Interview: The Sub Club at RockNess
Glasgow’s legendary club heads to RockNess 2012 as part of their 25th anniversary celebrations
This article is from 2012.
Glasgow institution the Sub Club celebrate their 25th anniversary this year and as part of their celebrations they are bringing the sounds of the Subbie to RockNess. We catch up with two of the club’s directors, Mike Grieve and Paul Crawford, to see what they have planned
Did you ever expect the Sub Club to still be running after 25 years?
Mike Grieve: I don't think anyone could have foreseen this happening although it has always seemed like an ongoing project - the nature of the club is to push forward musically and so I suppose it is natural that it has an indefinite lifespan.
Paul Crawford: It's not something I ever really thought about, all you try to do is look forward to the next six months or year, you feel as if the landmark dates sneak up on you.
What do you think is the secret to running a successful club for so many years?
MG: Avoiding the pitfalls of following trends which arrive and disappear overnight - in other words staying true to your convictions, musically and artistically and always being aware that a club is about the people who frequent it. Add great resident DJs to the mix and you have a winner.
PC: It's believing in what you do and having people involved that share the same passion for the club that you do.
What sets the Sub Club apart from other venues?
MG: Many things - the space itself just has that 'je ne sais quoi’ and has always engendered a great atmosphere, the crowd is hard to please but when they're pleased they're very very pleased. Plus we have always made sure that the staff we employ are friendly.
PC: I think it's the people that set it apart, from the glass collectors, bar staff, PR staff, DJs, promoters, managers and owners, to the people who come regularly to enjoy the club. Physically the venue is very atmospheric and has a perfect layout.
What's so special about the Subbie's sound system?
MG: It was designed for the venue by top people who really are a cut above the run of the mill 'techies'. Dave Parry, formerly Technical Director at Fabric, was a massive help at the time and an inspiration. His introduction to Richie Rowley at Martin Audio, who is blessed with incredible ears and great technical know-how, was pivotal.
PC: Again I think the physical space lends itself to having the sound easier to eq, obviously the system itself, a Martin Audio System, was designed by people with great knowledge in the industry.
Do you think being in Glasgow has affected your music policy/quality?
MG: Definitely - Glaswegians are well known for not suffering fools gladly and no amount of 'cool' posturing would ever cover up for a second rate music policy here.
PC: I’d say yes and no. The club has always tried to lead and never follow fads. The size of the venue allows a level of quality control as you don't have to compromise too much on bookings.
Conversely do you think you've helped shape Glasgow’s soundtrack?
MG: I think most DJs and promoters in Glasgow would acknowledge the influence the Sub Club has had on the music scene over the years.
PC: Undoubtedly. In some ways it's a victim of it's own success. There has been a recent spate of smaller venues who are trying to replicate what the Sub Club does and normally the people running these venues are former regulars who have taken inspiration from the Sub Club.
What are your personal highlights?
MG: Too many to mention them all over the near 20 years I’ve been here but the live string quartet on NYE 2003 playing ‘Strings of Life’ sticks in my mind for a 'hairs on the back of the neck' moment. Lil' Louis first time he did Subculture in 1997 was a moment. Roy Ayers live on the 20th anniversary was very special for me too.
PC: I’m with Mike on this. Having Roy Ayers play live in the club at the 20th anniversary was special. The live string quartet we put on at NYE was another. And then there was Roy Davis Jnr from Chicago deciding to sing live whilst DJing (first time he had ever did it).
Did you worry when the refurbishment work after the fire took so long people might forget about the Sub Club?
MG: We all worried about that since we never expected it to go on for anything like the length of time it did but we kept the faith and so did people around us. Towards the end of that period people seemed to stop believing it would ever happen though so it was immensely gratifying when it finally re-opened.
PC: Not really we kept promoting nights in other venues to keep the vibe alive.
What have you got planned for your 25th birthday celebrations?
MG: Along with the promoters who do nights in the club, our fellow director Barry Price has pulled together an amazing line-up, with so many highlights we couldn't get them all on our posters and flyers. We'll keep things going with more than a few surprises over the rest of 2012 and of course we are really looking forward to the festival season.
What have you got planned for the Sub Club 25 Arena at RockNess?
MG: Hudson Mohawke, Ivan Smagghe, Harri & Domenic, Pearson Sound, Levon Vincent … the arena will be rocking all weekend!
What's next for the Sub Club? Any long term plans?
MG: 50 years!
PC: Watch this space!
Sub Club Sound System at RockNess, 8-10 Jun.