GREY:MATTER is now well established on the London scene and has got plenty planned for 2016. Spawned from an acclaimed and professional Booking and Management Agency named Grey Area, the collective is well used to working with top names from around the underground house and techno world. GREY:MATTER events are always special, and deal in live shows, label nights and exclusive album tours, and always explore the deeper end of the house, ambient and techno spectrum.
The motivation for starting the night came naturally. Rather than seeing it as plugging a gap, for us, it was more about creating our own space...Here we catch up with the team ahead of their show at Bloc London on Saturday night to find out how they came to be and asked them about their plans for the coming months. In the interview they reveal some great insights into putting on parties, tell us what they think is most important to put on the best event possible and more besides. It is a candid read from a much loved UK party.
Who is behind GREY:MATTER, how did it start and why did you start it up, what gap were you plugging, do you think?
GREY:MATTER was formed off the back of our Artist Booking & Management agency, Grey Area Bookings, which we launched just over a year ago now. There are two partners and a collective of like-minded artists, designers, production techs, and the list goes on.
The motivation for starting the night came naturally. Rather than seeing it as plugging a gap, for us, it was more about creating our own space to express the artistic nature of the collective around us.
The aim is to showcase the talent we have on our own roster, whilst booking artists that fall within our musical preference...What is the aim or mission statement and what informed and influences that? Has it had to adapt?
Sincerity towards the music we love is at the heart of everything we do. The aim is to showcase the talent we have on our own roster, whilst booking artists that fall within our musical preference and that we feel will complement the night. In terms of adapting, we see this as a continual process to keep the night interesting and current to those who want to join us.
How hard was it to get off the ground, to get people to listen and see what you were about?
As with anything new, there is always a challenge in the sense of building awareness. What was extremely important to us was that we reached out to the right people. Although we are essentially a promoter, we have a particular approach to promotion and personally aim to avoid this being heavy handed.
We also started out a few years back in Ibiza, were we ran a string of back-room parties throughout the summer season - it was here that we first gained support for what we were doing musically. Having run parties in the past definitely enabled to us to carry over some of the support into the launch of our new project.
Generally what’s it like promoting in London - is it competitive or friendly, and is the scene in a good state of health, would you say?
Our initial experience of promoting in London has been very positive. Of course, with a city like London that is up with the greatest cities in the world for electronic music, there is always going to be a lot of competition. We feel it is absolutely vital to have your own identity within the scene. We have many friends that are themselves promoting their own nights, so for us, it made sense to work around and support one another, rather than working against each other.
Music and nightlife has always been the biggest part of our lives and we have spent countless nights pursuing this passion of ours...Such sentiments lead to us collectively setting up a kind of promoters alliance, with those that we share common ground with and aim to, wherever possible, avoid clashing with one another. With such an approach, we are able to offer genuine support towards other promoters, that we feel are contributing to the scene and its state of health. As in any industry, there are always challenges faced in terms of regulation. Over the last few years we have seen many spaces and clubs closed, due to what we feel, is over-regulation and a lack of consideration towards the importance of such nights' on London's nightlife culture.
What were the key things you wanted to get right from the off, what matters most to you about a good event?
Music and nightlife has always been the biggest part of our lives and we have spent countless nights pursuing this passion of ours. Through those countless nights, we gained experience; so to speak, in what we felt promoters were getting right, and similarly, what we felt they were missing.
We will always aim to create an environment of freedom, which allows people to express themselves freely...So it was about leaving no stone unturned, paying attention to every last detail that would ultimately have some kind impact on the experience and environment our night offered. It was then a case of finding what we felt was the right venue that could house and complement our efforts.
The venue is of course hugely important, from the system, to the layout and down to how the staffs behave towards the crowd. We knew from the off, that the venue we was to choose had to tick these boxes and have a certain grittiness about it. Outside of this, the programming of the nights is paramount to us. Other than the nights themselves, one of the most enjoyable things for us is to get together and look at who we want to book. For us, our artwork is also key to portraying the vision that sits behind GREY:MATTER.
All of our artwork is either handcrafted, or created from physical elements that have been digitalised for use. We have run with the same artist from the beginning to ensure there is consistency in its style. Ultimately the measure of a "good event" should know that both the crowd and artists playing enjoyed themselves. We will always aim to create an environment of freedom, which allows people to express themselves freely and artistically.
What were the hardest challenges to getting going, what lessons have you learned over the last year or so?
One of the initial challenges, was not only finding the right venue, but finding one that would believe in our efforts. It goes without saying that, in the beginning, you are essentially trying to get the club or venue owner to believe in you as people, as at that stage, you have no portfolio that does the talking.
One of the biggest lessons we have learnt, is that artist availability is a huge aspect of promotion...One of the biggest lessons we have learnt, is that artist availability is a huge aspect of promotion - you may well have a long list of artists that you want to play for your nights, and a budget to match, but some of these are being booked over a year in advance. Becoming enlightened to this side of promotion meant that we could step up our pace and begin to work much further in advance.
And what highlights have there been, what really sticks in the mind?
One of the highlights for us was definitely hosting Stephan Bodzin's "Powers of Ten" album tour. Every aspect of the night was particularly special for us and Stephan not only rocked the room for 3 hours, but also brought so much enthusiasm to his set, which allowed the crowd to engage and feel very much a part of the night. Although headliners are of course important, one of the main things that stick in our minds is the vibe that is created by our own artists when they come together under one roof.
What have you got lined up going forwards, what is the plan for 2016?
The pipeline is pretty full. Alongside the programming of our own nights, we are also working on some collaborations that we feel will be very interesting, with some of them venturing outside of the UK. After Hunter/Game and Pisetzky join us at Bloc on February 6th, we will be returning to Bloc on April 9th with a line up we are extremely excited about.
The heart of GREY:MATTER is our own roster, the residents. Our roster has been mindfully curated to include what we feel, are some of the most promising & talented artists...Looking further ahead, we also have what will be the 1st birthday of GREY:MATTER, where we will be taking things to The Steelyard in July.
Why should people come to GREY:MATTER, do you think? What makes the parties different?
The heart of GREY:MATTER is our own roster, the residents. Our roster has been mindfully curated to include what we feel, are some of the most promising and talented artists from across the sub-scape of techno and electronica. There is a real and organic family vibe amongst our artists and this in turn provides a special dynamic when they play together.
Alongside our residents, we feel we are also forward thinking in the bookings we make - aiming wherever possible to bring something new to London.
Going back to the importance of sincerity, we aim to make bookings for what we feel to be the right reasons, the music, not for the clout of a particular name.
Musically, what is the vibe, what acts do you book and why do you book them?
We have never been too keen on classifying this, as sounds change and evolve all the time. For as many solid genres there are, there as many sub-genres that have grown. Having said this, we are definitely within the techno spectrum and venture, at times, into realms of dark and melodic electronica, as well as some shades of ambient. Now we feel that we have created our own space, we will look at booking some of the rising talent we're aware of, that may fall under some people’s radars.
There are many emerging artists that don't yet have the recognition they deserve, although their productions are pummelling the walls of clubs like Berghain. It's not so much a case of fast-tracking an artist's natural progression, but we'd certainly take pride in bringing them to London before it becomes an obvious move. What’s most important to us is that we are able to connect with the music we program, so we have no intention of restricting this.
GREY:MATTER Pres. Hunter/Game (Live A/V) & Pisetzky takes place at Bloc. on February 6th
More info here