Tokyoblu celebrates its 100th party
Co-founder of established Edinburgh house night reflects on journey through capital's club scene
As house night Tokyoblu reaches its milestone 100th party, co-founder John Hutchison explains to David Pollock why they are feeling stronger than ever
‘I haven’t been sitting at home counting them off with a score card, honest,’ protests Tokyoblu co-founder John Hutchison ahead of his club’s 100th party. ‘It was actually Gibby [fellow founder Iain Gibson] that did it.’ It’s a bit of a spurious excuse for a celebration (‘What is it,’ asks Hutchison, ‘our eight and a halfth birthday?’), but to reach such a ripe old age and still attract a dedicated and passionate crowd is some achievement, especially in the uncertain waters of Edinburgh’s club scene. The night is now Edinburgh’s second best-established house night after Ultragroove, and a combination of enthusiasm and sheer bloody-mindedness is key in the face of some of the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
Tokyoblu has had to change home three times in its life, and ‘the only one that was through choice was from the Cocteau Lounge [now the basement of Hawke + Hunter] to the Venue [now the Ingleby Gallery].’ When the Venue closed down they returned to Ego (the pool room in Hawke + Hunter), before the closure of that venue shifted them to their current home at Cabaret Voltaire. ‘The Venue was the worst,’ says Hutchison. ‘Losing that was an unmitigated disaster, it was one of the best venues in Scotland and it’s still sadly missed. Our last gig there was probably my favourite ever.’
Not that he’s dwelling on the past, though. ‘We’re very happy at Cabaret Voltaire, it’s been instrumental in creating Edinburgh’s current scene and for a long time it was the only place you could play quality music in the city. At the start of last year the underground clubbing scene here was pretty horrendous, but now the Liquid Room is back and Sneaky Pete’s is really coming into its own for young promoters. Things are looking up.’
Following on from such serious thoughts, it’s tempting to wonder whether this 100th edition will be a surrogate tenth birthday party? Does Hutchison see the club making it that far? ‘Oh, definitely,’ he replies. ‘Last year was probably one of our strongest in a while. We’ve kept the music interesting and avoided pandering to whatever’s fashionable at the time, and lo and behold 2011 is going to be the year of disco and quality house music once more.’
It’s never really been away from Tokyoblu, though, has it? ‘Well, you know, we’d occasionally play a bit of electro or minimal, but we’d never really get seriously into it. Those styles were good in their time and their place, but now they’re starting to wane and get taken over by other musical genres. Whereas we like to stick to our guns and just play music we love, whether that’s funky house, Chicago house, Latin, African …’
The old Tokyoblu house band is no more now – mostly because its eight members were proving too tricky to corral every month – but Hutchison believes he has a resident’s team (himself, Gibson, Gabriel Kemp of Sneaky Pete’s’ Animal Hospital, Niall & Denis McKervey and DJ No Bad), which keeps the club’s customary energy alive. ‘We don’t take ourselves too seriously,’ he says, ‘because people want to party when they go out, they want to get on the dancefloor and let go after a week of hard work. The fact we’re still here after eight years suggests we’re still getting it right.’
The 100th Tokyoblu is at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Fri 4 Feb.