Under the Night Slugs moniker, Alex Sushon (aka Bok Bok) and James Connolly (aka L-Vis 1990) have been pushing the envelop of dance music in London for four years now. “House/bass” were the simple words that adorned the crew’s early flyers, which essentially defined what the partiesâ€”and subsequent eponymous labelâ€”were all about, and from that basic philosophy, they’ve built a family of DJs and producers who all proudly flaunt the Night Slugs name. In fact, just yesterday the label grew again, this time dropping KW Griff’s Club Constructions Volume 3.
The Night Slugs events, however, are pretty special in that they more or less revolve around a rotating cast of characters, and don’t really have a warm-up act, per se. Instead, it’s everyone’s task to get the party started. Bok Bok, though, was more than happy to speak on behalf of the crew, and explain how they do it right. So grab his Building a Vibe chart here, and hear more about his and L-Vis 1990′s Slug life below.
Firstly, tell us more about the London Night Slugs parties.
Night Slugs started in 2008 as a club night for a new mix of club genres we were experimenting with. Eventually, we expanded into a record label and collective, including key artists Girl Unit, Jam City, Kingdom, Egyptrixx, and others. While our music lives primarily in club environments, we believe this can be a hugely rich platform for expression, and that’s really what the nights are about: to try to give ravers an experience beyond the normal physical things associated with being in a club.
Do you feel as though the warm-up is an important part of the overall night, and if so, why?
The first part of the night is hugely important. It’s what sets the tone for the whole night to come. We’re really into creating a smooth arc that the music on the night will take. It might sound like a cliche, but we really do try to take our dancers on a journey. At Night Slugs parties, there are no warm-up DJs; on group nights, we will all play back to back for the first few hours to warm the place up and set the tone properly how we want it. This involves playing a lot of different or slower music, mindful of vibe and easing people in.
Often I’ll play b2b with L-Vis 1990 for the whole night, in which case of course we do play our own warm-up. I really love playing that early sectionâ€”a soundtrack for people coming, getting drinks, and loosening up. It’s a great chance to show people some wider context and influences for our music, to open up my collection a bit wider. I often specifically pick my first record of a night like this, even if nobody is in the club to hear it yetâ€”it’s more of a ritual.
Generally, is there a specific “job” for the opening DJ?
Yeah, opening a night can be seen as kind of a humble task, but it actually takes some intuition. You’ve got to get used to that scenario and not be tempted to start banging too soon; you’ve almost got to think of it like fine dining or sex. And so an opening DJ needs to be aware of their position in the night to get the dancers prepared for what’s to come, but not blow it too early.
When you open for other headliners, how do those sets differ from your usual sets?
It’s been a while since I’ve opened for someone, but if I have to do this I’d think about who I’m playing before and what time of night it is, and as always try to read the vibe in the room and respond with my selection. I won’t necessarily play all my hype tunes that I’m currently most excited about; I’d save that for a main-time set. Sometimes the night isn’t about you, and it’s important to be real about this and humble!
Do your music-buying habits change based on what part of the night you’re going to play? If so, how?
Ha! Not really. I don’t buy music exclusively to DJ so much as just accumulate it through being a DJ with pretty wide-ranging interests. And because I’m always playing early as well as later on at NS nights, I’m always on the lookout for stuff that’s perfect for earlier in the night. The other side of it is I use earlier in the night to play records I wouldn’t get away with or wouldn’t necessarily even want to play later. You can kind of indulge a bit more because you’re not worried about keeping the selection functional for the dancefloorâ€”it hasn’t got going yet.
The Night Slugs crew just played a big Fabriclive gig with the Fade to Mind and Hyperdub folks. How did you guys go about pacing the night?
Me and L-Vis thought carefully about the programming, trying to make sure the night would flow from one DJ set to the next, trying to give everyone a slot they can really take advantage of. Sometimes it’s about playing with the crowdâ€”I love a very late-night Fade To Mind set, for example! Kingdom is mesmerizing in that slot.
What are the biggest mistakes opening DJs often make?
Playing too hard too soon is the number one mistake; trying to squeeze in all your bangers and really bang it. The other one I can’t stand is people going the other way and playing boring records, or sometimes playing records that would sound fantastic at 5 AM but sound kinda boring early on, because the atmosphere and the momentum haven’t built up yet. Playing a record by the person coming up after you is another faux pas of opening DJs that happens surprisingly often.
Any benefits to warming up?
It’s chilled out, and you get to play stuff you wouldn’t or couldn’t otherwise.
How do the pressures differ from opening to headlining? Is one more difficult than the other?
I’ve honestly never felt any stress when playing earlyâ€”it’s a really relaxed slot to play. But maybe that’s because I only do it at our residencies and label parties, so it’s an environment that feels like home anyway. I’m sure if your job is to open for huge acts, that comes with its own stresses.
Does a warm-up set at a festival require a different approach to a club warm-up?
Festivals are more flexible by nature. You might play a really vibey afternoon set and the next DJ will come on and totally splash it because that’s what they do. Or sometimes you feel like really showcasing what you do at peak time, even if it’s 5 PM. So festivals tend to varyâ€”I just do what feels right in the situation.
Favorite three opening DJs you’ve ever heard, and why?
I’ve really enjoyed the first hour of Kode9 all-night sets.
Alex Egan, who was half of the late Skull Juice duo; the start of their Walk The Night parties that I was also a resident at was quite an education for me at the time.
Kindness is a great DJ. He played a memorable opening set at Jam City’s album launch party earlier this year.
What are your three favorite warm-up-set opening tracks?
Tell us about your upcoming gigs and releases, and other of that other stuff we should know about
I have two remixes coming very soon that I’m excited about; they are of Erol Alkan & Switch and Parris Mitchell.