London Spotlight: inner u

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Being part of a society that is often impressionable and in constant excess of the new, particularly in the world of music; makes it a progressively tricky business successfully entering a market that can be pretty unforgiving. New London based party inner u are doing just this and in a fashion that neatly offers something slightly different from most. Whilst still young, their consistently packed loft parties take on a diverse range of sonic influences, from ambient auras and afro modes to rapturous house and hedonistic techno. But it’s for their particular approach positioning its dancers and their freedom of expression at its centre, that inner u have caught our eye. Very few rules and absolute fun. As a result stepping into one of their parties is like entering a masquerade where each guest has been set their own individual theme; a fairly liberating experience! We spoke to co-founders Ben Bishop and Will Power about the creation of inner u and the party’s politics of pleasure. They’ve also made an hour long, mood-scoring mix to accompany.

Could you tell us a little about inner u and what you are all about?

inner u is a party that (for the time being) we’re holding at a private loft space in Tottenham. It’s a real DIY affair which sits somewhere between a club night and a house party – we lug our own decks in and dress the place up with home-made decorations. One founding idea for the party is rooted in the idea that clubs and clubbing is so much about creating a new self/selfs, a temporal identity that may only exist during the night. This was an idea we wanted to play around with, and it’s something we try to evoke in our crowd.

For those who may not have been to an inner u party, what can people expect when they walk onto the dance floor?

Potentially two people with their heads painted gold dancing around with a piece of red string tied between their genitals. Probably some unusual make-up (on boys more often than girls), people dressed up, people dressed down… one person turned up to the second party with a toy bow and arrow, which we still don’t really understand ourselves. But mainly you can just expect lots of really great people enjoying the opportunity to party in a space that offers a bit more freedom than a regular club, who have probably got a bit more creative than usual with their appearance too. The night also incorporates the work of contemporary performance artists and we try to keep a very level playing field between the performers, DJs and party people. Everyone is interacting. We’re all in this together. There is no guestlist, no backstage, no private vip room – everyone is equal at inner u.

ben bishop and spencer on the decks at inner u #2 photo credit_ dan douglas
[Ben Bishop & Minq at inner u #2, credit: Dan Douglass]

Outside yourselves, has there been anyone else involved who’s been pivotal to the party’s success so far?

Yes! We need to give a massive shout out to DJ, producer and friend Phin, who was with us for the first three parties and played a big role in shaping it – she’s a regular at some of London’s best underground techno parties, like HTBX. Artist and friend Opashona Ghosh is the talent behind our logo. The team has recently been joined by the immensely talented Sara Sassenelli, a producer and curator who runs the art discussion event Hotline, among far too many other things. She’s taking a lead in developing the performance and visual art elements of the night forward, as well as working with our regular performance duo, Eve Stainton and Michael Kitchin, from The Uncollective. We also have to give a shout out to other friends, like Rosie Rockel, who have been wicked at helping us keep things running smoothly behind the scenes.

What prompted you to start inner u? Has the DIY selector format you have adopted taken inspiration from anywhere in particular and do you plan to keep it this way?

Really we just wanted to make exactly the kind of party we wanted to be at. Over the past few years we’ve been drawn less and less to London’s more mainstream clubs/events, while also realising that if you put in the work to find them there is a wealth of incredible parties in the city that show what happens when people with the right ideas and energy come together. The Lucky Cloud parties are a great example of a party done for the right reasons that has really shaped what we do (Ben even volunteers there). So yes, with this in mind, we’re far more interested in booking people who are interesting and exciting for other reasons than just the usual – so far they’ve been friends, friends of friends, old colleagues, people we’ve met through other parties, people we’ve heard about etc – it’s a nice, supporting network that’s developing and we hope that DJs we have play would happily and easily return as just party-goers next time around. We’re super excited to have Alejandro Asencio and Vivi as our guests for the next party. Alejandro has run kitsch and bizarro parties for London’s Spanish queer community over the past 12 years – his current event is called Lady Olé – and Vivi is our first returning guest. She completely blew us away with her selections in house and techno last time and donated a fair share of her fee to a charity we support through our parties (Mind in Haringey) – so we all just thought she was the coolest person ever. She’s part of the Hologram and rx techno crews in London. So yes, we definitely plan to continue (and love) programming in this fashion.

will power on the decks at inner u #2 photo credit_ dan douglas
[Will Power at inner u #2, credit: Dan Douglass]

What would you say has been key in fuelling the acceptance and embracement of your party ethos?

It’s hard to speak for our crowd, but we have a lot of regulars who are more important than anything we do in keeping the atmosphere so perfect. It’s a small night but everyone who comes really wants to be there. We’ve been putting the party and the community we’re trying foster ahead of making any money and think it’s really paying off. Because we promote the party in a relatively discreet fashion we think it helps create a sense that everyone who knows about it is kind of part of the adventure. At least, we hope they do.

What role has music played in this?

It’s been central really. It’s been that certain song played at a certain moment of the night (and there’s been at least one each party) which seems to make everything and everyone come together. When Aurora took our hand and guided us through another dimension with Convextion’s “New Horizon” in the first hour of 3 hour warm up. Or when Minq dropped Mousse T’s “Horny” to a packed floor around 1am and everyone without pause or a single hesitation went crazy and started singing along, are the first two memories that jump out.

Are there any parties London based or otherwise that are particularly impressing you at the moment?

We love KAOS, which is a long running dark industrial/gothic night at Eletrowerkz. Aesthetically and musically it couldn’t be more different to inner u, but we love the strength of its identity and the way they’ve generated a space for people to be experimental within. Mr Assister’s Beaming for its dedication to what happens to the mind when you fill a room to the brim with nothing but a smoke machine, a laser and some of the most hypnotic house/techno around. Also – Touching Bass which has some of the best dancing in the city. Dan Hampson at the Yard also deserves a massive shout out for managing a space where you can have heavy techno night for charity one day, a drag-king hiphop/rnb party the next, the following week have a Whities party and then Scientific Dreamz of U down. We also rate Rye Wax for it’s really open policy to letting people put on crazy shit – this is the attitude that helps keep London nightlife really buzzing and diverse.

What’s your take on London nightlife and the small communities it seems to produce? How do you see inner u’s role within this?

There’s a lot of problems with London’s more mainstream clubs and nightlife – it’s expensive, impersonal, uncomfortable, macho and just unpleasant for a lot of people. A lot of these smaller communities around low key nights and promoters have been a response to this; groups of people just trying to forge little corners in a city where they can party and express themselves without any hassle. Places where mutual respect and shared politics are at the forefront instead of shots, Lads and security guards shouting at you for sitting down in the smoking area. We suppose we see ourselves as trying to create another little corner!

performers eve stainton and michael kitchen at inner u #2 photo credit_ dan douglas
[Performers Eve Stainton and Michael Kitchin at inner u #2, credit: Dan Douglass]

Are there any talented young DJs and producers you think we should keep a close eye on?

London has so many amazing talented individuals working in and outside the mainstream we’d only embarrass ourselves by naming people who are already doing amazing stuff. What we would throw some light on is the work of Rhythm Sister (London) & Intervention (Bristol) – both free female, non-binary and p.o.c. focused DJ workshops/classes. In terms of what comes next their work is really important, the same way that Tony Nwachukwu’s CDR events created a space for some break-through artists such as Bullion, Maya Jane Coles, SBTRKT and Floating Points to hone their craft. It’s going to be really exciting to see how their work will shape the next wave of young DJs.

Could you tell us about the mix you made for us?

A fairly schizophrenic world tour of the music/sounds you can expect to hear when we play at the party. The night itself usually starts in more ambient territory to put us all on the wrong foot and progresses from beatless to a plethora of ‘beats’ through the night. Quite a wild range that includes most ‘club’ genres – the freedom and bravado of disco, the unity and love you find in house music and the portal to another dimension that is acid and techno. It really ramps up through the night and get’s really exciting. We recorded this mix over two sessions – one preliminary afternoon at Ben’s where we got all the music together but burnt out ears out so then let it mature for two weeks before doing it on a sober friday night at Will’s with incense and vietnamese noodle salads (definite mix aphrodisiacs).

What’s the plan for inner u for the rest of this year?

We plan to carry on running the loft party every other month, as well as some extra nights on the side which will be a bit more music focused and give us a chance to invite in some DJs we really love to play. On top of this we’re working on a totally weird all night party/performance concept which we hope to run in a ridiculously cool space this autumn. We’re also going to be playing at this year’s Dimensions festival and there’s talk of a party in Copenhagen at some point too. All these will make a nice change from a warehouse in Tottenham.

Full mix track list:

Samo DJ – Flyer Edit [Public Possession]
Kasra V – Fantasy [Feelings] Die Wilde Jagd – Wah Wah Wallenstein (Etienne Jaumet Remix) [Bureau B]
Die Orangen – One Day in Shepperton [Malka Tuti]
Jayda G – Heaven Could Be Lately [1080p]
M.U.S.I.Q.U.E – Over To You (DJ Steef & Relatif Yann edit) [La Dame Noir]
Kresy – Lords Of Percussion (Aster Lots Of Percussion remix) [Hivern Discs]
The Habibeats – Rum [Versatile]
Ogoya Nengo And The Dodo Women’s Group – Orutu Run (Lena Willikens remix)[TAL]
Tambien – Indignados [Public Possession]
Ana Helder – Otra Cosa [Comeme]
Rogue Mecanique – All Will Be Changed [Discos Capablanca]
Robotiko Rejeckto – Rejekto (Retrospective Mix) [Techno Drome International]
Mr Flagio – Take A Chance [Fonogrammi Particolari]
Khidja – Pinnacles [Hivern Discs]
Amnesia – Celsius (Final Psycho Mix) [Indisc]
Cosmo Vitelli – La Radiateur [I’m A Cliché]

The next inner u takes place on 25th March. For more details visit inneru.space

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