Raw like sushi
David Pollock checks out Edinburgh’s clubbing underground as Wasabi Disco reaches its first birthday
‘I left Edinburgh to live in Glasgow about four years ago,’ says Kris Walker, promoter and resident DJ at Sneaky Pete’s Wasabi Disco, ‘and the Edinburgh I see now is completely different to the one I left behind. The club scene in the city’s really vibrant and open-minded at the moment, and that’s encouraging for people like me.’
Surprisingly, Wasabi Disco – one year old this month – is Walker’s first venture into self-promotion. He’s been a DJ since his mid-teens, when his mum’s partner made him a pair of DIY decks from a couple of hi-fi turntables and a bit of kitchen worktop so he could learn to mix Shamen, N-Joi and rave-era Prodigy records together. For the best part of the last decade he’s played bars, friends’ parties and backrooms at other clubs under the name Kris Actualsize, his finest hour coming alongside Glasgow’s David Barbarossa in the back room of Optimo’s Edinburgh residency, first at the Venue and then Ego.
‘Wasabi just started out because I wanted somewhere to hold my birthday party,’ says Walker. ‘I mentioned it to Nick [Stewart, manager of Sneaky Pete’s], and he offered me a date. It was only meant to be a party where I could play some music that my mates and I were into, but Nick liked it so much he offered me a monthly slot.’
Of all the resurgent clubs in Edinburgh, the dark and compact box at the base of the Cowgate that is Sneaky Pete’s might well be the most relentlessly exciting, and Wasabi is certainly right up there with Stepback and Playdate as one of its best nights. ‘I don’t think Wasabi Disco would work anywhere else,’ says Walker. ‘It’s an awesome venue. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s a total groovebox. I don’t look at what I do as experimental, but I do have an open-minded policy and Sneaky Pete’s is just the right size to fit an open-minded crowd. At the end of the day it’s free in, and it’s free out if you don’t like it.’
Wasabi’s original MO of ‘disco with a kick’ still just about holds true. Like all the best parties, the night doesn’t just celebrate the zeitgeist; it challenges its listeners to rediscover songs that were around before they were even born. Last month’s playlist saw voguish Italians Do It Better signees Glass Candy go up against no-wave icons Liquid Liquid, Alter Ego beat heads with George Clinton and a rousing three-way finale between Prince, The Boredoms and Fleetwood Mac. Since Optimo’s Edinburgh residency finished earlier this year, Wasabi Disco has become its natural heir.
Walker’s taste in music is well developed. Born in Glasgow but raised in Edinburgh, his mother’s cousin is Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr. He tells of his friendship with Kerr’s younger brother Mark, currently the drummer in the Tigersushi-signed Joakim and the Disco, and of the constant rotation of synth-pop groups like The Human League and Depeche Mode in the house while he was growing up.
Edinburgh’s Pure was his real clubbing year zero, though, and his current favourites in the city are Club for Heroes, Devil Disco Club and Confusion is Sex. ‘I’m interested in people who forge their own path,’ he says, ‘rather than just biting at sounds as they go past.’ The imitators, you feel, will be turning their attention to Wasabi Disco soon enough.
Wasabi Disco’s first birthday is at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sat 21 Nov.