|The Hype and The Truth
. . .
never liked hype.
On the other hand, sometimes people don't find truth too
I've put down these thoughts mainly for those people who
are interested in some aspect of clubing as a "business",
(that includes wanting to be a DJ), as well as for those
who are just curious about the origins of 2Klub.
Why did you get into club promotion?
What about making money?
Do you wanna be a DJ?
did you get into club promotion?
(This is a long story, so you might want
to skip it if you've not got time to hang around).
were various points throughout most days when I asked myself the
been going to clubs since I was sixteen or seventeen. I've got a
terrible memory, so I'm not too sure. I do remember going
to a straight club in Sheffield, where I grew up, and thought it
was awful. The club scene then was solely ritzy - beer boys
and fighting, and anyway I knew I was gay, so I went off exploring
the gay scene. Those days, in Sheffield, that meant going
out of town really.
My first clubs ("discos" back then), were gay clubs in Manchester;
Napoleon's when it opened took things to a whole new level.
Until then the gay dance scene was served by a small basement club
where music was provided by a juke box - if the money ran out the
place went silent - and Napoleon's had a resident DJ who played
continuously - well, almost continuously. Manchester had a
restrictive police chief, and I well recall the DJ interrupting
the music to tell two blokes not to dance so close together.
According to the police two guys touching on the dancefloor was
"lewd and lascivious conduct" and simply wasn't going to be allowed.
Over the years other gay clubs opened, both in Manchester and elsewhere,
as social attitudes began to change and society became more tolerant,
and La Chic in Nottingham became one of my haunts for a while.
I remember sitting in the snack bar at the end of the night and
the owner would come round to bid us farewell shouting: "Right,
we've had your money; now you can f*ck off home".
My other favourite was Heroes, in Manchester run by the seemingly
ageless Phil Clegg, who had managed Napoleon's. That
was probably the most popular gay club in Manchester for quite a
while and I've even got a tape from one of the DJs there, made for
me shortly before I left to live in Canada for ten years.
That was in 1983, just as AIDS was starting to be recognised - the
press still called it "The Gay Plague" then, the Human Immunodeficiency
Virus hadn't been discovered and people were wondering what was
causing so many gay guys to get ill, and die.
My stint in Canada meant that I was out of the country for the whole
Summer of Love and Rave Culture thing. People who see me bouncing
around on the dancefloor madly waving my glowsticks think I went
through all that but, frankly, I didn't - I was in Toronto, still
doing the gay scene, still thinking that all straight clubs were
like that ritzy place I first went to - obviously I was an impressionable
child, - and I didn't do my first "mixed/straight" club in this
country, until a few years ago. Luckily for me it was, Sundissential,
at Pulse, in Birmingham - frankly the best non-scene club any gay
guy could go to then, and going there had a lot to do with me getting
into promoting a club myself. More on that in a moment.
All this is a lead up to saying that, though I had been to lots
of different clubs in quite a few countries over the years, in the
main they were gay. For many years, gay clubs were the best
- they had the newest tunes, the newest fashions, and they were
for a long time the incubators of lots of innovations in clubland.
Lots of people don't understand the way in which much of modern
clubculture has evolved from the gay scene, nor how many of the
current influences today are gay. For instance, most don't
know that both "House" and "Garage" derived
their names from two U.S. gay clubs, the Warehouse and Paradise
Garage, nor how many of their DJ icons are gay. When I
ask aspiring DJs who say they're into Hard House whether they've
been to Trade, the answer invariably is "No". I think
we should put a section somewhere on this site about all this -
something in the style of Monty Python's The Life of Brian "What
have the Romans done for us?" sketch, where, by the end the questioner
is saying, "Yeah, well, so the gays gave us Disco and House
and Garage, and Tony deVit, and Ian M, and
Andy Farley, and Steve Thomas, and Malcolm Duffy
and Alan Thompson, and Trade, and Heaven, and
lots of innovations in DJ techniques and mixing and lots more besides….
But what have the gays done for us?"
I say this about these DJs because many of them, though widely popular
now, started out on the gay scene, many, in particular, in the Midlands.
Both Andy Farley and Tony deVit played at gay clubs
in Birmingham, (including Subway City), and Ian M
at a gay club in Leicester. Without the thriving gay scene
of a few years ago, the Hard House and Nu-NRG scene of today would
not be the same. That's by way of background. Let me come
back to Sundissential, and also Trade, as they both had a significant
role to play for me.
After I came back to England, in the early nineties, I had a boyfriend,
but we broke up after a few years. Part of the reason for
that was that I started to suffer from depression, and after the
split, I seemed to sink even lower. I stopped going out for
a while, and after I started to recover I decided to try going to
other places, off the gay scene, which had come to me to seem too
much like a meat market. I went for the first time to a club I'd
heard a lot about from gay friends, called Sundissential.
Quite simply, it blew me away. For the people there my sexuality,
my age, and my mad style of dancing just weren't issues. What
was important was having the right attitude, and so many people
accepted me and took me to their hearts. As you might imagine,
coming from the mental state I had been in, that was just the most
fantastic tonic I could have had. That was my introduction
- somewhat late - to proper Clubbing, and proper Clubbers.
Trade, at Turnmills in London, on the other hand blew me
away in another way, because though by the time I first went there
I had had some good nights musically at quite a few clubs, it was
at Trade that I heard hard music taken to another level. Musically,
it's in another league from every other Hard House club in the country.
The fact that it's been running for over ten years is a testament
to that. Those two things, the tolerance and acceptance of true
clubbers, and the music, were my inspiration to try to develop a
club of my own combining the friendliness of Sundissential and the
musical quality of Trade.
Initially however, someone I knew wanted to get a club night running
in Manchester, which is when 2KLUB was set up, in mid-1999.
He went on to run his own club and I continued running 2KLUB
with Ben, Nick, & Tom three students at Salford
uni. and Chris a mate of theirs, - four guys who got involved
to help save the club. Probably the climax of this phase of the
club's life for me then was our float in the Love Parade
in Leeds, in the summer of 2000, where we were belting out superb
tunes to 400,000 people. However, we had difficulties with venues
in Manchester closing down and it made more sense to hold our events
in Birmingham, which also has a stronger Hard House heritage. So
2Klub presents SWEAT was born in March 2001.
I worked my guts out to get SWEAT known in Birmingham, but
after a promising start, the numbers were all going the wrong way,
(down), and I was losing too much money (again) to keep it going.
We held our last event for 2001, in July that year.
I maintained my involvement with Subway City organising the DJs
in the main room for STOMP in July 2002, out of a liking
for that club, its owner, and some DJs I regarded as mates of mine.
I didn't have any financial
involvement, which meant that unlike most other nights I didn't
go home counting how much money I'd lost! However
the numbers didn't build fast enough, and StOmP! was cancelled at
the end of November
The lesson in all of this is that
I started out convinced that if I offered people better music they'd
come flocking. Well I did offer them better music, but there's a
lot more to successful clubs, (I now realise), than the music alone.
Want to know how to make a small fortune
in club promoting? Start with a large one.
I lost more money than I ever made on club
promoting, but I'm not in it for the money. That's
such a cliché, I know, but clichés usually contain
an element of truth.
A lot of people think club promotion is
an easy way to make money. Just get a few DJs; print some
flyers, get your mates down and you're off. Well, though that
has actually worked for some people, there's a lot more people you
don't hear much about who try it and fail. I don't think this
is an activity you can do for too long unless you really enjoy it,
and I really do. I love the fun of clubs, I like the attitude
of the people on the scene and I like helping people. So many
people in clubland have been nice to me over the years, and one
of the things I learnt big-time when I was in the slough of despond,
is that I get a great kick out of helping other people. That
said, you can't run a club for too long if it doesn't make a profit,
but anyone thinking it's an easy road to riches is sadly deluded.
You need to keep a balanced view of the
the intrinsic rewards of club promoting,
(that warm glow you get when people say how much they like your
club, your music or give you some other positive feeback), as there's
always some one out there who really doen't undertsand what "club
culture" is about.
I've reproduced some examples
of the pros and cons by way of illustration.
The con is there as a warning for anyone reading this and thinking
about getting into club promtoing; beware, not everyone is a true
My advice, for whatever it's worth.
First be honest with yourself and others.
I say that because honesty immediately stands out. Clubland
has come to accept over-hype as the norm with the result that there's
an increasing degree of cynicism amongst people. I hate over-hype,
which used to be called "exaggeration" or simply "lies". For
instance, I get lots of tapes and CDs from DJs and I listen to every
one of them. Even though we make our music policy as clear
as possible I still get people sending me tapes for other music
styles which frankly is a waste of their time. Of those who've
got it right, almost all claim to be the best thing since sliced
bread, yet their tapes are usually the same old tunes, often not
mixed very well and sometimes not recorded well. When people
ask me for feedback I give it to them, but I often find people are
unprepared for criticism, even when it's constructive.
So my first advice would be to understand both your good and bad
points, to listen to people when they give you feedback and to focus
your efforts on the right people in the right way.
Second, don't underestimate the amount
of work you have to do to promote yourself, and be prepared to stick
at it. People think that if they send out a few letters and
tapes they'll get bookings or a job, but they have to realise that
this is a very competitive business. Think about it for a
moment. How many DJ slots are there in all the clubs in the whole
country in a week? Probably hundreds, maybe a thousand or
two, and of those most don't pay enough for someone to earn their
living from it. Now
think about how many people want to be DJs; probably tens of thousands?
When I go clubbing every second person I meet is either a DJ or
has a good mate who is.
In addition most people don't realise the cost. While building
up your mixing skills you still have to stay current, and that means
investing in tunes every week, and preferably tunes which most other
people don't have, which also means investing a hell of a lot of
time in searching for them. So don't underestimate the amount
of time, effort and money you'll have to put into it.
you can't beat meeting people, listening to what's going on, looking
out for new opportunities or having someone else say a good word
about you. None of that happens if you stay in your bedroom.
You'll realise that's true if you read about two of my discoveries,
DJs, Eddie Halliwell and Chris
When the Manchester club was being planned over a hundred names
were thought of, including "Eden", "Emotion", "Euphoria", "Krakatoa",
"Bounce", etc. etc. etc. but when I tried them out, clubbers
thought they'd been done to death years before and sounded cheesy,
or they just didn't like them.
So it was back to the drawing board and I tried "2Klub" out
of respect for those tolerant people I call "proper clubbers", who
go out "to club".
I like playing with words so all the possibilities of Live2Klub,
Love2Klub etc. came to mind, including the French version: Je club,
2Klub, Il club, Nous club!
Then there's the 2. Normally, in clubland it's almost impossible
for more than two people to have a conversation at once, but two
people socialising, rather than one person posing, is what is important
for most people about clubbing. "It's not about Me; it's about Us".
So why the "K"? When I was a kid in school,
they called that letter of the alphabet the "Kicking K". Ks are
harder than Cs. If our music's anything, it's hard and Kicking.