William “Tragedy” Yager – Businessman Preserving an Iconic Scene for the Next Generation

So many have already interviewed William “Tragedy” Yager about his purchase of Albany’s legendary night club Fuze Box (formerly the QE2) but I waited for all the other formal interviews to be over with so I could just have a nice conversation with the man. Rob Smittix from RadioRadioX met Yager in his office area at his Howard Street location of Patsy’s Barber Shop and had a nice chat.

RRX: The day we received the call that you bought the Fuze Box, I was speaking with a friend and I said, “man I wish someone would buy it”. It honestly hurt my heart to see the building just sitting there with a for sale sign on it. What was it that made you go ahead and make it official? 

WTY: I thought I was saving it from the wrecking ball or a Starbucks or something of that nature. I know the developers that were looking at it, were actually looking at maybe even having to move it because it’s on the National Historic Registry as one of the last five White Tower Hamburger buildings in the country. My formative years were there. I’d like to say I grew up in there but I didn’t grow up anywhere, I haven’t grown up yet. I feel like as soon as you grow up God’s like, ‘good, you’ve grown up, get the f**k up here and play a harp or something’. I wanted other kids to have what I was able to have from (previous owners) Charlene and David Shortsleeve and from what they have built. They orchestrated such an amazing vibe and this is way before the Internet. Char had given us her blessing, which is amazing! 

I built the Fuze Box in the back of The Power Company (across the way from the current location), that was mine, so I felt like it came full circle. And I don’t know if being back at the beginning of the circle you started at is a good thing or not but I positioned myself (I guess) to probably be the only person that could do it. 

This is the building part. This is supposed to be the fun part getting the calendar together and what the nights are going to be. Wednesday night we want to do industry night, kind of like the old Alibi’s. Thursdays I want it to be emo night, because emo is huge right now. Friday is going to be the normal QE2ian/Fuze Box Goth night. Hex is the first Friday of the month and the third Friday of the month is Resist The Club. Now we’re structuring where other DJ nights might fall in. So, my vision now is kind of like the original QE2, where it’s live music until 10 P.M. and club night from 10 P.M. on. A smooth transition of music, so people can stay as late as they want as new people come through the door. That’s the vision. Saturdays will be house, EDM and all those different genres of an electronic DJ style. These things are for the young folks, so they can be the new us!

It’s not just about us remembering when this was the QE2. We can’t do that, we’re old. (Laughs) We’re going to make a cool viable space for the new generation.

RRX: I had so many great memories there as a young adult. Of course, we’d love to relive those days but making it a place for the next generation, I think that’s a great way to put it. 

WTY: That’s what the goal is. The Fuze Box/QE2, the Q Z Box 2 or whatever the f*** it is, has to remain a safe place for everybody in our community. When I say community, I’m talking about punk, gay, trans and everybody down the line. A comfortable place for them to be them and us to be us. 

RRX: I respect that, safety is key. Now, I’m sure you saw as soon as the news broke that you purchased the club how happy the community was.

WTY: That’s great to have all of that support but getting them out of their houses is another thing. We own barber shops, tattoo shops, laundromats and The Bull and Bee Meadery. The nature of business and how business is conducted has changed. It used to be consistency is everything and location, location, location, it’s not like that anymore. Now it really depends on social media, marketing and branding. As long as your cyber presence is there, that’s what the new location is. 

RRX: In the heyday of the club there wasn’t social media at all back then. Times sure have changed.

WTY: We own fuzeboxalbany.com but it’s as much the QE2 as it is the Fuze Box to me. Although the Fuze Box is my thing, the QE2 is what I see when I walk in there. It’s even hard for me to call it the Fuze Box, I’m still that old guy. I bought the Q, I mean the Fuze Box, I mean… what do I own? 

(Both laugh)

RRX: Yeah, I think we, “the older generation” all call it the Q. 

WTY: Generation Q.  

So, we’re trying to book local acts mostly, we want to support the local scene but also want the local scene to support itself. 

Things are different. Lucky for me, I’m very open-minded and very malleable. This is how it is now, fine let’s make it work the best we can. It’s a build, so now we’re building the business that was already there. We have a good foundation and a good reputation and a lot of support from the community. Now to get them to turn that support into showing up. I’ve got a lot of great press; it hasn’t always been that way for me in my life. You’re only one step away from being a sh**heel again so… I keep that in mind. Everybody’s like you’re a hometown hero. I’m like, ‘uhhh, no don’t do that to me, you’re setting me up to fall’. So, we’ll support the people that support us and everybody else whether they like it or not. We’re hoping on having a nice symbiotic relationship with Lark Hall, Empire Live and all the venues. Kip from Pauly’s reached out, that was nice of him. It has to be an all for one, one for all situation, otherwise you won’t get that scene back. 

Originally published in The Xperience Monthly, written by Rob Smittix

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