In Glasgow, everyone knows the GSA Student’s Association. Or, as it is more commonly known – The Art School. If you haven’t heard of the place, then you deserve to spend an infinite number of nights at the Garage. Or better yet – Campus. There is no doubt many people my age retain fond memories (or perhaps they retain no memory at all) of club nights there. When I first started going, Eskrima was going strong. And Thursday nights at Freakmoves and Record Playerz used to be the highlight of my week (just goes to show where my priorities once lay). The question I asked myself when the new place opened was: would the electronic music programme live up to the history and reputation of past events? The answer is a resounding “fuck aye”.
Having been administered with a large dose of horse tranquiliser while it underwent reconstructive surgery (lasting nearly two years), it recently re-opened its doors. Awoken from its debilitating and lethargic anaesthetised haze of a slumber, it is more ambitious and dynamic than ever, with a forward thinking and bold new electronic music programme, spearheaded by Joe Leightley (Programmer and Production Manager).
Joe has a thorough understanding of what makes a healthy and vibrant club scene and sees Glasgow as the perfect place for the promotion of innovative and exciting new music, as well as supporting more established and familiar big hitters. As he puts it, “we want people to be able to coalesce around this one centre, where everyone is involved and welcomed and where they can express themselves.”
It is clear that there is a genuine desire to continue to support local nights and DJs such as Konx Om Pax & Display Copy, Pleasure Garden (which has a group of rotating residents including Dam Mantle), Vitamins (who just played the end of term party) and also to build on existing links with quality Glasgow clubbing institutions like Numbers, Highlife, Optimo and Mungo’s Hi-Fi.
There is also an ambition to push things forward by reaching out to new networks further afield (London, Manchester, Bristol) and beyond. Ties have already been established with Leisure System in Berlin, who raved about the reception they got when they played at the end of February. This is not surprising when you consider how spoilt we were, with Jon Hopkins, Dopplereffekt and Clark headlining. Joining them were Visionist and Kommune 1 (both of whom have seen records released by the label) and residents N>E>D, Puzzle and Barker.
The goal of introducing people to new music and broadening the audience seems to have been met, as Joe reckons “about 20% of the crowd probably didn’t know much about who was playing.” Well they do now. And they certainly demonstrated their appreciation. You could even feel the floor slightly warp as everyone shuffled and danced their way around. Joe points out that the Leisure System crew “were really happy with the time and effort we put in.” It is no wonder then that they want to continue to build on their new found musical friendship. This is an exciting prospect when you consider the quality of the label’s output and the fact that they run a successful night at the legendary Berghain nightclub in Berlin.
The appetite for a good time and the enthusiasm for new music are two of the key factors that drive a positive and progressive club scene and Glasgow certainly has them in abundance. This is something that Joe and the team at the Art School hope to benefit from. When I ask him how he works together with Liam (fellow Programmer) and Alex (Events Manager), he seems proud of the fact that they share a common approach:
“What we are interested in is how we can merge the local, national and international and how we can create an identity and express that to a wider audience.”
So far, they are well on their way to fulfilling those expectations. With a brand new lighting rig, superb AV capabilities (of which the Leisure System team took full advantage, much to everyone’s sweaty delight) and a pristine sounding, powerful new d&b Q-series audio system at their disposal, the tools are certainly there to create a visually immersive and sonically seductive party atmosphere. And with a great team of technicians to operate such tools, an eager, close pool of creative minds to draw inspiration from and a wider audience open to what the club has to offer, all the right elements seem to be in place for the club to flourish and step forward bravely and confidently. There is also strong support from the Glasgow School of Art, who, as Joe puts it, “are a fantastic parent organisation. They understand and encourage us to do what we believe in, and they fully appreciate the need to carry on a legacy.”
You can check out here what events are being cooked up next. Highlights for me would have to be the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop (for any electronic music geeks, this is a must), the ever evolving Highlife night and also the mighty EGYPTIAN LOVER. Adhering to the policy of local collaboration, last night the Arches hosted Darkside (Nicolas Jarr and Dave Harrington’s duo project) at the Art School. One night many will be looking forward to is Hyperdub’s 10th birthday party on April 18th. For lovers of this pioneering London based label – who in the past has released sonic treats from the likes of Martyn, Darkstar and Burial – any prior obligations and responsibilities that night should be shunned, including anything involving work, children or grandparents. For anyone else… just go.
So far, the new electronic music programme has not disappointed. What is abundantly clear is that it is riding a strong wave of quality, innovation and inclusivity. This will, in my humble opinion, see it soon established as, if not the best, then one of the best club programmes in Europe.
Photograph of Dam Mantle by dublab