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. This week's subject: Nick Harriman of Dusky.
It was some point in 1999 I think, my best mate and I were way too young to be going raving and had never really considered trying to go to a club before. The older brother of one of our friends had just returned from Amsterdam with a load of "Golden Tulip" ecstasy tablets and suggested we try them. So, where better than at a dark sweaty club with banging dance music?
We made plans for that weekend, but the biggest obstacle to our exciting night ahead was the fact that we looked like, and were actually, just kids. We needed some fake IDs or we were never going to have a chance of persuading the bouncers we were 18. Luckily this was easily fixed. There was a guy at school who made fake NUS (National Union of Students) cards — acceptable ID to get into a club at the time. I wish I still had it to show you how ridiculous it was. So bait!
Anyway, as the weekend approached, the anticipation built. This expectation was one of the things I came to love about raving as I started to go more regularly: a sort of nervous excitement that's an integral part of the experience. Will I get in? Will I get my stash robbed off me by the bouncers? What's the party going to be like? Will I meet a girl? How many soggy rave spliffs will get rolled backwards and fall apart? All the important questions in life...
Finally, the day had arrived. Our destination for the night was a club in London Bridge called The Drome; it had a reputation for being dark and dingy with a distinct aroma of sweat and incense. It didn't disappoint. It was the kind of place you could get lost in: large and decrepit railway arches with holes in the wall that led to strange little back rooms with suspect characters all over the place. It was a stones throw from the city too, so you'd get these nuts city boys still with their ties on rolling around, off their heads to 140 BPM techno. Very bizarre, but fun, and a great vibe; it was a real mix of people from all walks of life.
The party that night was called "Mindscapes" and had a music policy of acid techno and psychedelic trance. The DJs were relatively unknown: Pat Hurley and DJ Zebedee with the Techno, Cydonia and Coma playing the trance which, at the time, didn't feel very different from the acid techno, to be honest; it was more melodic, but very rolling and loopy, not the edit-based donking psy-trance that is common place today.
To our amazement, we were actually allowed in. What followed was intense and took my appreciation of dance music to the next level, partly due to the drugs, but mostly due to the volume and all-encompassing wall of sound. I had been into dance music for a long time before eventually making it to a rave. Growing up in the UK during the 90s it was everywhere and felt very much a part of mainstream musical culture. But, what a mixtape can never prepare you for is the impact and fully physical experience of hearing the music you enjoy on a big sound system, in the environment in which it was designed to be listen to. This changed my whole perspective. It was an encounter with music that had surpassed the aural dimension that I had been so into; it felt as though I had actually come into contact with the music, a lasting effect that has stayed with me.
We became regular attendees at The Drome; it eventually became SE1, and the party we went to most was probably "Raindance." It was a great time for my friends and I. Clubbing culture was going strong in London and we travelled all over to experience different forms of dance music and the various subcultures that were associated with those sounds. There was drum & bass and jungle at places like Stratford Rex, Lighthouse, and Bagleys; garage at Turnmills and Eros; hardcore at the Chunnel Club and Castle Studios; through to house and techno at The End and the newly opened Fabric. Sadly, one of the only clubs still open is Fabric and hopefully it'll be able to keep it's doors open for years to come, irrespective of being under siege by the police and property developers.
The first rave I ever went to remains a vivid and important experience that has shaped my life in so many ways: not just musically, but my career, my friendship group, and ultimately my morals and wider attitude towards society. The older I get, the less likely it becomes that an experience as life changing as that moment will ever happen again. So, as time passes and its importance to me crystallises, growing increasingly permanent, I feel thankful that an innocent night out to get off my head on ecstasy ended up with so much more than a come down and an aching jaw.
Dusky will be at Celebrities in Vancouver, BC on Saturday, September 19. More information and tickets can be found here.