As we are hell-bent on creating a trusted Saturday experience for those of a night-time disposition in Belfast, we selected a special venue in the city with a forward thinking attitude, overhauled the sound and lights and began to focus on a second-to-none music policy.
As there is so much hype around international guests these days, we really want to return to a time where the residents are as important, if not more so than the guests to regular patrons of a club. As such we will have an on-going focus on what the elements of a good residency are, as we strive to create a great night out in the city.
So is it the venue, the people, the vibe, the sound system, the music policy, the resident DJs, the door staff? Or, all of the above? We felt we should ask ask some people who really should know for their own viewpoints on the topic.
Bicep are without doubt Belfast’s main underground electronic exports and know a thing or two about booths all over the globe as well as on home turf and are presently in the midst of a thirteen week residency at London’s XOYO club.
James “Harri” Harrigan has been a resident at Glasgow’s infamous Sub Club for over twenty years, so no better lads to ask in our opinion on what are those important elements to building a trusted experience for all and about maintaining a successful residency.
Timmy Stewart caught up with both for a chinwag.
Timmy: From a residents perspective what do you feel are the key factors in creating an environment for people to enjoy themselves?
Bicep: For the XOYO residency we are on most occasions opening the room and also closing for the last few hours. Luckily we had a hand in programming the line-ups for each night so that can help shape the flow on the night. We tend to keep the first few hours a good bit slower to help maintain the energy in the crowd right up to the end, this is an important factor on nights were we do extended sets as well.
Harri: Sound system, staff (especially good door staff) lighting, and last but not least handsome DJs.
Timmy: Apart from a break from long haul travel what other aspects of a weekly summer residency in London were you attracted to?
Bicep: Being able to program the artists with XOYO was a big factor; this meant we were able to bring producers and DJs we love to the club every week. Musically we wanted to keep it interesting across the series to keep ourselves entertained as well as cater for lots of different crowds. So the idea of a night where we could listen to the music we like and be with our friends every Saturday across summer was a complete no brainer for us.
Do you think it’s also healthy to take time out from a residency, to play other clubs, to experience how others are doing things either badly or not and to draw inspiration from and put yourselves on the other side of the turntables?
Harri: Dom and myself regularly guest at other clubs, it’s always nice to see how others do things and to play to different crowds. Doing a weekly residency you really do need to keep things fresh.
Bicep: Yes really important. For the XOYO residency so far we have been able to get stuck into the crowd as well as listen to the artists we have brought over. The other side definitely gives a different perspective.
Timmy: Who are your favourite residents/DJs, past and present and why?
Bicep: We grew up with the residents of Shine, who provided a spine to such a successful club night. DJ’s such as yourself, John McIver, Phil Kieran, Nik Muzka, Alan Simms and all the other Shine residents had their own vibe and it was great to listen to them comfortably controlling an eight hundred capacity club like it was their own living room.
Over our travels we encounter some amazing residents who blow our minds not just with the tunes but how they play and control the room and seem to know the crowd inside out. Places like the Robert Jonson and Panorama Bar know they can rely on their residents to uphold the principles and identity of their club… and I’m sure they value them as important assets of how the nights are run.
Harri: Last Saturday we had Roman Flugel and guests like Dixon, Ame , Marcus Worgul, Henrik Schwarz, Optimo, Telford, my son Jasper James, Jackmaster, John Talabot, Derrick Carter, Derrick May, Carl Craig and several guys that run local nights all play pretty regularly. In general we only have a couple of guests a month and focus mostly on the residents.
As well as the Sub Club you have held residencies in other cities such as London, Harri. What are the major differences you experienced between the residencies and are there similar approaches that carry over regardless?
Harri: There was a four-year period in the mid to late nineties where I held four different weekly residencies, three in Glasgow and one at Plastic People in London. I always tried to vary the music to keep it fresh and varied for myself as well as the crowd. In all cases my approach was similar, to gradually build the vibe in the room over the course of the night, and trying to peak at the end.
Timmy: Playing all over the world, what are the major differences you have experienced between countries with regards to Djing and are there similar approaches that seem to carry over?
Bicep: There are absolutely massive differences all over Europe never mind the world. One thing we noticed which we touched on earlier is that the clubs that tend to be the most successful or longest running have a core group of residents who essentially control the vibe and ethos of the club. When we walk into a club no matter where it is, if the resident is in full control of the audience that gives us a platform to work off, essentially it’s also our crowd to lose. I remember walking into the Smart Bar in Chicago and seeing the Black Madonna at 12 smashing out the disco and techno mixed up, Chicago style at about 130 bpm and just looking at Matt saying “this is gonna be good”… which it was.
Timmy Stewart: Changing faces in the regular crowd as people’s lifestyles change and they go out less. How do you maintain a regular following, is it actually out of the DJs hands at times?
Harri: I have absolutely no idea how we have managed to sustain our night; Dom and myself are always seeking out new tunes every week so that helps keep things fresh for us and the crowd. We have wide and varied tastes and that means the nights move around styles that compliment each other and it means if we have a guest on we will play a warm up suited to that particular guest, so that they will have somewhere to go with their own sets.
Timmy: What is your stance on guest etiquette? Do you feel a guest should always close a night or is it ok to invite someone to play the middle set and leave a resident to close proceedings?
Bicep: The flow should generally go with were the guests own strengths are. If they work best at a slower tempo then have them on early, we have no qualms asking a big guest to come on at 11, we did that with Metro Area who played at our Oval Space show last year and it worked absolutely perfectly. Similarly if the residents think they can close the room better than the guest style wise, then they do need to stand up.
Harri: For us it differs depending on what type of music the guest plays, some guests we book, perhaps their music might not be suitable to close the night but generally we do let the guest finish.
Timmy:What are the longest sets you have played and any good tips for toilet breaks?
Bicep: Luckily as there are two, toilet breaks aren’t too much of an issue. I think the longest we have played was round the 9hr mark in Croatia a few years back, but we have played quite a few 5-8 hour sets.
Harri: Due to licensing restrictions, we are only open from 11 till 3 or 4 and occasionally 5am. I’ve done the whole night quite a few times on my own and it’s always handy to have an empty pint glass or two in the booth ;-).
Timmy: Please tell us one of the the best things to happen in the booth over the years?
Harri: One of the best was doing the whole night with my boy Jasper, just after he turned eighteen.
Bicep: Too many moments, generally any time when everyone in sight has no top on is the mark of a good one.
Timmy: Alongside that one of the worst things to happen in the booth over the years?
Bicep: Any time someone continually asks/hassles you to play a really shit song, fortunately that doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore. Or when you’ve had a camera light shinning in your face for 10 minutes or more haha.
Harri: Usual…. fire alarm going off just as the night is really peaking and several other unprintable stories.
Timmy: Finally, the funniest thing to happen in the booth over the years?
Harri: There is never a dull moment with Domenic and myself, we always have a right good laugh. The tale of a well-known DJ who shall remain nameless, regularly crossfading to silence, before crashing out on the booth floor is a personal contender.
Bicep: A couple sickout from memory but I’m not so sure we can repeat them. One thing that happened recently was a guy brought a 2KG bag of protein for us to sign in Hamburg, you gotta applaud that effort.
Many thanks for giving us your time and wisdom lads, our quest goes on.