It's Your Town, and with that in mind New Amsterdam Vodka and Noisey have teamed up to take a look at the pre-club rituals of some of our favourite artists. Every group of friends, in every city in the world, has their own unique rituals and traditions that make use of the group's own experiences and knowledge of the town around them. The club experience itself is shared with hundreds, if not thousands of other people, but before the club — well, that's just for you and your friends to do your own thing, and that's a special time. Next up: Madam X.
Madam X is the nom de guerre of Christiana Vassilakis, who – with her DJ skills, Kaizen club nights and label – has been operating at the bleeding edge of bass music since she emerged on the Manchester scene six years ago. Now relocated to London, we paired with New Amsterdam Vodka to catch up with Christiana and chat about her life in a new city – the raving, rituals and routines that are helping to make London feel like it's her town.
NOISEY: How long have you been in London for?
Madam X: I came here about a year ago from Manchester – I lived in London when I was 18, moved to Manchester for uni and then stayed there for another two years after that finished. So that's my story.
What's your favourite thing about living in London?
I guess that it's so easy to do something different each night. There's so much stuff going on that you're spoilt for choice. Even this warehouse space, where we're hanging out now, they throw a lot of raves and secret word-of-mouth parties. The guys who work in the studio downstairs, the Nervous Horizon guys, they were like "Come along, we're throwing this party down the road." Because there are so many internationals that live in this area, we were getting down to proper industrial, instrumentally heavy bass music – the kind of stuff that I play – and there were people from all over the world there. Italians, Europeans, just getting down. You meet so many interesting characters and that was probably one of the best nights out I've had in London cos I wasn't expecting anything out of it.
It's good to get that culture clash. It's going on outside right now, actually – West Ham are playing tonight and ever since they moved their stadium to Stratford, you've had loads of West Ham fans mobbing the area on matchdays, overwhelming all the local hipster bars with their demands for mainstream session lagers.
Yeah, it's sick. Even a year ago, when I first moved here, it wasn't as busy as it is now. The area's changing fast.
Why did you move here from Manchester?
I kept coming down and meeting people who've moved here from other countries – like the Nervous Horizon guys; most of them are from Italy. I was in Manchester and I was like, if they can move countries, surely it's not that big a deal for me to move to a different city in England?
I guess that while Manchester is great, London is really the epicentre for the kind of music you're making.
What about before you get to the club – the pre-party phase that precedes it, when you're at a house or whatever with your mates. What's that part of the evening like for you? Do you have any rituals or routines?
I like to listen to chilled music before I go to the club, because it's quite a nice balance. Erykah Badu, The Internet, Gil Scott-Heron. If I'm playing that night, I'll sometimes plan my set. If I'm having people at mine, we'll get some food on the go – pizza, or I'll make a tagine – have a few drinks. People think the DJ lifestyle's really "rock hard", and that we get up to all sorts of stuff – but I'm literally the most boring person. I just like chilling before the club.
(From left to right) @DjHutch_ @LarryLokane @DJMadamX @SilasAndSnare
Why's it important for you to have that relaxed time before you go to the club?
Because once I get to the club, I don't want to leave. I need to prepare myself mentally before I go in there. Once I get in the club, I always tell myself I'm gonna leave straight away – but I never do.
Ha, OK. And what kind of time does your pre-party begin?
8PM, 9PM, 10PM – it depends on when my gig is. If I'm playing at 3AM, we'll be at my house till 2AM. We just leave it to as late as possible, really.
Obviously you've been here a year now. Do you feel like you've got home turf, that you've put down roots?
I really enjoy East London living, cycling a lot. I like how easy it is to get around. Now that I've lived here a year I can't imagine living anywhere else. I feel comfortable here. And also it's long to move around! I've found my feet now and lots of my friends live east too.
@djmadamx @SilasandSnare @DjDilema1
Having come from Manchester, and having travelled a fair bit, what would you say makes London's nightlife different to other places?
You can find pretty much anything you're looking for. Themed nights, nights with Laser Quest in them, whatever you want. There's more variety and it caters to everyone. That doesn't necessarily mean I prefer the nightlife in London – the crowds in Manchester or up north are in your face, sweating! I recently did Boiler Room in Bristol – I didn't notice till I watched it back but it was mental. Everyone was wrapped around me like I was some kind of filling in their big tortilla. It was intense.
Are you a Friday or a Saturday person?
Thursday is the new Friday. That's my answer.
And when you're getting ready for a big Thursday, are you the host of your social group?Yeah, a lot of the time. I have so many different friends from so many different backgrounds, and they don't all know each other, so the easiest way to connect everyone a lot of the time is to have everyone over mine. I love cooking, so I'll make something, and they can bring the alcohol.
What's your signature dish?
I made the pengest chicken tagine the other day, before I played down at Electric in Brixton. People look at it and think it must have taken ages but it's so easy to make, you just whack it all in a pot. As for drinks, I don't tend to drink much before or during my set – I'll turn around after I've played and find all the booze from my rider has been taken by my friends. Cheers, guys! I let myself go a bit more if I'm not gigging, though.
Why do you think it's important for you, as someone who DJs three, four times a week, to have that chilled time with your mates before you go out into the eye of the storm?
Because it keeps you grounded. It's really easy to think that you're a rockstar because people like what you play, or you've got a rider. If you're just chilling with your mates, normal people, it keeps your head balanced. Real life to me is chilling with friends. And a lot of the time, their opinion means more to me than anyone in the music industry.
This Article is from the series Before the Club on Noisey, click here for more.