Headspin's 10th Birthday
Ride the whirlwind
Mark Edmundson catches up with the team at Headspin as they celebrate their big tenth birthday
It was the winter of 98, and, inspired by fellow leftfield institution Messenger Sound System, Allan Dunbar and Steve Austen landed themselves a brand new club night at the old Bongo, determined they were going to put on something a little different from the norm. ‘The big clubs at the time would’ve been Tribal Function, a fairly young Manga and lots of house clubs. Pure was still on the go and Big Beat was a bit of a thing around that time too,’ remembers Dunbar of the Edinburgh scene. ‘But all the clubs tended to stick to one kind of music which was what we wanted to get away from.’
Friends had introduced the pair to award-winning bedroom DJ Colin Millar, whose mix of quality hip hop, classic funk and drum & bass proved the missing link between Dunbar’s house and big beat roots and Austen’s penchant for party soul, funk and reggae, and the three set out on what would be a (to date) ten-year odyssey, welcoming turntablist Dava into the ranks and laying down the groove to the Bongo faithful.
‘We tried to please everyone, not by compromising musically but just by playing the best of all styles,’ says Dunbar of a Headspin hymn sheet that excluded no specific style from the soul spectrum and beyond but cherry-picked the cream of all crops. ‘It’s still the same ethos today. We’ve stuck to our original template really and I think we’ve stayed true to our roots.’
Over the years the Headspin crew have pioneered the use of two DJs on four turntables, experimented with live instrumental jams augmenting the mix, introduced live visual projections from Foundlight, staged performances from national sensations Aim and J-Walk as well as local success stories like Found and the X-Vectors, and have made percussionist Bongo Dave a regular fixture and fifth member.
While faithful attendees will tell you that the resident nights are where it’s at, it is in the roll call of special guests that we see Headspin’s wider allegiance. Legendary evenings have been spent in the company of Mr Scruff, DJ Yoda, Andy Smith, Mark Rae, The Herbaliser, The Psychonauts, The Unabombers and The Nextmen to name but a few, and all before (though several have returned after) they made the big push into the over-ground.
‘For a long time we were putting on names who were just on the cusp of greatness; now we want to get names that people already want to see,’ explains Dunbar, addressing a more recent trend for bagging fabled names like Marc Mac, Tom Middleton, David Holmes and Norman Jay. ‘It’s really because we want to see them too – the chance to play alongside these guys is fantastic.’ If there is a direction for the club in the future Dunbar believes this might be where it’s going, with the return of floor-filling DJ Format in February.
‘A lot of clubs, certainly in Edinburgh, have hit ten years and called it a day but we’ve had a really, really strong year and there’s no doubt we would miss it if we stopped. I’m sure we’ll know when it’s time to knock it on the head. If it starts getting rubbish we’ll stop, but hopefully that won’t happen.’
Headspin celebrate their tenth birthday at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh, Sat 26 Jan.