Posts Tagged ‘Domenic Cappello’

The Sound Of Thunder

By Elles Pinfold

Miles Simpson and I go way back.  Well, by way back I mean about three years, which in London time is forever no?  Ok, it’s not, but you know what I mean. Seems like forever (in a good way). 

He got in touch via a shared love of venting about old house records and clubs of yore. His Beyond The Stars blog and my Legendary Children site had a lot in common; the vital difference being that he had actually witnessed some of this stuff first hand and our knowledge was gleaned through feverish trawling of the Internet and out-of-print books from Amazon.

When his night Thunder launched two years ago we were down the front with bells on. As it turns out over those two years Miles’ knowledge and passion (along with that of his co-hosts Rick and Joe) have translated into one of the best underground house nights in London.

The night is celebrating its 2nd anniversary this weekend, so what better time to pick Mr. Simpson’s teeming house brain on the seminal clubs that have influenced him and how Thunder is nailing it today…

It is well documented (amongst those that know you) that your visit to Sound Factory in the ’90s had a huge impact. I love hearing your stories despite possibly maybe teasing about it on occasion *ahem*. Tell us about it. Why was it so special?

I guess it was special because it was like nothing I’d ever experienced in London. Not only was it fantastic, it was incredibly exotic too.

There was a simplicity, a rawness, an energy and a communal experience that was unlike anything in London. There was no warm up or guests, just Junior Vasquez, his crowd, his children and they had a special bond.

Some of those parties I’d been to in London had great production, grand stairs cases to the DJ booth, film set props, dress code themes, etc, but the Factory was just a big brick walled warehouse space, iron pillars, a massive sound system and a lighting system based around one, huge disco ball. And that was it, save for a juice bar (the venue was dry), a spotlessly clean chill out area and a drinking fountain.

The music wasn’t that clichéd big room tribal sound, that came later, it was a real mixture of US stuff, MK, Murk, Def Mix, Strictly Rhythm, and maybe slightly harder edged UK stuff like X-Press 2 and the Farley and Heller’s mixes of DSK and Happy Monday’s ‘Stinkin Thinkin’.

I think it opened at midnight but didn’t warm up till about 3am with things really firing by about 6am. At that time in London you were usually asleep on someone’s sofa or on a night bus.

The crowd was raw too. Subsequently the Factory became associated with New York ‘club kids’, all showy in a ‘look at me’ way but in 1992 it was still quite natural, almost entirely gay, very black and Hispanic, with the banji boy look prevalent because people came dressed to dance not pose. There was this thing around 9 or 10am when transvestites, who were seriously these beautiful men, started to have catwalk vogue battles down the side of the dance floor, but it seemed to happen organically rather than in a contrived manner. Nothing about the club felt contrived.

One of the Factory moments that will always live with me was when Junior eased a thunder storm in the mix. Slowly, the rain got louder and louder and eventually overwhelmed the music which gradually disappeared. As this happen the club sank into total darkness, illuminated only by strobes placed across the ceiling that went off every so often in a series that gave the effect of lightning streaking across the ceiling. So I’m standing in the middle this New York warehouse, in the pitch black, in a thunder storm, with 2000 gay men, every person there is screaming and hollering. You could almost feel the rain. And then, after what seemed like an eternity, this vocal cuts across the rain, “It’s gonna be, a lovely day, for you and me” (the at that time, unreleased S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. record, from acetate) and then as the first beat kicking in, every single light in the pitch black club hit the disco ball, and the sun dropped into the room. I’m not doing it justice, it was like an explosion of pure energy, and the place went absolutely bonkers. I’d never seen or heard anything like it and I doubt will again.

I get goose bumps just thinking about it and I must admit, I do like talking about it, mainly because I wish I could go back.

Do you think any of those aspects have translated to the way you do things at Thunder?

I think I run the risk of sounding very conceited if I make any sort of connection between Thunder and the Sound Factory! But if there’s something I learnt from that experience it’s about importance of basics and staying focused on those. The music, the sound and the people. 

Ultimately, the nights you really remember, the nights that stay with you forever, are the ones where good music sounded great, you were surrounded by good, like-minded people and there was some sort of communal experience, even if it’s as simple as being a good laugh. Those qualities are not unique to the Sound Factory though, I guess they’ve been present at every great party ever. But that’s the stuff that makes me excited and that feeds my enthusiasm, to the point that it often gets the better of me!

I suppose Junior is also responsible for my penchant for a bit of drama too. I love a dramatic intro or even a period of silence. He did this thing where he worked this long, unreleased intro of the Sounds of Blackness – The Pressure for about 10 minutes at 6am. That was peak time, the dancefloor was heaving and then, 10 mins of accapella gospel. Every time you thought the beat would kick in, it didn’t, the tension mounted, people started actually crying, and then after he’d built the pressure to point you could almost feel it in the air around you, he let it go, the beat kicked in and dancefloor exploded.

Thunder is about to celebrate its 2nd birthday- for me the party’s always had a special vibe. Having DJ’ed for you and been a stalwart attendee I am probably hugely biased, but whenever I’m there I chat to people who have similar experiences and yet it’s their first one and they don’t know any of you lot other than what they’ve heard… What do you think is its magic formula?

I genuinely don’t know but I might be the wrong person to ask?! Luck maybe?! But you’re right, people do seem to like what the parties are about…

As I mentioned earlier, the basics are important to us and focusing on them has worked quite well. The music is what we can influence most of all; we’re all competent DJs, well Joe and Rick are anyway and we all come at house from slightly different angles too, so I think we complement each other.

Beyond that, we put a lot of thought into guests. They have to be booked on the strength of their DJing rather than productions. There’s a balancing act to be done with budgets and who we want, but we try to push that as far as we can. We managed to book John Heckle before he had an agent, convince Sven Weisemann and Patrice Scott to play a 120 capacity venue, and brought Gene Hunt over from Chicago for the first time in 20 years. 

We’ve also been lucky with our crowd. From the outset we had people who love the music and have been supportive of the parties. They spread the word, brought friends and friends of friends, and it’s snowballed. We try to make the atmosphere as inclusive possible, but to a certain extent it’s out of our hands, people either like it or they don’t. Fortunately for us the people that do like it are lovely, so the vibe is great. That’s really down to them, not us – they make the party what it is.

The final jigsaw piece is the sound. We lucked out massively when we moved to Dance Tunnel because not only is it a great space, but they are committed to making it sound better than any other club that size in London. We’ve also resisted the temptation to do more regular parties too, which hopefully keeps it feeling like a special event and also saves me from battering everyone on Facebook to death with spam. So yeah, mainly luck.

Thunder at Dance Tunnel

You always have great guests, but actually the three of you are strong as residents too- which is something you mentioned about the New York clubs back in the day also. Would you ever consider going balls-out ‘residents only’?

Residents-only nights are something I don’t think London ever got its head round. Whereas New York was built on that. On that first trip there was Vasquez at the Sound Factory, Tony Humphries at Zanzibar, Knuckles at The Roxy, Troy Parrish at Sugar Babies and before that you had all the disco legends, Levan, Gibbons, Scott, etc. But guest culture seems to reign supreme in London. It would take a brave person to go residents-only but it could be great, I’d love to do it… if anyone bothered to turn up! 

Finally, what’s in store for the Thunder birthday extravaganza and Year Three  for you guys?

We’re having two guests play at our birthday party, something we never normally do. Rather than try and get in some big name, who has no existing connection with the party, we like to try and celebrate our birthday parties with our friends. As you know, last year it was the Legendary Children, who provided all sorts of support and encouragement in our first year, this year it’s Neville Watson and Domenic Cappello.

Neville was the guest at our first ever party, he’s well known for his productions but he’s an even better DJ, one of the best we have ever had play for us. He’s also a good friend now and it’s possible that without him kicking me up the backside every couple of weeks, we’d have never got Thunder off the ground. So his influence has played a big part in us being here now.

Domenic has been resident at the Sub Club in Glasgow for almost 20 years now. Not resident in the in the once-a-month way or resident in the fitting it with his touring schedule way but playing there every single Saturday for 19 years. And the crowd up there are absolutely rabid, which is great because the atmosphere is so intense but they are also really demanding, so there’s no room for error. But that’s fine, because Domenic is one of the most gifted DJs I’ve ever heard. When he played for us in July last year the night bordered on being a religious experience, well, for me anyway. Like Neville, he’s become a good friend too.

As for year three, well you’ll just have to wait and see! We love it at Dance Tunnel and as its reputation spreads, we think more and more DJs will want to play there, so we intend carry on trying to twist agents’ arms and shoe horn in DJs wouldn’t ever normally get to hear play in a venue that size. Some of the DJs we’re already well down the road with getting onboard are simply jaw dropping. So, fingers crossed and all that!

Join Miles and the rest of the Thunder team down at Dance Tunnel tonight, Friday 6th September from 10pm to late for Thunder’s 2nd Birthday. 

For more of Elles’s work follow her on twitter: @e_l_l_e_s

Thunder

If you’ve been frequenting dark basements round these parts lately you may have noticed the unmistakable sounds of Thunder. A quarterly party with an extremely selective music policy, Thunder has so far welcomed Sven Weisemann, Patrice Scott and Neville Watson into the fold for their dedicated crowd. A collaboration between a trio of seasoned London music heads Miles Simpson, Rick Hopkins and Joseph Apted, the next party is happening this Friday up the road at the Waiting Room. We spoke to them about things that go bump in the night…  

Tell us about your introduction to house music – what clubs and records got you hooked?

Rick: Me personally, I got sucked in by the sounds of Chicago and early Detroit in ‘89. Wasn’t a club but a local DJ named Doug Osbourne, who was a Shoomer, a few years older than me, and listening to him force feeding music to us like any good DJ would, I succumbed to the House Sound. Pre 1989 I was really into my hip hop and you’d often hear early Trax records like Adonis – No Way Back or Raze’s – Jack The Groove interspersed in the early sound-system nights out and these records always stood out with the distinctive 808 drum machines and basic looped bassline that drew you in. Another one was Nitro Deluxe but too me that seemed like a combination of early freestyle and even earlier house productions. Club wise, we’d go to Dingwalls and hear Colin Favor spin rap along with house too, so Mr. Favor had a very strong influence on why and how the house and techno sound became so prevalent in my late teens and early 20’s. Where I live in the suburbs, we were only a stone’s throw from the smoke, so London’s influence was drip fed to us and by then you were looking at so called raving like an epidemic. Most, if not all, my friends were going out to big raves or clubs in town. We had a local boozer on a Thursday night that Doug Osbourne did and it was mayhem, and there was not much drinking which never pleased Peter the landlord, bless him, meaning we were pretty much going out Thursdays, Friday, a big do in Cambridge or in London on a Saturday then back down the pub on the Sunday with everyone proclaiming they were coming back up, those were indeed the days.

Miles: I can remember hearing house on the radio in the late ‘80s, things like Nitro Deluxe – Let’s Get Brutal, Sterling Void – It’s Alright, Kym Mazelle – Useless and then Inner City – Big Fun on Pete Tong’s Friday night show on Capital, but not even really being aware that some of it was house rather than just dance music, especially the more soulful stuff. I didn’t really catch the house bug properly until I went to my first acid house party at the end of 1988 in The Dome in Tufnell Park. The party was called Space, there was lots of smoke, a strobe and even some lazers – all of which are still dear to my heart! I started work in a shop on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherds Bush literally a day or two later, and that was opposite Discount Records, which sounds crap but was one of the best record shop in west London! So as I immersed myself in the north London rave scene of 1989, at places like Silver City, Labyrinth and Camden Place on a Monday, and the supporting pirate radio stations, like Centreforce, Sunrise and Dance, I could pop over the road and hum the tunes to them and then buy them. 1989 was such an amazing year for year of records, as it felt like the world was changing around us …

Joe: I’m a bit younger than Miles and Rick and grew up in rural Angus – Scotland, so it’s safe to say I didn’t have the same influences. I lived a fairly sheltered life until the age of 15/16 at which point various clubs and parties just seemed to explode in our area. It was the summer of 1992 and the little town that I went to school, Forfar, suddenly had a regular Friday night club and was bringing up DJ’s like Steve Bicknell, Evil Eddie Richards, and Michael Kilkie every week. It became really popular, really quickly, and at one point had buses coming through from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, etc, all to go this mental little club in this little town they’d probably never heard of. To say it was an eye-opener was putting it mildly, I was 15 sneaking into an over 18’s night and it literally was a case of one week I was going to a youth club, drinking cheap cider and trying (failing) to pull girls, and the next week I was dancing around in dry-ice to Chimo Bayo, having the time of my life and wondering how I could afford a Destroy jacket. That summer was my introduction to that scene and I absolutely loved it, it was a whole genre of music that I hadn’t been exposed to, clothes and fashion I hadn’t seen before and the fact that most people were much older just made it ridiculously exciting. Music wise, I’m not going to get into revisionism and pretend I was dancing about to Underground Resistance records aged 15 as that wasn’t the case. The tunes that stick out are things like the afore-mentioned Chimo Bayo – Asi Me Gusta Mi which just sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before….it hasn’t aged well and sounds very euro-cheesy, but to me, at the time,  it sounded sleazy and exotic. The other tune that’s ingrained in my brain was Age of Love – Age of love, which again sounded so exciting and different to what I’d been exposed to previously. The next year, 1993, a local guy called Shawn Moir started a night called Aphrodisia in another nearby town called Kirriemuir, it was in a completely lawless, anything-goes little venue called The Og. It had zero security, was filled with smoke, had a wild crowd and was extremely debauched. That was our ‘clubbing home’ for the next few years and was probably the most fun I’ve ever had.

Why do old house records sound more relevant than ever?

Rick: They don’ t sound any more relevant now than they did back then it’s just they were records produced by people who loved what they did and were affected by the clubs they were going to and I guess tried to recreate sounds that they the music makers were hearing.  A good record will always last the test of time. Producers will always try and hark back to the vintage sound of early Chicago records because essentially the productions were so raw with a sound quality that matched, certain labels vinyl presses had that earthy sound because it was old vinyl melted down and reused for newer wax. All this combined just sounded, without being too clichéd, totally mind-blowing, hence the massive influx of younger producers trying to recreate ‘that’ sound with tape recordings, analogue equipment, etc. But, house music isn’t just about a 707, 303, 727 or 101, in my humble opinion. It’s whatever feels right at the time so long as it’s good and the dancers react.

Miles: House records have always been relevant to me but I guess the cyclical nature of music means they haven’t necessarily to most others. If you listen to one thing for too long it can become tired. And whilst house has always been evolving in one way or another, I think a lot of younger people switched off to it after the mainstream boom in the ‘90s. And why wouldn’t they? Mainstream house became the sound of Mecca discos in the suburbs, girls dancing round handbag, blokes in shiny shirts on the pull and shit pop remixes.  All the sort of stuff any teenager with an ounce of sense would run a mile from. But now that’s been forgotten, things have moved on and young people are engaging with it again, because as Rick says, good music stands the test of time, and there are literally thousands and thousands of amazing house records people under the age of 30 will have never heard. And with that new blood comes fresh ideas and suddenly people are rehashing, reinterpreting and reinventing, but in an exciting way. There’s a nod to the past but it’s not derivative blandness, so you can play a 2012 Joy Orbison tune next to a 1995 Prescription record next to a 1990 Nu-Groove record and it works. It’s great, because as a DJ that’s been buying house for years, it gives you such a broad palette to draw from.

Joe: I agree with what Miles and Rick both say, I think back then people were trying to be innovative and original and that comes across in the records even now. Since then people have tried to copy and regurgitate that style as it’s drifted in and out of vogue but it never sounds as fresh so people keep returning to the original tracks. That’s not to say we should all be playing old music, but new music should offer something new, rather than just trying to sound like vintage Chicago house, in my humble opinion.

What are your current favourite labels?

Rick: Aesthetic Audio, Sistrum, Curle Records, Clone and all the little offshoot labels, RushHour, Fit Records, FXHE,  Delsin Records, Pampa Records, Smallville, 7th Sign, Sushitech, MikroDisko, M>O>S, Workshop, Dekmental, Ferris Park, Uzuri, Sound Signature – the list is endless.

Miles: I try not to get too hung up on labels but I’m generally a miserable failure on that front, because I get hooked too easily, especially if the artwork is cool, or they’ve got those little cloth swatches that Mojuba use or they’re nicely hand-stamped like Workshop!

Joe: Boring answer, but I don’t have allegiances to any labels – I couldn’t name a single label where I like EVERYTHING off it, or even 50% of it, so my collection is a magpie-like selection of bits and bobs from the labels mentioned already and others.

Where do you buy your wax?

Rick: Mainly online from Juno, Vinyl Underground in Northampton, Interstellar Sounds from Leicester, Delsin shop in Amsterdam, Rub A Dub up in Glasgow and Phonica, as opposed to a few years back when I was in Soho constantly every other weekend circumnavigating the shops from the pre house days in Groove Records, Hitman Records, Red Records in the magic Soho square mile and Spin Offs over in Hammersmith. House wise I was purchasing vinyl from shops like Luton’s Soul Sense Records, Hardcore Records in Stevenage and in town Fat Cat Records, Atlas, Eukatech, Rough Trade below Slam City Skates, etc. The odd occasion I can get into town on a Friday or Saturday afternoon I have a rummage through the racks of Phonica and Sounds of The Universe and always manage to find something decent.

Miles: I use online shops a bit but as I live and work in London, I try and get along to physical records shops most weeks. I can walk to Phonica in about 20 minutes after work, so I’m in there a lot. The staff are cool and Nick in particular always seems to be able to pick out at least one record I love and that I would have never thought to listen to otherwise. Whilst in Soho I try to check out Blackmarket too and always pop into Sounds of the Universe, to see what’s on offer there, and have a chat to James, another massively knowledgeable chap. Kristina in Dalston is bloody great too, fantastic records and the guys in there know their shit, so their second hand stuff is HOT. We also did a pre-Thunder in-store party with them and Patrice Scott, which was cracking and they were great to work with. Hopefully it won’t be the last one either.

Joe: If online I use Hardwax, Rub-a-Dub, Juno etc, and if I’m lucky enough to escape suburbia and actually make it into London, then I love an afternoon mooching around Phonica and second hand places.

Why did you decide to throw Thunder parties in this neck of the woods?

Miles: When we were originally looking for a venue I was convinced we needed to be in the Dalston area. It’s just buzzing, maybe like Shoreditch was 15 years ago, but with added genuine local community, which will hopefully act as a bit of a safety valve and stop the area being taken over by dick heads. I remember first visiting the Superstore and being blown away not just by the venue but the crowd, and the feel of the area. And since Superstore blazed that trail, that buzz has spread to other local venues. But it’s still got that rough edge. I love it, on a summer’s evening, at the weekend, the atmosphere is electric. I don’t think there is anywhere in London like it right now, not Hackney Wick, not Peckham, it’s just right and it’s basically the place to be if you want to throw a good party and have people who live for good parties turn up. That’s why we’re there.

What is the combined age of Thunder?

Miles: You should know a lady never tells… but we are actually all in our teens, we’ve just, erm, had hard lives.

Your guests have been pretty special – what do you look for in a headliner?

Rick: Someone we all admire musically whilst trying to bring in folk who you may never get to hear in such intimate surroundings.

Miles: Like Rick says, someone we are really into and admire, not just as a producer but as a DJ too. Neville Watson, John Heckle, Patrice Scott, Sven Weisemann and our next guest, Domenic Cappello, are all very accomplished producers, but you know what? They are all at least as good, if not better, behind the turntables as they are in the studio. That is important to us, because there are plenty of ‘hot’ DJs out there, whose hotness is based primarily on cobbling a couple of tune together on a laptop. We are after greater authenticity, because that’s what Thunder is about – real people doing stuff they love for the love of it.

Joe: I’d say the primary thing is, can they properly rock a party, as opposed to just turning up and playing a few tunes. The other thing is someone who takes a bit of pride in their craft who has gone to some effort to look out a really exciting, unpredictable selection of underground house. Every guest so far has played pure vinyl, so it couldn’t be further removed from the laptop DJ playing the latest Beatport anthems… there has to be a bit of love and care about what they do.

What is your fantasy Thunder line-up?

Rick: Personally love to get Derrick May down for an evening. That would be special.

Miles: Blimey. If I had a time machine, then it would have to be two rooms – the first would have London club legend Breeze warming up for 1990-93 vintage Tony Humphries and then the Junior Vasquez of 1991-92 see us through to lunchtime. Room Two would have Walter Gibbons, Tee Scott and Jim Burgess, who are basically my disco heroes.

But in the absence of a time machine, maybe Chez Damier and DJ Nature? Or Joy Orbison and Sven Weisemann back to back – that would be nuts. Actually, Derrick May is a great shout. With Theo Parrish and Kenny Dixon Junior warming up… in the original Sound Factory, with the Milk Bar bolted on as a second room and the roof terrace from Pacha stuck on top. Although I’d settle for DJ Nature or Joy Orbison though in our little basement though.

Joe: I’d borrow Miles’ time machine and have a two room club as well; Larry Levan playing a happy hardcore set in one room with, DJ Rush & DJ Funk playing back-2-back in the chill-out room. I’d also have “Blocko and Peasy” doing the cloakroom just for the jolly japes they’d get up to – bloody nutters.

Miles: Right, let’s bin the time machine plan then…

What does the future hold for Thunder?

Miles: Well in the immediate future, we have a party on 20th July with Glasgow house superstar, Domenic Cappello. Then the weekend after we’re playing at the FARR Festival in Hertfordshire, with loads of other great DJs, like you (Dan), Hannah Holland, JD Twitch, Bicep, Terry Farley and Trevor Fung and two days before that on Thursday 26th, we’re playing a FARR warm up party at the Dalston Superstore. All very exciting! Beyond that we want to continue to build on the parties we’ve had so far and throw more great parties continue to play music we love and that hopefully other people like too, work with a diverse range of DJs that we admire, and most importantly, have lots of fun we people like. It’s not much of a master plan but it seems to have worked out okay so far!

THUNDER with Domenic Cappello

Rick: That we all remain sane and continue to move and grow in the right direction that we want. Think we’ve achieved that thus far so we’ll continue moving forward, onwards & upwards as they say.

Joe: I won’t be happy until we’re as big as Swedish House Mafia. Only when we’re playing to 70,000 people at Milton Keynes Bowl with Rick banging out loads of old Relief records will I think we’ve achieved our goals…

Miles, Rick and Joe play Society’s warm-up party for Farr Festival on Thursday 26th July at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 3am and on the R$N Vs Society stage at Farr Festival on Saturday 28th July.