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Wookie's First Club: Youth Centers, New Shoes, and Nu Shooz

Join the UK Garage main man as he 2-steps down memory lane and tries to avoid annoying his mum.
September 17, 2015, 2:49pm

My First Club takes us back to the beginning, transporting DJs and producers back into the depths of their memory, asking them to take us on a trip to those pivotal first nights in clubland. Following entries from the likes of Eats Everything, Herve, MK, Slimzee, and Hudson Mohawke, we hit up UK Garage icon Wookie for a waltz into his local youth centers, stopping off for a bag of fries and a parental telling off on the way.

Wookie, back in the day. Not quite the youth club days, mind you.

My first experience of clubbing, as it were, was heading down to a youth club disco at the Martin Luther King Centre in Market Row, Islington, in North London. If you know the area you'll know that the center's found right at the bottom of the park. I ventured out on a Friday night with my mates Wayne and Tim. Given that it was a youth club, it wasn't surprizing that pretty much everyone else from school was there, too.

We walked down from our mate's house in Highbury through the back of Dratyon Park. We didn't have wheels in those days. I remember it was when I first started trying to smoke cigarettes. For some reason I bought a pack of Consulate and tried to calmly inhale, saying to myself I've got to look hard at this party. Back then, me and my mates would have been wearing designer black padded jackets from a local designer shop. I probably teamed it with a pair of baggy stonewash jeans, rolled up and tucked into my socks. I remember wearing a black t-shirt. Shoe-wise, it was either Reebok classics or a pair of Pumas. I was serious about my trainers, and even used to go to New York to pick up the latest shoes. I was definitely the first of my mates to rock New Balance. My look back then was very much focused on black and dark clothing. It just looked so much more stylish like that. You could say that, in a way, I was like a black emo.

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Me and the boys arrived and, though I can't quite remember the exact details, the queue can't have been huge, as the whole shebang probably ended by 1am. I'd been to parties at function halls with my family, so I wasn't unfamiliar with partying. However, this was different; it was busy and hot. It was so packed, you couldn't even dance. The music was provided by a local soundsystem. We also used to visit another center in Stoke Newington where Spoony used to play, too.

A track that really resonated with me on that first night was "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz. The soundsystem definitely played stuff by Mantronix and Joyce Sims too. Around that time, or maybe just after, I used to go to all dayers in Clissold Park and Hackney Downs, where reggae soundsystems blared out. I've got strong memories of hitting up a party in a derelict house where Shut up & Dance played — "5768" and "Lamborghini" smashed it.

After that first party we walked home via a kebab shop, bought some chips, gambled on fruit machines and played some pool, all while my mum was up waiting to have a go at me. She was pretty strict, so I had to be home by 2. When I got there she was waiting for me, looking out of the window.

That night opened me up to things I'd never seen before. It was a place to meet different girls and people from other places. I'll never forget it.

Wookie plays at Ministry of Sound this Saturday (September 19th) in London as part of the the club's 24th birthday celebrations. He'll be joined in South London by Derrick May, Lee Curtiss, Jimpster, Matt Jam Lamont, and more. Head here for more info.

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