Tuesday, 24 October 2017

There's a new crew in town - Interview with the Swinghoppers

Our correspondent Max meets up with the newest vintage remix act to come out of Bristol, the Swinghoppers to talk about their debut ep.

I had the great opportunity to catch up with one of the Vintage Remix scenes new exciting acts, The Swinghoppers. The group consisting of: Offbeat, Pye (AKA Pieman), Sharleena Ray and DJ Awesome Wells, they come together to combine the sounds of 1930’s Swing with Hip-Hop. I spoke with them about their latest EP release and got to know a bit more about who the Swinghoppers are.

MAX: First things first, who are the Swinghoppers?

Pye - The Swinghoppers is a new group that aims to fuse the feel good vibes of 1920s Swing music with the swagger and energy of golden era Hip Hop! It’s a collaborative project between Offbeat (Rapper), Pye (Beatboxer), Sharleena Ray (Singer) and DJ Awesome Wells (DJ). All of us have a deep love for both of those genres (and know lots of other people do too), so we just want to mix them together and create something that's exciting and fun to listen to.

MAX: Tell us a bit about what you guys are all about.

Offbeat - I’ve been rapping over Electro Swing for a couple of years as a solo artist (you can check out an interview I did with Jack the Cad on my own here ). I’d wanted to put together a band for ages but didn’t know any musicians who were right for it. I met Pye at Boomtown in 2016, through a mutual friend (a DJ who goes by the name of Dutty Moonshine). We hit it off straightaway and discovered we just lived round the corner from each other! When we got back to Bristol we met up a couple of times and discussed the project. He mentioned he’d been working with a singer called Sharleena and eventually we all met. It wasn’t until then that I even thought of forming the band with vocalists rather than instrumentalists. The final element we needed was a DJ who understood both hip hop and swing music inside out, as well as knowing how to rock a party. Then it hit me, I'd met Awesome Wells through my solo career and he fits the bill perfectly. We arranged a meeting, we hit it off straight away and we’ve been performing together ever since.

Sharleena - Fresh to Bristol a few years back, I was looking to build a new music community and set up an alternative, entertaining and light-hearted choir doing dance tunes called "Voices From The Rave". We were after a beatboxer to hold down the tempo and low and behold, Pye showed up. We ended up doing some workshops at festivals together and a few open mics, and then he told me about a rapper he’d been working with called Offbeat. We all met up at an open mic one night and performed. It went really well and when we went to the bar afterwards the barman said “That was great! How long have you guys been together?” we all looked at each other and said “Uh, about 20 minutes!” and the rest is history!

MAX: Congratulations on the release of your new EP. Tell us a bit about the process of how it all came together.

Offbeat - Thanks! The E.P. is called ‘Welcome to the Family’ and is available to download for free from our website (http://theswinghoppers.com). We called it that because it’s really an introduction to what we do, we’ve got a couple of classic Hip Hop tunes we’ve Swingified and vice versa. We’ve deliberately picked songs that everyone knows but then put our own unique spin on them, so for example the opening track ‘Minnie’s Revenge’ is a reimagining of Minnie the Moocher, but instead of Minnie being a victim, she’s actually a femme fatale who’s playing the other characters off against each other. We’ve made a film noir style video for it as well which is a lot of fun and you can check here https://youtu.be/dJJurzwpgPg

In terms of how the E.P. came together, we actually used a producer called Odd Chap who’s based in New Zealand. He’s produced a lot of my solo stuff and I love working with him, so it was an obvious choice to bring him in for this E.P. as well.

Pye - For me working on the E.P. was really special. I performed as a rapper when I was growing up but for the last 10 years I've been pretty focused on beatboxing, working on solo stuff, as well as working with bands, such as The String Project. Anyway, I was a bit apprehensive when I suggested to the others that I write some lyrics for The Swinghoppers. But they were really cool about it so I sat down and started turning some dusty old brain cogs to see what came out. As soon as I put pen to paper it felt right. It was like a door being reopened and suddenly I was able to explore a creative side of myself which I'd been neglecting for the better part of a decade. Hopefully that experience comes across and you can hear the joy and the freedom of it in the E.P.

MAX. We know you and the other members have worked on other projects in the past, so how does it feel to have come together to collaborate, and how does it contrast to working as a solo artist?

Sharleena - For me, it's been super productive and a real whirlwind. Having a team helps massively: as well as having extra people working on it, you also have a constant feedback loop of good ideas and enthusiasm. We're also super creative individually so as a four it's an endless bubbling pot of ideas, not to mention jokes.

Offbeat - As a solo artist I was used to getting my own way 100% of the time, so at first it did require a bit of adjustment to take on constructive criticism and hear other people’s points of view, but ultimately that has led to a better end product because there are things I may have let go or cut corners on that I’ve not been allowed to!

The main thing though is just the sheer power of having four equally driven people striving towards a common goal. In the past I’ve done everything myself but working with other people who I trust to get the job done just makes me feel like we’re unstoppable!

That all sounds very businessy, but from a musical point of view I just love working with these guys. They’re so talented, passionate and knowledgeable that it genuinely feels like a privilege every time we perform together.

MAX: Do you guys have any particular inspirations or artists that you admire that have helped to influence your own sound?

Sharleena - Personally, the heartbroken vocals of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday together with the extravagant scatting skills of Ella Fitzgerald.

Offbeat - This list is endless for me as I’ve got rappers who inspire me with lyrics, ones who inspire me with voices, ones with flows, ones with performance and showmanship - and that’s not even mentioning any other types of musician or genre! I guess if I had to pick two rappers who I have inspired me the most it would be Ice-T (as he was my first real introduction to Hip Hop) and Mys Diggi who showed me you can be yourself and have a sense of humour with lyrics.

Pye - Such a broad range of influences for me. I was listening to rock music in my early teens, then got into soul and reggae and hip hop. Especially the UK hip hop scene, but also well crafted American hip hop like Jurassic 5, Deltron 3030 and The Roots. More recently I've got into drum n bass, ghetto funk and electro swing and am listening to people like Father Funk, Jenova Collective and Mista Trick. In terms of beatboxing, I was influenced by Rahzel when I was growing up but I always take inspiration from people at the forefront of the art form, like D-Low (Current UK Beatbox Champion) and Freddy Beats (Spanish Champion).

Awesome Wells - I also listened to a lot of rock music growing up, and started my career as a vocalist in a metal band. These days I am a full time DJ, playing all sorts of stuff from classic jazz, swing and rock n roll, to electro swing and drum n bass. My main inspirations as a DJ are DJ Lethal, C2C and The Avalanches.

MAX: What music production software do you guys use to make your music? Any particular reasons for your choice?

Offbeat - You’d need to ask Odd Chap that but seeing as he’s in New Zealand we’ve transported him through the magic of Social Media to answer himself: 

Odd Chap -“Ableton Live 9 - I’ve found the layout and features easy to use, it's has everything you need for music production and if you want to take your tracks live its easy enough to do that.”

MAX: What is next for The Swinghoppers and where can we see you perform?

Awesome Wells - Well at the moment we’re just trying to get as many shows as possible to get our name out there! We’ve got quite a few booked already for 2018, but the next big show you can catch us at is Dec 8th at Swing N Tingz in Bristol! We’ll be supporting our good friend Professor Elemental and we’ll already have some more new material we’re working on at the moment so it will be a show to remember!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Does your garage have a swing in it?

Swing n Bass maestro, film maker and Jack the Cad contributor Fizzy Gilespie, aka Max Golfar*, has made something a little bit different. We're all about showcasing the really interesting stuff, the innovative and the new, so this is a bit of a no-brainer.

Fizzy: This mix has been a project of mine I’ve been putting together for quite some time now. This is probably the longest I have spent on a mixtape before. The hardest part of it was finding the tunes - this is probably the most obscure and niche side of the Vintage Remix spectrum, even more so than Swing Drum’n’Bass.

I was initially turned on to this sound by the Catjam boys, so a big shoutout has to go them. Without those guys, I would not have discovered this sound. Dutty Moonshine & Extra Medium are also pushing this sound, so I implore you all to go and check these guys out. These are the people really trying to expand the scene into a new and unique sound. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the mix, it ain’t your typical Swing mixtape! ;-)

*Which is your favourite pic of Max? I think we might have to make the one in the Soundcloud embed his official byline pic...[Ed.]

Friday, 7 July 2017

Caravan Palace Live Review - Syed goes weak at the knees

Syed could barely contain his excitement when one of the world's top electro-swing acts swung into his home town of Toronto.

Caravan Palace are one of the giants of Electro Swing who hail from Paris, France and have placed flags of their fame all over the world. One just can’t expect to buy a ticket on the day of the concert if you are going to watch Caravan Palace perform in your city. If you hear that Caravan Palace are coming to your city, you must buy tickets as soon as you get an internet access and a credit card.

A few months ago I heard that there would be a TD Toronto Jazz Festival during the months of June and July which sort of interested me because of my recent love of vintage music but I prefer a very specific sub-genre of jazz: swing music. Little did I know that Caravan Palace would be one of many performers participating in TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Among my 500+ list of ‘friends’ on Facebook, only a few people seemed to show interest in the upcoming Festival. If I had not added the main vocalist of this band, Zonia, on my Facebook, I would not have known that Caravan Palace were coming to Toronto and were part of the festival. TD stands for Toronto-Dominion and it is one of the 5 major banks in Canada. If TD sponsors an event, it got to be worth it.

I was very excited. Caravan Palace had come to Toronto before but somehow I missed it. I purchased the ticket which was a pretty decent price considering how famous they are – just about three times expensive than a small regular Electro Swing night in Toronto. After buying the ticket, I found out that one my close friends (not just a Facebook ‘friend’) was also coming which got me even more excited and motivated. I think the excitement and motivation was a result of the fact that she was the only other brown person who knew what electro swing was!

I have been closely following Caravan Palace for almost 6 years and am well aware of their music style. Except a couple of songs, e.g. Beatophone, they don’t really rely on house beats to make their music known. Their use of vintage + modern instruments in a very inimitable way makes them really unique – some of the examples, which come to mind, are Rock It For Me, Jolie Coquine and Dramophone. Their music is also very vocal heavy and Zonia really can sing at any pace while the band members keep up with their live instruments.

Parking was impossible to find outside Toronto’s The Phoenix Concert Theater – where they were performing. After driving around aimlessly, I managed to find a spot after getting some assistance from a couple who also going to see Caravan Palace. However, they did not know what electro swing is [(!) Ed.]. When I entered the theater, I noticed hundreds of people standing and dancing to Benny Berigan’s Snake Charmer and, later, some songs by Parov Stelar. It was an empty stage and Caravan Palace, who were supposed to begin at 9:00pm, were still backstage. The standing crowd shouted for them while they danced to house beats being mixed by DJ Richard Medicineman – one of the few organizers of electro swing nights in Toronto who also runs Toronto Vintage Society.

Eventually, the seven-piece band appeared on the stage which was introduced by a host with the words including “electric sound” and “music from 1920s”. The term “electro swing” was never used and I wish it had been. This could have helped some of the unknown, but boundary-pushing, producers from all over the world. Oh well, I think it was still somewhat accurate description of Caravan Palace who can’t REALLY be called an electro swing band because of their musical style even though they are one of the most well-known among electro swing fans.

Despite I have been following their music for a long time and even have bought their CD from a now-closed called HMV, I could not recognize their first song. But, God, their performance was amazing! The DJ had a giant LED-based Caravan Palace’s logo in front of his cool and complicated equipment which lit up as the beat dropped or as the tune glitched (during Je M’Amuse). It really added to their performance I must say. Zonia was high on electro swing and gave a mind-blowing performance in every song she performed. There was even a slow Jazz track during which she sat on a chair with her legs crossed and basically turned on every person in the audience with her voice!

I had seen some of their live performances on YouTube and Rock It For Me probably has highest number of views. As soon as that classic swing tune began, I knew they were going to rock it for us. I literally yelled out, “Whooooo!” during the very sudden and unexpected quiet moment in the audience (while they waited for their next song to start but they were still quiet). Many people turned around and looked at me and I yelled out the next word, “Finally!” This was during the middle of their performance and the word “Finally” sort of expressed my frustration. I had gotten a bit disappointed by then. My disappointment was not due to their performance (which was out of this world throughout) but was with the use of really heavy house beats in almost every song. For ONE second I started to wonder what would happen if I had hacked their DJ equipment and played my really amateurish house track which I made in few minutes. I was sure that people would dance in the same way knowing Caravan Palace were standing in front of them even though my shitty beats would have been playing through their hacked system.

Rock It For Me had more jazz in it followed by their signature solo + pair swing/Lindy Hop/Charleston dance routine which they had done to this song around the world. The timing was exquisite and that was probably my favorite performance of the night. Later, the songs turned back to them singing-their-guts-out-while-band-members-played-their-hearts-out-through-not-so-dinstinctive-musical-instruments-but-people-only-danced-hard-when-the-beat-dropped.

All in all, it was still one of the best experiences of my life and the best experience since Swingrowers visited Toronto. People absolutely loved them and there was so much noise, when they did the final pose before leaving, that I was almost certain I had lost my hearing. People would not stop cheering for them and they deserved it I must say. It would have been nice if they had finished with Dramophone (their most celebrated song probably) and Lone Digger (one of the most famous electro swing tracks from last year) but they still finished it on a high and with audience full of insatiable energy.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Julien IncontroL - Syed meets a pioneer

Julien IncontroL was one of the first artists that this blog ever came across, and his take on the swing-house sound has informed many copy-cats, surely a mark of greatness. Here's what happened when Syed spoke to him about his latest project.

In one of my earliest posts, I went over my specific musical journal as a listener only. After living for six years in Canada, when I discovered House Music, I went crazy and listened to every 4x4 beat I could get my hands on: classic 1980s through newest releases. When it started to bore me and when “We Speak No Americano” went past my listening limit, I turned to Saxo-House. There was not enough good Saxo House out there but it kept me hooked for a while.
The first ever track, I heard, by IncontroL, I took it as a Saxo House track but better than anything I had heard in a very long time. I listened to it so many times but I never got tired of it. It is called Le Swing Ist King. It was right up my alley. I should have tried to listen to more stuff by IncontroL and Wolfgang (the duo behind the making of Le Swing Ist King) but, by then, the electro swing world had already opened up to me and, without caring who the singer/band/producer was, I was already living in a modern swing era, but, as a tourist.

Over the time, I came across many electro swing tracks by IncontroL and, as a swing house fan, he became one my favourites of all time. Julien IncontroL is a French producer + DJ, a former French resident who lives in New Caledonia, Canada now. Though some of his swing house tracks (some with Wolfgang Lohr, a German electro swing DJ/producer) made him really well-known in electro swing community (most of its newest members mostly start with swing house), he has taken upon various vintage music styles/genres including minimal swing, swing hop and electro blues among many others. His brand new album, Let’s Fall In Love, contains something for every electro swing listener. Every song is refreshingly unique and no two songs sound the same. He really has pushed the boundaries when it comes to blending different elements of vintage musical styles even including the vocals.

He got a chance to speak with me about his personal musical journey as a listener and as a producer/DJ and, also, about his new album, Let’s Fall In Love, which will be released on June 30th, 2017 and has been available for pre-sales since June 15th, 2017. It can be found on Itunes, Spotify, Bandcamp and Google Music.

Here is the transcript:

Syed: Thank you so much.for speaking with me.

Julien: Thank you. You taking (out) time for me. I appreciate that.

S: No no, not a problem. Thank you. Well, it’s a bright new day in New Caledonia, eh [it was 7:15pm in Toronto and sun was setting in about 2 hours].

J: Yeah, when I moved in with my girlfriend, there was a lot of light so we have to put on glasses [shows me view outside the window]

S: That is very nice. Oh my God.

J: That is Nouméa, you know – the place I live in. It is cloudy but there is so much light that you need to put sunglasses (on). [laughs]

S: Just want to start here: I have been listening to your music for a very long time. You know one of your songs, Le Swing Ist King – I don’t know if I am pronouncing it correctly – that was the first song that got me into electro swing in the very first place a long time ago. Back then, I used to search for Saxo House music and then you used saxophone in this (track) and it really opened my path towards electro swing because of that. I have noticed that you and Wolfgang Lohr worked on many songs before. You, as a New Caledonian resident, and him, as a German resident, how did you guys meet?

J: Actually, I just came back to New Caledonia two years ago. When I met Wolfgang, I was living in France actually. I was DJ’ing in Switzerland and Germany very often. I just sent a message to him: “I really like what you do (so) maybe we can do a track together”. It was very nice and easy. He said, “Yeah, come to my place and we can start a project”. We started on internet and, then, when I went to Berlin, we worked on this song: Le Swing Ist King. This is between French and German – French and German words in the same sentence.

S: Oh, I see. I never caught that.

J: « Le » is french, « Swing » is universal, « ist » is german and « king » you know… Le swing ist king !

S: [Looking at IncontroL’s earliest post on Soundcloud which is an electro swing mix] Were you producing when you got into electro swing?

J: Yes, yes. I started to produce when I was maybe 18. It was the beginning of Soundcards and computers – you know you could buy a Soundcard for cheaper price. It was home studio when I started to play with different things. Yeah, sure, I did.

S: Many of your earlier electro swing tracks can be put into the category of swing house, especially You Got me Voodoo, Indian Chief, Baton Rouge, etc. I am personally a huge fan of your swing house tracks. What attracted you towards Swing-House in the beginning over other sub-genres of electro swing music in your earlier days?

J: Do you mean what track inspired me?

S: I mean, what inspired you about Swing House as compared to other forms of electro swing music in your earlier days? Why did you begin with swing house?

J: When I first discovered it – do you know G Swing?

S: Yes, definitely. For sure.

JIt is in my CD collection here. I bought the CD and I was with one of my best friends. The first time we came across electro swing was through Caravan Palace. I was living in Paris and a few people knew them. We just went to a show and we saw them live. It was very exciting and it was very good to see this music being played this way. I really thought that this was a great (way of) mixing: DJ’ing and mixing with swing music at the same time. [Julien is also looking for the album through his collection] I don’t know where the album is. It is somewhere in there. We discovered Caravan Palace. Then we looked on internet and found G-Swing – that project really inspired me the most. Most of the tracks were swing house and swing hop. I don’t know when I started to produce [swing house]. I like all genres of music.

S: For sure, I noticed. You have many variations on your Soundcloud page.

J: My album is also very different.

S: Exactly, I was going to talk about that actually [laughs]. Before we get into that, you probably see the posts on Electro Swing public page (on Facebook), many electro swing artists have criticised the 4x4 swing house music and they have claimed that, because of this, electro swing may die one day or it is not evolving when everyone keeps making swing house. What is your personal opinion on that?

J: I think that in some way they are right. I like swing house. For me, it was natural to make swing house music. There are many great artists who make great swing house music but I also think most of the artists making swing house music are not taking it very seriously. They don’t have much of jazz and swing culture. They are doing it like McDonald’s songs – doing it very quickly, and just taking a loop/sample and putting it together. 

I think most of the people do not know the story of jazz. They just do it because it is trendy and they want to do something which could have play counts on the Soundcloud and ‘likes’ on Facebook. I think they [electro swing listeners/artists/DJs criticising excessive production of swing house music] are right in that way. I think people who criticise swing house music also like and play some of these tracks (the nest ones). There are great tracks in swing house. I would say 90% is not good.

As a DJ, when I look for swing house, it is getting harder and harder to find good tracks. If you are open minded and a music lover and a good DJ you just select good music, call it swing hop, swing hop, electro jazz or whatever… [laughs].

S: As an electro swing artist, how hard is it for you to remix or cover the older swing tunes as compared to creating brand new swing tunes with the help of people who can play musical instruments? Some artists are taking older swing tunes and some artists are actually hiring people to [play musical instruments for their tracks] or they play [instruments] themselves including piano, trumpets, sax, etc.? What is your approach towards [making] electro swing music these days? Do you think it is more effective to dig the older tunes or spend some money and hire people [to have a bigger band to play the music]?

J: I like to do both. Sometimes, I play the guitar and get friends playing saxophone or [other] instruments. But, it does not really matter. If it is good, you are happy with it, people like it and have a good time listening/dancing to it, it is fine with me. To me, it is not important. I think, if you are using samples, you can play on the samples. Then, it creates new harmonic landscapes and you can go in other directions. It is very interesting to have samples in the beginning, take them off, play/get inspiration from the samples, and go in different directions. This is something I personally do sometimes but there are many different approaches. If the result is good, whatever you way you get there…

S: What are some of the challenges you have faced as an electro swing artist?

J: Maybe, [one of the challenges] is getting new ideas and make them grow – not stay in the same [for example] swing house like you said. You could make more than one tracks easily but try other things. When we started, we were very excited about electro swing. [After making] more and more, [now] it is more like global beats, world music, [special] kinds of old tunes, special vibrations – I think I would not even say that I am [an] electro swing [producer/artist/DJ] only. The challenge is to make new songs and keep being happy making them.  The best challenge for musicians/artists is to just do new things and not [use] the same recipe: “Oh, this is working so I will do this, this and this again”. In Swing House, maybe that is [what the] critics [are saying]: “[They] just add the noise and just do the same thing over and over”. As a good artist, try different things. Songs are evolving/changing and that is what I am trying to do.

S: Thank you for sharing your album with me. I really appreciate that. Thank you. I did listen to it and it is beyond amazing. I have noticed that your new album has a very refreshing unique style of electro swing/vintage music bordering electro blues with some swing hop in it and some minimal swing. There are a lot of different/unique and refreshing styles merged/blended together. Tell me a bit about your new album and what kinds of surprises the listeners can look forward to?

J: If they know me from before, the surprise would be that it is not really club music. It is more downtempo. This is the kind of music you want to listen to in your car or at home. The surprise is that every track is different. There are different styles of music [in the album]. I really hope that people take time to listen to it from beginning to end because when you are doing an album, you are trying to imagine a little story. I am trying to create a journey.

S: It’s a great album.

J: Thank you very much. I hope people enjoy the music because that is basically what we try to do: make people enjoy the music. It was great to work with all the musicians [involved in this]. It was really nice to meet all these people and do all this together. More importantly, many artists contributed to this album.

S: Was this album, if you don’t mind answering, self-funded?

J: Yeah. I got money from a music contest in New Caledonia. [As] I told you [that] I came back 2 years ago to New Caledonia. When I came here, there was a music contest here. I won some money in that because I applied at the contest and they liked my project. I got some money which allowed me to make some CDs and pay for good mastering. Mainly, it was from that money that I won and the rest was [paid] by myself. There was no fund-raising.

S: Could you please tell me about your any upcoming tours or future plans – maybe to play some of the songs from your new album around the world? Do you have any plans?

J: I have some friends who asked me to come back to play in Europe. For now, I am going to stay in New Caledonia. Next time, when I come to Europe, I will get some shows like a mini tour. I think I can organize something. But, right now, I am doing a live set to play the album here in New Caledonia. It is a small country. There are not so many people but there are good musicians [here]. It is more like experimenting stuff: how to play the album with this kind of setup [showed me his setup] including mixer, loopers, turntables, a guitar, etc. I want to leave room for live improvisation. I will use loopers too. I will take some elements from the album and try to play it live. This is big challenge for me, something exciting and maybe I’ll come to tour in Europe or somewhere else. Ever since I came here, my life has changed so much. I am going to bed early [laughs]. I got away from the clubs because it was too crazy for me. I just want to take time and live with the nature. It is a different lifestyle totally. I really enjoy making music. For touring, I don’t know – I have no plans yet, we’ll see…

S: I know your album has been released on bandcamp. Has it been released on any other places where we can get it from?

J: It will be everywhere: Itunes, Spotify, Google Music….everywhere. There will also be some CDs from CD Baby. They are not made yet. I think I will get them in 15 days or a month – I don’t know.

S: Will your CDs be available in the other countries as well?

J: You can buy CDs off CD Baby and they can send it anywhere in the world.

S: That’s perfect. Thank you so much Julien for speaking with me. You are one of the earliest electro swing artists I know of. There are a lot of new people/DJs and copycats but you, Wolfgang Lohr, Parov Stelar, etc. are one of the earliest ones who brought this (music) around the world. I remember one of your songs was posted on the electro swing page (called Big Voodoo) and everyone was going crazy trying to figure out who made that song. You had shared that song a long time ago. It has been an honor speaking with you. I hope you have a good rest of the weekend.

J: It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time and doing this. Just keep on listening to good music.

S: I will. Thank you so much. Have a good one.

Please, give his album a listen when it gets released on June 30th. I was lucky to hear it earlier and loved every bit of it. There are some mind-numbing brilliant tunes in there. Please, as Julien IncontroL said, take some time to listen to it. You will enjoy it and will want to play in your car or to just dance to it!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Passed Clouds - A Story of a Dying Club Culture

Tally ho, you lot. Normally I like to keep this blog fairly lighthearted and try to avoid getting too political about things, but today is a bit different.

Below you'll see a short film made by one of our talented correspondents - Max - about the steady decline of club culture in the UK. I know that a lot of you are based overseas (bad luck), but the principals discussed in this film are pertinent to all big cities.

The last few years have seen a number of famous and not so famous clubs close their doors in the face of heavy handed local authorities, outdated licensing laws and the predations of planning authorities.

The club that this film focuses on, Passing Clouds, was the sort of venue that our scene relies upon. We're never going to be in a super-club like Fabric, which can rally the support of thousands of passionate followers. We need these open-minded venues to support our scene, which the mainstream are not going to back.

In fact, Passing Clouds was one of London's top vintage remix venues - in my top five places to check if I wanted a last minute night out. Around the same time that PC closed its doors for the last time, another of vintage remix's first homes shut down, the Bedroom Bar.

As Chris Tofu indicates in the film, the developers and incomers are not interested in preserving cultural hotspots if they can make more money by turning them into flats, while in the unlikely event that a venue doesn't disappear during a 'regeneration' project, the chances are they're going to want to play mainstream, middle of the road music. They're risk averse, these developer types.

Anyway - Check out the film, and have a read of Max's 'Director's Notes' below. And if there's a venue near you that's under threat, stand up and do your bit to protect it, lest we all have to listen to Deadmau5 and his ilk forever more.

Toodle pip

Jack the Cad

‘Passed Clouds: A Story Of A Dying Club Culture’ is a documentary about Club Culture and the closure of clubs throughout the UK.

This documentary was originally made for my final university project, and it is about an issue which is very close to my heart. Nightclubs and grassroots music venues are seeing their doors shut, up and down the country, many of which receive no fanfare at all.

The documentary intends to bring a focus on to clubs such as Passing Clouds and bring attention to other grassroots venues that have faced similar fates. As a DJ myself, I performed at Passing Clouds and Bedroom Bar only a few weeks before they each had to shut their doors. I had some of my first ever gigs at those venues, and to see them get shutdown was totally devastating.

It is fantastic to see people rally to save clubs such as Fabric, but unfortunately most clubs don’t have the following or financial capabilities to keep their doors open in hard times.

The closures come down a few key reasons: the price of property, increases in rent, drugs, noise issues, as well as local councils enforcing difficult to meet restrictions & being unsupportive of the nighttime industry.

In the documentary I speak with a number of industry professionals who share their thoughts on the closures and the reasons behind them, as well as sharing their personal anecdotes of what club culture means to them.

I also explore how clubs and music venues play an invaluable economic role to our society, but even more importantly, how they play a significant role in bringing people together and creating communities which otherwise might not have existed without these venues & spaces.

Last year the BBC made a short documentary on the topic of club closures, but I felt that it trivialised and failed to truly show the meaning that club culture plays in many people’s lives. One of the key problems I found with was their choice of interviewees. One on whom was Steve Aoki, an American EDM DJ. I felt he was highly unqualified to speak on the topic of UK club culture, and that his fame was the only reason for being in the documentary. It ends up coming across as very corporate and unrepresentative of real underground scenes. My documentary attempts to try and look at the topic from the people who are really involved in the scene, and to give an unfiltered view into how the people who are really being affected feel (Rather than a multi-millionaire DJ who doesn’t even live in this country).

The main purpose of the documentary is to inform people about the significance that club culture plays in many people's lives, and to show that it is more than just going out and getting pissed with your mates on a Friday night; but rather it is about music, love & human connection.

It doesn’t matter what music you like, whether it’s Electro Swing or Jungle or Techno, if you care about your subculture, it is time to stand up and protect it, because if things keep going the way they are, there will not be anything left to protect.

If you are interested in reading more about the topic, here are a couple different reports which I used in my research for making this documentary:

Nighttime Industries Association: ‘Forward Into The Night’:

Mayor of London’s ‘Rescue Plan For London’s Grassroots Music Venues’: