I couldn't go to a club sober. Imagine it. Imagine being stood in the the middle of a nightclub— watching the writhing hordes moronically fistpumping themselves into oblivion, or being stood outside for a sober cig, forced to endure the endless fucking chatter of shivering dickwads compelled to say YEAH YEAH FUCK YEAH over and over again at anything anyone says to them—without being at least a little bit pissed if not totally fucking wankered? I shudder to think, I really do.
One man who embraces sober clubbing with all the fervour of Paul Hollywood at an Ann Summers' night in a bakery is a 20 year old chap called Bradley Gunn. Bradley is an IT support worker by day and a raver by night. Bradley likes to arrive at clubs early and leave late. Bradley doesn't stop dancing. Bradley worries me a bit.
I was first alerted to him after being sent a link to a short documentary on him called Bradley Gunn Raver. I was a bit tired at the time and thought the "raver gun" in the title was alluding to one of those cannons that fire glitter at places like Pacha and leave everyone looking like the star of a particularly spangly bukkake flick. In my head a Bradley Gunn was something like that. It wasn't it. Bradley Gunn is a man and a raver. Bradley Gunn Raver. Some films are blessed with titles so evocative that you're instantly sucked in before you've even seen the BBFC screen: Days of Being Wild, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Bradley Gunn Raver.
As I watched the short film it dawned on me that I'd never spoken to someone that determinedly sober in my entire life. I have, over the course of my journey into the dull heart of adulthood, surrounded myself with people who like a pint. They aren't Lemmy, but, let me tell you, things can get pretty wild on a Saturday night round my way! What's that mate, you want another can of beer and you want me to open another bag of dry roasted peanuts? Steady on geezer, it's nearly 10pm!
And sure, we're not Hunter S Thompson or anything—teenagers still read him right? You got the reference right? Or were you too busy snorting mcat off a Snapchat sext!—but a cheeky quarter of a pill twice a year goes down very well thank you! When that goes down I'm like Eats Everything me, just "all night disco dancing," all night long. Until 3am when the club shuts and I'm safely ensconced on a bus home, ready for a nice mug of bovril and a slice of gala pie before an episode of Inspector Morse in bed. That's living, alright. That's living.
Like a Poundland Louis Theroux, I was curious about what going out sober, regularly, was like. Rather than doing a full Louis and driving around the wild and wacky parts of America that look great on camera, I just rang Bradley up while he was on his lunchbreak. If anyone at the BBC is reading this, feel free to slide into my DMs with a six part series offer. Thanks.
THUMP: Hey Bradley, thanks for speaking to us. Well done on the sober clubbing thing. Can we ask how the film came about?
Bradley Gunn: Well, I was just at an all day rave in Bristol doing my thing, dancing away, and a bloke came up to me to have a chat. It turned out he worked in the film industry. He asked how I was and I told him I'd been partying for 10 hours at that point. He asked if he could make a documentary about me. I never thought it'd happen but we just happened to be in the same place at the same time.
Were you worried about how you'd come across in the film at all? Was there any collaboration on the finished product or was it a case of being filmed and hoping for the best?
Well, they came to me, filmed me at a rave, and that was it. They edited it. I have to admit, i wasn't too sure how it was going to be received before the release but it seems to be going down well. It's inspired people to go raving sober, and, actually, a few people who've contacted me have ended up having nights out with me.
Oh, cool. How did this all start though? Were you out getting smashed all the time and thought, "no, I can't do this, I need to chill out?" What was the first clubbing experience you had?
The first club I went to was on my 18th birthday, and this was before I found out about dance music. It was a very commercial club and I went with my mates. I noticed that I was paying more attention to the music than I was to getting drunk. So I wanted to find somewhere that was more about the music. That was what I wanted. So I found the rave scene. A mate drove us to Motion in Bristol...
Were you on the pingers for that one? Or just straight OJ?
Well, I'd had a drink but he hadn't because he was driving. I didn't initially make a conscious decision to go raving sober. It just sort of happened. I had a mate whole became my rave partner and we'd had the odd drink from time to time, but we found that we couldn't stay up that long if we had. It'd get to three in the morning and we'd be tired.
You know there's drugs you can take that mean you'll probably be awake for a bit longer than that...
That's not what I'm about. Sure I might have a little drink sometimes but that'll be at home. You know, when I'm at a rave I don't care what anyone thinks about me, and I don't think about how other people feel about me. I rave in my own mind.
That's nice for you. You mention in the film that a bouncer thought you were in possession of drugs, presumably because you dance like a bloke who's boshed a small country's GDP's worth of ketamine. Does that happen often?
It does, yeah. People see me and usually assume I'm on drugs. They'll ask if I'm selling any or where they can buy them from. I don't have a clue! A lot of people are shocked when I tell them I'm sober. They think I'm lying. I'm not though. I really am a sober raver. And I've made lots of mates doing it.
Well, good for you Bradley Gunn.