Spins and needles: the London club night celebrating vinyl culture
The days when DJs risked neck and shoulder injuries hauling stacks of vinyl to and from clubs may be long gone—with laptops loaded with mp3s and vinyl emulation software such as Serato having replaced the record bag—but a strong affection for those 12-inch black discs still exists among a sizeable number of the DJ and music collecting fraternity.
That affinity for all things vinyl underpins the spirit of Twelve 12s, a monthly club celebrating the humble 12-inch single, which returns to central London spot The Social this Saturday. Beginning a few years ago as a series of themed mixes by a loose affiliation of hip-hop DJs on both sides of the Atlantic, it evolved earlier this year into a fully-fledged club night run by Southern Hospitality, the London-based DJ crew better known for the capital’s wildly popular Hip-Hop Karaoke and Players Ball events.
“I moved over to using Serato most of the time in clubs around 2005, but at home pretty much always played my vinyl, and still really cherished my record collection—both for the memories it holds for me and the amazing artwork on the sleeves,” Rob Pursey, DJ and promoter with Southern Hospitality, says of the ethos behind Twelve 12s. “I really wanted to create a concept in which I could share all this, and also get other DJs involved, many of who were feeling the same as me about the collections they’d amassed, in presenting it in a new way, and a way that showcased both the music—much of which is unavailable on iTunes—and the covers.”
Featuring mixes from US and UK turntable talent including DJ Eleven, Spin Doctor, J-Squared and the late Matthew Africa, the rules were straightforward from the start, and the clue was in the name: DJs would mix twelve 12-inch singles in one live continuous take, and the mix would be uploaded online. “The fact that we stipulated they were all done live meant that we were really bringing it back to the essence of the way we’d all learned to DJ and the format we learnt with,” Pursey explains of the initial concept. “Turning it into an event was the next logical step, as it really was as simple as great DJs playing twelve great 12-inch records in a club environment.”
Launched in April on Record Store Day—an annual international celebration of independent record stores marked by special events and limited edition vinyl releases—Twelve 12s saw Southern Hospitality residents Pursey, Superix and Jimmy Plates, as well as guest DJs, spinning strictly vinyl-only sets all night.
Many of the early mixes in the original series were themed around specific artists, labels, cities or sub-genres within hip-hop, taking in artists like the Wu-Tang Clan and MF Doom, and labels like Stones Throw Recordings. But the musical horizons soon broadened, with guest DJ Hudson’s Daft Punk special, and Superix’s collection of tracks from early 90s R&B offshoot sub-genre New Jack Swing.
“We’ve had pop, disco, drum & bass, funk and everything in the series, and this has also spilled over to the club event,” Pursey says of the expansive approach.
“The format is definitely a huge part of it, particularly in the social history aspect of records—whether it’s the design, the fashions of the day, the production credits or just the labels themselves that adds that extra value, which can often be lost in a world of simply consuming mp3s,” he says. “I love digital as it’s revolutionised a lot of what I do, but the emotional attachment to a physical, analogue record is something that’s definitely unlikely to leave me and many of the other DJs involved. Whether it’s a better sound will be arguable forever; however, there’s definitely something in the fact that vinyl sounds right to people who’ve grown up with it.”
Leaving aside the tortuous—and, let’s face it, tedious—technical debates over the merits of compressed mp3 files (at whatever bit rate) versus the “warmer” sound of vinyl, it’s clear that events like Record Store Day, as well as the boom in limited edition vinyl pressings, have tapped into an appetite for vinyl among music fans and collectors.
But for Pursey, it’s the love of music—and records—that takes precedent over anything else, and while there may be an element of one-upmanship in the record collecting game, he rejects the suggestion that a vinyl-only night in a scene dominated by digital setups is just a gimmick. “I guess there will be some people somewhere being pretentious about it and using it as a badge of honour, or to be exclusive, but our motive is never to be cool and be above people. Instead, it’s to share and embrace the discovering of music.
“We give people free reign on the mixes to do whatever they want, as long as its twelve 12”s mixed live. As with many things in life, there will always be people who want to own something that is either limited or hard to get. The pursuit is sometimes the excitement alone. Twelve 12s begun before the trend had really been identified, so maybe we’re trendsetters!” Pursey laughs. “More likely though, we’re just people who like music and love—and have lots of—records.”
Twelve 12s takes place on Saturday November 9, 7pm-1am at The Social, 5 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JD. All Twelve 12s mixes are available at http://www.mixcloud.com/southernhospitality/Tagged in: clubs, DJ, london, music, nightlife, serato
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