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Apogee Presents: “Work hard, play hard… that’s the ethos”

Marcus Barnes

apogee 300x300 Apogee Presents: Work hard, play hard... thats the ethosOne area of London’s clubbing landscape that is often overlooked is the world of the promoter. It’s an unforgiving world, often unpredictable but a very rewarding endeavour for those who work hard enough to make a success of it. ‘Apogee Presents’ is a particularly interesting outfit due to the fact that the guys behind it all have full-time jobs and one of them, Tom Gearing, appeared on BBC’s The Apprentice no less! Sadly he wasn’t up for an interview, but I managed to grab some time with his co-promoter at ‘Apogee Presents’, Cameron Smith…

To begin with, tell me a little bit about yourself and your relationship with music.
Well, 9-5 I’m a surveyor and I help high net worth individuals invest capital into residential property in prime central London locations… but when the sun goes down, music is my hobby and a run a club night called Apogee Presents with two friends (Tom Gearing and Kag Katumba). I love all genres and appreciate all kinds of musicians but gravitated to the club scene from an early age, you really can’t beat the feeling of a great atmosphere in a club with a banging soundsystem.

Have you always been a fan? If not, when did you start getting into it?
Yeah, I started listening to garage at an early age so discovered my love for electronic music then. I’d been playing the guitar for a good few years but it was an old DJ Luck & MC Neat mixtape that made me put the 6-string down in favour of the 4×4 beat. I then got into drum’n'bass and dubstep but eventually immersed myself in the world of house and techno after working in Ibiza. It was a natural progression and although still listen to all styles and genres of music when I listen to garage or drum’n'bass in particular it takes me straight back to my youth.

What made you decide to start promoting parties, rather than becoming a DJ or a producer or just simply being a listener/partygoer?
I started to experiment with DJing back in my garage days but I realised I didn’t have the patience for creating music. However, I soon found that I enjoyed playing my friends new tunes they hadn’t heard before and getting a buzz from their positive reactions. I dabbled a bit with student promotions in when I was at uni in Nottingham but, funnily enough, it was only when I came back to London (when I didn’t have the time to listen to as much music) that I decided to put on parties. The music was more bass heavy in Nottingham and was dominated by Detonate and Basslaced so London was the only place for us.

What events have inspired your approach to promoting parties?
I went to a rave in Leeds at Victoria Works and I always see that as a defining point. Proper warehouse vibes with a room at the back with red drapes and airplane chairs in the chill out room, it really opened my eyes to what the scene used to be like. Then of course my first venture into Amnesia in Ibiza. That club has it spot on and the vibe never disappoints. The dream is to one day put on something on that island and to that scale maybe!

When did Apogee get started and how much work did it take to organise your first party?
November 2011 was when we started planning for the launch, which didn’t happen until April 2012. I wanted to do it properly so gave myself the extra time to prepare and promote. I spent most Saturdays putting posters up and flyering myself actually! I’m never sure how beneficial that is, but I didn’t want to look back with regrets.

Where was it? How was it funded? Who played?
Tom invested in Apogee from the start and I run the day-to-day logistics, but we all get stuck in where it counts. It was at Lightbox in Vauxhall, south east London and we had Huxley headlining, plus Coat Of Arms, Maxxi Soundsystem and Cera Alba in room 1 and Leeds crew Louche, with Adam Shelton, in room 2 as well as our residents.

How did you feel before the party actually happened and after you’d done it?

I was extremely nervous beforehand, as you can imagine. We knew the passing trade in Vauxhall isn’t the best so we just hoped we had done enough. I very rarely enjoy my own party as I worry too much and always run around making sure everything is running smoothly. After, of course I was extremely pleased and relieved. It’s such a great feeling to think 600 people, most of whom you don’t know, had a great night because of you.

How well did it actually go?
It went well. We didn’t quite break even but we knew it’s quite rare to be able to do that – but we had an expensive line-up as we all thought we needed to make a statement from the off.

What did you learn from that first experience?
Having two large rooms is harder than you think, when one gets going it’s quite hard to get the energy going in the other. A lifelong issue all promoters deal with.

How do you think Apogee has changed since that first venture?
Since the first venture all our lives have changed and we have other things going on which means we can’t do parties as regularly as we did back then. But it has never been about the money for us, it’s a hobby that we love so we plan bigger, less frequent parties and believe in building working relationships with other promoters to spread our horizons.

How do you juggle working full-time with putting the party on?
At first Apogee was like my girlfriend, I would be doing things for her while friends were with their actual girlfriends. There have been plenty of long nights and 20-hour days to get everything done but they were small sacrifices. Now we’re less frequent, it’s much easier to manage both at the same time.

You have ties with Leeds as well as London – can you tell me about that connection?
Yes, my co-promoter Kag is based in Leeds and we met while at uni through a mutual love of raving! He runs a music magazine in Leeds called Movement and we work together with both of those projects wherever we can.

Which would you say has been your very best party to date, or the one that really put Apogee on the map?
The warehouse party with did on Easter Thursday this year in conjunction with another promoting outfit called Potty Mouth probably. We had DJ.T, Tiger & Woods plus Duke Dumont and Waze & Odyssey just as they were blowing up. It sold out in advance and could have sold it out twice over with people queuing at the venue for tickets at 8.30. We were gutted we couldn’t get everyone in and were relying on a license to be granted for music in room 2 but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

London is a notoriously difficult city to promote parties in, with so much choice every weekend, how do you manage to deal with this?
Yeah, there is more choice than ever with everyone and his dog trying to put on a party in an east London basement bar. You’ve got to be different with venue and artist selection, build a brand and show commitment with strong expensive line-ups to get people’s attention.

What’s Apogee’s ethos?
(Laughs) Well, I know it’s clichéd I but ‘work hard play hard’. That’s what me and all my friends believe in and Apogee is the crossover where I have done both.

How do you feel about the current state of London’s clubbing landscape?
As I said before there is more choice than ever but I have to admit that I find it hard to get excited about parties in London now as so many of them don’t stand out and the crowd is generally awful. It is what it is and I just avoid those parties as I’m sure they will fizzle out.

And how do you feel about Apogee’s standing within all of this?
We carefully curate our line-ups and work hard to find good, reliable venues that are slightly different from the norm in order to try and avoid this. Plus we aren’t afraid to chuck in extra for production costs.

What’s your next step?
We are in the process of planning our 2014 parties now. We have come across a great temporary venue in west London and want to capitalise on it.

What are your hopes/ambitions for the future of Apogee?
Well hosting room 2 at a party held by the infamous Cocoon is a proud moment for us as it is a party we have admired for years and is known worldwide. We’re very excited about the party and we hope for more stuff like this. The ultimate ambition is to host sell out parties on the white isle of Ibiza. Isn’t that everyone promoter’s dream?

The next Apogee Presents takes place at Cocoon London on November 30th at Building Six in Greenwich. For more information click here

Follow Marcus Barnes’ www.hoxton.fm radio show via soundcloud.com/marcus_barnes

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