The Glasgow techno duo have been both witness to, and catalyst of, many changes in club music over the past 25 years. Here, they tell the story of Scotland's biggest moments as seen through their own eyes.
Slam's Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle have the rare honour of being both witnesses to the immeasurable changes and permutations in club music over past 25 years or so, and the original catalysts behind a lot of these changes in the first place. This comes in their own music (singles like Positive Education), their label Soma Quality Recordings (housing records by the likes of Alex Smoke, Surgeon, and Funk D'Void in their early years, not to mention Daft Punk's first single The New Wave), and their DJing, most notably in their home city, Glasgow, where they held supported crucial venues like The Arches and The Sub Club by holding residencies there.
Slam's latest album, 'Reverse Proceed', is a nearly 70-minute continuous mix designed with start-to-finish listening in mind. Taking in ambient music, techno, and electronica, the album is their first in seven years and comes out through Soma.
Following the release of 'Reverse Proceed', Slam count down the 10 greatest moments in Scottish clubbing history as seen through their eyes, from early Daft Punk performances to Optimo's last dance. They've also provided us with a small selection of rave flyers for the memories.
Slam: "We did a Saturday at the Sub Club in Glasgow for most of 1990 along with Harri, who is still the resident there on the Saturday night. Glasgow was the European Capital of Culture, so we had a 5am license for the whole year, which was unheard of in those days. We quickly attracted a second wave of new house music fans to join the acid house early adopters who had lasted the pace.
"It was at a special point in time for the scene - a point where indie bands were just as likely to get on one and join the party as ravers and clubbers - and over the course of that year we had the likes of Michael Hutchence, the Stone Roses, Sean Ryder, his dad with Bez, and the Pet Shop Boys all paying us a visit. We'd been to Ibiza a few times by then and we imported the Balearic attitude to Glasgow with a soundtrack to match. We hardly ever had a guest DJ, and we got into this system of playing a few short sets each over the night - a kind of precursor to the back-to-backs that are popular now. The place was a complete sweatbox and everyone would leave at the end soaking wet with smiling faces, already looking forward to the following week."
Slam: "We had put on an all-nighter in 1989 at the Tramway in Glasgow, and it attracted so many people both with and without tickets that the police closed down all the streets around the venue, roadblocks everywhere, leaving a lot of people outside and disappointed. So in 1990 we hooked up with Regular Music, a promoter who had worked with Bowie and all the punk bands in the '70s and early '80s. The idea was to put on a series of all-night events that would be managed properly.
"We had filled the small hall at the SECC in March of 1990 with 3500 people, and we came up with this idea to put a big tent up in a country park near Glasgow in the September of that year for 4000 people. We played alongside Jon Dasilva from the Hacienda and Alex Paterson from The Orb. 808 State played live too. We'd had Derrick May over in 1989 to play at the Sub Club, and it was a complete honour to have one of the guys who created techno music completing the bill.
"Slam in the Park was a precursor to the Slam tent at the T in the Park festival. We even got a sunrise and clear sky in the morning to complete what many consider was the best party of that early era of dance music."
Slam: "In 1991 we could see the whole rave scene going completely overground, so we turned our back on the large scale all-night parties. This gave us the impetus to do something else new, so we made the first Slam single Eterna and started the Soma label to release it. We stumbled across the Arches theatre in Glasgow while looking for an unusual space to host a party to launch the label.
"The Arches, which holds up the main railway lines going south from Central Station as well as the platforms in the Station itself, had been cleaned out for an exhibition in 1990 when Glasgow was European Capital of Culture. Afterwards, the theatre had opened in one of the spaces with a small bar in it, catering for about 40 people. The space was vast and had enough toilets to host a party for 800 people, so we persuaded the theatre director Andy Arnold to let us run it as a club, thus finding the artistic pursuits of the venue.
"We played there every Friday for exactly six years before taking a break, later to return monthly using more of the Arches to host a three room Pressure monthly party. The closing party was completely off the hook with Daft Punk, Irvine Welsh, and Kris Needs joining us for a party to top 'em all. And six months later, the Chems joined us for the opening of our new venture Pressure, which is now approaching its 16th anniversary."
Slam: "Thomas and Guy-Man had played for Soma at the Back to Basics party at 'In the City' in Manchester early the same month, and they had a gig in the Ministry in London the night before Glasgow, making this their fourth ever live performance. Their first had been at a friend's party in the south of France to get some practice in!
"We used this moored boat on the River Clyde three times each summer. It held 600 people and was completely rammed at night. Da Funk had been out for a while and the buzz on the band had just begun. They did it all-analogue, live, with a mixing desk and the hardware - 909/303/keyboard/sampler. It was raw and the atmosphere was electric. They blew the crowd away, many of whom had no idea who they were or how historic the occasion was set to become."
Slam: "Twitch played with Brainstorm in Edinburgh before Optimo began. Edinburgh's techno club was built around the residents and was putting on a lot of the same DJs we had at our 'Slam at the Arches' night, Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills being favourites of both clubs. It is remembered as a completely legendary party in Edinburgh's clubbing folklore."
Slam: "We had offices and studios in the second floor of the building in Jamaica Street, in Glasgow's city centre, which housed the Sub Club in its basement. One night in 1999, a crooked Post Office shop manager torched his shop, which was next door on the ground floor, after replacing the money in the safe with bundles of paper cut to the size of bank notes. He copped for it eventually after some painstaking forensic work.
"There was a fabric shop above him and the blaze took hold with devastating effect. We watched from outside as the flames tried to leap across the roof into the Soma offices. The firefighters miraculously got it under control eventually and most of the Soma music survived, although the place was a complete mess.
"The upshot was that the adjacent burnt-out building was demolished, leaving a gap and an unsafe supporting wall, so we were left looking for a new office and studio and the Sub Club guys had to find a new home. It took three years before the building was declared safe and the venue re-opened, and they put on the combined talents of Subculture residents Harri & Dom with Optimo and house music legends Kenny Hawkes (RIP) and Larry Heard. Everyone partied like it was 1999, picking up exactly where they left off."
Slam: "It's hard to single out a performance of all the outstanding times in the Slam Tent, but this was definitely one of the best. Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos had performed for us at Pressure the previous year back-to-back, and we had worked hard to persuade them to do it again in the Slam Tent. They had the headline slot and it was broadcast live on Radio 1 as an Essential Mix.
"We'd started the Slam tent in 1997 with Daft Punk and Laurent Garnier on the bill, which made for a superb inaugural event, but this one just takes the biscuit for insane partying in the big blue cave of rave!"
Slam: "Optimo threw one hell of a party to say goodbye to their weekly Sundays at the Sub Club after 12 years. Keith and Jonnie, aka Twitch and Wilkes, aka Optimo, were the guvnors of Sunday nights in Glasgow for more than a decade. Specialising in eclecticism, they put on parties with lots of attitude and invention but what it was mostly all about was complete fun and hedonism. Saying goodbye to the weekend in style.
"When they began Optimo (Espacio), it only had 100 people coming, but eventually the idea caught on and after a year or so the place was jumping every week. When they announced it was closing, every week it was emotionally charged and packed out leading up to the finale.
"The very last one was just insane. Dancing on the bars and tables and sweat dripping down the walls with not a dry eye in the place. One more tune!?"
Slam: "We were lucky enough to play once at the Courtyard bar party with Sunday Circus and it was a total treat. We also hosted and played at a Barn Dance on a farm one Sunday with them, Seth Troxler, and Craig Richards. The parties attracted a spirited crowd of hedonists - a real family vibe, and one which does not always seem to be there in modern day clubbing. At some point the authorities said they couldn't use the courtyard outside, which gave the venue its charm, anymore. So it was relatively short-lived, but those days live on in the memories of the patrons.
"The guys now host parties in other venues across the city, normally on holiday weekends, and we are looking at doing something together at the end of this year. Reunion time!"
Slam: "The daytime party that ultimately led to the creation of our Riverside Festival, established last year in the grounds of the iconic Riverside Museum on the clyde. The Electric Frog took place in the street outside the SWG3 arts and music space, using the indoor warehouse space too.
"It attracted an amazing crowd that Easter weekend coming from far and wide, and it featured a stunning and varied array of talent which we helped to curate over two days - both local and international - including ourselves, Green Velvet, Dave Clarke, Ben Klock, Erol Alkan, DJ Yoda, Ivan Smagghe b2b Optimo, Thunder Disco Club, MMM, Animal Farm, Kode 9, Todd Edwards, L-Vis 1990, Electric Eliminators, Francois K (Deep Space Set), Danny Krivit, Unabombers and Melting Pot!"
Soma released 'Reverse Proceed' on October 27th 2014 (buy).