From raves to churches, accents to gestures, E8 to SE22, no Londoner’s story is the same. In our first series, Audio Stories: London, we asked individuals from all walks of life to share an account of their city.
Nightlife is an intrinsic part of London’s identity, thanks in many parts to the iconic clubs once dotted around the city. While many have closed – rest in peace Madame JoJo’s, Plastic People, Turnmills, Cable, The Astoria – they have each left a profound mark on the map. One man who knows a thing or two about club culture is Acyde. Speaking on nightlife, he mentions: “It made us all realise that this clubbing thing we were all addicted to for so long wasn’t about just socialising, or wearing the right clothes, or being in a room with the right people. It was about worshipping sound”. The creative force’s memories of his early days on the party scene are a reminder that London has stood the test of time as one of the most colourful cities in the world when it comes to nightlife. Sure, the current state of it is questionable, but there’s no doubt that it still exists. Perhaps, it’s not as easy to find as it once was. Acyde talks us through his most memorable London nightlife moments, and how they have shaped him as a creative.
It’s Acyde. The first most pivotal moment of clubbing, right when it all connected for me when I first started going to university and I went to a club called the Blue Note which existed in Hoxton square. I think it’s a restaurant now. The first night I ever went to at the Blue Note was a party called Dusted which was hosted by Mo’Wax – a record label owned and curated by a very young James Lavelle. They would go on to release records by the likes of DJ Shadow, DJ Crush, Attica Blues. They were essentially known and seen as a trip-hop label at the time, because there really wasn’t a term to describe the general music which sort of mixed and mashed hip hop beat with techno sounds. That club was where I met Fraser Cook, Charlie Dart, James Lavelle, and from going to that club, I started going to the Blue Note regularly and Metalheadz was held there on a Sunday, which was Goldie’s record label and night.
From going to the Blue Note I migrated to a place called Bar Rumba, which Shaftesbury Avenue I believe was the address. It’s now probably another restaurant. Bar Rumba use to host a night called That’s How It Is on a Monday night which was James Lavelle, Gilles Peterson, Ben Wilcox and various guests. The band The Roots had a residency playing live there whilst they lived in London, whilst they recorded their album. I met everyone in that nightclub – Tricky, Björk – everyone, I think I even saw David Bowie in there once.
We started partying in West London at a place called Subterania. All the best hip hop nights – pure hip hop nights, safe pure hip hop nights – were all held at Subterania. All the OG West London know who I’m talking about. A great club, a great soundsystem, a great vibe. Some of the best hip hop concerts. Black star, Mos Def and Talib Kweli performed there with Company Flow way back in the day. But I will hop, skip and jump straight to Plastic People. The last club of its kind for me, for a generation. The club summed up everything about the last three clubs I named. It was the best sound system, possibly in London, maybe contestably in the world for a club of its size. Built by our good friend Adé. It was also home to some of the most intelligent and deep presentations of music on the planet. As some of your favourite DJs who everyone heralds as like “Oh super cool party DJ,” played at Plastic People once were told never to come back. That’s how high the bar was set in that place. I saw J Dilla DJing in there, I saw Madlib DJ in there. So many good memories of that club, but the one thing was that it was a home for all of us. It was the final home in a lot of ways because it made us all realise that this clubbing thing we were all addicted to for so long wasn’t about just socialising or wearing the right clothes or being in a room with the right people. It was about worshipping sound. Without these people building these spaces I probably wouldn’t be here to tell these stories.
My favourite memory of clubbing is going all the way back to Metalheadz, the drum and bass club curated by Goldie, MCing my two favourite DJs at the time. They were called Kemistry and Storm, two female DJs who worked at the label and DJed and were the only DJs on the drum and bass scene that really made me look at drum and bass in a different way because they were the two who would play across the board. They would play from jump up, ragga to kind of break beaty stuff to the deep techy stuff. They just moved across the board. But I clearly remember DJ Kemistry showing up one night with a record box – this was when people still needed to have records and dubplates – and she was wearing what I can only describe as what seemed to be a Jean-Paul Gaultier ball-gown. Yeah, she pulled up to the drum and bass club in East London in what seemed to be a couture style ball-gown and then she proceeded to play and turn the place out. I will never forget that, simply because visually it still has an impact on me.
Thank you for bearing with me and listening to my audio tale. Hope you enjoyed it.