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The Imperial Hotel and the Shifting Grounds of Sydney's Music Scene

A tale of how the inner-west was won.

Sydney's nightlife has been forced into a precarious position after the lock out laws that were introduced in April last year. The blunt measures have had a profound effect on music and culture. The restrictions mean amongst other things you can't even go out for a smoke or to inhale fresh air once it hits an hour and a half past midnight. It's been a bit of a vibe killer to say the least, and you'd be forgiven if you feared for the future. But there's hope. And there's those who are fighting back to reclaim the space.

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Murat Kilic, the proud new owner of The Imperial Hotel and repurposed home of his legendary club Spice Cellar, is one of many people in the scene aiming to keep Sydney's nightlife at a world class rank. Sure the club owner has been affected by the lockouts, forcing him out of a 200 person venue in the heart of the city, but with the constraints has come resilience. His goal to provide a space for Sydney's music makers stays strong with Spice Cellar's recent relocation to Sydney's inner west.

Our next THUMP party takes place tonight at Murat's new digs featuring Beat Spacek, Edd Fisher and Anomie, and we had a chat to the Sydney's taste making club owner about Sydney's strong electronic music community, his exciting new venture and everything in between. He even made us an exclusive mix of tracks because he's that kind of awesome guy.

Sydney's nightlife has been forced into a precarious position after the lock out laws that were introduced in April last year. The blunt measures have had a profound effect on music and culture. The restrictions mean amongst other things you can't even go out for a smoke or to inhale fresh air once it hits an hour and a half past midnight. It's been a bit of a vibe killer to say the least, and you'd be forgiven if you feared for the future. But there's hope. And there's those who are fighting back to reclaim the space.

Murat Kilic, the proud new owner of The Imperial Hotel and repurposed home of his legendary club Spice Cellar, is one of many people in the scene aiming to keep Sydney's nightlife at a world class rank. Sure the club owner has been affected by the lockouts, forcing him out of a 200 person venue in the heart of the city, but with the constraints has come resilience. His goal to provide a space for Sydney's music makers stays strong with Spice Cellar's recent relocation to Sydney's inner west.

Our next THUMP party takes place tonight at Murat's new digs featuring Beat Spacek, Edd Fisher and Anomie, and we had a chat to the Sydney's taste making club owner about Sydney's strong electronic music community, his exciting new venture and everything in between. He even made us an exclusive mix of tracks because he's that kind of awesome guy.

THUMP: Okay, straight off the bat, obviously many of Sydney's pillars of nightlife culture have taken a significant blow due to lockout's, but do you think in a way these constraints have cultivated creativity and innovation in the scene?
Yeah I think so I mean you look at us, we've gone from running a 200 person venue, to running this multi level three room gigantic venue,which absolutely we wouldn't of done, if it wasn't for the lock-out laws. It's funny because you know, sometimes life gives you a big kick in the guts and you think of this is real shit and what am I going to do and it does push you to new limits, I mean it pushed me and everybody around me to be like oh this was a kick in the teeth. So part of it was like resilience and perseverance and the idea that success is the best form of revenge. Part of it was that I felt like I have to stand up for my scene and my culture and for what I believe in. I come from an electronic music background, I've been in the business for 20 years. I Dj, I produce. I go to Berlin and London, whatever. So it was a real body blow to not only to me, but the whole industry. I'm not going to lie to you we were fucking on our last legs, We couldn't keep that place open any longer on it's current format. So the whole time I was trying to figure out how to get this deal over the line, so I could get us over the line and re-jig what we were doing, start from scratch.

Yeah so on that topic it's an exciting new venture you have going acquiring The Imperial Hotel. The hotel has been a longstanding icon of Sydney's LGBT scene. In the long term, how do you plan on maintaining that legacy at the same time as moving forward to adapt to the challenges and progression of Australian nightlife?
If you asked me if I was going to be a owner of a pub in two years I'd tell you that your fucking mad, especially a gay pub in Newtown I'd be like what? (laughs). But fuck it's cool I love it, I love that we have drag, now we have this venue that is iconic for the queer community and just now it's become this hub for electronic music. For me it feels like a panorama bar fusion where you have the queer community and the techno community. I'm hoping that there will be this whole blurring of lines across cultures and in a way. I hope that the lockouts are going to bring people together and it makes us stronger. I mean who cares if you're queer or a techno lover, this is place you go to watch a drag show and listen to Marcel Dettmann in the basement. That's the cool thing I thing and that's what I'm most frothing about. It's this whole vibe that you know that we can build a stronger community through this venue and it's kind of happening. We've really tried hard to be inclusive and listen to everybody, not just for the queer community but also for the locals by trying to have minimal impact to our surrounding area. I mean trying to be as invisible as you can with 1200 people inside your venue at 3 in the morning.

Cool, so the way you're going about it is to keep the balance?
Yeah. I'm trying to blur the lines a bit and overcome any sort of prejudice that people might have. Come to a party weather it be a queer party, techno, house or what ever. We have two rooms where dj's play that are free entry, we've tried to make it accessible for people the basement is the only place that charges entry. So you know yeah hopefully there will be a renaissance in the scene, that's the hope.

Doorly recently played a show at Spice at one of your opening weekends and said it was one of the best shows he'd played in Australia. Big call from a dj of his status. What set's Spice Cellar apart from the rest?
I think the energy and the vibe, it's undeniable and it kind of sucks you in and spits you out 3 hours later. Also it's a combination of things, I put a lot of effort to how things sound I put a lot of effort into it. I've been really trying to get a more international grade club going in Sydney, but I just didn't have the space or the money or the time. This was the opportunity, so we kind of went all out. That night we got a really good VJ from France who was travelling and a really good friend of mine Gabby who helped out with the installation. Another mate of mine who I've known for 15 years he just rang me and was like he man I really want to help you guys out and he literally donated the LED's, he just said you can take this on loan and you know and you can pay for my VJ and we can work it out later. You know it's just got a really strong community vibe to it. That's what's actually setting it apart, unlike Marquee which came in with a million bucks and just bought the phattest system, we don't come from that kind of money, so we just pulled in all of our creative friends and just said help!

I agree that to survive and stay relevant- community is really important. Obviously Spice has it's own thing going but as someone who has also immersed himself in the global electronic scene, what are the defining characteristics of Sydney's nightlife?
You have to scratch the surface a little bit because you're in quite a unique place, it has quite a few geographic subcultures. I think it's safe to say the Kings Cross and CBD cultures are being affected quite heavily after lockouts. You know you go out to the inner west, I mean for me I have been working in the city mostly, it was really cool for me to come out and finally become a part of the inner west. It's so rich man, you've got Mad Racket who've been out there for 20 years, you've got Kooky with guys like Johnny Seymour and all that crew are from there, and House of Mince and the Ghostly guys. It's just got such a rich fringe culture going on, and it's been really nice for me coming from running events in the city to connect with that culture completely. I think that that's really special. I think it's up there with Berlin and London. I went to Pete Lovertits party - Super Open Air at The Factory Theatre the other week and that was something really special. I felt like I was in Berlin or Hackney or some shit. You know it was a really cool crowd, great music great vibes, so I think there definitely is a healthy sort of future for us.

I wholeheartedly agree about Super Open Air it was something else.
Yeah it's so refreshing stuff like that inspires me and I go "fuck yeah". For us the last two Sundays we've had Johny Seymore and Paul Mac doing a Strobe Light Unicorns party which is a free party in our public bar and you know we hardly did any marketing for that or put up any posters or anything. Still both weeks its been full and the guys play amazing music. I actually thought both weeks I was in Berlin or you know somewhere awesome in the world where normally you'd go oh fuck Sydney's shit you know- in actual fact this is actually fucking awesome.

That sounds incredible. Okay so last question, you've thrown hundreds of parties in your time. What's your dream lineup?
I'd love to get The Knife doing an open air party, maybe with Bjork doing like a little cameo performance with Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock.

Sweet! I'm looking forward to you making that happen. Thanks so much for your time Murat, see you tonight Thanks to our Swedish friends Rekorderlig Cider we are throwing a HUGE party with Beat Spacek, Edd Fisher and Anomie at The Imperial Hotel Ersknvl. It's all free, but you have to RSVP at http://party.vice.com/thump/

THUMP: Okay, straight off the bat, obviously many of Sydney's pillars of nightlife culture have taken a significant blow due to lockout's, but do you think in a way these constraints have cultivated creativity and innovation in the scene?
Yeah I think so I mean you look at us, we've gone from running a 200 person venue, to running this multi level three room gigantic venue,which absolutely we wouldn't of done, if it wasn't for the lock-out laws. It's funny because you know, sometimes life gives you a big kick in the guts and you think of this is real shit and what am I going to do and it does push you to new limits, I mean it pushed me and everybody around me to be like oh this was a kick in the teeth. So part of it was like resilience and perseverance and the idea that success is the best form of revenge. Part of it was that I felt like I have to stand up for my scene and my culture and for what I believe in. I come from an electronic music background, I've been in the business for 20 years. I Dj, I produce. I go to Berlin and London, whatever. So it was a real body blow to not only to me, but the whole industry. I'm not going to lie to you we were fucking on our last legs, We couldn't keep that place open any longer on it's current format. So the whole time I was trying to figure out how to get this deal over the line, so I could get us over the line and re-jig what we were doing, start from scratch.

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Yeah so on that topic it's an exciting new venture you have going acquiring The Imperial Hotel. The hotel has been a longstanding icon of Sydney's LGBT scene. In the long term, how do you plan on maintaining that legacy at the same time as moving forward to adapt to the challenges and progression of Australian nightlife?
If you asked me if I was going to be a owner of a pub in two years I'd tell you that your fucking mad, especially a gay pub in Newtown I'd be like what? (laughs). But fuck it's cool I love it, I love that we have drag, now we have this venue that is iconic for the queer community and just now it's become this hub for electronic music. For me it feels like a panorama bar fusion where you have the queer community and the techno community. I'm hoping that there will be this whole blurring of lines across cultures and in a way. I hope that the lockouts are going to bring people together and it makes us stronger. I mean who cares if you're queer or a techno lover, this is place you go to watch a drag show and listen to Marcel Dettmann in the basement. That's the cool thing I thing and that's what I'm most frothing about. It's this whole vibe that you know that we can build a stronger community through this venue and it's kind of happening. We've really tried hard to be inclusive and listen to everybody, not just for the queer community but also for the locals by trying to have minimal impact to our surrounding area. I mean trying to be as invisible as you can with 1200 people inside your venue at 3 in the morning.

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Cool, so the way you're going about it is to keep the balance?
Yeah. I'm trying to blur the lines a bit and overcome any sort of prejudice that people might have. Come to a party weather it be a queer party, techno, house or what ever. We have two rooms where dj's play that are free entry, we've tried to make it accessible for people the basement is the only place that charges entry. So you know yeah hopefully there will be a renaissance in the scene, that's the hope.

Doorly recently played a show at Spice at one of your opening weekends and said it was one of the best shows he'd played in Australia. Big call from a dj of his status. What set's Spice Cellar apart from the rest?
I think the energy and the vibe, it's undeniable and it kind of sucks you in and spits you out 3 hours later. Also it's a combination of things, I put a lot of effort to how things sound I put a lot of effort into it. I've been really trying to get a more international grade club going in Sydney, but I just didn't have the space or the money or the time. This was the opportunity, so we kind of went all out. That night we got a really good VJ from France who was travelling and a really good friend of mine Gabby who helped out with the installation. Another mate of mine who I've known for 15 years he just rang me and was like he man I really want to help you guys out and he literally donated the LED's, he just said you can take this on loan and you know and you can pay for my VJ and we can work it out later. You know it's just got a really strong community vibe to it. That's what's actually setting it apart, unlike Marquee which came in with a million bucks and just bought the phattest system, we don't come from that kind of money, so we just pulled in all of our creative friends and just said help!

I agree that to survive and stay relevant- community is really important. Obviously Spice has it's own thing going but as someone who has also immersed himself in the global electronic scene, what are the defining characteristics of Sydney's nightlife?
You have to scratch the surface a little bit because you're in quite a unique place, it has quite a few geographic subcultures. I think it's safe to say the Kings Cross and CBD cultures are being affected quite heavily after lockouts. You know you go out to the inner west, I mean for me I have been working in the city mostly, it was really cool for me to come out and finally become a part of the inner west. It's so rich man, you've got Mad Racket who've been out there for 20 years, you've got Kooky with guys like Johnny Seymour and all that crew are from there, and House of Mince and the Ghostly guys. It's just got such a rich fringe culture going on, and it's been really nice for me coming from running events in the city to connect with that culture completely. I think that that's really special. I think it's up there with Berlin and London. I went to Pete Lovertits party - Super Open Air at The Factory Theatre the other week and that was something really special. I felt like I was in Berlin or Hackney or some shit. You know it was a really cool crowd, great music great vibes, so I think there definitely is a healthy sort of future for us.

I wholeheartedly agree about Super Open Air it was something else.
Yeah it's so refreshing stuff like that inspires me and I go "fuck yeah". For us the last two Sundays we've had Johny Seymore and Paul Mac doing a Strobe Light Unicorns party which is a free party in our public bar and you know we hardly did any marketing for that or put up any posters or anything. Still both weeks its been full and the guys play amazing music. I actually thought both weeks I was in Berlin or you know somewhere awesome in the world where normally you'd go oh fuck Sydney's shit you know- in actual fact this is actually fucking awesome.

That sounds incredible. Okay so last question, you've thrown hundreds of parties in your time. What's your dream lineup?
I'd love to get The Knife doing an open air party, maybe with Bjork doing like a little cameo performance with Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock.

Sweet! I'm looking forward to you making that happen. Thanks so much for your time Murat, see you tonight Thanks to our Swedish friends Rekorderlig Cider we are throwing a HUGE party with Beat Spacek, Edd Fisher and Anomie at The Imperial Hotel Ersknvl. It's all free, but you have to RSVP at http://party.vice.com/thump/