The Sub Club's 20th birthday

The Sub Club

Club class

As Glasgow’s mighty Sub Club reaches its 20th birthday, Henry Northmore uncovers the secret of their success

Interviewees: Co-directors Mike Grieve and Paul Crawford, Keith McIvor aka Twitch (resident at Optimo), Jonnie Wilkes (Optimo), Harri (Subculture) and Dave Clarke (Slam Events)

What sets the Sub Club apart from other venues?

Dave Clarke: It has the perfect set-up for DJs. We’re very close to the dancefloor so it feels almost like a huge living room. It’s a great layout and there’s always a warmth to the place even when you walk in and it’s empty at the start of the night.

Paul Crawford: There’s something about the shape of the room and the height of the ceilings that just generates a great atmosphere. We don’t know all the ins and outs of the history of the place but we do know it was a blues club in the 60s, and before that it was the Jamaica Inn, part of the dinner dance scene.

Jonnie Wilkes: These kinds of venues are becoming few and far between; it’s very hard to find independently run, underground music venues in the city centre.

Keith McIvor: It’s a pleasure to DJ there; it’s very, very rare that you get a place that’s just a joy to play. If we’d been in a different venue there’s no way Optimo would still be alive after ten years. It spoils you when you play anywhere else. It’s a standard that’s been set and it never quite reaches it.

Mike Grieve: If I had to say to everyone here: ‘What’s the one thing that sets it apart?’ it has to be the crowd. But the crowd wouldn’t be there if the space wasn’t great and the DJs weren’t great.

PC: I think that reflects on Glasgow. People here just love a party; it’s that working class thing.

Harri: They’re all alcoholics and hedonists [laughs].

How does it compare to other venues you play as DJs?

H: You can be braver at the Sub Club; you know people will get it. You can play stuff that you would think twice about playing at other places, because you think ‘this will bomb here’.

KM: Because you have a residency you can take that risk because the crowd knows you. They might ask themselves: ‘What is he playing that for?’ but they know the next record will be good.

Do you think the Sub Club has changed Glasgow culture in any way?

H: It’s produced a generation of mutants! [laughs].

DC: It is part of the fabric of the city and it’s had an influence on the rest of Scotland – people from Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh come down – so its effect goes beyond Glasgow.

MG: It’s always been a reference point. A lot of promoters look at Optimo or Slam as nights they aspire to. That feeling of longevity is quite important to them.

So, what’s next for the Sub Club?

MG: It’s an entity in its own right, so hopefully when we find we can’t hack it any more somebody else will take over the reins. But, with such great ingredients, I don’t see any reason why the Sub Club shouldn’t last indefinitely.

The Sub Club 20th Anniversary Mix CD will be available later this year.