What a weekend that was! London never fails to surprise me, and from my base camp in deepest darkest Vauxhall – the Travelodge – I got to see a different side of the city. London scares me, it does. Its a gigantic, unwieldy hotch potch of scenes, styles and oh so many people that my head constantly spins when I’m there. Because of this, my trips to London are normally smash and grab affairs – train in late, party all night and first train home. But this time I had a few things on and so, had to get a hotel. Friday I was interviewing Diynamic boss H.O.S.H., Saturday was my debut at Ministry of Sound with Krafted Music, and Sunday I was hanging out with the cool cats in Clapham who run Gigalum.
I arrived on Friday night after a day in the office. Its the sheer volume of people that hits you first, and all those people seem to all know where their going and you don’t! Luckily, I have a bit of experience of this, so I dont bother queuing for a day ticket these days in the tube station, I just use my contactless card like an Oyster card (how pointless are Oysters cards anyway now we have contactless/Apple pay etc). From Paddington I caught the Circle line round to Victoria where I would swap to the Victoria line and head south of the river to my hotel a couple of stops further on. I’ve never been to Vauxhall sober before, so I was a little disorientated! haha. The hotel was fortunately right across the street from the tube station, and I made a beeline out of the cold and windy early evening.
Functional and clean, the Travelodge was fairly uninspiring. I was greeted by the busy receptionist with a sneer and a grumpy hello. “Must be nearly home time” I thought wryly. I got my keycard and headed up to my room. My first appointment of the weekend was at the glorious TAPE in Mayfair. I was to interview Holger Behn, better known as H.O.S.H to his legion of adoring fans. After jumping back on the tube – it really is the best way to travel around London quickly – I got off at Oxford Street station. This was my biggest mistake! I hadn’t accounted for the wave upon wave of tourists taking in the Christmas lights and bargains of late night big city shopping, or the hundreds of Londoners on their way home. I decide that rather than walk along Oxford Street towards Hanover Square and turn off at Harewood Place, I would take Regents Street and then go right along Hanover Street instead. I was pretty early, and my instruction was to wait outside the venue for the PR manager – Camilla to meet me. I took refuge in a nearby Pret a Manger and got a bite to eat and a coffee to warm me up.
TAPE London is like no other night club I’ve ever been in. Imagine if you can, an opulent gentleman’s club resplendent in Chesterfield armchairs and deep brown stained oak. The faint whiff of Cuban cigars and expensive brandy fills the air and everyone in attendance are the most glamorous and well dressed people in the world. I was in complete awe as I was lead through the front bar area where a live band were setting up and performing a quick sound check. In the back bar, tucked away in the corner, was a full SSL studio where a visibly excited Holger sat patiently with a beer as the film crew unwrapped wires and set up the camera. My first video interview. I was prepared, I’d had a shave!
Camilla introduced me to the crew and Holger and we started to chat off camera to build a rapport. Some artists are very tricky to talk to, focused only on their persona, as if they have to act a certain way all the time. Holger was the opposite. Easy going, cool as a cucumber and a delight to get to know, his humour shone through straight away, and it was easy to see how he has become as well liked as he has – its a charisma thing, some people have it, some don’t, positivity exudes from every pore, and you genuinely feel like you’re the only person in the world he is talking to. After having a good 30/40 minute chat, the interview started in earnest. Our videographer, Tracer (an old DJ name from his UKG days) was a real workhorse. Professional, polite and diligent, he directed us with ease which made the whole experience very pleasurable. The recorded interview was about 25 minutes long, I asked him all about his life, meeting Solomon and Stimming and starting Dynamic, touring and studio craft. Then Tracer asked if we could hang around while he got some b-roll footage to cut into the final video. Afterwards, Holger headed off to his hotel for a few hours sleep before his gig at TAPE later that night. I also went back to my hotel. Tonight was a chill night, I had to sort out Rekordbox, load my USBs, answer some emails for Decoded and get things ready for the Sunday mix and early Monday.
Saturday in London is a unique experience. Surrounded by some many people, so much energy, you can’t help but become swept up in it and before long you find yourself cursing tourists who fumble with their tube tickets at the barrier, and people who stand still on the left hand side of the escalators. I had planned a bit of a mooch around, and with Pimlico literally on my doorstep, it was a perfect opportunity to have a wander around Tate London. Well, that was the plan anyway…what actually happened was I went to the shop round the corner, bought a load of sandwiches, crisps and doughnuts and binge watched the latest series of Nashville (my guilt secret series)! Later that day sharing a beer with a DJ mate, we agreed that although you should go and experience things and see the world, the reality many times is that when you do it alone, its ultimately unforfilling because you can’t share the experience with loved ones. Certainly no way in London, a city well known for its standoffishness, was I going to approach a stranger and strike up a conversation. If I were in Manchester, I wouldn’t have worried, but London is different. Always has been for me.
Saturday night was dancing night. The butterflies had started to kick in around 7pm after I had got back from meeting Dean at Euston. I figured food was a good idea before a quick disco nap and the short tube ride over to the Elephant & Castle for the gig. I found a great burger joint just around the corner from the hotel, ordered a succulent cheese burger and curly fries and tucked in. It was amazing.
I was meeting up with the Krafted boys at a pub called the Rockingham Arms. Its just down the road from the Ministry, and if I’m honest, I was expecting a totaly different environment on entry. The reality was a fairly large Wetherspoon’s style bar with 5 beers on tap and a range of cheap wine and spirits. What I was expecting was a scene from Human Traffic with a bar full of young 20somethings having the time of their lives and a DJ spinning brilliant forward thinking house music, but those days are gone, and most people due to the cost of a pint in town would rather preload (that’s drinking before you go out) at home with their mates. Having never met any of the DJs I was playing with, introductions were made and we got to small talk and finding out a little about each other.
Before long, we had commonalities and the drinks flowed, loosening us up. On the short walk up to Ministry, I told the story of my first time at Cream at Nation in Liverpool. Another iconic club which conjured images in my mind of an enormous glass and steel building a little like Gatecrasher in Sheffield, but in actually fact was a series of grubby looking warehouses on a dimly lit back street in the city center (I kinda liked it wasn’t commercial though, and the locals are by far the friendliest in the country). We were quickly ushered in the bowels of the club and I was surprised by the kitchen diner where staff were sat with a late supper and a drink, chatting and laughing together and the open plan office next to it. Our room, the Baby Box, was currently being used for a private party, so we had to wait until 11pm before we could set up. Ben Stanbury kicked things off as we hung posters and made friends with the bar staff. His eclectic mic of deep vibey house and progressive was the perfect starting point and I was impressed by some of his selections. His set of around 45 mins succeeded in filling the room – mainly with South Coast friends who had mini-bused in, nonetheless, his considered approach won him many smiles and at least one new fan.
Ahead of me was Alex Jay (Pathogen Beats) who’s set comprised of garage and nu house influenced beats. Unfortunately his set up experienced some difficulties towards the end and the sound dipped a few times as his decks ground to a halt. Determinedly, he kept at it and found the fault pretty quickly, powering through to the end of his set. Then it was my turn. Alex had pushed the tempo a little too much, and I felt I needed to reset things a touch so my first track: Roni Size – Brown Paper Bag (Oli Furness Re-Rub) allowed me to mess with peoples minds and slow the tempo to a place more suitable for 12.30am. Jamie, who was playing after me, was going to play a techno set, so my job was to warm up for him and get the crowd in a techno frame of mind. Starting fairly jazzy with the fantastic Robosonic – Macho Madness, I weaved a soulful tech story taking in a couple of my forthcoming remixes for Evoked Recordings, the sensational Rhythm Masters remix for Todd Terry’s seminal Bounce to the Beat and a cheeky 3 deck mash up of Ben Sims presents Ron Bacardi – First Effort, REbEL – Hold You and Timo Garcia – Arp, ending up with my biggest track of the year: Real Gone Kid – Date With Victoria. I had a LOT of fun, but as normal, the set was over way too soon and I rejoined the dance floor. Jamie Ryves hammered the room after me pounding them with wave after wave of melodic techno and tough grooving beats, I really enjoyed it, but I also wanted to take a look around.
Next door in the Bar, House Music reigned supreme. A young black lad was tearing it up and the whole room was bouncing along to his infectious groove. I continued on to the Box with its ‘Excessive Sound’ signs clearly displayed and was greeted by the loudest, darkest, sweatiest rave I’ve seen in a long while. Olivier Giacomotto was in full control and played a lot deeper that I had imagined he would. But as much as I was impressed, I literally couldn’t manage to stay in the room for more than 10 minutes at a time, it was just too much, god knows how those kids dancing on the speaker stacks managed it, I had to admit defeat and returned to the Baby Box and the relative calm. Must be getting old…
After Jamie came Krafted owner Paul Sawyer and DJ buddy Paul Moore as Soultrak who laid down a deeper progressive vibe, which in fairness was well received by the Soton faithful and acted as a palette cleanser after Jamies techno assault. Now well into the night, their set took in classic sounds as well as cutting edge house. The crowd responded positively, finding a spot on the floor and really getting into the swing of it. Finishing with the stone cold classic Layo & Bushwacka! – Love Story (Tim Deluxe Mix). The penultimate set came from Emma Jai. Based in Dublin, she’s getting some serious exposure with her interesting mix of tech house. 4am proved to be a perfect time for her as the crowd hardly moved all set. Finishing off the Krafted room was a great DJ duo in the form of South Coast’s Ricky Chambers and Josh Lumsden. Ricky had had the weekend from hell already, breaking his foot earlier in the day, but he soldiered on and performed really well as he hopped around the DJ booth. Josh, a relative newcomer at just 19 years old was impressively good, slotting in perfectly with Ricky’s groove – I hardly noticed the transitions. Next door, my heroes Rhythm Masters played to an emptying Bar room; everyone was heading for James Zabiela in the Box, everyone but me. As much as I love the long haired scamp, I knew I wasn’t going to be in the room for too long, so I stayed to hear two of the guys that got me into House Music do their thing, and what a wonderful thing it was to witness.
Sunday. Headache wasn’t too bad. I took that to mean it was a delayed reaction and got as much sleep as possible. After some food and more series binge watching, I ventured out to Clapham for the Sunday session at Gigalum. Promoter Hilton Cresswell really knows how to through a party, and as the day shift left around 5pm and the party crowd arrived, the energy in the pub tangibly changed, as if a switch had been flicked. …or maybe it was the tequila shots we had. I was here to hang out, but also to support Emma Jai who had invited me along. She was headlining the night so wasn’t on for a while; we took the opportunity to chat, a have a drink and put the world to rights. Her set was greeted with rapturous applause and fervent excitement (seriously, keep an eye on this girl in 2016, she’s about to blow up!) as we all wanted to ring the last bit of the weekend out and cut some rug before the drudgery of working life smacked us around the chops like a big wet fish. As midnight came around and the bar staff told us we couldn’t have “just one more”, we slowly shuffled into the night and home. Another lost weekend in the nations capitol done and dusted. Check out Monday morning was going to be horrible, as was the train ride back west, but that was tomorrow. A million light years away…