In a culture where nights and venues seem to close their doors every other day, it’s truly a reason to celebrate when one maintains longevity. The Night Institute has become a part of the furniture within the living room of Belfast’s dance music culture; adopting a zero tolerance policy on pretension and judgement while taking its residents on a sonic journey spanning era’s of electronic noise.
The likes of Octave One, Kornel Kovacs and Maurice Fulton have displayed their finest selections over the years, but the real beauty of TNI is within its founders. Timmy and Jordan have taken a refreshing step throughout the last few months – choosing to dictate the tempo themselves for the full five hours as opposed to relying on a big name booking.
An escape is what it’s really all about. An escape from the dreary routine of everyday life. A euphoric release mutually felt by those around you. In many ways TNI is symbolic to the people of Belfast. Lovely people who just want dance.
Regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation, you are welcome here with open arms.
Here, Timmy and Jordan lift the lid on how they became so close in the first place, and how this inevitably led to the creation of one of Belfast’s most beloved concepts.
Jordan: We initially met whilst working for a community music organisation, teaching production and DJ’ing skills, and had a lot of craic and shared the same passions for music and the local scene. I ended up booking Timmy for the first party I threw at Catalyst Arts and then when the idea came about to run a weekly, Timmy was my first choice as a resident.
Timmy: Yeah it was a chance meeting that led to a DJ booking, then friendship and an idea for a weekly venture. There were four involved in the inception of TNI but it quickly became clear Jordan and I were the two that had the passion for taking things forward.
Do you remember your first ever party?
Timmy: Total dream launch scenario, with most lasting nights they seem to take time to build an audience but we were lucky to kick off with a sell-out.
Jordan: Absolutely. The venue was taken aback as we had over 300 people queuing to get in from the outset for a resident’s night and I’m pretty certain we had to close the doors early as there weren’t enough staff to cover the bar!
Who are your favourite guests that you’ve had over to play?
Jordan: We always talk about how amazing Kornel Kovacs was. Dipping his toe in everything from RnB and electro to old Green Velvet records. Harvey Sutherland jamming live on the street on his Juno live, was an experience too. We only book(ed) guests who we were playing records by, so essentially everyone was good in their own way.
Timmy: Agreed on Kornel, he was in and out of everything without the dog’s dinner affect, a djing masterclass to be honest. Moxie was also brilliant, she played exactly the type of house music I love and her set had a great energy level throughout. Chris Duckenfield has a ridiculously good ear for music, the b2b with him was really memorable too.
You have stuck to the same format for a while now, choosing to have yourselves playing b2b for the 5 hours as opposed to relying on big names to draw crowds. Do you feel this is an example of how Belfast can benefit from supporting its local artists more as opposed to always relying on an artist from elsewhere?
Jordan: We’ve had parties with 50 people and parties with 900+, but essentially the past few months have made us appreciate that the concept is two residents and the occasional friends and a proper welcoming, attitude-free party. As we’ve returned to our roots in a smaller venue we’ve recognised we’ve no need to experiment with guests anymore and continue to do what works best for us – reasonable entry price, nice people and good music. Something sustainable for the city and for the people in it.
Timmy: I think that we really intended to fill a certain space in the landscape, there were loads of international guest headlined parties but where was the local go to that you could rely on for certain type of night out? If you are skint, where could you still get your fix? We really take the people who go to the club’s experience seriously, so we always aim to create something memorable on those few hours on a Saturday night. The b2b nature means it’s of that moment and not rehearsed in any way and I believe that’s where the real magic in programming music happens by reacting to what’s right in front of you.
How has TNI developed since its inception?
Timmy: I love the varied nature of the crowd we attract and that’s developed over time, Age, gender, sexual orientation etc it’s very mixed and very, very healthy for it. It feels like clubs I’ve played at in London and Spain in terms of the crowds and that’s quite rare for Belfast as things are usually very pigeon holed in terms of where certain groups feel comfortable.
Jordan: I think it has matured in a lot of capacities both as a concept, and in terms of the audience. Niall Murphy’s amazing weekly photos are testament to that. He has pictures of regulars at our very first parties, and then pictures of the same smiling faces three years later. It truly does feel like a family affair, everyone is looked after, and especially now in a club that only holds 200 people you can feel the diversity that has developed over the three years. You can’t fake that.
Any funny memories from playing and partying?
Jordan: It’s all been completely ridiculous if I’m honest. I think Timmy’s memory is a bit better than mine. There’s been some great lock-ins over the years but I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.
Timmy: Absolutely wild, most we can’t print ha-ha. The front row (mostly female) singing the XXX rated lyrics of Phreaky MF back to Mike Dunn I’ll take to the grave with me though.
There have been plenty of TNI anthems dropped over the years, if you could pick one tune to sum up the TNI experience what would it be?
Jordan: As much as I’m sick of the sound of it, it has to be Cirez D – On Off
Timmy: There have been so many but the young lads singing a chorus of, “hit me with those Laser beams” to us one night meant the night I played the Sex mix of Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Relax” in amongst a load of techno proved a TNI anthem was born.
What does the future hold for TNI?
Timmy: Keeping on with our mission to satisfy that weekly need for somewhere people can forget about the crap in their lives for a few hours and just get lost in a vibe. So much pressure around these days that I think that release is more important than ever. Oh, and we might even start this label we always talk about, to release the kind of music we play there, someday!
Jordan: No frills, no gimmicks – just us playing music all night long and busting our balls to give people the best night out we possibly can, every week.