May 5th, Bank Holiday Weekend sees THEM return to Corsica Studios, careering through with an epic line up befitting the turn of a 11 year mile stone. THEM have been a dark force for heavyweight line-ups and twisted electronics for over a decade, leaving a trail of scorched dance floors behind them. We catch up with Jack from THEM to talk us through the label and party.
First off, can you give a brief description of who’s who behind THEM, some of your early collaborators and how THEM began to become what it is today.
I started THEM with two friends who both left the party in the first 3 years and have now left the country! Not sure if related to the experience haha. We started out at the Rhythm Factory in East London (RIP) in 2008 with Dubstep headliners but with a lot of other ravier sounds backing it up, generally split between deeper stuff in Room 1 and bouncier ravier stuff in Room 2. There was a hiatus after the other two left in 2010 and then I started the nights up again on my own in 2011 as I was getting into Techno. The format is still kind of the same with different vibes between the rooms, (and if it’s gonna get really fast somewhere, it will usually be in room 2), but with Techno as the glue that holds it together, instead of Dubstep.
What was the early soundtrack before THEM? Was there a particular artist or scene that inspired you to start throwing parties and releasing records?
Dance music wise, I come from a background of DnB, Jungle and Hardcore and so did my co-promoters when we started out. I was involved in a couple of other events before THEM, both based around those sounds. Bang Face at Electrowerkz was also a huge influence, as were other likeminded parties there by crews such as Wrong Music. The Rave music policy and vibe and the mixed format line ups were definitely influential, and my formative years spent at The Sanctuary in Milton Keynes probably have their imprint too.
Label-wise, I’d wanted to start a label for a long time prior to the first release, so when THEM had completed the shift into a Techno event and for the first time was starting to feel grounded in a particular sound, so the plan was put into action.
What was the creative nebula from which THEM was spawned?
Part of the desire to put a night on was to do with having lots of mates DJing and making music, we needed somewhere to play. We actually booked the venue and most of the line up for the first party before we thought of a name. We needed a name fast and I was a horror movie nut and thought it would be funny to base it around zombies. We used to always refer to ravers on comedowns leaving clubs as like zombies, which is a joke that later Simon Pegg also made in his film Shaun of the Dead. That’s where our horror aesthetic comes from. Also a lot of the heavier DnB labels I was into in the earlier naughties were already pushing the horror aesthetic. But I grew up a zombie film and death metal head, so it was just natural.
Was there a philosophy or ethos in the early days of THEM? Has that changed over the years? What has driven those changes?
The earlier parties were special, more chaotic, more live music, more youthful energy gone into standing outside clubs every night of the week dishing out flyers etc, but we didn’t really know what we were doing, so they were a bit slapdash too, there’s definitely been a refining process, and a case of rediscovering the reason why we love to put it on again and again. The ethos has always been wanting to shock and awe our attendees, we’re interested in the ravey, banging side of dance music and always will be. Aside from that the only constant has been constant change, which is something I embrace wholeheartedly.
Can you suggest a track that you think is essential to the makeup of THEM – a track that has rarely left the bag in 11 years or a track that encapsulates the ethos of THEM particularly well?
This is hard because as the nature of THEM has been change, there isn’t a track that has been played throughout, but if I had to pick something that would have worked all the way through from day dot to now, maybe one of the bangers from Vex’d – Degenerate would do it
Can you name a few standout releases on THEM? Are there any that can be linked to a particularly important period in THEM’s lifetime – can you talk a little more about these periods?
Again, tough, because every release means something to us. Hard to not be blown away to have Perc Remix an Ansome track on our third release of course, what a combination and the remix itself is a monster – We’ve done it to death at the parties and it still kills it. Another one is to finally get a Kalli track out on the 8th release, he was one of the first artists we talked to before the first release, so it took a good 4 years to happen. But there isn’t a release on our catalogue that we’re not proud of putting out.
Is there a track that encapsulates your first THEM party at Corsica Studios or a track that you think works well at Corsica Studios over any other venue?
A lot of tracks work at Corsica better than most other clubs, we have so much reverence for the place. Room 2 is great for anything intended to make people go nuts, the sound and the shape and size of the space makes it perfect, so direct. Anything that has that deconstructed UK idea of separating the subs and the drum hits of the track into their own space works well, Also breakneck Jungle sounds great in there. Bigger more epic stuff sounds amazing in Room 1.
With 11 years under your belt, you must have witnessed a few changes in the electronic music landscape. Can you describe some of them? Is change a good thing?
At the risk of sounding simplistic, a major change has been the shift from DJs playing vinyl to playing digital, it’s changed everything from the how the industry makes it’s money (it’s much harder to make money from record sales so everything relies on events and bookings, which could explain why DJs fees have grown so much), to how music is made and shared. In addition, the internet has changed how sounds emerge and has put an end to the trend of new genres emerging from local groups of friends in certain geographic locations (IE FWD at Plastic People), and made the mutation of music a more global, instantaneous happening. There are good and bad things about all those changes, but importantly it’s new and exciting territory – and that can only be good.
Are there lost parts of electronic music/nightlife that you wish you could resurrect?
It would be nice to see vinyl continue to do well and record shop culture flourish again. But aside from that, resurrecting a lot of what happened before wouldn’t work now or have the same meaning. Also the internet has given anyone and everyone the chance to dig through everything cool that has happened before, which means you have DJs out there now playing some great older music alongside brand new stuff. If you want to hear Hardcore in 2019, go and see A Boy From Outer Space.
Can you talk through some of your favourite artists who have played at THEM?
Not an easy one either, but it needs to be said that JoeFarr always delivers. Rustie, Untold, Perc, Ansome, Mumdance, Manni, Jerome Hill, Lag and Kalli have provided me personally with some special memories too. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sunday’s line up has several of my favourite DJs in one place.
What does the future hold for THEM on the label and party front?
Looking forward to sharing with you the parties and releases we have lined up for the rest of 2019. Plenty of exciting moments lined up! Stay tuned at @themldn :)