2012 has seen iconic dance music club night and record label Renaissance clock up a huge twenty years in the game; something of a massive milestone in an industry which is notoriously fickle.
With two very special Renaissance shows to come, the first on Saturday 15th September in Liverpool at St Georges Hall and the second four weeks later on Saturday 13th October at Gibb St Warehouse in Birmingham, we caught up with the man behind the company, Geoff Oakes, to talk us through some of those moments since it began.
So tell us more about Gibb St then, and what is in store for the venue this Autumn?
We launched the venue at Easter, so only really did a few shows before the summer and then took a break until the autumn when the students return. We've put together a series of strong and varied shows from mid-October onwards that are going to bring a lot of attention to Gibb Street Warehouse. The line-ups certainly reflect that on the opening weekend; Friday has Arkitekt headlined by Marco Carola (who has had a huge summer with his Music On party at Amnesia), and we’ve got the second instalment of Renaissance's Birmingham 20th Anniversary celebrations, with a really forward thinking selection of DJs joining John Digweed for Renaissance as well, with Radio Slave and Deetron at the hubris of it.
The venue itself is a great warehouse space. There’s that raw aesthetic underpinning everything but it has the look and feel of something a little more refined. We’ve gone for DJs and artists that we know will work well in that environment, and sometimes artists you wouldn't automatically associate with such surroundings, but the feel of the venue and the quality of the sound system mean we can mix it up in that way and deliver great parties across the board.
It's obvious that DJs like Marco Carola, John Digweed and Loco Dice will thrive in such a setting with a world class sound system. I think every one of those DJs will produce performances that are unique to Gibb Street Warehouse because the venue will bring out the very best in them.
Can you explain more about the Arkitekt project?
Arkitekt will be focusing on whatever we feel to be the best in contemporary house and techno, both as a club night and as a record label. We don't want to rush into or be shackled by any specific musical direction or type of event. We’ve done smaller shows recently at XOYO with Glimpse, Martin Dawson and No Artificial Colours, and at Gibb St we’re doing something bigger. The opening night on Friday 12th October is with Marco, Damien Schwartz and D’Julz, and the Desolat party with Loco Dice, tiNI, Guti and Hector, we just want to work with people we feel bring something positive and influential to the party. This is the same regardless of the size of the event.
The first compilation is also due out in October (on the 1st), and has been mixed by Robert Dietz. It's a double CD, one disc reflects very much where he is at on the dancefloor today and the other is a little deeper, more designed at the headphones. Robert’s had a long association with Luciano’s label and party Cadenza, but luckily for us he wanted to do something different, so I guess the timing was right for both of us. There will also be a series of singles, with the first being lined up for November.
You mentioned Renaissance, how special is it to have made it to twenty years?
It’s been a roller-coaster to say the least! There have been some incredible ups and achievements over the years, and a few well-documented downs, but it’s good to be back in control of the brand in time for the 20th Anniversary. I've lived and breathed Renaissance for every one of those 20 years, so it was really hard to lose everything in 2010 but I've definitely come back stronger and with a clearer outlook on the future.
To celebrate the 20th Anniversary we had two special parties in Leeds and Birmingham with Sasha in April. He obviously has very strong links with and had a huge influence on the brand since the very beginning, so it was apt for him to be a part of the celebrations. It was Sasha and John, more than any other DJs, who shaped Renaissance in those early years and I'm really pleased that we've managed to put together a second 20th Anniversary event with John for 13th October to complete the story. My only regret is that it's not the two of them together!
John's first Renaissance appearance in eight years, and to celebrate 20 years of Renaissance, has so much meaning and is going to be an emotional occasion. We've deliberately not surrounded him with a retrospective line up because we prefer to focus on looking forward as much as celebrating the past. Needless to say, there's only one 20th Anniversary event to witness John at if you really want to capture a special clubbing moment!
The second room at Gibb Street on that night, as it was with Sasha in April, will be given over to a journey through the classic Renaissance tracks of old. Original Renaissance resident Ian Ossia, and long-time member of the Renaissance family Anthony Pappa are better placed than any DJs to deliver a very well-informed, musical trip down Memory Lane.
We have also got a strong run of compilations lined up to see out the year. Hernan Cattaneo and Nick Warren will both be releasing ‘Masters Series’ albums with us over the next few months. They’ve both played their part in the Renaissance story over the years and will deliver exciting additions to the prestigious series. I'm so pleased to welcome Tale of Us for the next instalment of 'The Mix Collection’. Their sound feels so right for us, the way they and the rest of the Visionquest crew work with melody and groove is very much in keeping with the Renaissance template. I'm a huge fan of their productions and can't wait to hear the finished article!
We have a very special series of singles coming up to mark the 20th Anniversary, which are reworks of classic Renaissance tracks remixed by contemporary producers. First up, and what better place to start, will be a whole new take on Leftfield's iconic 'Song of Life', which will have a digital release, plus there will be a very limited edition vinyl collectors format, which will be repeated for the rest of the releases in the series, 'The Remix Collection'.
We're certainly ending this landmark year with a bit of a flourish.
There’s also a Renaissance date in Liverpool with the Freeze promoters. Why did you hook up with the Freeze guys?
I've known the guys at Freeze for a while and we almost got together when they did a show at the cathedral in Liverpool with Hernan and Danny last year. The photos from that show were jaw-dropping and it harked back to the early days of Renaissance, that whole ethos of taking dance music out of the stereotypical dance floor and into beautiful and historic surroundings.
It’s that ideology which appealed, to be honest. Their attention to detail is brilliant and the venue they have picked, St Georges Hall, is just as amazing as the Cathedral, if not more so. The line up and the venue couldn't be more reflective of Renaissance's history, with Hernan and Danny's relationship with the brand stretching back as far as I can remember and Henry Saiz a more recent contributor to the label. Ghosting Season have had a recent outing on Sasha's new label and Jemmy has been a supporter of the brand for years. That's going to be an amazing event.
What would be your top five Renaissance records from over the years?
I thought about including some much more recent choices but, in all honesty, the records that mean the most to me Renaissance-wise are all, a little predictably, ones that were on the first album!
Leftfield - Song of Life
Age of love - Age of Love (watch out for Stella mix)
Bedrock - For What You Dream Of
Hysterix - Talk To Me (Sasha's full master mix)
Virtualismo - Mismo Plastico (Original Mix)
And your favourite Renaissance moment?
Way too many to choose from so I can't stop at one... the 2nd Birthday at The Que Club, Birmingham was the most theatrical of all our productions and still stands for me as our best ever party. The release of the first album is obviously right up there... it was such a pivotal moment for the brand and pretty much kick-started the whole club mix compilation market.
Sitting in Kylie's dressing room as she was getting changed after her appearance at Renaissance Live at Privilege Ibiza sticks in the mind too, for some reason!
Renaissance 20th Anniversary with Hernan Cattaneo, Henry Saiz, Danny Howells and more, Saturday 15th September, St George's Hall, Liverpool.
Renaissance at Gibb Street Warehouse with John Digweed, Radio Slave, Deetron and more, Saturday 13th October. Buy tickets below.
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