The Warehouse Project, Manchester.
For the next in our series of interviews where local, leading lights give us the lowdown on their scene, we hear from Joshua Brooks promoter Gareth Chubb on why one of the UK’s key clubbing cities is back on top of its game.
For a couple of moments in the late 80s and the early 2000s it felt like Manchester was the centre of the clubbing universe. The legendary Haçienda and later Sankeys were, for different reasons, arguably two of the most important UK clubs in history. But a boom and bust cycle seems to haunt the city’s club scene and both petered out on a long depressing tide of dwindling numbers and restrictions placed on them by developers and local councils that sank the city’s scene into gloom.
Criminal gangs also played their part. Mixmag famously labelled the city’s crime scene 'Gangchester' in the 1990s and Andy and Mike McKay left the city to take their new club night Manumission to Ibiza after Andy was soaked in petrol by local gangsters.
Right now, however, the city’s dark days are in the rear view mirror. The seasonal Warehouse Project series has reinvented the art of throwing big events and inspired similarly promoted venues like Printworks in London or Motion in Bristol. A thriving warehouse scene has injected an edge to the music scene, while lots of diverse genres and crews have arisen to broaden the Manchester soundtrack. To find out more on what has been happening, we spoke to Gareth Chubb, the local promoter responsible for long running party Micron, who was recently made Managing Director of one of the UK’s best small venues, Joshua Brooks.
Ibiza Voice: What's the vibe like in Manchester currently and how does your club fit in?
Gareth Chubb: We have a lot of really good, forward-thinking promoters but unfortunately a lot of clubs have recently shut down like Antwerp Mansion. Some owners might think that’s beneficial to [Joshua Brooks] but I don’t believe in that theory - we’re all in this together essentially. But as venues close down, others open. The Now Wave guys are opening right next to us and that’s going to be really good for the particular area in Manchester we are. In terms of how we fit in, I want us to fit in with various styles of clubs so we are not just a house/techno club. We will be playing music and booking artists from the disco world (check out my new brand Lost in Music) as well as grime, trap, hip hop, experimental, indie, rock, whatever.
What's the best thing about the scene in Manchester currently?
The enthusiasm of really good promoters, despite what has been happening with the venues. The guys in Mvson sell out every event they do (they also run Tektu every Tuesday with us which is one of the most popular weeklies in Manchester). The girls in Meat Free, lads in Boxed, Project 13, Zutekh, Idiom (another party at Joshua Brooks). Lots of good ideas are coming through right now. Then there’s someone like Rich Reason who has run the bass night ‘Hit & Run’ forever and also manages the very popular [local MC and DJ crew] Levelz.
What brought you to Joshua Brooks in the first place?
Joshua Brooks is where I started Micron nearly 12 years ago. I fell in love with it as soon as I walked in. It was the perfect size for what I had planned, and at that time not many other house/techno nights had done anything there, other than the Chemical Brothers in the early 90s techno institution Locked.
And what's taken you back?
I got an offer I couldn’t refuse, basically! It’s always been my favourite venue in Manchester, even though I’ve done events at most of the other venues around. The current owner knew what I had done there previously when I was Head of Bookings for a three year period. He asked me to become a full partner and oversee everything to do with the venue, which I can tell you involves a lot more than just putting parties on. We’re open every day of the week for food (check out Big Grillie Style on social media) which is going really well and I intend to add to that with other things like record fairs, art exhibitions, band rehearsals, theatre - all are different ways of utilising both the Basement and the bar.
Seth Troxler at Zutekh.
What's happening musically in the city currently?
The core sound of house and techno has always been popular and still is. Lots of variants of this are coming through, especially the more hard edged stuff which I’m definitely a fan of. Trap is one of the most popular genres to come through in recent times and grime is the mainstream now, which I consider to only be a good thing.
Disco is maybe the one genre more than any others that’s proving to be the most popular, definitely aided by the worldwide popularity of Defected and Glitterbox. Homeoelecyric have always pushed that sound for years and now we have the brilliant La Discotheque at Albert Hall who are getting the very biggest names in, as well as Lost in Music.
Are there any interesting new crews we should know about?
As mentioned before, the people who run Mvson and Tektu. They’re also producers and run a record label as well as throwing parties and each time they do it sells out. Meat Free, which started at Joshua Brooks initially, are a group of girls who are playing harder techno and booking some of the biggest people from that world. Ben Sims is practically a resident for them now. They also do lots of things on the side, like club nights for disabled people and they’ve just founded the first Manchester promoters football tournament, where all proceeds go to charity.
What sets it apart from club scenes in other cities?
I think promoters and venues have always been supportive of each other instead of feeling that they’re in competition. You’ll often see them down at each other’s nights which I don’t think you’d get in other cities, especially London. There seems to have been more warehouse parties in this city over the last few years along the lines of London and Berlin.
What challenges does the scene in Manchester face?
We need venues to stay open and us all to work together to make this happen. [Promoters need to] talk to each other and if one event is sold out maybe encourage people to head to a different club that plays similar music. There’s enough people wanting to hear quality music to fill all the great places we have in city. I’ll also be working with the Night Time Industries Association this year to look at the best ways of moving this forward in Manchester, the way it’s been doing so in London.
Hit & Run.
How do promoters get on with city officials? Are you supported by local government/police ?
There’s the odd illegal rave which usually get closed down so I’ve not done anything like that personally for a long time. It’s best to work with both the government and police, rather than against them as ultimately they can close things down and you can lose a lot of money in the process. As a responsible adult (ha!), it’s now my job to go to monthly meetings with the police to discuss any issues affecting the city, what we need to look out for and just generally keeping them in the loop with what we have planned.
Is Manchester a good place to be an artist?
Good question. It doesn’t look like there are many studios for rent right now for artists and if there are, they’re very expensive. Saying that, the city is still producing a wealth of extremely talented producers, people who are either from here or moved here like Illum Sphere, Lone, Bugzy Malone and Adio who has recently left Manchester for the States and is doing amazingly well as Bipolar Sunshine! I also have got to include both Kerouac & SMILE and Jack Barton who are also producing great house/techno music and are Micron residents.
What does the city need less of?
Venues closing down.
And what does it need more of?
Sunday parties. It’s never happened in a way like it does in London or Berlin and I’ve never really understood why.
Gareth Chubb on FB https://www.facebook.com/garethchubb
Joshua Brooks on FB https://www.facebook.com/joshuabrooksmanchester/
JB on Twitter https://twitter.com/JoshuaBrooksMCR
JB on Insta https://www.instagram.com/joshuabrooksmcr/