Interview: Richard Chater discusses a decade of clubbing institution Numbers
The club night and record label hosts Hudson Mohawke, Jackmaster and Spencer at its 10th birthday party
‘It was probably the first time that my older mates and Jack Revill and Calum Morton’s younger friends came together; over the years, this mixing of different crowds has definitely become a crucial element of Numbers. I played a bit of R & B and dancehall at the beginning, Jack and Cal played techno and electro, while Actress dropped some Neptunes tracks and other stuff like that; the music was all over the place, but brilliantly so’.
In the midst of celebrations marking their tenth anniversary, one the club night’s co-founders, Richard Chater, is offering his admittedly hazy recollections of its first outing. Taking place at the back of Adlib, a small, Glasgow city centre restaurant in June 2003, it featured a live performance from Sparky and DJ sets from Po-Ski, as well as several others who would go onto become Numbers’ resident DJs.
‘Po-Ski was a DJ partnership made up of my mate, Gavin Weale, and the producer, Actress’, explains Chater. ‘They ran a night called Werk and the label, Werk Discs. We became mates with them in the run up to starting Numbers, they asked us to DJ for them the year before in London, so we returned the favour and brought them up to play at our first night’.
Since their early, hundred-capacity events around Glasgow, Rob Mordue, Adam Rodgers, Neil Morton, Jack Revill, Calum Morton and Richard (aka Numbers crew members Bobby Cleaver, Goodhand, Nelson, Jackmaster, Spencer and Simply Richard, respectively) have gone onto establish their own record label, a regular radio show on Rinse FM, the Pleasure Principle music festival and thrown several parties around the globe.
‘We met mainly through Rub-a-dub Records’, he says, explaining how everyone first got introduced. ‘Cal and Jack worked at the shop on Saturdays when we’d go in, they’d go to the nights Adam and I promoted, we’d go the ones they put on and we’d all often meet at Club 69. After club nights, we usually end up at the same parties, talking about records; we were all pretty much on the same wave length, so it made sense for us to do something together and that’s how Numbers started’.
The diverse tastes of all those involved, helped to shape an initial musical policy that Richard describes as 'techno, hip-hop and all points in between'.
‘We’d play early Detroit techno and Chicago house but also eighties’ funk and electro, and R & B productions by the likes of the likes of Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins, which were really exciting at the time', he explains. ‘We were also massive Prince fans and liked more abstract stuff by Autechre as well, we felt there was a lineage between their records and a some of the hip-hop we were into; the whole point of Numbers was to have a place where we could play all this kind of stuff on the same night’.
Over the years, this eclectic approach also had an impact on the range of artists who have performed for them, though Chater admits things started slowly.
‘At the beginning, we didn’t really have a clear idea who we wanted to book. Luckily enough, we had lots of mates making good music and asked them to play. That’s definitely been a key part of Numbers; it’s led us to put on Rustie and Hudson Mohawke and also release their records’.
When they did begin to book guests from further afield, such as Machinedrum, Feadz and Modeselektor, ‘it was usually because we'd bought their records, liked the stuff they were making and wanted to put them on in Glasgow; most people said yes, and things built from there’, he adds.
‘Those were the days before agents played a big part of the booking process, so we usually just emailed the artists directly and most of the time they'd just sleep on my couch when they came to play. Modeselektor stayed at mine for two days after a show; Kode9 also crashed in my living room. That's how a lot of Numbers' early relationships with artists were first established’.
In the first two years, the majority of Numbers nights took place at 100-capacity venues such as Adlib and Basura Blanca, The Brunswick Hotel’s basement club space. However, with the popularity of the night building, they decided to organise a much larger event at Glasgow’s Art School union, booking Warp label duo Autechre to play in April 2005.
‘I knew their agent as he'd DJ'd for me at previous night I’d put on’, Richard explains. ‘We just chanced it, told him we could do it at The Art School and he agreed to it. In the end, it was near to sell out with 700 odd in. It was the first Glasgow gig they'd done in years which I was really happy about, as they’re heroes of mine. The whole thing was definitely an experience and because it was a success, we realised we could do bigger things’.
Indeed, the fact they manage to pull off an event of this scale, almost certainly played a part in them making an ambitious, last minute bid to book legendary Wu Tang Clan rapper, Ghostface Killah at the Sub Club, later that year.
‘We had a contact at Lex Records, who got us in touch with Ghostface’, says Richards, explaining how it came about. ‘We said we'd be willing to pay him a certain amount to do a Monday night on his tour and he said yes; we actually only asked him two weeks before the date, so there was pretty rapid turnaround required to organise it. The only venue that seemed to be available was the Sub Club; a lot of people were shocked when they found out that he was going to play there, no one quite believed it was going to happen, but on the night, the place was packed with 400 people and it was a crazy night’.
Both gigs proved to be something of turning point with more events being held at both the Art School and the Sub Club, alongside those in the more familiar confines of The Brunswick Hotel’s basement. Indeed, over the years, Numbers has made use of several different Glasgow venues and this nomadic approach has come to characterise the night.
‘It’s definitely formed a big part of our identity’ agrees Richard. ‘I think the type of music likely to be played at an event we’re putting on has helped dictate what venue we’ve used. A Joy Orbison DJ set will work better in the Sub Club, while the visuals and staging involved in a Modeseleketor gig lends itself more to The Arches; by running the night this way, we’ve kept things fresh and had people guessing about what would happen next’.
Aside from the club night, there is also a Numbers record label. Established in 2010, it saw the merging of several different imprints that those involved in the night had ran been running since the night began, as Richard explains.
‘I ran the Stuff Records, which focused on more abstract and IDM type-stuff; Wireblock, run by Neil and Calum Morton and Jack Revill, released a lot of techno-orientated stuff, but also some dubstep productions and early UK Funky too. Jack also ran Dress 2 Sweat which centred on party music, bmore and some bassline house. They complemented each other well, but eventually it got to a point where the club night had grown to become bigger than each of the individual labels; because we had artists releasing stuff across each of them and were all friends anyway, it made sense to pool our resources, which we thought would be a good way to do bigger and better things’.
The past three years have seen techno, garage, drum n’ bass, house acid and electro productions from the likes of Unspecified Enemies, Lory D, Mosca, Deadboy and Sparky, amongst others, all find a home on the label, with a release schedule that seems to vary in style from one record to the next.
‘Sometimes it's planned this way, but things do change, it just depends on what’s ready to go at the time’, Chater reveals. ‘There’s no set styIe of music we like to put out, it just has to be stuff that excites us. One of us might find a track and play it to the others; we all like it and want to put it out or there could be an artist that really interests us who we’ll approach, then work closely with them to hopefully get a record out. It's a very natural approach; we're not trying to force things on people, just releasing music our way and trying to make a good job of it’.
The label’s success coupled with the growing international DJ career of Numbers’ resident DJ Jack Revill AKA Jackmaster has helped raise their profile worldwide and led to Numbers nights at Berlin’s Berghain as well as Off Sonar parties in Barcelona and more recently New York, as part their tenth birthday celebrations.
‘Jack’s an outstanding DJ and people love to hear him play; this has definitely opened up a lot of doors for us all’, confirms Richard. ‘When he's interviewed he'll obviously mention Numbers while his Radio 1 show earlier this year has obviously played a part in helping us become better known; Calum DJing more internationally has helped spread the word too. Overall, I like to think that people like the music we release and what we play and this has led to us being invited to put on events in different cities’.
Finally, after a decade of parties, the launch of a record label as well the DJ careers of several Numbers residents, what does Richard think the future looks like?
‘We just want to keep doing what we do, finding new music to get excited about and exposing people to it', he says. ‘The one thing we'll never do is simply rest on our laurels; I think that's partly why Numbers has worked so well. We've always got an eye on the past but like to keep looking to the future and wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Put simply, we just want to do more of the same, but better’.