Individual Collective – Third Birthday (Interview)

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Inidividual Collective

Over the past few years Individual Collective have been putting on some of the best techno nights in the capital and on Saturday night celebrate their third birthday in style Saturday 5 February with a salivatingly good lineup featuring Paula Temple, Kanding Ray, Rrose, Tessela, Ancient Methods, Peder Mannerfelt, Billy Allen and Keylen

I caught up with co-founder Matt Tharpe ahead of the birthday to see whats in store and get some history on the night.

Can you give us some history on Individual Collective. How did it all start? How many people are involved in it?

So we have four people directly involved in the event, myself, Billy, Carol and Allison. Me, Billy and Allison met via the now defunkt London event Void. Billy was a resident DJ, I had somewhat become a fringe/semi-resident for them, and Allison was heavily affiliated with Void through a guy she was dating at the time. Carol is a long time friend and, I guess you could say, the business mind, spiritual mentor and general motivator of IC. Myself and Carol had been chatting for some time about starting an event off of the back of the experiences I was having DJing and partying at Void, going to Plastic People and Corsica Studios where you would find events such as Plex, Bleed and Colony, and getting mentally lost at festivals like Bloc. I found all these influences very inspiring and decided to call on Billy, who was(and still is) running Candela Rising (and is still to this day has impeccable music taste, and is one of the most technically accomplished DJ’s I know), and Allison who I knew was working at a DJ booking agency(who could provide some clarity, insider intel on fees, and how to deal with agents etc).

So yeah, I guess I kind of hand-picked what I thought was the cream of the crop of a team to work with, and decided to make a go of it! With all our relative talents and experience in music, business, DJing etc, it was a fail safe situation for me. I was hooking up with Luke from Plex regularly and chatting about putting on an event, of which he gave me some great advice, and yeah, the confidence was pretty sky high onward from there really. We started three years ago in a small 250 capacity venue in Hackney Wick with Ancient Methods, DJ Skirt and Manni Dee, and hit capacity for the night, which told us all there was obviously something in what we were trying to do. Fast-forward a bit, and we were lucky enough to do a co-promotion, with us running room 2 at Corsica, and on from there the rest is history.

We’re humbled and grateful that Corsica saw the value in what we were trying to achieve, and it’s been a great home ever since. We’ve had loads of awesome people(that we’re actually into!) play for us which is nice, made lots of friends, got lots of memories, it’s pretty cool when I think about it!  

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What was the main ethos when you started putting on nights? Has it evolved to what you set out?

I would say the main ethos was to celebrate underground, left of centre Techno and Experimental music, and I honestly don’t believe we’ve compromised that at all. The events have of course naturally evolved and got bigger, but I think the four of us would agree, we came in at quite a high, so it would have been difficult to come back from that. What I would love about going to the Plex, Bleed and Colony parties, was firstly the energy and anticipation of hearing such challenging music, and wherever you were and whenever it was in the venue over the course of the night, you’d hear some great music.

I think we had to tell ourselves not to be scared of putting on lineups whereby people would be conflicted as to what they would listen to across the rooms, because at the end of the day that’s not a bad issue to have at a club night in my opinion. I think we’re all very happy with the direction it’s gone, and going, and we’re always hatching plans for the next best lineup, so long may it continue!

You celebrate your third birthday on Saturday? What have been the special moments throughout the years?

Blimey, there’s quite few.. I think seeing all of our friends who’ve supported us from day one dancing and smiling is a really nice recurring memory for me. Every Kangding Ray and Ancient Methods set are always going to be up there as special moments. Looking back at a picture a friend took of me standing next to Regis in the DJ booth was a strange thing. He’s someone I had listened to for many years, and then onward chatting to him at other events like you’ve known him forever is still surreal to me.

Stealing Russell Haswell’s lighter directly out of his hand(must’ve felt like I had some big balls on that night haha). The Headless Horseman live/AV set at our first birthday event we did with DSNT was quite spectacular! Oisin and his team really bought the heat for that one. I remember sitting at the artist dinner for that event and thinking “this is properly mental”. All these great DJ’s, artists, friends sitting here on account of our little clubnight. Still resonates with me today!

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What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since you started putting on parties?

Nothing much has changed really. People on both sides of the coin (agents, artists, promoters, label owners) have learned how to monetize and make “Techno” into a business, which to be fair is probably a good thing and had to happen for it’s longevity(I’m talking about the longevity of Techno in London not the rest of the world per se). It can sometimes be stifling, but if you have good relationships with the artists and agents, you can usually knock out a half decent event. There are certainly more parties that have surfaced, all offering their own take on things, but that’s just a good thing for me, not a bad thing at all.

London got a night tube, which should have been really positive, but I’m not sure anyone really cares. It does however mean people can theoretically turn up late and leave early, which could have proved to be a real bummer. Seems okay at the moment, but I hope it doesn’t open a can of worms that as promoters we have to potentially factor into events in the future. We’re also noticing an older type of clubber surface in the last couple of years which is interesting to me (when I say older, I mean 30’s – 40’s, which is obviously by no means ancient at all!). It seems with the all quality events around, the old guard are having their second, third, or fourth winds.

Loads of females coming to the nights as well, which considering Electronic music (and Techno more specifically) had been classically a male dominated arena for a long time, it’s really healthy actually. Lots of non-gender specific events such as KAOS are around (and have been for some time), and anything goes attitudes are the vibe right now, which has put a different spin on things in good way. It’s bought a lot of people out that you wouldn’t ordinarily have seen prior, so yeah, that’s great.

It seems with all these flavours of people, it’s all very freeform, and people are happy to let themselves be very accepting of each other and the music. I would say it’s those attitudes that have helped Experimental music resonate much more with people in recent times, and there is a real openness to it now, which is great for us, as we can provide a spin on our events which only parties such as Bleed were doing regularly with any real effect. Also, lots of people are prepared to travel, not just inter-country, but across Europe to go to a great clubnight, which is quite mental, but pretty cool. So actually loads has changed on reflection haha.

What do you think of the current state of UK clubbing? Do you think London can hold its own against the likes of Berlin and other European cities?

Well, it’s the age old debate I guess.. The licensing laws don’t allow for UK or London clubbing to be that debauched really, and of course much has been said about the draconian approach our government employ in regards to drugs/drug testing. I think there’s plenty of good stuff to go to up and down the UK, you just have to get off your arse and go to it! People aren’t going to go to a club on their lunch break like they do with Berghain, but that’s because there’s no demand for that kind of thing here. In the UK we generally work long hours, in high pressure environments, with targets, and pay sometimes well below the national average, so there isn’t the time or money to be in clubs at 5pm on a Wednesday afternoon.

We’re also expected to buy property, get a well paid job, have kids, go on two holidays a year, drive a nice car, maybe these are the pressures that a much younger and free-er/boho city such a Berlin might not encounter. The fact of the matter is, clubs are closing, and they’re closing quick, thick and fast. Whether it’s Plastic People or your local town centre ritzy R’n’B and pop nightclub, your favourite spot will be next, and that’s why we will possibly never hold our own in comparison to other countries, whereby they celebrate their most beloved clubs as cultural institutions.

I may stand to be corrected, but I would still say there are quite a few cities such as Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and more, that have some great clubs and sometimes quite a few decent ones in the the same city. And if there is only one or two decent places to hang, there’s an awesome hyper underground scene happening in student’s basements and grotty pubs from North to south. That’s probably where we hold our own on just as good a level, if not better than other countries. I was chatting to a young lad the other day who went to uni in Bristol, and he was saying his mates booked Antal (owner of Rush Hour records). I mean, Antal is a well-respected Dekmantel selector, playing all over from Amsterdam to Japan, and he’s been booked by a bunch of keen students in Bristol to play to 100 people invite only.. That’s pretty cool no?

Essentially, I just think in London particularly, we have our own thing going on, it’s not a Berlin, or an Amsterdam thing, it’s a London thing. It works within the realms of what we can afford, money and time-wise, and also what we’re allowed to do, so yeah, we do it in our own way, and that’s pretty ace in my opinion.

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Your birthday features some serious heavyweights with Paula Temple, Tessela, Peder Mannerfelt, Rrose, Kangding Ray and Ancient Methods on the lineup. What kind of work goes into putting together a lineup like that? What do you think people don’t realise?

Haha, if people only knew! Once I started promoting parties, I stopped turning up to events and saying they were shit (not that I did much of that sort of talk anyway btw). Even if it wasn’t my cup of tea, or things didn’t work out for the promoter, I now realise the efforts that go into running even a small event, and just think of the positives on the night. How dare we turn up to events that some promoters have invested their life savings, had countless sleepless nights over and flippantly say they’re “shit”. I think, without playing the poor promoter card, we do this for very little, or no profit(contrary to popular belief). I ask of my team to donate their time, effort and energy for free, and it can be stressful at times, very stressful, but you only get out what you put in as they say.

I’m very aware that when things are good, they’re good, and I can only assume when they’re bad, they’re pretty damn awful. As I mentioned before, we’re a very strong team, and our main objective is for everyone to have a great time, artists, clubbers, even the security! It’s quite nice when the security team have a had a good night, means something must have gone o.k! I’m not going to patronise people and say they have no idea what goes into a night, but I just don’t think it even enters people’s mind as to what’s involved behind the scene’s, I mean, who really wants to ponder that on a night out for God’s sake! Even I like to switch off when I go to an event and just be absorbed by it. If I reeled off the huge list of things that we have to do, it would make wedding planning seem like a doddle! That’s why we have four people involved, we share responsibilities, and I’m very aware I couldn’t do it all by myself!

But yeah, we love it, and that’s why we do it, so come rain or shine I wouldn’t have it any other way. I genuinely could have put a decent sized deposit on a nice house for the money that’s been invested, but how would people get to see Kangding Ray crank tunes from his new album out of a fantastic Function One soundsystem eh?

Delighted to see it on in Corsica as well, my personal favorite club in London. With Fabric’s much publicised closure last year I always fear the same course for it. How important is it to the scene?  Any other venues you like?

It’s always great to hear Corsica is a fave for someone. I can honestly say, the general quality of events and people that frequent the club is outstanding and long may it continue!

Let’s be honest, Elephant & Castle is undergoing some pretty hefty gentrification, and you never know, Corsica may fall foul to that, sadly that’s something that’ll be out of our control. Fabric, for the moment seems safe, and people really pulled together and stood tall to keep it open, which is awesome. If the same happens to Corsica, or any other of our favourite venues, we’ll rally round just as strong and fight for what’s right. Luckily they’re not battling with deaths or any other serious incidents, so one can assume there’s some sort of safety in that knowledge.

I can’t honestly see people letting Corsica go, it’s a cultural hub, and a massive part of some people’s lives just like Fabric was, you won’t take that away from people(or me!). Corsica is undoubtedly easily one of the top three clubs in London, and for many number one, so yeah, I would say it’s pretty important to the scene. The club is looking great at the moment, room two looks awesome after it’s re-design, it’s really elevated it another rung.

In regards to other clubs/venues in town, Cafe Oto is cool, whoever does the programming puts on some really interesting stuff there, which is very inspiring. St.John’s church in Hackney is a lovely venue, I always feel very humbled to be in that space. Sadly not as much goes on there these days, but the St.John’s sessions were pretty awesome and will stick in my mind for quite some time.

It may not have the sort of events on that i’m personally into, but I think Village Underground is a very lovely, well-maintained, and well run venue. There’s the potential for some really cool stuff to go on there, but I guess it lends itself to big room sounds as it’s only one room, and the sort of DJ’s/music that need to fill a 1000-odd people venue needs to be fairly widely appreciated by many outside of the remit of music I’m into. Other than the obvious ones, I can’t think of any others, but then I’ll probably remember more in about a month’s time!

What can people expect from Saturday night?

All sorts of jiggery pokery really! Kangding Ray is going to be laying down the flavour of his new album, Ancient Methods has just come of the back of his new release (plus he generally has loads of untried and untested new material in his artillery) and he also just tore Berghain a new one recently (as per usual), so a lot of people we know will still be reeling from that. This is why we have these two particular guys back year on year, they’re just pure fire each and every time, they’re visionaries and masters of their craft. If you’re not digging them on the night, you really shouldn’t be allowed out!

Kangding always gets excited as we get him the mixer he drools over playing on, so when the big man is happy, great music is on the cards. Paula is Paula, she’s awesome, no real surprise to say she’ll lay it down bigtime! Room two will be more experimental, a bit more thoughtful, Peder and Rrose will make sure people get that fix. Tessela will no doubt straddle the Techno/Bass crossover sound he’s well-known for, and that should finish room 2 off very nicely indeed. My quiet tip is Billy’s opening set in Room one, I wish I wasn’t playing my set so I could hear that. But yeah, everything will be pretty cool, so I would recommend trying to see a bit of everything.

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Any labels and artists you’re particularly excited about this year?

Well, I think it’s undeniable that Samurai Horo are going to have a fantastic year. They’ve been doing quite amazing things since their inception, and I think this really is their year. There’s a Grebenstein release coming out on Horo that is quite something, and he’ll have a great year also. Philipp Strobel’s Aufnahme+Wiedergabe is always on very strong form, there’s a Veil Of Light release that’s looking very tasty with remixes from Phase Fatale, SSSS, Blush Response and Codex Empire.

Ancient Methods will have some amazing stuff coming out this year, Billy’s label Candela Rising has something really quite awesome on the way, Pessimist is someone we’re really into and that you’re bound to see/hear more from also. Years Of Denial bought out a really great first offering on Oliver Ho’s Broken English Club oriented label Death&Leisure, really interested to see what’s next from them and the label.  Simon Shreeve makes some really introspective and bass heavy Techno, and certainly has more in the bag.

I personally can’t wait to hear more from Carla Dal Forno and December. Some people that are always fantastic are, Tsuzing, Katsunori Sawa, Kangding Ray, Raime, Oake, Phase Fatale, Beau Wanzer, JK Flesh, Profligate, Andy Stott, Vatican Shadow.. Our good friend Manni Dee will no doubt gain widespread notoriety and play plenty more gigs this year and release more politically motivated Techno. God, so many good artists! I’ll stop otherwise I’ll be here all day!

What’s next for the night?

We’ve got three fairly sizeable events this year at Corsica, and I think we’ll be looking at laying down some foundations and bouncing ideas for something very interesting regarding some interests outside of music, but still involving music. Sounds a bit like I’m talking in tongues, but we’ve had some ideas, and they just need to be thought about and pondered on before we action them. We’re integrating a solid graphic designer and in-house photographer into the collective, and they’re things that’ll build on the aesthetic of what we’re aiming to do and where we’re going in the future.

Finally, anything you want to shout about

Plenty to gob off about as you’ve seen above, but unless you have another 3 days reading time, best I leave it there!

***Big thanks to Matt for the interview. All tickets for the birthday are sold out but there are a limited amount held back for the door. See you up the front!***

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