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Lo*Kee: Because we care

Marcus Barnes

LoKee1 225x300 Lo*Kee: Because we careOne of London’s best loved, and least promotion-focused, parties is Lo*Kee. The event’s name has become synonymous with good parties, full of good people, good music and providing nothing but good times.

Starting out five years ago as an illegal enterprise, Lo*Kee is now not only a party promotion, but recently became an international record label and home to a crew of talented artists with an open-minded, all-encompassing approach to music. I was fortunate enough to be granted the first ever interview with the Lo*Kee team, here’s a snippet of what they had to say.

So, before we start talking about Lo*Kee, can you tell me about your own backgrounds?

Nic: I first got into this music through Secretsundaze. I was into partying, more commercial stuff I guess, eight or nine years ago. I was in Ibiza with some friends and they knew a guy who was in with the Secretsundaze guys, I got friendly with them and, when I came back to London, I started working for them. I was doing bars for them, and that was my first eye-opener of the London scene, it completely blew me away and got me hooked. I was out all the time at Secretsundaze, Mulletover, everything. Through going to these parties, and doing events for Secretsundaze, I realised that this is what I want to do. I’ve always loved the music, but what I really love is the party itself. I love the energy with the people, that was my inspiration to get into this. I was friends with Nick (the other member of Lo*Kee) and through meeting Seb, we decided we wanted to do something of our own.

How did go from working with Secretsundaze to setting up your own thing both financially and logistics-wise.?

Nic: Through working with them and meeting people – I also worked with Mulletover doing their bars and I did corporate stuff, like Bacardi B-Bar – I got to understand licensing and what you need to do to make these events happen. I’d always worked in bars and nightclubs before this and my experience with these people showed me what you need to do to put on parties on a bigger scale, and do things differently. We [Nick, Seb and Nic] came together and decided we wanted to do a party, so we spoke to a few different venues. We’d actually agreed with one venue – the plan was to do Sunday parties, after-parties, because we liked that vibe – but we all came away not feeling like we were doing anything different.

Seb: I remember we’d looked at five different venues and none of them were any good. They were overpriced, over-regulated, nothing felt quite right. So we were like, ‘We need to find our own place and do our own thing’.

How did you both meet anyway?

Seb: Kubicle.

Nic: Public Life.

Seb: He offered me a bump!

Nic: I met the other Nick at Public Life too, that place played a big part in bringing us together.

It’s a shame that’s not going on anymore. A lot of people I speak to mention Public Life, Kubicle, Secretsundaze, T-Bar… all those places, they seemed to be crucial to the development of a lot of what’s happening now. There doesn’t seem to be so many places where people are meeting are forming these creative relationships anymore.

Nic: I think a lot of it is down to how Shoreditch has changed. Back in the day with T-Bar, Secretsundaze and The Poet, Shoreditch was a real place for music heads and it seems like the excitement of that period brought a lot more people into the area – now when I go to Shoreditch, there’s seems to be a lot more bars, people drinking.

Seb: We walked through there last night after we did our show on Rinse and it was like, ‘Oh my God…’, it was terrible. Full of p****d up people – it feels like you’re walking through Leicester Square.

So you two met at Public Life and became friends straight away?

Seb: Yeah, I had just got to London, I was fresh off the boat! I think I’d arrived in London two weeks earlier when I met him – I went to an after-party and ended up on the road at one in the afternoon on a Sunday like, ‘F**k, I don’t where to go!’. I met these two random people and they took me to Kubicle… I would have never found out about that place if it wasn’t for those people.

From this chance meeting, and subsequent friendship, how did the idea come up to start doing your own thing?

Nic: It’s something that, personally, I’d wanted to do for quite a while. Through all my previous experience I knew it was something I wanted to do… we’re quite a random bunch of people – Nick’s a Cockney, Seb’s German and I’m a Brummie – but somehow it all came together. I’d be speaking to Nick about it because we used to go out together a lot, he was really keen to do a party as well, so we had this natural thing like, ‘Let’s try and do something together’ and Seb as well, he was really into the music and a really good engineer, too. He was helping me with my first productions, it just worked really well that we came together – as I said we’re a random bunch of people but that helps because we all have different ideas about things, different experiences and different groups of friends.

Seb: It’s something that’s open-minded and down to earth…

Nic: We wanted to do something, but we never had any grand plans like, ‘Oh, we want to be the next Secretsundaze’ or anything like that. All we wanted to do was something different and something that was about our friends.

Seb: Yeah, a nice hangout for our friends really. I have to say, when I came here, I was shocked – coming from Germany and being involved in the scene there, in Berlin, for years. I’d never come here before really, but I had an image in my head of how the scene here might be. English Acid House, blah blah blah, then I got here and went to fabric and I was like, ‘This is it?’. I mean fabric is amazing, but the vibe here really shocked me – parties finish at six on the dot and, 10 seconds before six, the lights come on and the music switches off in the middle of the track and the bouncers come marching in to get everyone out, really aggressive… you won’t find that in Berlin at all, everything stays open as long as they want, everything is cool. It was so ‘unrelaxed’, like how can you let go? For me the party is all about letting go, switching off, being around nice people – not constantly looking over your shoulder and queuing to smoke a cigarette. Kubicle had this really naughty vibe, it felt more like what I was used to but still, when Nic told me he was thinking about starting something I was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s do it’ straight away. We just wanted a relaxed party, not somewhere where you pay a lot of money and get shouted at by the bouncers, surrounded by rubbish people… and that’s where it all started.

Nic: That was a big part of it when we started at the Candy Factory, the smoking ban had just come in and so on… we wanted somewhere with no restrictions, it was so funny how we decided that and a week later we found the venue on Gumtree and took it without even thinking about it. There were lots of other studios in the building but we went into the unit to look at it, it had a disco ball on the ceiling, lights everywhere and a big bag full of empty bottles of beer – so we saw that as a sign and took it – afterwards we found out that, because that place had been empty for a while, that’s where everyone in the building was doing their parties.

Seb: That building was magic.

Nic: Yeah, we had such special times there.

How did the first party go?

Nic: We were there for a year, it was so nice how it grew organically with no promotion, just friends. I think the first one had 20 – 30 people, and we’d do it every two weeks, religiously, every two weeks on a Sunday. Thirty people became 35, became 40, everyone seemed to really feel what we were doing and they’d come back with more friends, who’d come back with more friends… by the end of the year…

Seb: After half a year, it exploded! It went from 50 people every two weeks to being rammed, the place was around 150-capacity, that was when it was really full. I remember the first autumn it would be really full every time, super busy.

Nic: I can remember after it exploded, Jamie Jones turned up to the party and being amazed that he was there. At one of the last parties we had around 200 people and you literally couldn’t move, you couldn’t light a lighter, there was no oxygen in the place – we only had one toilet, so there were 200 people trying to use one toilet.

Seb: But these parties were some of the best parties I’ve ever been to in my whole life, the vibes in there were amazing… amazing.

So what was the deal in terms of legality?

Nic: I was actually living in the space, out the back – and every couple of weeks we’d do a party. I think because they were during the day on a Sunday, we managed to stay undetected. We got really into it – we’d have a camera on the door downstairs with CCTV linked to it, so people had to look into the camera before we let them in – luckily, we managed to sweet talk the other people living in the building, one of whom was Faris (Eric Volta), so they let us carry on.

Seb: We had a lot of sound-proofing as well. We had these thick shutters, they were super heavy and you needed two people to get them up and down. Around 8pm, we’d shut all the windows and the shutters, the room was sealed, a sweatbox, no oxygen in or out and it was like, ‘You’re either in or you’re out’ because we didn’t want to disturb the neighbours with people going in and out all night – so it was 40 degrees, sweaty, no oxygen, no way in or out. Some amazing things happened in there, it was really magic…

Read this interview in full at marcusbarnes.com

The second release on Lo*Kee will be Afriqua – Melt EP with remixes from James Teej and Cesar Merveille.

Tune in to Marcus Barnes’ radio show via www.mixcloud.com/marcusbarnes

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