First off, congratulations on Breezeblock’s first birthday! Where did the idea for the party come from?
Thanks very much! I honestly wasn’t sure I’d make it past the first few months! The idea for the party, well, as I’m sure you know, I was part of Twitch since 2010. Paddy and Phil asked me to come on board after Chris McGinn decided to settle in Melbourne (a decision I’m sure he regrets from the beach every day) and I jumped at the chance.
It was a really exciting time for me and I remember really clearly playing my first set as a resident and then booking my first guest DJ, Efdemin, which, as always, we all discussed to the nth degree, I was totally hooked. I worked with Paddy and Phil for the next 8 years and not a day went by that we weren’t discussing what to do next.
Anyway, after 8 years together I just felt it was the right time to do my own thing but I’ll be forever grateful to the lads for giving me that opportunity and I look back on it all very fondly.
And Breezeblock is a pretty bold name, what made you settle on that?
Ugh, I agonised over the name for a long time and I ended up thinking back to my earlier influences. Now, I have to confess that I skipped forward a few years in this regard, because the first record I ever bought was by Cosmic Gate. ‘Firewire’ is so cheesy even Denis Sulta wouldn’t play it.
But yeah, my entry point was hard house, I loved Fergie, hard house anthems etc. So anyway, that was my gateway but as my tastes developed I started going to Shine instead of Planet Love and I was turned onto techno by Dave Clarke, Dave Angel, Carl Cox etc.
This was around the turn of the century so radio was hugely influential and I listened to a lot of Essential Mixes, John Peel and Mary Anne Hobbs. Mary Anne had a show called The Breezeblock which introduced me to more leftfield artists like Aphex twin and Nathan Fake.
I remember driving around in my mate’s Citroen late at night so we could blast a live broadcast from the Concorde 2 in Brighton. Dave Clarke was playing live, it’s such a strong memory. So that’s where the name comes from, it’s a tribute to Mary Anne! And she’s still doing it.
You launched things toward the end of 2018 with a headline set from Modeselektor, a pretty substantial guest compared to most new promotions. You must have really wanted to make a statement?
I wanted to be bold with the bookings and I was so worried about adding to the noise. Belfast has a lot of nights for such a small city and many of them were already bringing amazing artists over here regularly so what else could I bring to the table?
Again, I was looking back to my earlier influences and Modeselektor blew me away at Sonar about 10 years ago. They were good fun that night but Anastasia Kristensen stole the show.
And since then you’ve brought everyone from Lone and Skee Mask to DVS1 and Blawan, how do you decide on what DJs to book?
I book people I want to see. Simple as that. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, if you aren’t passionate about the artists you’re booking, you’re fucked. In the first year of Breezeblock i’d say I have just about broken even. I got married in August 2018, to my amazing wife Laura, we had a beautiful baby girl in July this year so the only chance of me seeing these incredible artists is if they are on my doorstep! OK, i’m joking a bit, but in essence, that’s how i decide.
Irish locals like Carlton Doom, Holly Lester and Brien also frequent your line ups, what’s your thoughts on the talent pool in and around Belfast?
The people you mention are doing incredible things right now. Chris (Carlton Doom) can turn his hand to any style, he is so talented. I really hope he makes the career he wants. Brien is a really similar case. Insanely talented and making amazing music and I hope he fulfils his potential. I’m excited about Holly too, she has a lot of stuff in the works and I think 2020 will be a big year for her.
Also, Bobby Analog is making some of the best house music around at the minute and he’s doing it all himself. Releasing on his own label, taking piano lessons, finding amazing music to release, it’s only a matter of time before he gets where he wants to go.
Neil Kerr is another who has that drive to make things happens and his live modular set is like nothing else i’ve seen in the city. He has been working really hard to release his own music and screen printing all the record sleeves etc. It’s a real example to any budding producer, you have to put the work in.
It’s been great to see Space Dimension Controller back to his best too with a brilliant new album on R&S and then we have Cromby, Or:la and Hammer all getting to that next level. Jordan is having some great success this year too and it’s great to see his releases getting some wider attention not to mention the great stuff his TNI buddy Timmy is doing with the Black Bones label. So yeah, it’ in rude health right now.
What’s the biggest challenge you find yourself facing as a promoter?
There are a few, but probably the hardest thing at the minute is getting people to choose your night over all the other stuff happening in the city (and beyond). Things are insanely competitive right now and ultimately we live in a small city so I sometimes wonder where the hell all these people are coming from.
There is literally at least one headline DJ here every weekend and I think people are mostly picking one weekend a month to get their fix. So your event has to stand out from everything else happening in a 30 day period and as a promoter you have no idea what else is going to pop up that month.
Things have never felt less certain and with DJ fees increasing all the time the risk is getting higher and higher. Club nights also find themselves competing with festivals and large scale events (for artists and punters) which is a David and Goliath scenario so you have to be shrewd, resourceful, creative and have absolute faith in what you are doing.
And what hopes do you have for the long term future?
I have always aspired to having my own club. Might be a pipe dream but there is a serious lack of event space in Belfast these days so who knows. More realistically, long term for me is six months ahead and I have some brilliant stuff lined up for next year already.
Thanks for taking some time out to chat, before we wrap things up, can you tell us about your next party? When’s it happening and who’s playing?
I’ve got Midland, Danielle and Marion Hawkes playing on the 29th November in The Art Department (tiny venue for such a big line up) and after that I have two parties around Christmas. A blockbuster on the 20th in the Palm House with Cromby, Moxie and loads of class locals plus a big Boxing Day event in The Ulster Sports Club with Paranoid London playing Live and Holly Lester’s label launch.
Get tickets for Breezeblock: Midland, Danielle & Marion Hawkes here.