King Lord


 

 

Infinite Audio's Lord Toussaint dominates Miami with professionalism and a staff full of killers.

By Kerri Mason

Lord Toussaint is Miami’s man, the tech guy about town who can hook you up with dinner reservations and VIP tables as ably as he can retune your system and run a cable. Everyone knows him, and most people hire him at some point. His company is Infinite Audio, a full-service sound and lighting firm that specializes in nightclubs, but does everything else too. His crew is 12 men strong: They wear uniforms, act professionally, and are damn good at what they do. Toussaint wouldn’t have it any other way. Toussaint was 14 when he took on his first job (albeit in his aunt’s apartment), but was soon installing audio systems for “girl’s clubs” and other nightspots about the beach. He dubbed the mobile DJ/installation company that grew out of such work Infinite Audio Systems, and incorporated it in 1984 at the age of 22. Since then, the former English Lit major has worked on over 300 nightclub installations, and built a small empire in downtown Miami. He has a 12,000-square-foot showroom/office/warehouse space which he owns, a souped-up Ghostbusters-type van that moves from job to job with his crew, and the most desirable account on or off the beach – Luis Puig’s warehouse success story Space. Club Systems chatted up the model entrepreneur (not hard to do) and got his take on what’s what in Miami.

Did you ever get caught up in the whole nightclub scene?

No, I’m very weird like that. I tell people, “We build them, but we don’t play them.” It’s very difficult for me to go out.

Why?

Two reasons: If we built it, I’m all over it. If we didn’t build it, I’m all over it to find out what was done wrong. It’s hard for me to let go, technically. So I’ll be the only idiot in the nightclub, looking up explaining to people what could have been done differently or what was done nicely. I analyze places we didn’t do very carefully, because there is always something to be learned from something that somebody’s done wrong or right. I don’t know when to close up shop; when to shut up and not talk technical. I’m always on the lookout.

Do you have any affinity for the music?

I enjoy the music, but in a very mechanical sense. I listen to the music for extensions of range as it applies to the product reproducing it. I like Earth Wind & Fire, but that’s not going to happen in a nightclub. So I listen to the product, and I listen to it for the system’s ability to play it back. I listen in a very cold, hard way. I listen well, and I listen deep, but I’m not always listening artistically. More often than not, I’m listening acoustically and mechanically. I’m listening technically.

Tell me what it’s like to be on the beach, in a competitive market like Miami. How do you survive?

On the beach, we built Club Nu in 1987; the next really big project was Amnesia, which was a stellar deal, in 1995. A few little things fell in between, but the beach market for the years in the beginning of the ’90s through 2000 was a market that we did not pursue unless it came knocking on our door. Everything was fly by night; the beach was not interesting to me. Thank God, because we’ve diversified our capabilities way beyond nightclub installations, which keeps us very sharp. We’re involved in large lecture halls, auditoriums, conference centers, boardrooms, restaurants, retail, theme environments. The nightclub has always been the most exciting part of my business; it’s not all my business. That benefits my entire clientele. We have financial strength, people, facilities, and property because we’re not just doing nightclubs. During that last decade, from 1990 to 2000, a lot of junk was built on Miami Beach, but now at the end of it, we’ve seen that people are again taking pride in building things right. Now we’re building them all. So that’s the change in the beach: It’s now resurging with quality projects.

Do you think that’s because patrons are demanding more of nightclubs?

Without question. I have my own theories why nightclub owners and designers and investors are more and more interested in building a good thing. I think they’re forced to do that. If they could get away with building $10,000 nightclubs, they would be okay with that. The public’s dynamic range has increased, and that is definitely due to the digital domain. The digital domain has allowed somebody that can buy a $100 CD player to understand a 110 decibel signal-to-noise ratio. I really think that the quality of audio in the home, and car, has made people better listeners. I think South Beach had so many failures, so many places, so many times, built quick on the cheap and not lasting. It was like a decade of closures; places were open one month and were gone after two months. They got tired of that, and are building projects that are more ready to finish right. Luckily, we get a chance to play a part in this. We’ve also learned that if we don’t build your first system, we’ll probably help you build your last one.

You started out on your own. How do you begin to build a staff of people you trust when it’s your business?

It’s incredibly difficult, building any kind of staff and having that staff perform to my standards, which are the standards that I know and the standards that my clients became accustomed to. One of my preferences is to take people from scratch, because audio has bad habits just like any other trade. Sometimes it’s better to take someone who has no audio experience, and teach them how to do things to a certain standard.

What sets Infinite apart?

We do things differently from a lot of people who install sound. A lot of them make it an egotistical quest to say, “Look at the sound I made.” We like to say, “Look at the money we’re going to make for our customer.” We understand whole-heartedly that most of our customers are absolutely not in the public service business. They’re not people who want to provide rich sound reinforcement to patrons. They want to make money selling alcohol. We understand the integration of audio, electronics, and intelligent lighting, and we understand the application and integration of audio technologies as they apply to the sale of alcohol, which is scary, because you never hear people in our business talk about the sale of alcohol. We know how to hang a system in a nightclub so that bars can move more fluidly. We know how to install a system in a nightclub by not aiming coverage into bars, so that bartenders can hear orders from customers. We respect that; a lot of sound reinforcement companies don’t even take that into account. We understand that we’re in the audio-for-selling-liquor business when we work in nightclubs. You look more at the patrons’ experience rather than the DJ’s perspective. We believe that both sides have to be taken into account. The DJ has to have a system that will allow him to express himself artistically, which comes through dynamic range and the appropriate coverage and reliability above all and redundancy. We design elements into the system on the DJ’s artistic perspective, but you can be sure that we’re not leaving out the owners’ perspective, because without it there is no club, there is no money, because there is no sale of liquor. If these were all public service gatherings, it would be a groove – we would focus only on the DJ. We absolutely look at both sides.

Tell me about this magnificent building you have.

It used to be great to go to an installation and explain things to people, and show literature, and we had a smaller facility that was 3,500 square feet total with a small showroom, but I put every penny that I had into the monster that I sit in now. And it really facilitates not only an explanation of the product, but it facilitates the product and the owner and the DJ and the installation from the moment the stuff hits the ground inside. We have an unbelievable receiving shop; we have a full assembly and fabrication area where we can lay out racks, load them with components, stand them and pre-wire them right off an air conditioned bench five feet from our stockroom cage; a nightclub showroom downstairs that has 24-foot ceilings like most of our clubs have. Trussing, intelligent lighting, rigging – we have an environment now that fosters that interaction. We built what we have to share with our clients.

So you basically have all of the amenities of a chain?

No. This is how I want people to think of us. Owners and DJs and architects and projects want solutions. I want people to think of us this way: We’re about a dozen strong, a highly specialized, well-equipped, very mobile audio and intelligent lighting commando force. Wherever you go, we drop the six black ropes and slide down the side of the building – we’re in, we kill the problem, and we’re out. Unlike a chain, this is like veterans. I’m collecting veterans. I just hired a guy that’s got 20 years of lighting experience. He’s from the bowels of Brooklyn and he’s been in every club in New York. I want people that are killers, and I tell my staff that there is no fooling around. We’re going to land somewhere, and we’re going to do in five days what it takes other people to do in five weeks moonlighting. It’s not that we look to do things with lightning speed, but our industry demands that if the schedule of a nightclub accelerates that we don’t knock off at five. We have the corporate smoothness, but we want to have the small firm aggressive capabilities and lightning fast employment.

     
Copyright 2002 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2002 TESTA Communications