Defected In The House, Ministry of Sound 09/02/13
I was a little unsure about going to a Defected night at first. As a DJ who started out in the halcyon days of funky house, Defected Records was always a reliable, go-to label if you were after top quality tunes. However, I had actually fallen out of love with that sound back in the mid-2000s largely down to a certain Defected release. I won’t reveal which one, but it was a biggie from 2005. Still, I was intrigued to see and hear what they were up to these days so photographer and fellow house-head James and I headed down to Elephant and Castle to see what they were up to.
Knowing the layout of Ministry Of Sound, and seeing the line-up for the rooms they were hosting, I was a little unsure of what to expect. The main room line-up of A&R Director Simon Dunmore, Tensnake (with live PA from Syron) and Nick Curley promised a darker, more underground sound, while the 103 room, featuring Sam Divine, Tuccillo and Franky Rizardo was a little harder to read as I didn’t know a great deal about any of them.
Upon entering the 103, James and myself were confronted by Grant Nelson – ‘Spellbound; (unknown remix), a blast from the past that neither of us were expecting. Sam Divine was on the decks at this point and the energy in the room was fantastic and building with each track. The crowd were really into the tough-edged funky house being played.
Now here is where our evening got weird (for the first time at least). Heading to the main room we were stopped by someone wearing a Defected ID who asked if she could take James’s picture. A little confused we agreed and were led away from the crowd to a partially hidden door to the Ministry of Sound offices.
We were introduced to Yasmin from Defected who gave us the lowdown on what the photo shoot was for. While James was being photographed I spoke a little more to Yasmin about music and why we were there, At this point I was asked to swap with James and have a few pictures taken. While I was having my scary features snapped James was introduced to another Defected employee, Greg, who it turned out had been the one to invite Music Eyz along. Small world!
After being sworn to secrecy over the reason behind the photo shoot, (press embargo goes out way beyond when this will be published unfortunately) we bid our farewells and made our way back to the club.
Returning to the club, the 103 room was still buzzing to the sounds of Sam Divine, who had progressed the set along nicely to some harder funky sounds with more rolling bass lines and tight percussion. DJs at this level have such ready access to exclusive pre-release promos it’s hard for mere mortals like myself to be able to identify too many of them. One tune of note however was ‘The Fog – Been a Long Time’ which took us back!
Having got a feel for what the 103 was about we headed into the main room, an experience any clubber should have at least once. It’s still not the volume that is so shocking, it’s the clarity of the sound system that needs to be heard to be believed.
You feel the kick drums and bass lines as much as hear then, the mids are warm and clear and the higher frequencies are crisp and not lost in the rest of the drama
As expected, Simon Dunmore was keeping things dark and moody in the main room, with the crowd happy to go along with the underground sound. The room wasn’t far off full even though it was still relatively early but there was space for us to fully appreciate the tunes and have a little boogie at the same time. After listening to a few tunes we decided not to over-expose ourselves to the main room too early, especially since neither of us are getting any younger.
After the main room the 103 room actually sounds a little quiet, until your sense of perception readjusts. The crowd were still massively into what was being played, now by Tuccillo. It was interesting to see that the crowd was split between old faithful Defected fans who had obviously followed the label from the early days and much younger clubbers obviously drawn by the newer sounds coming out.
After a suitable “rest” consisting of head-nodding to the beat in appreciation and receiving an unrequested lesson in how to dance by a drunk clubber, we decided to head back to the main room for Tensnake’s set.
After the atmosphere of the 103, the deeper sound coming from the main room, while still incredibly loud, was a little more downtempo. The crowd was much larger than when we’d left and was still moving to the beat. As always, the light show in the main room was a sight to behold, complimenting the mood of the music 100%. We made our way through the crowd so we could get some close-ups of the main man in action.
Tensnake will always be remembered for his break-out tune of 2010, ‘Coma Cat’, but if you search through his back-catalogue of releases and remixes you’ll see that he has stayed faithful to his slightly downtempo, synthesiser-driven sound for many years. This pretty much sums up his set, the music flowing from a slightly downtempo start, building energy and taking the crowd with him through to the live PA, a performance of one of his latest release, ‘Mainline’. Featuring vocals from Syron, the tune itself has followed the popular trend of 80s style pads, synths and bass lines in modern house tunes, and has even taken the sound a step further with a very 80s sounding vocal and percussion set. The appearance of Syron singing live seemed to lift the crowd even more, who had already gone wild as the song come in.
After Syron had finished performing, Tensnake dropped into something I really hoped but didn’t expect him to play: ‘Coma Cat’ (Round Table Knights Remix). The whole room erupted as the first few chords came in and the combination of the sounds, lights and overall vibe of the crowed really gave me a goose-bumps moment, something I’ve not had in a club for far too long. You could also see that the DJ was loving the feedback from the crowd.
Now at this point we’d been enjoying the main room for over an hour straight and we decided we’d earned a breath of fresh air and a bar stop, so we found our way back to the 103 and to our friendly barman Gary up in the VIP area. Now I only mention that not to highlight the fact we were allowed in there, merely to make an observation that apart from shorter bar queues, what is the point in hiding away in a slightly insulated room when the best music on the planet is being dropped just a few feet away?!
Suitable hydrated we headed to the courtyard for some fresh air, and here is where our evening got weird for the second time. A few minutes behind us came the one and only Tensnake and his manager, Ralph. Having just been watching and listening to him play we recognised him instantly, something we seemed to be the only people to do.
After congratulating him on a fantastic set and supplying him with a cigarette (that’s right Tensnake now owes us a smoke!) we thought it would be rude to pass up on such an opportunity so we introduced ourselves properly and asked him a few questions and took a few pics. I didn’t record this impromptu and unexpected interview because, to be perfectly honest, I was a little star-struck and taken aback by how friendly he and his manager were to us, so I’m not happy to transcribe the interview from memory for fear of misquoting.
However, we did ask him a few important questions, such as how many times he’d played MOS (This was the third and best time), where he had upcoming gigs (Barcelona next weekend) and how he thought his set had gone (well, but the crowd here in the UK seem to like it a bit harder). Since both James and I are DJ equipment geeks we were keen to find out what he uses for his shows. He revealed his sets are a hybrid of live edits, using the powerful yet stable Ableton Live, and CDJs through the house mixer.
The version of ‘Coma Cat’ he’d played sounded different so I asked if that was performed live, which he replied “As live as it can get, using loops and Ableton!”. He also gave us a great example of how stable Ableton on a MacBook can be. He had his laptop fall off a DJ booth at a festival, 3 meters straight down. A member of security handed it back up and he was able to carry on with no interruption to his set!
We also naturally asked him how long he’d been DJing, and his initial reply of 5 years was met with disbelief before he added “professionally of course, I started when I was 18!”.
After some more small talk and an introduction to his manager, Ralph (who kindly took a picture of the three of us together and also happens to be the editor of Mixmag! ) we parted ways, not quite able to believe our luck. This had turned out to be the most random night of happenstance either of us had ever had!
We hadn’t forgotten that we were there to review the music so we decided to head back to the 103 to check out Franky Rizardo. By this time the crowd in the 103 were at fever-pitch as Franky was putting them through their paces with some upfront tech house. They had not lost any of their liveliness even by 4am and looked like they could go all night. It turns out Franky had played on until 7am, way past our bed time.
Tech house is much more my domain so I was able to pick out a few tunes he played, in particular Kid Culture & B– Daftjunk, which samples De La Soul with such creativity. That definitely got the hips shaking! Another tune that absolutely tore the roof off the place was Oskar Offermann – Fluffer (Russ Yallop Edit), which has a bass line so deep that you feel it in your chest on a decent sound system.
It wasn’t long after that we decided we needed to rest our poor aching bodies from the onslaught of sights and sounds that MOS has to offer and in the car on the way home we were very much of the opinion that we had just experienced one of the best nights out of our lives. Yes, the randomness of getting pulled into the MOS back offices to take part in a photo shoot for Defected and getting to have an impromptu chat with one of the main acts just minutes after he’d come off the decks contributed to it being such an unexpectedly awesome night, but none of these things happened to us because we were there reviewing the night. Both of these random flashes of brilliance could have happened to anyone else in the club, we just happened to get lucky!
We both agreed that the night would have been as equally enjoyable without these random interludes, they merely tipped a great night into an unbelievable one. The balance of having two rooms of DJs playing for the same label can be tricky to get right. There’s a risk the DJs will end up playing exactly the same material through the night, as I found the last time I was at Ministry of Sound. For their 21st Birthday weekend in September.
Defected and their DJs were able to keep the sound, vibe and energy of both rooms different enough to give us the choice of what to listen to. If you get the chance to go to a Defected In The House night either here or in Ibiza once the season starts we highly recommend going if you like your house music energetic, or deep, or rolling, or underground or… Well, I could go on and on but you get the idea. I know I’ll certainly jump at the chance to cover another one for you all!
Words by Rob Coghlan, photography by James Morris