DJ Friction, Dillinja and Spor set for Xplicit Fifth Birthday Party
Scottish club brand Xplicit is still carrying the torch for drum & bass, putting on one of their best line-ups to date for this month’s fifth birthday event. David Pollock speaks to guest DJ Friction and promoter Simon McGrath
It’s 7pm on Friday night, and promoter Simon McGrath is getting ready to host his first Xplicit of 2010 at Edinburgh’s Bongo Club. The venue is deserted, but a huge sound system – on loan from the venue’s dub reggae night Messenger Sound System – is already set up in front of the stage and looks ready to cause some damage.
It says a lot about the popularity of Xplicit in its home city that this residents’ night in aid of charity will be the lesser of its two outings this month. The next is one of its quarterly (or twice per university term) specials at Potterrow students’ union, where an all-star cast of drum & bass artists will gather to celebrate five years of the club’s life. McGrath expects, as usual for one of these larger dates, a 1200 capacity sell-out – within its own genre, it’s fair to say that Xplicit ranks alongside the likes of Colours, Optimo and Subculture as one of Scotland’s most recognisable clubbing brands.
‘When the night started there was nothing else out there really killing it,’ says McGrath, taking a seat for just a few minutes before rushing off to do some last-minute flyering. ‘Obviously Manga [legendary but now-defunct Edinburgh drum & bass club] was a huge night for the city, but when that finished the drum & bass scene in Edinburgh hit a lull. I’d worked behind the bar in clubs, I knew how things worked and I wanted to give promoting a go myself. I eventually did it just so I could book the guests I wanted to see.’
Xplicit’s first residency was at the Honeycomb on Niddry Street (now the Hive), and it’s also appeared at the old Venue and, more recently, the Picture House on its way to the Bongo Club and Potterrow. In that time the night has managed to surf a resurgence of interest in the D&B genre, with artists like Pendulum and Chase & Status having emphatically crossed over to the mainstream in recent years.
‘These are guys who all had their Scottish debuts at Xplicit,’ says McGrath. ‘Chase & Status, Spor, Pendulum … in fact, one of Pendulum’s very first live shows was with us, I think they’d only done Glastonbury and one or two other dates before they brought it here. Sub Focus too, he’s going to be the next big thing on Ram Records [jungle DJ and producer Andy C’s label, also home to Chase & Status] – a lot of these guys we were booking before they were even big enough to headline.’
While Xplicit is designed mainly to replicate what McGrath calls ‘London-style line-ups’ – good value multi-bill events with more than one big name attached to each – he’s also diversified into other areas, for example the Bongo’s budget midweek residents’ night JungleDub. He’s also tried out Xplicit nights in Glasgow, although for such a hands-on promoter, not being based in the city proved an obstacle.
‘I’d love to get something started there eventually,’ he says. ‘The nights we did put on in Glasgow were really well received, so there is an audience. Edinburgh’s still more renowned for its drum & bass scene, though, which I think is down to the fact that there are more students from London and the south of England here, it’s a sound they’re used to hearing in clubs back home.’ Similarly, McGrath’s liking for dubstep has seen it creep onto the night’s playlists recently.
This birthday party, however, will feature an exclusively D&B line-up for one of the country’s most hyperactive crowds, including long-established former Metalheadz artist and Valve Recordings head Dillinja, the up-and-coming Spor and hot young Brightonian three-deck maestro DJ Friction, aka Ed Keeley, who last guested at Xplicit two and a half years ago.
‘Every night I’ve played Xplicit has been a great one,’ says Keeley, ‘but then the drum & bass and jungle scenes are in a better position than they have been in a while. It’s great that we have people like Pendulum out there, because that way the scene can remain underground but still draw new, young fans in through these hugely successful artists.’
McGrath agrees with this. ‘We probably have a younger crowd than most clubs, actually. Maybe about an 18 to 24 age range, mostly, and the core crowd comes and goes as people leave university and the city. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop growing. It might not be possible to jump from 1200 to 3000 capacity venues right away, but I don’t see why we can’t aim for that one day.’
Xplicit’s Fifth Birthday Party, with guests DJ Friction, Dillinja and Spor, Potterrow, Edinburgh, Fri 22 Jan.
5 Tunes that made Xplicit
Most big tunes come and go, but some remain classic. Residents Paul Reset and Simon McGrath pick their favourites from five years of Xplicit
Chase and Status
Eastern Jam (Ram Records)
Paul Reset: ‘Scratch Perverts gave this its first Xplicit play at Potterrow and it was just fucking madness. This track signalled Chase & Status’ move towards becoming really huge producers. It mixes the harshness of drum & bass with the tempo of dubstep. There’s a massive crossover between the two genres. Dubstep almost is drum & bass, but with an emphasis on the bass rather than the noise.’
Stompbox (Spor Remix) (Ninja Tune)
PR: ‘Qemists are a full band that are signed to Ninja Tune, so this track blends their live feel with Spor’s big chunky bass and really tough production. It’s not so much that it has a great hook, it just sounds huge, like all of Spor’s stuff. He always goes down really well at the club, and he’s coming back again for the birthday party.’
If We Ever (Hospital)
PR: ‘It has an old-school piano and one of those chipmunk vocals on it, which was very unusual when it came out. People tend to get bored of a lot of tracks that are played so often, but not this one. As soon as that piano drops, everyone recognises it, and everyone goes bananas for it. High Contrast has had a bit of mainstream success, plus he’s signed to Hospital, pretty much the best label around.’
Messiah (Noisia Remix) (Renegade Hardware)
Simon McGrath: ‘Konflict are two Glasgow-based producers, and even their own version of this track is one of my all-time favourites. This version stands out, though, because I remember Noisia playing it as the last track of our third birthday party and then crowdsurfing to it to end the set.’
Samsara (Nerve Recordings)
PR: ‘This is actually on my own label Nerve, but it’s still one of my favourites. It’s a tough track which builds and builds slowly, with some nice eastern strings and an old-school jungle feel to it. Purely on crowd reaction, this would have to make it into an Xplicit top five – it’s really dancefloor friendly, but it doesn’t hit you in the face with a stick, you know what I mean? Morphy’s from Glasgow, we used to run LiveEvil and he’s a fellow Xplicit resident.’