Saturday Mass: an interview series that tips its hat to Larry Levan and explores the art of the resident with some of the best in the business. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Hands up if you can name anything you’ve been doing on a weekly basis for the last 22 years. No? Just two then? Harri & Domenic, residents and founders of Subculture in Glasgow, take the gong for the longest running weekly house night in the UK, taking place on Saturdays at Sub Club since 1994. The pair’s reputation for curating excellent dancefloor moments has led to bookings far away from Glasgow and also inspired a generation of younger Glaswegian DJs, including Harri’s son Jasper James who is now resident of London’s Phonox. We had a chat with Harri about the art of the resident and their time at Sub Club over the years, touching on the origins of Subculture, some bad habits they’ve picked up from each other along the way and what makes Glasgow a special place.
Catch Harri at Farr Festival, hosting John Talabot, Job Jobse Denis Sulta, Palms Trax and Jasper James on the Sub Club stage.
Thanks for joining us chaps. How was the 22nd birthday party over the weekend?
Lots of fun was had and still being had as it’s both of our birthdays this week.
First a few icebreakers. What are some of the qualities you think makes a good residency?
Great sound system DJ booth and monitors.
As an extension, what do you think makes a good resident?
Good legs and specs, a beard and a hat…if it’s a guy that is.
Who have been some of your favourite resident DJs over the years?
Kenny Hawkes, Domenic obviously, and numerous other Glasgow DJs, too many to list.
How do you think the role and importance of the resident has changed since you first started?
Personally, I think it’s pretty much the same, although there’s not so many weekly residents about.
You had residencies before you teamed up at Subculture. Domenic, you were at a blues club, and Harri, you had a five year spot at Plastic People. Did these experiences teach you any dos and dont’s that you took with you?
Mmm…no idea really. It’s always been the same, turn up play tunes, be aware of the volume, the time of night, the people and the room.
How did you then become residents at Sub Club?
I was already Saturday resident at the Sub Club for four years with Orde and Stuart of Slam/Soma before Subculture and a monthly guest for around four years before that. Initially, I was asked to fill in for my brother’s friend that was on holiday. It just snowballed from there.
Can you remember what you first set as resident was like there? Were you nervous?
I was most likely drunk and stoned. So drunk and stoned I can’t remember if I was nervous.
Space is all-important for a good party. What makes Sub Club so special as a space and how does this have an impact on the way you play, compared to parties elsewhere?
The Sub is a nice intimate space where you are connected to the dancefloor so you feel like you are part of the crowd.
Did you have a chance to get used to the club as a dancer first, before first DJing there? If so, what were your perceptions of the club as a punter?
First time I ever went to the Sub Club I got knocked back. When they eventually let me in I did indeed cut a rug…still do
The licensing laws in Scotland are infamous. As DJs how have you adapted to these strict regulations?
The short night 11 till 3 makes for quite a good show, in my opinion. You learn how to pace it and there is a finishing line in sight.
You’ve played at Sub Club for some years now, so there must be some nights where you feel like you knew nearly everyone in there. Does playing in a room with people who are essentially your friends affect the way you perform?
I just try never to repeat myself and still be entertaining. It keeps you on your toes.
Outside of DJing are you involved in much else behind the scenes when it comes to Subculture or Sub Club? (drinking cold beers notwithstanding)
Initially I promoted Saturdays and designed the flyers and posters. These days we contribute ideas for guests and A & R for new Sub Club label Nautilus Rising.
Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, has been the breeding ground for some really well-recognised residents – Optimo, the Numbers crew, and now Jasper James. Is there something that characterises all of these selectors? Do you think there’s something in the Buckfast that helps breed this mentality?
Crowds in Glasgow are really enthusiastic and all the DJs here from different genres like Mungos Hi-Fi for reggae to Billy Woods, Al Kent and Melting Pot for soul, disco and funk are all of an extremely high quality. Suppose you just have to be enthusiastic in your chosen field.
Spending so much time around each other, have you picked up any bad habits from each other?
Yeah….I’ve started picking my nose.
Outside of Glasgow what have been some of your favourites parties you’ve played recently?
Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh and the Reading Rooms in Dundee are always great as are Phonox and XOYO in London. Croatia is great for various festivals. Zoo Project in Ibiza is another favourite.
Who has been your favourite residents who have warmed up for you, in the last year or two?
Jasper and Telford are both great warm-ups, but in general we play a night with people rather than have them just warm up. I really enjoy doing the warm-up myself.
Finally, what’s coming up on the horizon for you guys in 2016 that we should keep an eye out for?
More tunes on Nautilus Rising, lots of gigs in London and beyond, plus a couple of festivals in UK and Croatia.