What Happens at Culture Box in Copenhagen has, for the last nine glorious years, been a real jewel in the crown of the Danish club scene. Frequented by a surprisingly diverse, well informed and engaged crowd, Culture Box has seen resident Tim Andresen carve out a niche sound for loyal regulars focusing more on the curation of music; the overall journey of the night ahead of booking the hottest new DJ just to sell tickets.
His is a story of promoting the ‘old fashioned way’ where patron experience is paramount, and making money a happy byproduct for years of dedication and passion for music. Decoded Magazine caught up with Tim ahead of the label’s 9th birthday celebrations to chat about his career as a DJ, the value of residents and what’s in store for the next 9 years.
Hi Tim, its great to see you again, its been way too long. How are you?
Hi Simon, I’m very well thanks. Yes it’s been a while since we talked last but I’m keeping myself busy and doing what I like and love the most.
For those that don’t know, can you tell us about Culture Box and how you came on board?
The club opened the doors in January 2005 by owners Loke Busch and Kenneth Christiansen. At the time I was playing regular b2b sets with my friend Rune (Kölsch) and we both held residencies at Vega and Rust where we occasionally played sets together. Kenneth Christiansen who is responsible for the music profile at Culture Box called us in for a meeting and asked if we would be up for doing an all-nighter on a Friday night.
The place was rammed and that was the start of our popular ‘Together’ nights that ran for 4 years before we decided to go separate ways. I continued to play twice monthly at the club and focus on both my newly launched What Happens residency and other projects and also stepped up to help the owners at the office one day a week when things really took off and the club grew bigger (despite it’s still kind of small on an international scale).
How critical has the success of the night been down to the residents?
Our residents and regulars have played a huge part in the success of the night. In the early years we didn’t book a whole lot of big international headliner names but relied on what we think were some of the finest talents out of Copenhagen at the time. Some of them are still with us. Without the support and great music from the people involved we wouldn’t be where we are now and did what we did for the past 9 years. Around 2011 I decided to take it up a step up and always book international names too. Now I’m switching between good friends and supporters of the label, people I admire as DJs and artists signed with us. Still supported by the residents of course.
Can you tell us about any DJ success stories from What Happens at Culture Box?
Some of our earliest residents include Massimo (a.k.a Menson or Jazz Menson), Deluxe and Steffen H. Massimo basically got his career breakthrough here and was later awarded for his DJing. Steffen H is still with us today and one of the cornerstones of running the label and the night.
Another bi-monthly resident is the talented Paxton Fettel. His unique style of old school disco, funk and jazz influenced house music is slightly different from what I usually play and he has been the perfect alternative and addition in the Red Box (room 2 at Culture Box) where he plays with his partner in crime Ryan Dank and various guests. What Happens was also the platform that helped to shape the early DJ careers of Denis Horvat, Chris Minus (better known as Christian Nielsen these days) and others half a decade ago.
It’s great to hear you give the DJs long time slots to really develop a groove and take the music in different directions. In your opinion who does this better than anyone?
There are still so many great DJs around so it’s hard just to pick just one. But to mention a few, I recently had Danny Howells with me as my guest and he really took people on a journey through deep house territory through to what you would probably describe as progressive house and techno and even a couple of carefully placed rock tracks to finish off. I also had Mihai Popoviciu here in February and his set was as good as all his production. Filthy, dirty tech house and not a single tune I disliked all night. That is rare these days where we can all be picky about the music right.
The longest set I remember played by a single DJ was Nic Fanciulli who carried on for 7.5 hours and the crowd stayed to the very end. It was also the only night in the history of What Happens where I didn’t play myself. There was no reason for him to stop what he did as it was seriously going off and continued to do so. He did apologise to me the day after but there was no reason for that. I enjoyed it just as much on the dance floor so that was all fine.
What’s been the one reoccurring challenge to the night than you come up against in Copenhagen?
For people to understand how expensive it is to book international DJs of this caliber and all the extra costs involved in running a night. With a limited 400-capacity we can’t give away free entrance and that has been a challenge for some to understand and respect. It’s still a pretty low and reasonable fee to get in though. I guess some people have just been used to all the guest list and VIP nonsense and we are not one of those clubs and never will be.
Tell us about your personal favourite tracks over the years, or tracks which have been broken most successfully at Culture Box?
Wow, there are a lot but let me think… Numerous tracks and remixes by Mihai Popoviciu, Markus Homm, Oxia, Hot Since 82 and Gorge stick to my mind. Gorge’s remix of Affkt’s ‘Jakla’ in particular was huge and always a party starter. Other tracks include Santé’s remix of Anek’s ‘Come Out To Play’ played heavily by both myself and Steve Lawler when he was here and several others.
From the earliest days I remember tracks like James Talk ‘Pass The Suntan Lotion (Nic Fanciulli Remix)’ and Thabo ‘Barcelona’ on Drumpoet Community. One of the classics I have played numerous times that always get a proper reaction is King Unique’s remix of Underworld’s ‘Two Months Off’ and another one to be mentioned here is ‘Sandcastles’ by Dennis Ferrer & Jerome Sydenham, a track both Nick Fanciulli and Joris Voorn played when they were my guests. One I guess we will never be tired of hearing.
Obviously, there are several of the label’s tracks that have been in heavy rotation too. To highlight a few it must be Tina V’s ‘Cazuela’, Jon ‘Sweetname’s ‘Jazzidy’ and James Dutton’s two releases ‘Saola Circus’ and ‘Kahlua’ that were both played by various guests, residents and myself. Of course I have also been testing and playing all my own tracks over the years. ‘Lonely House’, ‘Pitiusa’ and ‘Daydreamer’ are some of the tracks I have played continuously and people seemed to love the most in recent years.
Have any of the guests you’ve booked surprised you musically?
I would say most people do when they are allowed to play 3, 4 or even 5 hours. It gives time to go through various styles and dig out a few classics too. I quite often find myself thinking ‘WTF is that track and how on earth did he come up with the idea of playing that now?!’. It can be anything from a new demo or the latest promo to a classic we all forgot about, and can hardly recall the name of any longer. I love when that happens.
The guys from Detroit Swindle were slightly different than I expected and took a lot of risks. Not something you see very often these days but a pleasant surprise. So did Jimpster when he was here and played quite differently from the sound you know from his productions. He’s a proper good DJ.
Tell us about your plans for the 9th Birthday celebrations…
On Saturday 21st May we celebrate our 9th birthday at Culture Box. Following his remix of my ‘Pitiusa’ release earlier this year, I have my good friend and legend Nick Warren playing with me in Black Box again.
He has been here a handful of times and it’s always been truly amazing. We even ended up playing b2b sets a couple of times which is something people still talk about and keeps reminding me. We all know what this guy is capable of and how amazing a track selector Nick is so musically I’m expecting big things again.
I’ll do my very best to support him on the night. Meanwhile in Red Box we have Uffe who is known from releases on Get Physical, Tartelet, Jimpster’s Delusions Of Grandeur and Catz N’ Dogz’s Pets Recordings. Also playing is Paxton Fettel who is signed to Greta Cottage Workshop and Apersonal Music and finally we have crew member Ryan Dank. The team will make the night special. We’re really looking forward to it.
As always, its a pleasure to chat Tim, but our time is nearly up. I wondered if we could finish on your views on the future of Danish nightlife in the next 5 years?
This is seriously a tough question to answer. In the past two years we have seen many great initiatives in the underground scene and lots of successful nights in the few good clubs we have. However, we still have far too many people with no passion for club music whatsoever but also a bit too many people that like the music but have no clue about names or nights to go to. In general I think we’re lacking attention from parts of the Danish crowd.
The internationals, both tourists but in particular those who work and study here, know all about the scene and support the parties heavily. The locals have been pampered with amazing lineups for years on a weekly basis but most people like to think and talk about how everything is much cooler in Berlin and elsewhere or give priority to other things. Not paying much attention to the fact that tons of Berlin clubs are struggling too.
In my opinion it doesn’t make sense to compare us to any other city. We have our own thing going right here. However, the limited size of the scene here is also a challenge when it comes to all the DJs that don’t get booked very often. And please keep in mind that almost everyone interested in electronic music is a DJ in his own eyes these days. Some quickly seem to turn their back to it all and lose interest if it doesn’t happen for them within a few months. What many still don’t realize is it often takes years to get a proper breakthrough (if it ever happens) and quite often it comes if you’re humble, supporting and playing part in the club community and has something unique to offer. Patience, real talent, dedication and hard work are the key words here. Take the chance when you get one and never stop dreaming or follow your heart.
I really hope we can develop the Copenhagen scene further. We need a couple of new good summer festivals here with a razor sharp booking profile and not just bookings of friends and friend’s friends if we want to take it up a nudge from where we are now. The clubs are already doing an amazing job and all of them book DJs from a higher shelf than what you would say are natural. That makes all of them a bit vulnerable if the support from the crowd suddenly fades out.
Therefore it’s so important to support the local scene. Our generation grew up with no clubs for electronic music but only one offs here and there and had to build it all up. The new generation are used to having many clubs to choose from but nothing should be taken for granted. It’s important to remember. Personally I have high expectations for a growing scene between Copenhagen and Malmö that is based only 30 minutes away by train. Lately we have seen an increase in DJs traveling back and forth between the cities.
It opens up new opportunities for both sides and I hope we can all take advantage. If we can keep the people united, open minded and positive, I see a great future for the Copenhagen nightlife. We will probably not see any super clubs open up as it’s not really what the Danes prefer. They like smaller and more intimate places. I much rather prefer smaller clubs with a dedicated crowd myself compared to big half-empty places with no atmosphere. To sum it up, there are lots of musical talents in Denmark so there are no limitations if we continue to push forward.
Photograhy : Philip Panov