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Harri & Domenic Interview: 'Preconceptions are a waste of time'
Martin Guttridge-Hewitt caught up with Sub Club stalwarts Harri & Domenic to talk residencies, tours and the allure of small clubs.
Last updated: 15th Aug 2017
Image: Harri & Domenic (Credit: Brian Sweeney)
In a dance music world that has been over-saturated, over-marketed, over-sold and over-hyped for longer than this writer can remember- save for that mid-noughties-blip- it's easy to assume that all DJs have the same view of what constitutes real success.
But for Harri & Domenic things have always looked different. For the past 23 years they have plied their trade together at Glasgow's seminal Sub Club on a near-weekly basis, masterminding the longest running Saturday night on Earth, Subculture, only occasionally taking a break from making the place their own to hit up select spots and parties elsewhere in the world. Dedication to their cause, it's the kind of story that reminds us all of just how important residencies and residents are in the grand scheme of things.
2017 marks the Subbie's 30th anniversary, a monumental achievement when you consider very few venues make it into their second decade without closing down and re-opening for one reason or another.
To mark the occasion, Scotland's unrivalled nocturnal crown jewel will be hosting a host of special events north of Hadrian's Wall, whilst the address' two favourite sons will also embark on one of their infamous tours, which basically involves them showing the rest of the world how things are done where they come from. Proper pedigree business, we gave the pair a call to discuss milestones and mileage.
Hi guys, hope all's well. What's happening at the moment then?
Domenic: I'm still hungover from Sunday, which is really shocking. Been hiding in the house since then really. I was DJing the night before, before Chic, then had to do the club afterwards. So I've just been kind of hiding out in my room since.
Harry: Not a lot, really. Ducking and diving, bobbing and weaving. Out and about catching last orders.
Obviously 2017 marks 30 years of the Sub Club in Glasgow, you guys have been residents there for almost as long- what's it like to play somewhere for so many years?
D: Residencies are just what we're used to. When we started everybody did residencies. That kind of fell away a bit but it's all we've ever known, and all we've done, so it just feels very natural.
H: You've got to remember we're really good looking guys as well. We go to the gym and all that.
D: Harry's on the 'roids.
H: Pilates, actually.
Do you ever wonder what things would be like had you focused on touring more than the residency?
D: See when we speak to mates, touring DJs, when they come over they always want what we've got. They always say how great it would be to have a club ten minutes from home, wake up every Sunday in your own bed rather than a hotel, play on a great soundsystem to a great crowd. They're the ones who are envious.
Don't get me wrong, if it was a shit club, with nobody there, then things would obviously be different.
What's the secret behind the Sub Club's success?
H: It's the guys behind the bar, door staff, us, basically a real team effort makes it what it is. People say 'are you fed up' but we're constantly inspired by new records. When you're always listening to new music most of the time it's at home or on headphones, so you can't wait for the weekend to play them out on a proper system.
D: Then you have people on the dancefloor. Every couple of years that changes as they grow up. It starts off they are there every other weekend, then they get jobs and it's less and less- eventually only special occasions. We've seen this happen again and again over the years. It makes you realise how important the people going into the bars and student unions and on the streets are- making it relevant, because we're just two old bastards. Well, I am, Harri's getting younger.
You guys are heading out on tour again this year to celebrate the birthday, how high is the bar set by Sub Club for other venues in terms of sound and atmosphere?
D: It's best not to have expectations. When you do it's often disappointing. And when you don't expect anything, or have a bad feeling, sometimes that's the best night of your life. So try not to think too much about it. Go, play records, and hope for the best.
H: Honestly, speak to people about somewhere they think is amazing- maybe a DJ friend- then you get there and it's just not. It's OK, but that's it. Then you get a wee gig somewhere nobody has even heard of, the guys might be putting a party on for the first time, and it's amazing. Preconceptions are basically a waste of time.
Where in particular, other than home, has stood out to you then?
D: Panorama Bar has always been good.
H: Corsica Studios, XOYO.
Any you hadn't heard of before playing there for the first time?
D: My memory is terrible. If you give me five minutes I could probably give you loads. We did a tour where we played Trouw on Friday, then Panorama Bar, and then a gig in Edinburgh on the Monday. That was the gig of the weekend, that Monday night. We didn't even expect anyone to be out, and it was this absolute sweat box, tiny club, ridiculous.
So you guys prefer small clubs?
D: I think most DJs do. The big ones you're miles away from a crowd of thousands, and it's just soulless. You want to feel like you're on the dancefloor with them, I think. When you're in these big situations and there are stage hands and all sorts, I just don't think that's what it's all about.
And how is Glasgow at the moment, scene wise?
D: I think it's healthy, there are always good things happening- promoters, DJs, parties. But one problem is there's not enough people there. Guys are putting on great events with interesting bookings, but they're lucky to break even. Then as soon as you put on X Fucking DJ the place sells out in two hours. So it's hard for younger promoters, and established promoters, to have a steady stream of people all the time and take risks. There's just so much going on.
I remember a couple of years ago in Glasgow, within a square mile there was Theo Parrish, Carl Craig, Juan Atkins, and someone else pretty big. All in five minutes walk of each other. The clubs weren't busy. Maybe it would work with later licenses, so people could do different things at different times, but that's another story.
Do you ever worry that established nights and clubs put off new blood by making them feel they can't take on the big guns?
H: I don't think people see it like that at all. There's always something going on in Glasgow, parties, young guys DJing, decks and a soundystem. You see pictures all the time, some place you've never heard of before with 100 people going off their nut. So there's still plenty of people who want to do their own thing, and think they can do it better than the big guys.
Finally, then, you have the tour and Sub Club anniversary duties, but what comes after all that chaos?
D: We're pretty much busy up until October-November, so no holidays this year, just gigs- every other weekend- either going somewhere or playing the club, or both. Some weekends we're flying Friday, back for the Saturday, then away again Sunday. So pretty much just catching up and sleeping in between.
And how about a holiday when it's done?
D: Me and Harri always go to a spa. Get dressing gowns and slippers and walk about like that for two weeks.
H: Pedicures. No mate, we'll go to the pub and relax with our pals, a couple of beers, catch up.