How Edinburgh's Ultragroove has kept the dancefloor full for 11 years

Gareth Sommerville on the benefits of having open minded approach to house music

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How Edinburgh's Ultragroove has kept the dancefloor full for 11 years

Ultragroove’s Gareth Sommerville explains to Henry Northmore how their open minded approach to house music has kept the dancefloor moving for eleven years

As one of Edinburgh’s longest running nights, not only has Ultragroove been running for 11 years, but DJ/promoter Gareth Sommerville has now been putting on two parties every month for over a decade. ‘I’m not that surprised we’ve lasted this long. Although I’m quite a quiet person, I’m quietly confident in what I can do as a DJ,’ explains Sommerville, ‘and our bookings have always been a bit ahead of the game. But also I think that, as a DJ, I understand that it’s all about having a party on the dancefloor and making it rock. You can theorise about it all you want, but if it’s not happening on the dancefloor, your club is not going to last.’

It’s a true appreciation of the music that has stood Ultragroove in such good stead. A flexible approach to what exactly house music is has meant they have ridden the waves of fads and passing fashions, managing to continually tap into clubbers’ wants and needs. As other more rigid nights have come and gone, Ultragroove still hosts a crowded dancefloor every fortnight. ‘It’s an open-minded house night that incorporates Detroit techno, classic disco records, a lot of re-edits, and we dip our toes into dubstep and UK funky,’ says Sommerville. ‘If you’re quite fluid in what you do, you can’t be pigeonholed. At the moment it’s pretty much techno, disco and house, which might not seem that broad, but when you play a jazzy house record next to a banging techno record next to a disco tune from ‘76 then that can give the dancefloor an experience you’re not going to get anywhere else in Edinburgh.’

Ultragroove has become a mainstay of the Edinburgh club scene, and one of the very few clubs in the city that has existed for more than ten years, although several other nights have tried to emulate the formula. ‘I think there’s a lot of clubs that have taken onboard what we’ve done, probably via osmosis rather than being directly influenced,’ adds Sommerville, ‘and that’s great, because at the end of the day it’s about people playing records they love.’

Over the years they have played host to names such as Joey Negro, Keri Chandler, Dimitri From Paris, Dennis Ferrer, Terry Farley and Pete Heller. They’re not skimping on guest action for this 11th birthday party either as they are joined by Basement Jaxx associate and Rooty co-founder Frank Tope. ‘Frank is very much a kindred spirit.’ says Sommerville, ‘He’ll play a disco record next to a jackin’ house record next to something quite soulful, but it’s always about the party. He’s a force of nature in terms of the amount he knows about music and that really comes across in his DJ sets. He can distill it in a way that makes sense and makes a party on the dancefloor, and that to me is the ideal DJ.’

Even after 11 years, Sommerville is obviously still thrilled to man the decks every fortnight: ‘As long as I’m still excited by music I see as being an Ultragroove kind of record, I’ll still be enthused about the club. Even now it’s still all about hearing new music, that feeling you get when you hear that record being played, and ideally that feeling being shared by the dancefloor. As long as that’s still there, I’ll continue Ultragroove.’

Ultragroove’s 11th birthday is at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sat 16 Oct.

Ultragroove

Gareth Sommerville and his house party reach their 11th birthday, impressive stuff especially as their party features Frank Tope (Wild Geese), Andrew Pirie (Melting Pot), Lel Palfreya and Carina Ramos.

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