Stirling Underground Interview
So we recently caught up with the guys from Stirling Underground and had a quick chat on music, DJing, events and stuff. So, thanks to Lee and Bob for this, Enjoy.
Hey guys! Always good to get a chat in about music and DJing! So first up if could give us a quick intro on ‘Stirling Underground’ and how it all came about?
Stirling Underground started as a student radio show back in 2016 on Air3 Radio. We met each other properly towards the end of our undergraduate degrees, and quickly found a shared passion for electronic music and DJing which we were excited to develop and share with other people.
The Stirling Underground which most people know today however is in the form of our events, which are typically done in Mediterranea and the Settle Inn.
We had been DJing with each other and friends, and at the usual after party scenarios around town, but wanted to push ourselves further and see if we could make our own events work.
Our first event fell on St Patrick’s day in 2017, which was unplanned but worked massively in our favour. For this, we brought in our long-time resident Joe, or as many will know him as, Josef Bican.
Very much on the fly, we posted our first event on Facebook with some DIY artwork and hoped for the best. To our surprise, the event gained some nice traction, and on the night we ended up selling out within the first hour or so. Armed with only budget decks and some basic speakers, we managed to pull it off and create a great atmosphere for the first event.
Since then, we’ve taken the approach of developing Stirling Underground piece by piece, trying to strike the balance between events and bookings which we personally would like, and events which are appealing to a wider audience.
We’ve been very happy with our successes, and are very thankful to the people who have helped us out along the way, from our regular punters, to our dedicated PR team, and our friends who have been extremely supportive at all times.
Three years is a long-time running events and you have had some great guests along the way. Is there any guest that stands out and what has been both your best gigs?
We’ve been lucky to have been able to book some excellent and interesting acts at our events. Because our events have been consistent in terms of attendance, it’s allowed us to budget for some acts which have pushed Mediterranea to its limits. Our biggest success was likely JD Twitch, one half of the legendary Optimo duo from Glasgow.
This was in November 2018, so we had only been managing events for around a year and a half. It can be very intimidating taking on larger bookings which require contracts and many more expenses than you would first expect.
Also, Twitch is an artist which has been embedded in the scene for decades and therefore carries a lot of respect, so you want to be able to facilitate that in a professional manner. Optimo’s Sunday events at Sub Club were largely regarded as being one of the premiere club nights in the world, so it is safe to say we were pretty nervous.
Regardless of our nerves, we pulled together and managed to sell out through presales, which was largely down to our fantastic PR team and other initiatives such as our ticket competition. When the night came, all the hype came to a perfect conclusion as Twitch delivered one of the best sets we’ve seen, and genuinely enjoyed the event himself later posting a glowing review on his Twitter account.
Another headline event for us was booking a similarly legendary figure, Mark Archer of the iconic 90s rave duo Altern 8. It’s kind of a funny story how this one came about. We (Lee and Boab) were at Glastonbury in 2019, and came across Mark performing a set at the Spaceport during a scorching afternoon in tribute of the late Prodigy icon Keith Flint.
After his amazing set, we messaged him directly on Facebook asking if he would like to play in Stirling, and right away he agreed and told us to get in touch with his wife, who happens to be his agent.
We billed the event as Altern 8 as we tied it into the 30th anniversary series of events he was putting on in 2020. Those who know Altern 8 will know all about the iconic face mask and chemical warfare suits they wore at their performances through the years.
To tie in with this aesthetic we actually made our own DIY Altern 8 masks which we handed out to the punters on the night. Mark delivered a screamer of a set, taking us through the classic tunes of the era, as well as a range of ones for the heads.
As with Twitch, he really enjoyed himself and gave us a cracking write up on Facebook with a group photo of him, us, and the crowd on the night, which will always be a special memory.
Like us you would have had a few events line up just now, however with the lockdown all have been put on hold. Have you got anything planned for later this year or are you just waiting to see how the event restrictions all develops?
The current situation with Coronavirus and the resulting lockdown almost globally has had severely detrimental impacts in virtually every music scene in the world, and it’s been the same in Stirling for us and everyone else. It’s a shame, but it’s rightfully in place so we can safely return to doing events and partying at some point in the hopefully not too distant future.
Before the lockdown happened, we had plans in place to do our first joint event with the LooP guys downstairs in Fubar booking the very talented Eclair Fifi.
This was shaping up to be a huge event for us, as it was somewhat above the calibre we’re used to in terms of budgets and event scale. We’ve had a good relationship with LooP for a while now, having warmed up for some well-known DJs at their events including Alan Fitzpatrick, Harri & Domenic, and Jasper James.
Another event we had planned which had to be cancelled was our 3rd birthday celebration at the Settle Inn, which was due to be a resident’s night.
We were pretty excited for this one, but will have to postpone that as well to further down the line. In the meantime, we’ve been following the lead on seeing what’s possible in the digital world.
We’ve managed to upload a few mixes and have a livestream, so we will hopefully be able to put out more content like that in the meantime to tide ourselves and everyone else over until we can all meet in person again.
There is three of you that DJ in Stirling Underground. Yourself Lee and Bob but also Joe. You all must have your different styles yes? Do you think having three different styles is good for the night how do you pick who plays when?
It’s an interesting question, because over the course of the three years we have been doing events, all of our styles have definitely changed and it’s been cool to see how we’ve branched off but still kept a balance through playing and learning off one another.
It’s without a question been good for the night that each of us has different tastes and specialties when it comes to music and DJing. This has largely influenced the bookings we’ve had, and has led to a truly diverse range of artists coming to our night.
As well as this, when we have our residents nights we’re always bouncing off each other taking the music in different directions while sticking to the fundamental goal of creating a great atmosphere and a smooth transition across the course of the night.
What was the first track / DJ that go you in to dance music?
Boab: I can’t remember any specific tracks/DJs that got me into dance music. I was always open to it growing up but never considered it my main genre.
When I was 19 I went to Sub Club with some friends, and that was the first venue I went to that played the more underground side of dance music, and ever since then I’ve come to love it.
I guess around that point was when some Scottish DJs such as Jackmaster and Denis Sulta started to become really popular, so that definitely piqued my interest more than it would otherwise.
Lee: In terms of dance music my early influences are fairly broad. My dad has always been a massive collector of vinyl, having worked at a record shop earlier in his life and now owning his own.
Although his big influence was old reggae ska and rocksteady, he played many a dance track, the best memories for me were those by Fatboy slim. From my peers I probably first got sucked into dance music and in turn mixing from a couple of older mates during the time when old school dubstep was big. Benga, Skream, Caspa ect.
We know our mates at Soul Steak started to release music via there channels. Are there any plans to release music your self’s? Or a Stirling Underground label?
It’s certainly something we’ve thought about before as many people do who are involved in a music scene. It was really fantastic to see our friends at Soul Steak self-release their own record and put on a party promoting the release as well, as it was a wild success for them.
The production side of things is something we’ve never really delved into ourselves, but who knows what can happen! As many will know, our very own Josef Bican has been releasing some lovely tracks of his own for a long time. Joe in fact has been working on his own label, 60B Records, to release music in collaboration with two other good friends of ours, Sam Donaldson and Mark Devlin. So, we wish them every success with that.
For us for now however, we’re going to keep developing Stirling Underground as we have been and see what the future holds.
The scene in Stirling has been great over the past couple years compared to years before. So how do you see it heading in the future? Do you think people will still be interested in dance music in Stirling in the future?
The scene in Stirling for electronic music is about as old as the genre itself, and we realise we’re only a part of a continuum which will no doubt go on long after we’re not involved anymore.
No one could deny that the scene has been in a strong position for a few years now. There have been many great events put on with people booking interesting DJs from all over, and great use being made of all the local talent we have with local DJs managing to pull in large crowds in their own right.
Even compared to when we first came to university here 7 years ago, there has been so much more going on, with events nearly every weekend and more and more spaces being utilised.
In terms of what the future may hold, it is very hard to say right now until we know what is going to be happening after coronavirus. There will undoubtedly be a lot of people who will decide to move on from Stirling maybe due to employment or accommodation concerns.
It’s also quite uncertain what shape the next academic year will take at the university with a lot of teaching having to be done online, it may put a lot of people who would potentially be interested in the music scene from coming here altogether.
There’s also the question of whether the venues we have now will even be able to be utilized in the same fashion for a long time due to concerns over social distancing etc. So based on all those unknowns, it’s decidedly more difficult to predict the future for the scene now compared to if we never had to deal with the virus.
Apart from all that though, there is every reason to suggest that the scene has a bright future. There are many dedicated promoters who work hard to put on great parties for everyone out of not much else other than their own enjoyment of hosting a great night.
It’s a well-known fact that there’s little to no money to be made out of promoting, but there’s something incredibly rewarding about putting a load of work into a successful event, and I think that’s what keeps us all going at the end of the day.
The people who come to the events as well are a great support, and there’s a real sense of community amongst everyone who enjoys the scene, and an enthusiastic and lovely crowd is essential for longevity.
If you could book any one to DJ at Stirling Underground who would it be and why?
Boab: If we’re talking hypothetically in an ideal world, I would book Ben UFO. He’s somewhat of a DJ’s DJ, able to play extended sets comprising many genres, but done in such a way which always feels natural and like a journey, which I respect.
I really enjoy DJs which have the element of surprise in what they do; who are able to play for hours at a time and pace out their sets; and who blend together analogue and digital methods of DJing, and for me he fits the bill in all those respects.
Lee: In an alternate universe KINK would be slamming a live set in the basement handing out the synths for people to play with. His energy is so infectious and his connection with the crowd is unparalleled.
Can tell us three tracks, One you love just now? One you always play at afters? And a track you love that’s not dance music?
Boab: A tune I’m into right now is Rushing Back by Flume (MJ Cole remix).
My go to afters tune to get the plums pumping would be Ripgroove by Double 99.
For a track I love that’s not dance music, I’ve always had a soft spot for My Number by Foals.
Lee: Right now I’m in love with Ben Gomori’s edit of Dawada Jobarteh’s Sama Kebbalu, afro house at its finest.
It’s been a while since any afters but one that has always stuck is T2’s Heartbroken.
In terms of non-dance music, anything by Jack Johnson. He is the guy to make you feel alright despite everything.
Thanks for the interview guys!