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20 YEARS OF SUBCULTURE, SUB CLUB, GLASGOW

DJ Mag hits Sub Club for a score on the floor of Harri & Domenic's Subculture...

XOYO might boast about the return of the resident and Seth Troxler is declaring himself a regular at pretty much every top underground venue on the planet, but way before all that Harri and Domenic started their weekly Subculture nights at Sub Club, Glasgow — and guess what? They never went away.

Residents in the truest sense, they exist — almost exclusively, save for the odd single booking or individually produced track or remix here and there — as an inseparable partnership, their names synonymous with the party they set up 20 years ago. Sharing the warm-up slot each week, they’ve booked their favourite DJs religiously — the likes of Dixon, Moodymann and DJ Harvey — and allowed their tastes rather than external factors define the music policy.

But that’s not to say it’s rigid or committed to a specific sound. Subculture has changed in line with Harri and Domenic’s evolving experience as DJs over the years. And the way they speak about it even comes with an air of tacit synchronicity.

“The warm-up can be anything,” Harri tells DJ Mag while stood in the Subby booth 30 minutes before doors open, where the queue is already building. “Every week is different, you don’t want to bore people or yourself,” adds Domenic. “I used to play Weather Report, John Coltrane, hip-hop, reggae at the start of the night. Now I play weird ambient sorta shit like Tangerine Dream, it can be anything, always different.”

“I play old soul records, reggae, anything really,” Harri says. “Always up to the first hour, depending on how busy it gets. As soon as you get a dancefloor, you start moving the gears.”

The hands responsible for putting the first needle on the record at the beginning of the night and those that generally take it off at the end, Harri and Domenic’s investment in their event goes way further than picking up the door spend at the end of the night.

Silver balloons shaped as the number 20, tea lights and a shimmering disco ball are what set the scene tonight as a youthful crowd — perhaps surprising, given the night’s heritage — steadily floods into Sub Club’s basement as soon as the doors open, while Harri creates the vibe with some funky and fresh Philadelphia soul.

“I’d say 60/70% of the records we play each Saturday are records we’ve got that week or within the past couple of weeks,” he tells me earlier. “And that jogs your memory for old tunes as well. You think, 'That’s dynamite; that reminds me of that'.

And because my son Jasper is so young, he’ll hear a tune that Domenic and I have hammered the arse out of and he’ll come in the house and say, ‘that’s amazing!’ and you realise there is a whole generation of people who haven’t heard a lot of old shit. It sounds brand-new to them.”

It’s this sense of exuberance that’s present here tonight, the dancefloor filling with a strong Glasgow contingent — both new and old — including Harri’s son Jasper James, a regular DJ on Rinse FM, and his close pal Numbers boss Jackmaster, who has an over-excited crew in front of the booth rip off their shirts to the sound of Dom dropping Levon Vincent ‘Man Or Mistress’ while shouting “tops arrrrf!”.

Boys will be boys… until probably the politest bouncer we’ve ever encountered comes over to ask them to put them on, but not without exchanging a quick chat and a smile with them on the dancefloor.

 

To say there’s a community aspect in the air tonight would be an understatement, but anyone who’s ever been to Sub Club will attest that’s usually the case. Tonight however, really is a momentous occasion and you can sense it in the room as Harri and Dom, who both take 30-minute shifts in the booth, pull out each tune with a level of gravitas that can only derive from two decades, every single week, on the dancefloor.

From Fingers Inc. to ‘Brighter Days’ to Kings of Tomorrow to a tribute to Frankie Knuckles via ‘Your Love’, we’re treated to a five-hour love letter to the sounds that form the night, while new breed sounds such as Deetron’s remix of George Fitzgerald keep things up-to-date.

To close, ‘We Are Family’ couldn’t be more fitting, while the roof is almost pushed through by fists to the sound of ‘Never Too Much’ by Luther Vandross, which of course gets a rapturous sing-along from a rammed and jubilant dancefloor.

But after 20 full years doing the same gig every week, it’s easy, right? Surely there comes a realisation you are going through the motions… “Never,” says Harri.
“This is Glasgow, you gotta be on it every week,” adds Dom. “After 20 years, I still have a fear of ‘don’t fuck this up’.”

“It’s more challenging to play to a crowd that you know have heard you the last three weeks,” Harri says. “Trainspotters come over and say, 'I heard you mix those two tracks last week!'” says Dom.

It’s this care and attention to the craft that has allowed Subculture to survive for so many years, alongside a sense of personality and security in a top-class venue. “We’ve just been in our own wee bubble and we’ve been at a club with a good soundsystem and those sorts of things, like maintaining your equipment, rather than spending your money on fancy seats or whatever,” Harri points out.

“To use the old football cliché, you take each game as it comes, you generally don’t think too far ahead. It’s been like that for 20 years,” says Dom.

Twenty years though, it must be surreal? “It is, for me it just kicked in today when I sat down and thought about it,” reflects Dom.
“When I stop and think about it, I think, 'that’s fucking mental',” enthuses Harri.

For a night that is elder than a decent-sized portion of the people that come through the door, Subculture is in remarkably good health and tonight the full house is here only for the residents. Unlike many club nights, which rely on marquee bookings to ensure numbers stay high, the DJ duo of Harri & Domenic alone is strong enough because their reputation has been built here every week for 20 years.

 

Add into that the collegiate friendliness of those who run the venue itself, and you have a system that functions and still remains fun. “It’s about cooperation,” explains Harri. “Everybody that works here gets on well, from the owners to the door staff, bar staff, me and Dom.

We’re all reading off the same page as to how we work the night.” “And, we just try not to fuck it up,” adds Dom.

With the lights now up to reveal the extent of our sweatiness, DJ Mag checks our watch to find it’s only 4am. And that’s a temporary late license, we are told. But while another couple of hours would no doubt keep people dancing on, we can’t help but feel that an explosive finale is exactly what tonight needs.

Glasgow is a club scene associated with an insatiable love of house and techno — characterised by that chanted motto, “one more tune!” — and as a sweat-drowned rabble spills out the club onto Jamaica St, discussing between them where to take the after-party, it’s obvious Subculture has contributed an enormous amount to that.

Besides, it was at an after-party at a castle in Bishopton that Dom first met Harri DJing, because a shared love of music and getting “bonkers” had brought them there once the clubs had closed early, all those years ago. We can’t help but think that new partnerships, with similar potential, are being formed now, at this very moment… 

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