David Rodigan and Conducta are billed for the anniversary party on January 11th.
Veteran reggae selector David Rodigan heads up the day alongside UK garage artist Conducta and a selection of Melbourne locals including Lady Banton, Lotus Moonchild, Hans DC and Able8.
The Operatives founder Jerry Poon spoke to us about the brand's 15-year run.
What was the catalyst for starting The Operatives back in the mid-'00s?
Before starting The Operatives I was a member of Elementz Sound Collective. Touring was extensively based on international artists and we had a regular running fortnightly show. I was keen on creating new representation artists from the Asia-Pacific [region] and to pull together a new crew of like-minded individuals. From drum & bass nights to a full multimedia collective, the importance placed on the music had to coincide with the art, production and of course environment, and that ethos has never wavered.
What are some of your fondest memories from the past 15 years worth of events?
Selling out the Opera House with Flying Lotus. (Proposing on the same stage as well to my now-wife!) Gaslamp Killer at Kubik/Melbourne Music Week on the stormiest of nights. I handed out 200 ponchos so people could continue to dance in the rain. Hosting Opiuo and the Syzrgy Orchestra. Drinking Cristal and smoking ciggies with the 70-year old and incredible Grace Jones the night before her mind-blowing show at the Palais, making me feel like you will never be 'too old' and to always keep on keeping on!
Watching movements grow (like Soulection and Cosmic Bridge) and develop over time and relationships, friends, love formed over the years with the amazing people who attend the shows. Hearing stories from artists like David Rodigan. Receiving countless hours of music, dub plates, unreleased tunes or being at a show and hearing it—a good tune will always still give you goosebumps. This list could go on and on, but truly the support I've received from countless attendees and the crew behind the shows, careers we've helped develop, and just breaking in new sounds in general.
And of course, making some damn good friends on the way.
How has the local scene changed in that time? How has The Operatives developed?
15 years is a long time in the music industry. Trends come and go. I think the essence of community is that within each scene they are core and hold it down no matter what. The way music is consumed is clearly different as well We've been quite fluid even though we've stuck to our guns about the music we love. The range on that is wide, it's always been dedicated to quality in every form. It started off with a focus on drum and bass and now we cover almost every aspect of music. We're a collective, a label, touring, booking, events, production house and management company, dedicated to introducing new music to Melbourne and Australia as a whole.
What comes next?
A strong focus on management and moving into exporting music around the world. The Operatives have always encouraged local music but in a certain sense there was a long focus on importing music via tours too. The change for the next little while is to make sure we put Australian and Asia-Pacific based artists on the map. That we impart some of the knowledge learnt from the past 15 years to new crews and audiences in the making — and to keep the culture alive.
Following the 15th birthday, The Operatives will host Flying Lotus's 3D live show in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.