Mood-setting selections from a pillar of London's dance scene.
It's easy to think of Dolan Bergin as a promoter first, DJ second. Along with Ajay Jayaram, he runs The Hydra, one of the most respected parties in London. The event is now entering its fifth year, following a 2015 that took in some the city's most talked-about events, with the likes of Ostgut Ton, Dekmantel, Numbers, Blueprint and Innervisions all co-hosting label showcases. He's also the man behind electric minds, a party-cum-label that's celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2016. But one of the things that's fuelled both The Hydra and Electric Minds down the years has been Bergin's reliably strong warm-up sets. In this artform he schooled himself listening to DJs like Theo Parrish and François K when they opened the night at Plastic People, arriving early to see how they built a vibe from scratch. As a result, Bergin knows how to expertly set the tone at his own parties, coaxing people onto the dance floor without ever pushing things too hard.
On Bergin's RA podcast there's a smooth, unfussy ebb and flow, which weaves together emotive deep house and techno tunes from the likes of Mike Huckaby, Prince Of Denmark, Marco Shuttle and Marquis Hawkes.
What have you been up to recently?
The past few months have been occupied with putting together the electric minds tenth anniversary dates and also planning the fifth year of The Hydra. Ajay, Alex and myself regrouped in January with the aim of approaching things from a different perspective for the years ahead. We want to expand on the bookings we make to try and support a broader pool of talent and of course provide suitable platforms for the artists, labels and brands we've grown with over the years. In order to achieve this, we will be exploring new locations, venues and production techniques as well as returning to Studio Spaces this year. We're lucky to have the support of London’s nightlife operators to enable us to do this. There have been some exciting developments, so we're looking forward to announcing the 2016 dates throughout June and July.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I recorded it at home on two turntables and a CDJ. I used an E&S rotary, which I bought a couple of years back. This mixer is hyped, but I love it so it deserves a credit. I borrowed some monitors from our team at Sound Services and I got a couple of the well-played and worn records cleaned and digitized at Curve Pusher in Hackney. It was recorded in one take, but it took a couple attempts until I was happy with it.
Could you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I just wanted to pick some records that I'm into, and hopefully provide a condensed version of what you might hear at one of our events. Mr G, Frankey & Sandrino and Marquis Hawkes very kindly provided me some of their upcoming releases and everything else I've bought on record either recently or over the years.
Electric Minds is turning ten this year. What has been the biggest change you've noticed in London nightlife since you've been doing the party?
I think the issues of the authorities conservative approach to nightlife has been well documented of late. There was a more relaxed attitude in parts of London ten years ago, but looking back to the start of the '90s, as a country we haven't reached that 24-hour culture yet. One of the first clubs I went to was the Paradise Club by Chapel Market in Islington for a night called AWOL. It was at the start of 1993 when hardcore was morphing into drum & bass, and we used to sneak in Sunday mornings when the door price was reduced after 6 AM. The club used to roll on until past Sunday lunchtime and it was not the only one—it felt like there was a vibrant 24-hour club culture. Ten years ago I felt we had the same thing, with the likes of secretsundaze and Hoxton Pimps packing out venues across East London, and often through word-of-mouth promotion and the strength of booking new and upcoming artists. There was a DIY culture, which we saw a generation before, and a new breed of producers finding an audience through smaller pop-up events.
I think one thing that's changed today, is that some of today's new promoters seem to rest on just trying to book well-known artists with inflated fee offers, when the craft of building a grassroots event by searching out new venues and locations and providing good sound, production and emerging talent is overlooked. You could argue that the recent press attention of illegal raves happening in London's outer zones shows signs of people pushing boundaries, but I think we also need focus on the legal events by building new projects and ideas rather than imitating what's already passed.
There are signs of improvement though, and the recently formed NTIA has done a great job of raising awareness with policy makers. It's early days and there are barriers to break down, but it's admirable that people are standing up for what this industry offers. Despite some obstacles, London continues to be a leading light for all forms of electronic music.
You would have played countless warm-ups during the last ten years—do you have any favourite DJs when it comes to the art of the opening set?
It's quite rare to see the better-known DJs playing opening sets these days, so I think people really appreciate it when an all-night set comes to town. When I went to Plastic People around a decade ago to see Theo Parrish at his Sunday sessions or when Francois Kevorkian brought Deep Space to its basement, we were often at the front of the line to hear the first records. Plastic People was one-of-a-kind and the intimacy afforded long warm-up sets that would span many genres, which I found interesting and different to what was on offer elsewhere. Like most discoveries, a friend introduced me to Theo Parrish's music and finding more leftfield sounds through his sets meant the opening was always worth turning up early for.
From my experience at the all-night sets we've produced in recent years, Dixon, Kristian from Âme, Daphni, Move D, Ben UFO and Joy Orbison all expertly build early arrivals to a busy dance floor at the end, which is quite a feat after playing to your audience for eight-plus hours. The Ostgut Ton artists also brought a great ambient set to their party last December, which provided a really nice alternative. Marcus Worgull played some of the most interesting music I've heard in a while when he opened for Lost In A Moment on Osea Island last year. Hearing Radiohead at 11 AM, while the crowd sat next to the pool in the sun, told us something really special was unfolding with that first event on the island.
What are you up to next?
In the immediate future we are launching the next string of anniversary dates, which start this weekend with our stage in London at the Junction 2 Festival. LWE have gone to considerable effort finding a new and unique outdoor location, so we're looking forward to seeing what people make of partying under the M4 flyover. We are also lucky to be returning to Panorama Bar, Culture Box, Dimensions Festival, Becool in Barcelona and making first appearances at Concrete, Farr Festival, Oasis Festival in Marrakech and an event I'm particularly excited about in New York with Sublimate. Back in London, for something a little different we're partnering with the Jazz Café to bring Amp Fiddler over from Detroit and a special intimate all-night set from Mano Le Tough in August, which the team at Corsica Studios have helped us put together.