Explorations In Underground Music
If you are searching for a venue for your next party then look no further.
Situated in Bulgaria, this saucer shaped building is actually a monument built during the height of Soviet influence, commemorating socialist communism.
Long since abandoned, no apparent plans are in place to renovate the building or surrounding area with little interest expressed by the present government in maintaining this monument to the past.
Not going to be a lot of fun getting your equipment up that hill and perhaps a bit off the beaten track, but pretty much the perfect spot for a party. Just off to go set up a crowd funding page.....
William Dunbar writes for The Calvert Journal about the secretive queer nights at Tbilisi's Bassiani club. An insightful piece detailing the gay scene in Georgia as well as the wider political atmosphere.
Finally got round to watching Northern Disco Lights. The documentary details the rise of dance music in Norway and how it eventually changed the nation, dragging it into the 21st Century. Some great stories and characters in the documentary as well as great music of course.
Can rent or purchase the documentary here;
The building is situated in Surrey Quays in London’s East End. The area was once a fully functioning dockyard, making up part of the Port of London, once the world’s largest port. The Printworks building is situated in an industrial plant that was built as part of a regeneration project in the late 80’s. It was then Western Europe’s largest printing press but has been empty since 2013. The site is 15 acres. It has now been redesigned into 6 vast event spaces on multiple levels, 2 of these spaces are fully soundproof because of the operating noise of the printing presses (which are still in situ). It can now host up to 6000 revellers (Berghain a measly 2500). 5000 in the main room alone which stretches back some 120 metres.
It’s unclear what the investment was but the building now boasts a new bespoke sound system - L’Acoustics in the main room and a Void system in Room 2 - and production installation that would rival most stadium events.
In its first 12 months it has hosted events for labels such as Ninja Tune and Blueprint and artists like Richie Hawtin, Chemical Brothers, Marcel Dettmann, Nina Kraviz and Daphni.
Apart from the occasional 3am extension, it is licensed to operate until 12am, appeasing local residents and allowing party goers to catch the last tube home so they can presumably get an early night lol.
The novelty of the new club and the space itself seems to imbue party goers as well as artists with a youthful energy. This may also be in part due to the fact that parties here happen mostly during the day time, but there is a noticeable sense of fun and excitement inside. The size also means much reduced waiting times at the entrance and at bars and toilets. There are no bottlenecks to negotiate and the main dance floor is so big and accessible from all sides you’re left with few of the normal gripes.
There have been many memorable moments in the first 12 months at Printworks but a personal highlight was watching Warp Records artist Clark perform Death Peak live on the main stage. He was headlining, James Ruskin previously working the crowd up into a fervour. To watch 5,000 sweaty revellers then stand still, avidly watching as Clark worked through a few of the builders on the album was a great moment.
London has suddenly been bolstered by a new Industrial behemoth. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the shock of Fabric closing in Summer 2016, alongside Plastic people and Dance Tunnel felt for a while like the death knell for club culture in London. But now we have Printworks, a swift and triumphant riposte against the creep of gentrification and increased legislation that has been killing clubs in the capital.
It’s no coincidence that Printworks has appeared where it is. The East End has always been (until very recently) the armpit of London and for good reason. The wind blows from West to East across the city which is why the foul stench of industry developed there, the wealthy fleeing West and North (not South) away from the clouds of toxic gases and fishy odours.
As well as Printworks, Tobacco Docks (where LWE host their events) is a short barge ride across the Thames, you can find Studio Spaces here also. Navigate your way up Regent’s canal and you’ll be able to get to Bloc. Sail further East from Printworks to find Studio 338.
London’s armpit is increasingly becoming the home of club culture. Like the bad smells preceding them clubs are being swept East as land and house prices rocket in more central parts of the capital. 20 years ago you could find clubs in areas such as Soho, Kings Cross, Clerkenwell, London Bridge and Dalston. Now there are only a few left anywhere near the centre of London and like Fabric, are under constant threat of closure. Clubs can often take credit for - at least in part - helping to rejuvenate these run down areas.
The logical progression would be that this pattern continues further East as long as that part of London continues to undergo development. City Airport is just a few miles up the river and is surrounded by multiple disused factories such as the old Tate & Lyle and Millennium Mills buildings. It’s a good job Techno music and its audience feel at home amongst such decay.
This week the ‘New Venue Noise Initiative’ was announced which should in part alleviate some of the burden on these venues. But the areas where these new clubs are situated are already undergoing further redevelopment. Broadwick, the company behind Printworks only has a 4 year lease on the building before - yep you guessed it - the land is sold for redevelopment. The building is council owned so their foresight in leasing it in the interim and allowing 6,000 ravers in there to party should be celebrated.
The irony that the fight for the survival of clubbing in London is likely to be fought by huge brands like Broadwick isn’t lost and it’s perhaps this and not the closures of Fabric (temporarily), Plastic people, dance tunnel etc that is the ultimate realisation of Thatcher’s Criminal Justice Bill. Corporate backed (daytime) partying that meets all the regulations and has the correct attire as well as the financial clout and influence to hold back the developers, for a short while anyway. Thatcher would be charmed.
But for now it is to be enjoyed. Some events have been announced for 2018 with The Hydra bringing Kerri Chandler and John Talabot amongst others to the party in March. Also in March Django Django play. Information on other Dance orientated events is scarce at the moment.
LWE will have no more involvement at Printworks, having hosted most of the parties there in 2017. No clear reason has yet been given for this, just this announcement in November 2017;
‘We will no longer be holding events or operating the venue and will instead be moving on to new projects in 2018.’
A rather cryptic message that has all the flouncy defiance of a jilted lover (I’M FINE!!). This surely leaves a lot of dates now vacant in 2018 and so it will be interesting to see who it is that steps in to fill them.
So what is the verdict on Printworks? Does England have its own Berghain? Well no. For starters the staff are pretty friendly, you’re unlikely to be able to stay in there all weekend or experiment sexually (this is England) and if the announcement of this new venture did cause those over at Berghain Towers to sit upright for a moment, then a brief look at the drinks menu would have them smirking with amusement. Anyone looking to put on a proper party knows you need to sell Club Matte, that’s up there with the sound system, venue and DJ’s. Printworks has those three in spades though, so get down there and enjoy it while it lasts.
More images of Printworks in the Gallery section.
Theo Parrish outspoken on the emergence of digital technology as a DJ'ing tool. It's an argument that isn't likely to be settled anytime soon and some would moderately suggest doesn't need to be. Interesting none the less.
Different medium I know, but in terms of musical production the same argument was never there? Advancements in technology that allowed the transition from traditional instruments to tech instruments seemed to be universally embraced, a 'convenience" for those that couldn't rebound double strokes and we have done alright out of that thus far....
This BBC documentary explores 'Reggae Britannia'.
Detailing John and Felicity Hassle's suburban mastering studio and how it was discovered and utilised by Reggae artists in the 70's.
Some more info here over at Sound Of The Hound;
Check the video which shows an unlikely alliance between reggae artists and a seemingly normal suburban couple......a union that fed sound systems throughout the country.