“House is our pop music”: Exploring the hybrid sounds of South Africa’s electronic scene
Andy Blake has been a DJ about town for a good few years now. He owns a flawless record collection, he's got an in-depth knowledge of club music that spans ages and oceans, he's started some incredible labels (notably the excellent, defunct Dissident), and he's thrown a lot of parties. The party that occupies much of his time is the monthly World Unknown parties that he runs with Joe Hart (we wrote a short feature about it in 2011), an open-minded and ridiculously good rave that currently resides in a cosy little spot in South East London. You could probably describe him as "DJ's DJ", but that description suggests that the stuff he plays is strictly for the spotters, whereas World Unknown is as inclusive as it comes.
Jack Savidge, when he's not playing in superior indie group Friendly Fires for his day job, runs the DEEP SHIT parties with Edwin Congreave of Foals. With Congreave away on tour right now, Savidge has roped in Blake (as well as Kompakt signing Dauwd) to play the next DEEP SHIT party at London's Edition Hotel basement this Saturday (May 17th).
With this in mind, it made a lot of sense to get the two DJs and party starters to sit down and talk about their respective parties, what makes a party a party, and what makes a space make sense. Oh, and if you've ever wanted to know what the best bottled waters on the market are right now, then ignore all the guff below and skip right to the end.
Jack Savidge: "Hi!"
Andy Blake: "Testing, testing…"
Jack Savidge: "Yes yes."
Andy Blake: "Splendid."
Jack Savidge: "Fab. Thanks for doing this Andy – I'll try and keep it as short and snappy as possible. First of all – great party on Friday. That curious new venue seems to really work. Very World Unknown, verging on derelict. How do you find these places?"
Andy Blake: "It's definitely got a certain something – could do with being a mite bigger, but all the different spaces seem to work well together. We just keep our eyes and ears open. And people have started offering us places now. There's a surprisingly large amount of unused property in London – somewhat ironic, considering how expensive it is to find space to live and work in."
Jack Savidge: "Yeah, the amount of empty buildings, even in the centre of the city, is staggering. I suppose their value as investments outstrips their value as functioning places, in a lot of cases."
Andy Blake: "If the people who pass themselves off as being in charge had any balls, they'd pass laws that made it compulsory for empty buildings to be made available to live and work in… Like that's going to happen any time soon."
Jack Savidge: "Cities are always in flux, and these places are the skeletons that are left behind when the parts die out. But back to World Unknown's temporary home – I thought it had a bit of a house party feel; none of the rooms were sort of big club spaces. There was a fairly functional living room at the top, albeit full of the usual loons."
Andy Blake: "Yep, it's a really good space. It's making me wonder how difficult it would be to get one of my own, and have World Unknown and a few other parties use it."
Jack Savidge: "Is that something you're trying to pursue?"
Andy Blake: "Not actively, but I go through phases of thinking it could be a good thing to do."
Jack Savidge: "I remember in a previous interview you said something like, 'I recommend putting parties on to anyone – it's highly rewarding.' Big paraphrase there, but it kind of stuck with me because, even though our Deep Shit party is pretty junior compared to yours, it's already become something I would miss a great deal if it were to stop. The social aspect, mainly – people who come to each month, and the opportunity to play records to a bunch of people who I'm pretty certain will be into anything…"
Andy Blake: "You can't knock a good community tribal dance. It's one of the best things that humans ever invented. When all the EDM kids grow out of watching a bunch of false prophets play fizzy noises from a stage and start demanding a bit more, I reckon we're into a really good phase."
Jack Savidge: "That's very true; I suppose you've got to start somewhere."
Andy Blake: "Definitely, and as grisly as that racket and all its attendent nonsense is, it's definitely got an awful lot of people's attention. If only 10% of them stay interested in some form of dance music and party/rave gathering, then we're in for a very interesting few years."
Jack Savidge: "Perhaps the midwest of America will become the most fertile ground for dance music. All those places like Indianapolis and Minnesota will be like Berlin."
Andy Blake: "Ha! That not being an entirely impossible outcome is truly terrifying."
"You can't knock a good community tribal dance. It's one of the best things that humans ever invented. When all the EDM kids grow out of watching a bunch of false prophets play fizzy noises from a stage and start demanding a bit more, I reckon we're into a really good phase." – Andy Blake
Jack Savidge: "It seems that with Dance Café and World Unknown, you've got a great community around the parties that keeps it all very lively. An extended family of mates and mates of mates. I don't really have a question, but would you comment on its importance to the parties?"
Andy Blake: "Yep, with those and Field Work, Puwaba, and Horton [Jupiter] and Amy [Alsop]'s 'bound to actually again happen one day' Magic Room, it's proving increasingly difficult to have a quiet weekend round our way. A genuinely wonderful bunch of people all coming together too; the best crew I've ever seen assembled in the same place on a regular basis.
"I think you need a balance of people who are there pretty much all the time, those who dip in and out, and a constant stream of new folks to keep things bubbling nicely. That's one of the best things about doing the bigger ones from time to time. A normal monthly World Unknown or Dance Café is around 400 people, but we can pull near enough a thousand when we do New Years or Midsummer or something. And that gives us a chance to do different things with the production and venues. We've got one on June 21st and we're just finalising what we're going to do now. It's one of the most exciting parts of it. And then when you see it all click into place on the night, it's pretty magical."
"Do you feel like a dark room + soundsystem + smoke machine + ravers is a universal thing that will never not create the right environment?" – Jack Savidge
Jack Savidge: "Do you have any platonic ideals of clubs/parties in mind when you set up your nights, or do you feel like a dark room + soundsystem + smoke machine + ravers is a universal thing that will never not create the right environment?"
Andy Blake: "There's a bit of both involved, I think. It's important to stay aware and explore the possibilities that present themselves as things develop. With things like Berghain and Back2Basics – that have lasted a long time have been through many phases in terms of scale, crowd, music etc. – the universal 4/4 heartbeat will always keep it alive. But for things to thrive, it doesn't hurt to at least occasionally have some thinking behind what's going on, even if you don't talk about it outside the gang. Like everything in life, a good balance between thinking and feeling will always see things progress well."
Jack Savidge: "There's been a bit of rave-world chat about the idea of resident DJs – it seems to be an idea that's kind of in vogue at the moment. As someone who does a lot of gigs as a guest and as a resident, do you approach them very differently – beyond just taking fewer records?"
Andy Blake: "I'm not sure, really. To me, a residency is someone playing the same place all night, at least weekly, for years on end – so based on that, I've not had one of those for about eight years. I guess there's some validity in using the term for a proper monthly party though.
"I think it's important to put your heart and soul into every gig and do whatever you can to allow those transcendent moments to occur. I don't do tonnes of them, but even those slightly ropey identikit gigs where everyone faces the front and the visuals look like the big screen telly in the pub has gone wrong have plenty of scope for that if you don't cave in and allow yourself to be dictated to by the promoter and the crowd. There's fun to be had everywhere if you want it – I'll leave the categorising and quantifying to the bearded young men."
"I think it's important to put your heart and soul into every gig and do whatever you can to allow those transcendent moments to occur. Even those ropey identikit gigs where everyone faces the front and the visuals look like the big screen telly in the pub has gone wrong have plenty of scope for that if you don't cave in and allow yourself to be dictated to by the promoter and the crowd." – Andy Blake
Jack Savidge: "Pub big screen on the blink, what a great idea. An essential for any party. There are a few records I associate with hearing you play – one that sticks out in my mind is that disco version of the For Your Love by The Yardbirds. I feel like I've heard you play that all over London."
Andy Blake: "The Chilly one, it's always been a favourite of mine, apart from the really horrible Status Quo guitar break. So after just short of 20 years of wincing every time it got to that bit, I made a simple edit of it and put it out in 2007, and everyone has been playing it to death ever since. Like a complete tit, i decided not to put my name on it – if I had done, I could be nu disco royalty. On second thoughts, I did exactly the right thing in not putting my name on it, becayse that sounds like a truly appalling turn of events.
Jack Savidge: "Those are some chunky power chords. Ohhh dear yes – it's like a completely different band suddenly drops into the tune – different singer and everything. Bizarre. Perhaps the Quo were big at the time, and the label thought this was how to secure heavy rotation."
Andy Blake: "Horrid isn't it? I'm not at all sure of the motivation for it. I'm not much of an edit fan, but after two decades of careful analysis and another seven years of field testing, I'm pretty sure that I made the right decision there."
Jack Savidge: "Absolutely. Another is Open Up by Leftfield that you played when we had you first at Deep Shit in Peckham. Open Up was a massive tune for 11-year-old me, and to hear it getting a rinsing and it still sounding as good as it did on the bus to school felt like something of a 'going full circle' moment."
Andy Blake: "Glad to be of service. It's always fun doing that. I had a guy come up to me a few months later after I'd played Hold Me Back at Disco Bloodbath saying he'd only ever heard it on the Ibiza '90 documentary and damn near pissed himself when he heard it in a club."
Jack Savidge: "I managed to hold it together, bladder-wise, I think – but it was a big moment all the same. Is that A Short Film About Chilling? Which tune is Hold Me Back?
Andy Blake: Yep, that's the one. This is Hold Me Back."
"I had a guy come up to me a few months after I'd played Hold Me Back at Disco Bloodbath saying he'd only ever heard it on the Ibiza '90 documentary and damn near pissed himself when he heard it in a club." – Andy Blake
Jack Savidge: "Huge. Were you one of the early Ibiza colonisers? Perhaps 'colonisers' is a bit strong – crew/posse/gang?"
Andy Blake: "Not at all, actually. I missed '87 and '88, and then was all snobby about going after that. I was on the fringe of the suburban South London lot, a full quarter of a century in advance of my role as a 'harbinger of gentrification' (trademark Vice Magazine, 2013 – thats's due to the parties opening up areas to new people by the way, not because I have a secret life as some kind of property developer)."
Jack Savidge: "Yes, that does sound like quite a leap of logic. Never seen you rolling around in one of those Foxtons-branded Ford Focuses."
Andy Blake: "That's because you haven't been looking hard enough. Me and the ledge are driving about most days in a cloud of chiz looking for little piggies to roast. I probably shouldn't have said that, should I?"
Jack Savidge: "Now you point it out, it fits perfectly. I'm not sure I have much else to ask you – sorry if it was a bit of a retread of stuff you've answered before. And thanks again for taking the time – I'm going to attempt to get your rider of assorted up-market bottled sparkling waters correct this time. Any new favourites on the market? My top one has been the SPA red one – lovely flavour and very energetic in the bubbles department."
Andy Blake: "Yep, SPA is splendid; a very nice looking bottle too. If you can get hold of any Pedras, that would be brilliant. It's from Portugal, they have it all over Vauxhall but I'm not sure where else in London. And if you can get any Farris from Norway, that would be quite the coup. It's a whole other level of aqueous refreshment. Other than that, anything interesting would be fun."
Jack Savidge: "I'm gonna see what Waitrose has to offer the fizzy water connoisseur."
Andy Blake and Jack Savidge play Deep Shit at the Edition Hotel Basement, London this Saturday May 17th 2014 (more information).