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Learning Journey

Like many during the lockdown, deciding what was important and what we would change in our lives as we re-emerged, I decided that I was going to actively learn more. What I decided to learn about was how to contribute more effectively to creating positive change in the world.

Along the way I saw a course called Systems Change 101, offered by Erfan Daliri, an Australian author, activist and spoken word artist who is also the founder of the Newkind festival, an annual gathering for changemakers whose progress I have been following, hoping one day to attend. It sounded right up my alley, so I signed up.

Not long after that, I saw another course advertised, this time organised by Daniel Pinchbeck, a favorite author and thinker of mine, whose ideas and books have been very influential to me over the past 15 years, along with Rory Spowers, a writer, ecologist, filmmaker and founder of The Re-Generation, who wrote a great essay during the early stages of the pandemic entitled ‘Is the Virus our Vaccine’. This course was called ‘Building Our Regenerative Future’.

So all of a sudden I found myself enrolled in two courses and soon enough I felt like I was learning again in a way I hadn’t since leaving university almost 30 years ago. It started a few weeks ago with Erfan’s course, but it wasn’t until beginning the Regenerative Future course as well that I was inspired to share a bit of the journey here.

Systems Change 101 began with an overview of systems thinking, summed up well in this video from Peter Senge, and teaching us the language around it that enabled us to discuss the issues with a common framework of understanding. Thinking and working systemically is something I’ve been learning to do for a while, so that felt pretty natural, but when we started applying it to systems change I gained a wider view and a better understanding of how and where we might affect the underlying causes to create change.

Over the next couple of weeks, we delved into ecological economics and Kate Raworth’s donut economics model and effective communication techniques for changemaking. Then came the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis and the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that followed, and we here in Australia had to take a good look at ourselves and our own issues around Aboriginal deaths in custody, police brutality and systemic racism. So Erfan wisely inserted an extra session on racial justice, which was extremely and powerfully confronting for everyone in the class. Painful, but in a way necessary to encourage us to gain more knowledge and understanding, and facilitate healing.

Then, just the other day, at the ungodly hour of 2.30am due to the fact that we are hemispherically time zone challenged here in Australia, with most participants in the Regenerative Future course being located in Europe or the Americas, I set a loud alarm and made a big cup of tea to begin that journey.

An intensive course of webinars over 4 weeks and with an impressive lineup of speakers, it began with a presentation from Amanda Joy Ravenhill, director of the Buckminster Fuller institute, setting the tone with Bucky’s famous idea that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. Next up, James Ehrlich from Stanford University talked about RegenVillages, which has a pilot project established in Holland that is some sort of next level permaculture model that some are calling the Tesla of ecovillages.

The session culminated with Itzhak Beery, a shamanic healer and teacher, who spoke about the Amazonian prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor in which the eagle represents the western path of the mind, the industrial and the masculine, while the condor is the path of the heart, intuition and the feminine related more with indigenous, first nations cultures, and how the current 500 year era which began in 1990 sees the condor and eagle once again flying together after having followed their different paths for the previous 500 years.

He closed out the session with a guided meditation, accompanied by his rattles, in which he took us on a quest to climb a mountain and take flight with the condor. When the condor asked what it is we would commit to do to make change in the world, I felt strongly that I needed to find the courage to speak up more about the things I have learned and am learning, to further spread awareness and build community in an effort to help affect change, which is why I’m writing this now.

The learning journey continues, and I’ll be back to share more of it soon…

Holding Hands with the Unknown

Imagine awakening at this point of history, this momentous occasion.  Here we are. As surreal as it seems, this is real and truly happening.

The cogs of our planetary operating system have made some significant adjustments to the norm – mass unemployment, humanity locked down, bailouts, systems buckling, upheaval into a new reality and so much more, all in the blink of an eye.

I don’t know about you, but on some levels, when Covid-19 went down, I was almost at peace with it, and on an unconscious level, open to a massive shift.  Something has needed to ‘give’ for some time. I didn’t think it would be coming so close around the corner, and I didn’t comprehend its subtle magnitude from a global perspective.

I am comforted knowing that I am one of more millions of people on earth being hauled up and thrust into varying degrees of personal chaos. For me it’s come in ripples and waves, this coming to terms with a new external reality.

What’s been happening for you these past weeks?  Is this an almost-holiday? A break in the transmission of your routine? Or are you, like me, hurling through space going ‘what the fuck?’

In this crisis, what has become important to you? What has revealed itself to you about the way you live?

In a meditation this week I found myself in a space of surrender to change.  It was the image of me holding hands with the unknown. It was the awareness of knowing I need to take a long hard look at my values and core beliefs so I can align with this rapidly changing, uncharted course. It was like a torch, shining its light into some dark inner places and trusting I can handle what I learn.

A veil is being lifted from the eyes of humanity, both physically & energetically. Finally, something bigger than all of us is rinsing out our planetary karma, providing a chance for us to look at ourselves through a new reality-lens. Change. Fear. Hope. Isolation. Uncertainty. Opportunity…..

We are materially, deeply and karmically out of line with the true order and way of being in our universe. We need to address our practical and spiritual world and build a new relationship and interaction with our universe. Do you recognise a deep, hidden guilt of being so misaligned with nature that we are complicit in strangling our own mother earth? Discord. I’m not surprised we’re in the situation we’re in but I also feel we are being given a chance to correct.

My fear is that this global crisis will all (appear to) blow over and not enough of us will ‘unpack’ enough of our shit and make the changes needed to heal some deep scars.

This is a new normal and it’s uncharted territory for us all. Reinvention based on assessment of your values, your notion of home, your finances, your work, your study, your possessions, your vision of the future, and, as well your inner world inventory means it all might get pretty dark and dank before we properly upgrade the earth’s operating systems.

My hope is that we all take inventory of what’s important and what we can let go of, both on an inner-world level, and on a practical, physical and outer-world level. If you want to design a new world, that’s our homework 😉

I’m using this time for self-reflection, and for an analysis of my outer world, looking at what can be consolidated, to draft a map, and in due course to try and face what I know I must let go of.

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat….

The Art of Playing Bars

Photo credit: Chantelle Grady

The image that many people have of a DJ is someone playing to a heaving dancefloor on a big sound system with lots of flashing lights, the crowd with their hands in the air with every big drop.

But there’s another, less glamourous (but no less important) side to DJing that many forget about, the guys and girls in the corner of a bar, playing music to drink to. Sure, the energy may whip up a little spontaneous dancefloor now and then, and there are a few dance bars around, but more often than not it’s just a certain kind of audio wallpaper, and it takes a particular type of selector skills to put together that sort of soundtrack.

Way better than a Spotify playlist on shuffle that comes complete with gaps in between tracks, this is the human, programmed-in-the-moment playlist, following the ebb and flow of time and place, and feeding back in real time.

Often it’s early in the night, the kind of place people might meet and gather before heading out somewhere else. Sometimes, it’s after work drinks with colleagues. And then there’s the occasional bar crawl that can provide a humorous interlude for the DJ, especially valuable as bar DJs tend to play much longer sets than most club DJs, often between 4-6 hours.

Some of the best bar DJs have been doing it a long time too, and bring with them a wealth and depth of musical knowledge that is expressed through their music selection. One DJ I know from Sydney is in his early 60s and has been playing since forever, and he reckons that the younger bartenders often express to him their appreciation for this aspect of listening to his curated selections in their bars.

As for the setups, well the DJ booths are often squeezed into odd spots, and plenty of them are actually located behind the bar, like at Killing Time in Melbourne and Super Whatnot in Brisbane, and I’ve had my fair share of drunken punters try and order a drink from me.

Photo credit: Chantelle Grady

The equipment isn’t always the greatest either, and the monitoring can be sub par, but then again there’s often not a lot of mixing going on either. Playing in bars relies more heavily on the programming and track selection than on holding a three minute mix to try and take the (usually non-existent) dancefloor to the next level.

Another side effect of the DJ booths’ generally more accessible location behind the bar, coupled with the greater informality than a club and the lower music volumes, means that some of the traditional barriers between the DJ and the aforementioned drunken punter are lowered, resulting in an exponential increase in the request factor.

Musically it can be a lot more diverse, as you’re not necessarily trying to hold that dancefloor, and it’s a great opportunity to mix up genres and BPMs.  Funk and soul are staples, as is old school hip hop, and the 80s gets a good showing too. Personally I also mix in a lot of instrumental hip hop and downtempo, dub and reggae, loungecore, classic rock, nu disco, post punk and Balearic. The mixing can be a lot more choppy as you blend genres, drop in live tracks, short tracks and the ones with strange intros, and you find that you have to ride the levels a lot more to go along with the natural ebb and flow of people and conversations coming and going, responding to vibes and reading the room. It also helps if you’ve got cool bar staff with good taste, who know how to set the right mood before and/or after you play, because quite often there won’t be DJs playing the whole time the bar is open either.

The crowd can often be just as diverse as the music too, with suits and hipsters, tourists and locals all sharing the stools and booths of the bar. This presents its own challenges for the selector, as who’s into what can be less clear by looking at the crowd, particularly at CBD bars where work attire is involved, and not having a niche crowd like you often get at a lot of clubs means you have to navigate a completely different kind of musical journey.  This keeps it fun and interesting though, and I learnt early on that you can’t please everyone all the time, so try and find a balance of eclectic diversity that you feel works for the room, and always chuck in something that can connect to that one person in the bar that’s not particularly into music and got dragged there after work;)

Ultimately, your job as a bar DJ is to keep the patrons entertained enough so they stay longer than they would if an iTunes playlist was playing, almost without being noticed, meaning creating an enjoyable atmosphere where they can still  hold a conversation, dropping enough tracks here and there that get their interest and a nod of recognition. Tapping of the foot against the bar stool is a good sign, as is a bit of chair dancing. My favourite brief for DJing a bar was from Simon, the owner at Super Whatnot, who essentially said to me “just play eclectic music that they wouldn’t have heard on the radio that day”.

Don’t just take my word for it, I put some questions to three more veteran bar DJs to hear what they had to say…

 

JIMMY ELLIS (Brisbane)

How long have you been playing bars?

18 years

Where you playing now?

I’m only really playing one bar regularly at the moment, Super Whatnot in Brisbane CBD, as I’m trying to keep my DJ work more focused.

What was/is your favourite bar to play ever?

I love playing at Super Whatnot because you’re attached to the bar and can enjoy the company of the excellent bar staff.

What do you like about DJing in bars, and how do you approach it differently to DJing for a dancefloor?

I treat bar gigs as more of an exercise in music selection. I’ll keep mixing down to a minimum and quite often not mix at all. To me it’s more important to choose appropriate music than worry about being really technical.

What’s the toughest thing about spinning in bars?

They are usually quite long shifts, so it can be a challenge to stay focused in a bar setting and stay on your feet for 4 hours. It’s also pretty easy to leave a long shift very drunk if you have an accommodating bar tab.

Vinyl or Digital or both?

Who cares?

What styles rule for you in bars?

Downtempo, electronica, 80’s boogie, movie soundtracks

Crazy request story…

Pretty sure any DJ that’s been around for a while could write a book. Pretended to have a girl ejected from a venue for asking for Abba.

5 records that never leave your box (virtual or otherwise)

Vangelis  –  Blade Runner OST

Sade  –  Hang On To Your Love

Sharon Redd  –  Never Give You Up

Frank Hooker & Positive People  –  This Feelin’

Beloyd  –  Today All Day

 

Jimmy’s Soundcloud

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DJ FILTHYRICH AKA DADDYRICH  (Adelaide)

How long have you been playing bars?

Clubs for 30 years, bars for the last 10 years as there has been a shift in the culture.

Where you playing now?

Bank Street Social, Udaberri and the Earl of Leicester in Adelaide

What was/is your favourite bar to play ever?

AKA London (the End) and new favourite Bonobo in japan.

What do you like about DJing in bars, and how do you approach it differently to DJing for a dancefloor?

It’s more about dancing minds creating a quiet storm and atmosphere, with blends to keep tempo changing and paying close attention to the volume, allowing people to talk and not shout.

What’s the toughest thing about spinning in bars?

Not having a booth to keep people away from my vinyl

Vinyl or Digital or both?

Vinyl

What styles rule for you in bars?

No music played on the radio, keeping a musical story. Playing reggae, dub, soul, funk, jazz, b-boy breaks, early hip hop, underground disco and soul, original house and staying true to me and my style.

Crazy request story…

Not ones I can share (rated R)

5 records that never leave your box (virtual or otherwise)

Various  –  Strange Game and Things

The Equals  –  Funky Like A Train

Crue-L   –  Grand Orchestra

Rey De Copas  –  Frontera Del Ensueno

Barrington Levy   –  Here I Come

 

Rich’s Soundcloud

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DEAN DIXON (Bali/Sydney)

How long have you been playing bars?

I pretty much started playing in bars from almost the very beginning really, because I literally started to learn how to DJ the week before the first party I ever put on in an old RSL hall. That party segued into a wee series of events in various odd vacant spaces in a tiny town way up north in Canada where I was working at the time. It was around the year 2000 or so, the year after I graduated Uni, and then I played just primarily bars for a long time after that small series of events. So that’s a decent chunk of time ago now!

Where you playing now?

I hold a number of different residencies over here in Bali at the moment including; Potato Head Beach Club, Rock Bar, W Hotel, Karma Beach Club, 40 Thieves, Mama San and other places as well. Plus I’m also over in Singapore pretty often playing at the Potato Head there or Tanjong Beach Club or the W Hotel.

What was/is your favourite bar to play ever?

My favourite bar to ever play at would have to be Potato Head Beach Club here in Bali. Simply because you get to play such a wide variety of music during so many different times of the day to such a wide variety of the population and because its location and architecture are so supreme. The grassy, amphitheatre-esque layout, complete with a massive lap pool right on the beach at the edge of the ocean with a wide open music policy which allows you the freedom to showcase a lot of different genres of music and create some really special moments. It’s a real wild combination.

But in all honesty, its a tough question. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to play at so many amazing spaces over the years and more recently some extremely awe inspiring spots. Like Rock Bar for example would have to be a dead set second for me. It’s also sat right at the edge of the coastline but perched up on the rocks with100% unobstructed views of the sunset across the horizon of the ocean as well, but in this case that view is from nearly every seat in the venue!

So, timing the music to the setting of the sun at either of these places can make for some really extremely special moments for people… I mean, I’ve personally witnessed like 5 or 6 proposals at Rock Bar since I started my residency down there. How could she say no?! Hahaha

What’s the toughest thing about spinning in bars?

I think the toughest thing is the lack of immediate and direct feedback you get from having less audible and visual cues to assess with each track you play or each nudge of the volume or twist of the EQs. It can be tough and it can come down to even the most simple and subtle mannerisms of the patrons, their facial expressions or toe tapping or clapping to the beat, things like that.

What do you like about DJing in bars, and how do you approach it differently to DJing for a dancefloor?

Playing in bars I think is generally a bit more difficult because of the lack of immediate feedback from body language and such. I enjoy it a lot though because you often get to play more across the board and stretch your legs more freely as a DJ simply because you have to in order to keep more people interested and also because you often have more time to do so because your set time is generally longer. I also like how people feel more inclined to come and talk to you during your set to say they like it or to ask about a particular piece of music you played or even to ask what “kind” of music you’re playing because people don’t know what genre it is you’re even playing because it might be so left of centre. But that same ease of approachability is also a double-edged sword and can work in the opposite way as well, as we all know! Hahaha

With regards to how I approach a bar set as opposed to a DJ set, I’d say I do so in the exact same manner. I think about the time of day or night I have to play, what type of event or bar it is, what type of crowd I might be thinking to expect or even what DJ I might be playing before and after so I can consider how best to start or finish. Basically, the more info you can get ahead of time about the event or bar you’re booked to play at the more accurately you can pre-select tracks to stick in our bag or “virtual bag” that you feel might create certain impacts in various ways at different times throughout your set or what you think might work well.

I really enjoy trying to create special moments for the listeners and I might do that by selecting tracks that might have a more nostalgic feel or create certain emotions at certain times, or a few tracks that line up well one after another. I never have and never will pre-program a set though, so don’t get me wrong. I prefer the spontaneity of selecting on the fly because I feel that once you learn to do it well, you can really do a great job at working with the vibe of the place and the people in the room simultaneously as you go and that enables you to create really special moments in time when you do it really, really well. It doesn’t always work. But when it does, it’s the best feeling. The world just clicks into place and everyone in the room seems to spin together for just a little while.

Vinyl or Digital or both?

I prefer vinyl as a medium based on a few things. Personally, I’m very tactile and I enjoy manipulating a record to speed it up and slow it down very slightly with your hand on the platter as two records shuffle, to create certain subtle nuances that I don’t believe you can achieve as well with a digital format in exactly the same way.

I also prefer vinyl because I’m a very visual person with regards to my memory. So things like the cover art on the sleeve, the sticker on the record, the sticker I might add to the record and what I might write on the sticker itself. Each of those things and more used to help me to remember certain tracks and select them with a few seconds notice from out of a stack which enabled me to create special moments really rapidly and I just don’t feel that I’m able to work with the same sort of effectiveness as frequently in the digital format. But that’s simply because my mind doesn’t remember things the same way in the digital format… regardless of whether I have a tiny jpeg of the album cover linked to a song, or whether I create a track note for a song or whatever. It’s just never going to be the same for me playing digitally verses playing strictly vinyl. There are benefits to playing digitally as well though of course. Being able to have so much music available to you at the drop of a hat without breaking your back and being able to create loops and sort of create edits on the fly are exciting benefits for me when DJing digitally, but having too much music at your disposal is also a double edged sword.

Which leads me into the other aspect about vinyl that I really miss since going pretty much solely digital since moving to Bali. And that’s the extremely specific selection process that a vinyl DJ goes through prior to every single gig as opposed to that of a digital DJ…. generally speaking of course. A vinyl junkie for example will select records for a set based on many things he will know about the gig they have lined up and then they’ll go through the selection process again and again to narrow the records they choose down more and more, simply because you cannot carry all your records to a gig. And its that very simple, fundamental conundrum which creates a special situation…. it forces the selector to be extremely specific with his/her choices of what to bring with them and that provides the listener on the night with an equally special situation because of all the tiny nuances that the selector will feel out prior to getting there and then also throughout the night….those nuances will all determine which of these extra carefully selected records he or she may play at specific times throughout the set, and that can then lead to the creation of some really intensely special moments for everyone involved, if the selector knows what they’re doing, and the venue and the crowd provide them with the freedom with which to do so.

And I just don’t believe that that happens nearly as often in the digital domain mainly because the ability to have access to so much music at once will quite often make a person lazy and feel less inclined to prepare as much when selecting music for a given set. Which is a generalisation of course, but that’s just my thoughts.

But over here in Bali the climate simply isn’t kind to vinyl or the turntables and needles themselves, so it’s not really the best conditions for using it as a primary medium. In an ideal situation however, I think that nowadays I’d use both mediums in every set I played given the opportunity.

What styles rule for you in bars?

I don’t often play any single style or genre at any of the gigs I play at really, despite perhaps having to play more so one way or another at a certain venue. For example, a bar might ask that the DJs play more 4×4 stuff or when I’m given a specific brief that pushes you to play more Afro and world music related vibes for example. But even then, I still always strive to throw in other bits throughout my set that also work really well alongside the other stuff briefed because I believe music provision, much like any other vocation, should be a learning experience for people partaking in it for the listener as much as it is for the provider of it. And I enjoy exposing people to really amazing music or assisting them to hear things that they might never be presented with if they were always listening to the same stuff. More specifically though, I’d say that the genres I choose to play when I’m given an open brief really depends on a few key simple things. For example, the type of venue I’m booked to play at, the time of day that I’m booked to play. It even comes down to who I might be playing before or after, or what music the DJ before me is playing and how I feel that music is working at the time, to even what music the venue has chosen for their playlist when I get there and how I feel that works in the space while I’m in the venue before playing. There are an awful lot of little things that I assess to try to do the best job I can even before I start to help me play as much different music as I can to the best of my ability.

Crazy request story…

I recently had a drunk old Aussie guy at a party try to trade me his phone for “playing something good”….. Too bad it was a shit phone or maybe he would have gotten his request! Hahaha. Anyhow, later on at the end of the night when I’d finished my last track and the venue had just been heaving and crowd had just been chanting for more…the guy came back up to me to shake my hand and told me that I wasn’t so shit after all!… I keep kicking myself for not asking for his phone just for the hell of it! HAHAHA

5 records that never leave your box (virtual or otherwise)

There is just way too much amazing music that I’ll always play forever, but here are five that have meant something special to me.

Jamie Principle  –  Waiting For My Angel

Arthur Russell  –  This Is How We Walk On The Moon

Oumou Sangare  –  Djoukourou (Auntie Flo remix)

Joubert Singers  –  Stand on the Word (Celestial Choir Unreleased Larry Levan Mix)

Shina Williams and his African Percussionists – Agboju Logun

 

Dean’s Soundcloud


Typed/Questioned by Phil Smart  •  January 2019

Phil’s Soundcloud

 

 

Cut The Midrange, Drop The Bass _ Tweekin / Sydney

On the eve of the second Tweekin reunion, I felt the need to get some words down about this seminal piece of Sydney club history, a night that holds a special place in many hearts, including mine. For those who weren’t there at the time, Tweekin was a club night that happened every Friday night at Club 77 on William Street in East Sydney, a place we affectionately called the dirty little disco basement. It ran for four years before closing up on a very high note on the night of Friday 27 April 2001.

Tweekin evolved out of a night called Jus Right that Sugar Ray and I had been doing at Club 77 for a couple of years already. In fact we’d done a bunch of stuff there when it was still known as the All Night Boogie Dance Café. I was spending a lot of time overseas at that time, so Ray took over the Friday nights on his own and rebranded it as Tweekin and I continued on as resident DJ whenever I was back in Australia, along with Ken Cloud and our unofficial fourth resident who always stepped in when Ray and/or I were travelling, the one and only Ajax (RIP).

While the times there all tend to blend into one, especially as we often did other parties there on Saturday nights as well, including Sabotage and another series of techno parties called Mantra. We also spent a lot of time there on Sunday nights for Klub Kooky, so it’s fair to say we spent a lot of time in the place.

What made it so special? Well, it was a lot of things. Firstly, it was truly about the music. We played a broad spectrum of music, a philosophy with its roots in the Balearic attitude of the early Sydney rave scene, and the Hordern parties before that, where an eclectic approach was welcomed and appreciated by the dancefloor. The music crossed a lot of genres, and we saw movements come and go, from Tech House (in the original sense, on labels like 20:20 Vision and The End) to Breaks (Marine Parade and TCR) to West Coast House (Siesta and Grayhound) to quite banging techno (Primate and Hybrid) to the European sound of Pssst records, the emergence of minimal from German label Perlon and the edgy Berlin sound of one of my favourite labels of all time, BPitch Control.

This was reflected in the range of guest DJs that graced the decks at the club too, a very long list that includes Adam Freeland, Rennie Pilgrem, Freq Nasty, Thomas Schumacher, Christian Smith, Mr C, John Tejada, Chris Duckenfield, Clive Henry and our other semi-resident Andy Morris, not to mention every local DJ worth his/her salt, a list too long to even attempt here. We also featured a lot live acts, including Infusion, Pocket and others on the Thunk roster.

 

Add to that the history of inclusion that Sydney had often fostered, again through the rave and mixed gay/straight scenes of the late 80s, and a conscious intention to make it a safe place for everyone, a place that so many of the girls commented along the way that it was one of the few places they could go to and just dance, without getting hit on all night. We took that as a badge of pride.

It also went against the exclusive aspect of some Sydney clubs with their style enforcers; at Tweekin it didn’t matter what you wore, and you would even see the odd fellow in a suit who stumbled in to the club somehow and blagged their way past the doorman.

It was dark, dirty and dingy. The sound system wasn’t great. Either were the lights, but we always had a lighting operator working the buttons and smoke machine. This was in the days when you could smoke in clubs too, so you always came home stinking of ciggies, and in contrast to the nanny state we live in today, you could walk down the street without the worry of the doggies and we managed to get away with smoking copious amounts of spliffs behind the DJ booth as well, where there was a conveniently situated couch. Pure dingy club bliss.

The club also received accolades and recognition from the wider dance music community. It won club night of the year at the inaugural national dance music awards in 2000, and was famously listed by DJ Mag in the UK as on the “very short list of proper clubs around the world”.

At the end of the day though, it really came down to the totally up for it and unpretentious crowd, hungry for new, genre bending music. The dancefloor made Tweekin, and quite honestly when people ask me what my favourite club I’ve ever played at in the world is, there is only ever one answer.

 


I thought it might also be fun to include the interviews conducted with the residents around the time of the first Tweekin Reunion in 2015.

 

 

SUGAR RAY

What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now?

Then… Tweekin was a community, an amazing family of like minded party people and music freaks, rocking guest DJs and live acts, a truly special place and time in Sydney’s clubbing history .

Now… to be honest I was a little reluctant to do it as I had closed that chapter in my life and wasn’t sure about reopening it and letting the Sugarman out the box. But Philly has been chipping away and convinced me, and once I had committed and started listening to my records again I got super excited, the passions returned and I’m really looking forward to DJing again and catching up with the everyone.

Top Tweekin Memories

Playing the Man with the Red Face by Laurent Garnier for the first time, I managed to grab one of the first copies (it helped owing a record shop, RIP Reachin) and wow what a reaction on the dance floor!

People of Tweekin

Wow as a DJ you could not ask for a more open minded, forward thinking and enthusiastic group of people to play for, looking back it was a real honour and privilege.

Favourite guest DJs

We had many great guests… locally, Young Jase & Simon Caldwell were always great, and from overseas, DJ Dan & Adam Freeland stand out for me, but my favourites were the residents Ajax, Kenny & Philly, they were consistently awesome week in week out.

Tweekin Top 5

  1. Laurent Garnier – The Man with the Red Face
  2. Layo & Bushwacka – Deep South
  3. Freeform 5 – Perspex Sex
  4.  Metro Area – Miura
  5. Peace Division – Tuned

PHIL SMART

What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now

Tweekin is hands down the best club I’ve ever played. Being a weekly residency, it really let you develop trust with the dancefloor and get creative as a DJ. It also had a real community spirit to it. One of the main reasons I was up for doing a reunion is there were such great people there, with such positive vibes. To me, it was an important social and cultural thing.

Top Tweekin Memories

No proper conversation can be had about Tweekin without mentioning Ajax (RIP), the man who was essentially our fourth resident, and kept the vibe alive with Kenny when Ray and I were travelling overseas. One of my lasting memories is when he was going through a dress up phase and I can picture him in my mind completely rocking it to the sweaty rafters while wearing a dress. Legendary.

People of Tweekin

That was the best thing about it, everyone was chill, it was casual and people were really there for the music. I made a lot of great and long lasting friendships directly from the club and I know plenty of other people did the same. So many people I know met there, and some of them even went on to get married and have kids. Oh yeah, and then there’s the ever changing motley back row crew on the bench behind the DJ booth, that was always interesting!

Favourite guest DJs

There were so many great DJs that played, and to be honest, with all the years we spent throwing parties at 77, from Sabotage to Jus Right to Tweekin, I sometimes can’t remember who played what. One of the most memorable nights, and I’m not sure if it was Tweekin but it was definitely Club 77, was when Michael Mayer played. He was playing such amazing music and I was so excited to finally hear him play that I gave up my set to let him keep playing. Epic night.

Christian Smith played a few times, and he was always great. Lots of techno then. I’m pretty sure Adam Freeland played at least once as well. I’m sure the Tweekers will be able to fill me in on some more of their favourites, darn hazy memory!

Tweekin Top 5

  1. Halo – Future
  2. Air Frog – Bon Voyage
  3. Whiplash – Ghetto Tears
  4. Infusion – Spike
  5. Killerloop – Music Inside

KEN CLOUD

What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now

Tweekin then was my Friday night, I was very lucky that Ray gave me the opportunity to be working at Reachin’ during the week and then play at Tweekin on the weekend, I was trying to find my way in Sydney as a DJ and luckily I was in the middle of it all, I was exactly where I wanted to be. At the time Friday night in Sydney was rocking with us and the Stateside crews leading the way. Looking back it was obviously a very special time, the club was always busy, people came to dance and the floor filled up quick, people would walk down the stairs and straight on the dance floor. I’ve got very found memories of both 77 and the Metro parties, the dance scene was more underground back then. I learnt a lot about DJing from Phil.

Top Tweekin Memories

Its been so long ago that I think my mind has dispelled any memories that were remotely negative so its just a great big blur of wonderful goodness, which I don’t think is too far from the truth. When you get the dance floor at 77 really going its a lot of fun – its one of those clubs where the whole place is just dancing.

People of Tweekin

This is an absolute impossible question to answer, I think almost everyone I know over a certain age spent a chunk of time down at 77. There are a lot of people too that I’ve become friends with since 77 that said they spent a lot of time down there but I didn’t know them at the time. For any successful weekly you do need a dedicated core crew, and we had loads of great people, there are too many to try and remember.

Favourite guest DJs

My favourite guest DJ was Joel Harrison, he wasn’t well known although he did have some records out, but we knew him as he is the brother of Tim Harrison who was involved with Thunk Records. He played a bunch of crazy old techno and house things in an early Environ, Morgan Geist vein (before he went Metro Area vibes) and the place just went crazy. I can remember Lorna rocking the place too.

Tweekin Top 5

This is pretty fuzzy but…

  1. Laurent Garnier – Crispy Bacon
  2. God Within – The Phoenix
  3. Grooveyard – Watch me Now
  4. Swag – Lapus Lazuli
  5. Pocket – Knife EP

 

Written by Phil Smart

November 2018

Every Flyer Tells A Story

One of the things missing from modern club culture is the physical paraphernalia such as flyers, posters, cassette/CD covers and street press. They’re rarely produced any more as everything has gone digital, which is a shame because pixels can’t be put in a shoe box to show your grandchildren one day.

Here’s a quick journey through a little bit of rave history told through flyers…

 

ORGANIC

The first parties I put on in Sydney, bringing guest DJs like Derrick Carter, Mark Farina and Spun to Australia for the first time

 

DEEP JOY

Malcolm and Michelle from Deep Joy gave me my first break into the early ‘English’ rave scene in Sydney

 

AZTEC

The much anticipated debut of Sasha in Sydney and an epic party by Children of the Vortex

 

EARLY SYDNEY RAVES

Psychosis 3

Beyond

 

BOUNCE

Sunday night residency at the Tom Tom Club in Kings Cross

 

VIBE TRIBE

Another side of the rave scene, evolved more from the free party ‘crusty’ scene in the UK

*Note the use of the word Doof in 1994 Sydney;)

 

LOVE

Original rave series by Sugar Ray. These flyers are from the late 90s

 

SABOTAGE

Ray and I did so many Sabotage parties, with some amazing artwork by very talented humans and some amazing international guest DJs

 

TWEEKIN

All time best club night ever

 

JUS’ RIGHT and LOADED

Precursors to Tweekin and Sabotage

 

WILDLIFE

A series of pretty crazy parties at The Rooftop. Lugging the sound system up all those stairs wasn’t much fun though

 

THE PROJECT

Weekly Saturday night at the Globe in the city, and one of my favourite flyer series’

 

THUNK

Record label I ran with Brett Mitchell and Tim Harrison, releasing music from Infusion, Pocket, Head Affect, Dillon St Rangers, our own Earthlink project and more

THUNK LIVE

Very special gig at the Metro with all the Thunk crew. One of the only times I ever played live with Earthlink. I even got the trumpet out!

 

CRYOGENESIS

Series of ambient and chill out parties put on by Seb and Luke from Sub Bass Snarl. I really enjoyed playing these events, they even held a couple on an island in Sydney Harbour!

 

FLASHBACK

Looking back on 10 years of rave in 1998 and 1999. Love these flyers:)

 

FUNKY TEKNOTRIBE

My San Francisco family, I travelled all over the states with these guys, from SF to Portland to Texas and New York.

 

E-WERK

First time playing in Berlin at this legendary club

 

LEISURE LOUNGE

One of the early London superclubs

 

BEDROCK

Very lucky to be invited to play the Bedrock in London for John Digweed

 

PS1

This was amazing, to play at the PS1 Summer Series in the courtyard of a contemporary art gallery in New York with Doc Martin and Monolake

*Much of the art for the above flyers, especially for parties put on by Ray and/or myself, were created by Paul Findlay, Timon Harrison and Michael Killalea, often with art direction by yours truly.

Join The Club_Part One: Finding the Beat

Sydney in the 80s was a melting pot of subcultures. Punks, skinheads, goths, mods, bombers, and skaters, each with their own distinct look, sound and places to hang out. It also had an incredible live music scene, with plenty of pubs to see bands play, and by the time I was 16 my friends and I were sneaking into venues like the Hopetoun, the Lansdowne and the Trade Union Club to see our favourite bands like the Celibate Rifles, the New Christs and the Died Pretty, many of them founded on the legacy of the legendary Radio Birdman.

This was a time when Sydney’s cultural ecosystem was humming. There were lots of record stores, indie labels, magazines and of course, 2JJJ.

Triple J at the time was Sydney’s own station, and its influence cannot be understated. It supported lots of local music, and was the foundation for the alternative musical education of the city’s youth. For context, it may help you to know what we are the generation that voted ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division as the greatest song of all time (up until that point of course;) in the inaugural Hottest 100.

When we lost the station to nationalization, and influential DJs like Tim Richie along with it, it was a big blow to Sydney’s cultural fabric. We lost our voice, as suddenly all of the airtime that was being devoted to Sydney bands and happenings had to be shared with the whole country. Add to this the crippling blow of a change in the pokie laws (another typical Sydney story) and the live band scene would never be the same again.

But slam dancing with a bunch of blokes was getting pretty boring pretty quickly for me anyways, and it wasn’t long til I discovered nightclubs. Proper ones. My friends and I had already been frequenting the local ‘discos’ in the southern suburbs of Sydney where I grew up, places like Carmen’s, the Seabreeze and Promises, which, true to their 80s sounding names, were bastions of big hair suburban 80s culture, and ultimately musically frustrating to a kid like me.

My first ‘cool’ inner city club was Spagos, an Italian restaurant in a converted terrace house on Crown St, Darlinghurst, which I’d heard turned into a nightclub after the kitchen closed. So I went there for dinner with a friend, no one asked us for ID, and we hung around til the DJ turned up, followed by an assortment of hip, inner city types that started filling up the dancefloor. That was 1986. I was 17. It was my first taste of proper clubbing.

The following year, I was attending university in Wollongong during the week, and plugging in to the local club scene, where the two most influential DJs in town were Danny Dun (now Lane) and Andy Morris. By 1988 I’d started DJing after throwing a party with a friend at a local pub where we used to see bands, and I began hassling Danny and Andy for gigs in the ‘Gong. Typical of smaller towns like that, many of the subcultures partied together, and in Wollongong, like many other places, it was the local gay club Kennedy’s, weirdly situated up on top of a highrise car park, that hosted nights where everyone was mixed in together… goth, punk, gay, straight, all the misfits and alternative kids who liked music and were looking for community, acceptance and a non-judgmental environment to have a good time. The music was also mixed, with not enough house music to play a whole night, so you had a very eclectic evening of styles and tempos.

Meanwhile, back in Sydney on the weekends, there was a whole world waiting to be discovered. At first, it was places like The Freezer and Site for crossover nights, which played all sorts of music as long as it was considered danceable. Sanctuary catered to more of the goth crowd, with lots of stuff like the Cure and the Cult, while Cabaret Futura tended towards the more electronic, with plenty of Depeche Mode and New Order.

It was at the Freezer where I first met DJ Sheen, who went on to become one of the influential ‘Cartel’ of rave DJs that ruled the warehouses in the early 90s (more on that later). He let me hang out in the DJ box, to pick up whatever knowledge I could glean from watching over his shoulder, and I recently spoke to him about his experience of those times.

Sheen shares a similar story to me, getting into the club scene while studying at uni in Cardiff, Wales around the same time, going to small venues with mixed crowds, where the DJ would play a few punk tunes and all the punks would dance, then some tunes for the goths etc, eventually the DJ finishing the night playing house music, which was the most edgy music at the time.

He landed one of his first major gigs playing Friday nights at the Freezer with another pioneer of the club scene in Sydney, Rob Milton, who’d been involved in the early rave scene in London. The night would start out with hip hop, then into a bit of funk, some Chicago house, acid house and even early techno records.

Sheen also reminded me of the quintessentially Sydney club nights Meltdown and Sensoria at Site, where DJs like Pee Wee Ferris and Ben Drayton presided, and where the music was amazing and cutting edge, with just the right combination of people. It was interesting, exciting, and edgy, and these clubs could be notoriously difficult to get in to. Each club had a style enforcer (aka door bitch) who would filter out the crowd, and running the gauntlet became a nightly ritual for us. To game the system, we’d often head into the clubs early, when it was easier to get in, and collect our stamp before going to dance somewhere else for a few hours, heading back later when we knew it would be getting going. Most often we’d head to one of the gay spots on Oxford St, like the Exchange or the Albury, and it was here that I really discovered house music, played by DJs like Stephen Allkins, Paul Goodyear and Paul Holden (RIP).

One of the great things about Sydney at the time was that the scene was really mixed, along with the music. You could also go out 7 nights a week, with something quality every single night, including Madd Club on a Monday, Lunacy on Tuesdays, Sensoria on Wednesdays, Meltdown on Thursdays, and an abundance of options over the weekend. Sheen quipped that no one he knew at the time had a regular job, and it was the same bunch of people out every night who kept the scene afloat.

This was also the time of the Hordern parties, which had become world renowned and had global cultural icons like The Face and ID magazines bringing the city’s dance music scene to the attention of the world. This was a pretty big deal in the days before the internet, when Australia’s cultural isolation was a big factor, where we had to rely on magazines, radio and import record stores like Disco City, Central Station and Floppy Disc to get a window into the outside world, and piece a culture together for ourselves.

The late 80s also heralded the arrival of a new drug called ecstasy, of course, and that changed things forever. Before that, the club scene was all about cocaine, the band scene was fuelled by speed, and the surfers and skaters smoked bongs.

Around the summer of 89/90 I’d landed my first residency at an inner city club, an infamous place called The Front, located near the corner of Pitt and Park streets in the city. The Front had a reputation as a recovery club, and on the big weekends it would stay open from Friday night all the way through to Monday morning. I would sometimes play on a Saturday night, go home for a sleep and some breakfast, and come back to play again on Sunday to the same people, in the same clothes, in the same corner of the dancefloor. It also had an extra turntable and mixer set up, and we’d spend hours and hours on the third deck, dropping acappellas and random bits of whatever else we could think of over the DJ who was playing.

In true Sydney form, it was eventually raided by the cops and shut down, but for a while there it was quite the crazy scene, and a real intersection of Sydney culture at the time, with DJs Lance Kenneth, Paul ‘Flex’ Taylor and Simon Grant at the helm.

I spoke to my old friend and DJ legend Paul ‘Flex’ Taylor about it to fill in some of the gaps. He’s spent a lot of time researching the history of dancing in Sydney, from the ballrooms of the late 1800s through to the emergence of the disco scene at places like Patchs and Stranded, and into the heady days of the Hordern parties. We talked about how dance culture really has no beginning and no end, that any point is just part of a cultural continuum that stretches back to the times of tribal drums and forward into a time beyond lockouts and the nanny state, when we will one day have our freedom again.

Paul arrived in the city to become a radio announcer and stumbled into the club scene, which ended up changing the direction of his life. He recalls one night when he was taken to Patchs (later to become DCM), to see the legendary and influential Sydney DJ Lee Reiger play. Watching him put records together was a magical experience, and one mix in particular inspired him to pursue an entirely different path in music. He saw the rise of the disco scene across Sydney in the late 70s, where more and more pubs replaced bands with DJs and put in a mirror ball to save money and ride the latest craze, into the rise and fall of the Hordern party scene and on to the beginnings of the rave scene.

It was towards the end of the Front days that I started hearing about these ‘English’ rave parties that were happening in the warehouses and film studios of industrial areas like Alexandria, fuelled by a seemingly endless stream of British backpackers arriving on our shores, bringing rave culture along with them, via the beaches of Goa and Ko Pha Ngan. It was obvious that a lot of the established crew felt a bit threatened, thinking ‘who are these Poms coming over here trying to take our scene?’ but to my ears it sounded really interesting, and the illegal nature of raves appealed to the young skate punk in me. So I sought them out, and I can honestly to say that my first rave changed the entire course of my life. But that’s another story for another time…

– Phil Smart
June 2018