in the club?”

RAJAGOPAL: That’s fair. But sometimes you just have to—

SILLEN: I mean, go to Birdy’s. Sorry. [Laughs] Or like, go to Dollar General. There are options. Here’s the thing about shitting in the club. I get it. I completely understand the coke shits. And the Zyn shits.

RAJAGOPAL: Zyn shits.

SILLEN: But also you never know who’s going to be there when you open the door.

RAJAGOPAL: Yeah. It could be someone you want to impress.

SILLEN: Exactly. I don’t think you can shit in the club because it’s too risky. So we have fully closing doors and I cannot attest that some horrible shit hasn’t already gone down in there. 

RAJAGOPAL: Speaking of people you want to impress, everyone is so hot in here tonight. Straight baddies.

SILLEN: It’s kind of every night here. I’ve been stunned night after night with the looks.

RAJAGOPAL: And drinks. We just did that shot with the fab chaser.

SILLEN: Yeah, I’ve been into tequila. I’ve been really into researching adaptogenics and nootropics. Angel Money has been on this journey with me of trying to figure out the ideal formula that pairs well with drinking. I think that a lot of people think the zero-proof industry is here to kill drinking, and I actually think it’s here to enhance it. What are the vitamins and minerals that are going to do that? Because in 10 or 20 years, we’re not going to be drinking White Claws and waking up with sugar hangovers. It’s going to be so evolved. We don’t even know what that looks like yet. But here, we’re on the front lines.

RAJAGOPAL: So the melon juice does that.

SILLEN: Yeah. We juice it fresh here. Next month we’re bringing back The Gwyneth. Our DMs have been blowing up about bringing back this cocktail. I guess Bushwick was kind of in love with it a couple of years ago, and I promise it’s coming back this summer.

RAJAGOPAL: What was in it?

SILLEN: It’s fresh cucumber juice, fresh pineapple juice, fresh lemon juice, collagen, vodka and sea moss.

RAJAGOPAL: Absolute wellness slay. And I feel like vodka is—

SILLEN: It’s a neutral spirit.

RAJAGOPAL: Let’s stop the vodka slander.

SILLEN: Vodka is coming back, for sure.

RAJAGOPAL: It feels cleaner. What’s the new drug of the summer?

SILLEN: Well, here’s another open call. We need some new drugs out here. They’re getting really creative in other countries with what’s on the market. They’re not cutting, they’re mixing. I think New York needs to kind of stop cutting and start mixing. We don’t need more fentanyl. We need more creativity.

RAJAGOPAL: Say that.

SILLEN: We need to normalize strains of ketamine. We need racemic ketamine and S isomer ketamine, not just this big bag that you get that you don’t know what it is. I think we need to not be so afraid of research chemicals. We’re afraid of anything with a number here because we think it’s that fake weed—


SILLEN: That made everybody drop dead outside Big Boy Deli back in 2011. We could use some innovation in this space.

RAJAGOPAL: Is there a puppy over there?

SILLEN: Isabella Lovestory is behind us petting a puppy.

RAJAGOPAL: Where’s the official Rash afters?

SILLEN: I feel like Basement, right? I mean, if you work in a bar on Myrtle, you go to Birdy’s at the end of the night, and if you work in a club, you go to Basement. That’s kind of the unspoken rule of Bushwick. Everyone has their opinions, but I think Basement is one of the most exciting things that we have. And thank god, thank fucking god for Basement.

RAJAGOPAL: Honestly.

SILLEN: Because I can’t do the apartment afters. I can’t do it.

RAJAGOPAL: It’s too cracky.

SILLEN: Listening to the worst gabber mix you’ve ever heard.

RAJAGOPAL: Gabber in the house sounds horrible.

SILLEN: Also an open call for everyone to stop playing gabber—

RAJAGOPAL: Stop playing it, period.

SILLEN: But also stop playing gabber on your Rokit speakers. Like, the yellow and black speakers with the XDJ. Those just shouldn’t go over 140 bpm.

RAJAGOPAL: I always feel like the meme of one person versus the crowd when I’m like, “I hate gabber.”

SILLEN: Me too. I’m sorry. I know I’m going to take a lot of hate for this, but we need a break because I think things sound so much sweeter when you take a break from them. I actually think I love it, I just think that it’s too much. You know how sometimes you break up with someone and you see them two years later and you can’t even remember why you broke up with them? How beautiful would it be to have that with gabber and hardcore? How amazing would it be to just almost forget they exist?

RAJAGOPAL: Beautiful. Did you hear that?

SILLEN: What did they say?

RAJAGOPAL: The girl said it’s giving Times Square out here.

SILLEN: I love that.

RAJAGOPAL: Let’s go inside.