Interview: Gavin Mee [DERELICHT]
We interviewed Gavin Mee, director and A&R head of Suffolk-based events brand Derelicht ahead of their label and agency launch this weekend. Derelicht 04 features on the first edition of our Experience series on Elevated Culture, and is our top pick for this month. In the interview below, Mee shares his vision and concept for Derelicht and talks to us about the changing landscape of creative entertainment and the challenges of running such an ambitious project. On the 24th of May Derelicht will be taking over St Peter’s church in Ipswich for a twelve hour stint of incredible visuals (courtesy of Liam Roberts, Joe Catchpole and William Glass) as well as performances from hot talent South London Ordnance and Derelicht artists Thermal Bear and The Soft. Limited tickets are available here.
Read our Experience feature on Derelicht 04 here.
Architecture – Light – Techno
/ The event at St Peter’s this weekend is your first of 2014. Is it good to be back?
Amazing, I actually spent a lot of time by myself in the church today just titivating, tidying up a few finer details and really getting to know the place. I really feel reinvigorated by the whole thing you know, this industry can be consuming and sometimes you need that break to recharge and re-engage with the original vision. In my time off we’ve had a baby daughter called Ava who’s 11 weeks now, so its good to come back at this with a whole new perspective, my 2013 worries are seriously nothing compared to the plates I’m currently spinning!
/ The event also marks the launch of the Derelicht agency and label. What made you decide to launch these two arms of the brand?
(*Laughing) As if one new baby isn’t enough for 2014 I’ve decided to give birth to problem child #3 & #4. They were always on the cards, it was just a matter of when. We intentionally accelerated our plans for the events business in 2013 and got such positive responses that it was a natural progression and the timing just felt right. The reasoning behind the agency is that we noticed the seismic shift towards the use of visuals, bespoke commissions and artists creating full on A/V shows, but not too many agencies supporting that. Theres an incredible amount of intelligence in the scene now to the point where the term VJ is almost extinct because the skill set required now is more based around animation, CGI, 3D Modelling, mapping and graphic design, none of which are easy skills to pick up. There’s also a large crossover point whereby the artists are appreciated just as much in the arts-driven installation world as much as they are in the underground club scene so it’s all healthy, one day you can be creating an installation for a very art driven event such as MIRA festival in Barcelona, the next day smashing out 4×4 in a London based warehouse.
/ Was it always the plan to eventually support and manage artists as part of a comprehensive events company or did this idea come later?
The plan was to bring a bit of what I had experienced in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester to Suffolk now that it was my home town, and try to inject a bit of culture and life into the place. On paper we wanted to “establish an outlet for forward thinking electronic music in the East of England”, which I would like to think we have achieved. As a vision it was left pretty open ended as it was always going to be difficult to measure what success actually meant. Delivering three large scale events and introducing Âme, Sian & Tom Demac to a town that does not have a techno scene was always going to be viewed as ambitious, but now seems a significant point in the journey. The agency I suppose is just a progression of this success, why stop at just an events company when you have built up excellent relationships with the artists, why not support them with your events platform and in turn support their material?
At the end of the day we don’t really want to be seen as just an events company, just a label, or just an agency. The events company had to happen first to get us where we are today. Essentially we have formed a very competent family of artists, such that we can do everything in house, if we want to launch a new A/V show, commission, installation, PR campaign, rebranding exercise, new video, or new EP it can all be done in-house because we have acquired the right people with the right outlook. So I would say we are more of an entity or moving mass, than a rigid business with sub-divisions. We may morph again in 2014 but when you start seeing our own brand of headphones on the shelves you know we’re done!
/ 2013 seemed to be pretty successful for you guys, and a lot has been going on behind the scenes since the end of your season, has much changed in your vision since starting out?
The vision is still the same but we can now switch our focus from the established events side of the business to the more release focused side of the label, which will be supporting releases of visual material as well as audio. I’m a big believer in having a vision, you read that book on the dude that invented KFC, Colonel Sanders? He had that idea when he was twenty years old and didn’t sell his first franchise until he was sixty-five, bit extreme, but that is true belief in your vision, impressive book, you should read it when you get five.
/ The brand seeks to deliver a truly holistic experience to its audience. How important are aspects like visuals and the physical space in which you hold your events?
Physical space is everything, people are seriously tired of the same old formulae. A great backdrop these days is hard to find and poses major challenges but the benefits are worth the extra effort. I look up to people like Atonal in Berlin, and Anti-VJ, both producing phenomenal events, mixing amazing architecture with visuals and the more considered/abstract side of electronic music.
/ In today’s landscape A/V setups seem to be becoming both more crucial but also more sophisticated and you’ve got some really talented visual artists working with you at Derelicht. Are these events just as much a showcase of the visual arts as it is the music?
I couldn’t agree more, its only been these last few years whereby the visual element has really started to gain appreciation, and rightly so, as people don’t see the amount of work that goes into a visual set. I therefore like to give both centre stage, after all both compliment each other. There is absolutely no bias in the agency at all over audio or visual, infact we all collaborate together often supporting each other and reviewing each others work. I encourage our artists to use the events to trial new technologies and techniques, it’s an amazing asset we have and will help them reach their goals quicker i think.
It had been on my list for some time but I had my reservations due to the capacity. Our events last year started to hit the 400/500 mark but I didn’t really want to hold that size an event for the agency launch. 250 is much more manageable and will create a more immersive and intimate experience for all. St Peters met that brief perfectly and words can’t describe how good that space is. Can I just add that everyone at St Peters has been amazing to work with, really understanding and more than willing to support us in our vision.
/ Out of all of the venues you held an event at last year, which one was your favourite?
It has to be RAF Bentwaters for me, the place is phenomenal, acoustically when you walk in it’s actually sub-quiet if you get my drift, it’s quite wary and disorientating. The place acts like an anechoic chamber as it was originally built to suppress the noise of jet engines, so the acoustics were pin sharp, ask Tom Demac, he had a word or two to say on that place!
/ Location/setting plays a huge part in shaping your events. What are the challenges in trying to find the right location for your parties?
It’s tough but I think with any business if you can create something that others can’t replicate then you’re definitely onto a winner. Finding venues is generally the easy part, finding out who the owner is, securing them, making them accessible and getting them licensed is the black art.
/ If someone asked if you could run a successful clubbing brand in Suffolk, focused on a music policy of deep, industrial techno and awe-inspiring venues, people would call them crazy. What made you jump into this?
/ How and when did the idea for Derelicht come about? Had it been on your mind for some time before you started working on it or was it more of an impulsive thing?
I’ve lived in Suffolk for ten years now, so I suppose it had been bubbling away for the best part of that. Ive always ran events but in larger cities such as Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield. I suppose the majority of the idea was born out of frustration, I have a tough week like everyone else and really wanted something to engage with at the weekend, which simply just didn’t exist in Suffolk. I got Xmas 2012 out of the way and literally started drawing up proposals on Jan 2nd, had a meeting with the council on the 3rd, bought the domain on the 4th and by the 5th Derelicht was born and VAT registered!
/ You have a strong, clearly defined brand and communicate this very well. Was it this clear from the outset or has it been evolving since the beginning?
Why, thank you! The brand and the outlook have been very clear from the outset, my day job has taught me a lot about business cases, visions and consistency, so I know the value in having strong foundations and spreading a consistent message. I’m not saying all those over-thought methodologies are applied piece-meal, but it’s nice to be able to dip into the old toolbag now and again, when I want to.
/ To put it lightly, you’ve had to overcome some pretty difficult challenges in order to put on Derelicht events. Are there times where you’ve thought it would be easier to close shop?
Every single day, we’ve had some severe challenges from having to conduct asbestos surveys, to having to appear in court to justify licensing criteria, it’s been heavy at times, but if it was meant to be easy though we would all be doing it right?
/ But really, brands like Derelicht seem ever more vital in such a clinical, homogenised clubbing landscape…
Are we vital or do we just drive innovation to fuel the larger scene? Apologies for throwing this one back at you but ultimately I think we all need alternatives, it’s just nice to be able to provide that self-funded alternative without having to answer to anyone financially or creatively, if we’re seen as vital then thats a real bonus and thanks for the compliment!
/ Musically what have been the biggest influences on the “Derelicht” sound?
James Holden, Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm
/ Where do you see Derelicht going in the future? Have you thought about moving into cities like Manchester and London?
We’ve thought about it but at this stage it would only be if we got invited or asked to partner with someone, London seems saturated at the moment so; Berlin or Barcelona would be my preference.
/ And what have you got in store for us for the rest of 2014?
Derelicht EP, D001 comes out shortly featuring new music by The Soft, Killawatt and ThermalBear, this will absolutely blow any preconceptions away on the label as it doesn’t have an insurgent house or techno vibe but more of an abstract gritty feel to it. Plus there will be a visual EP to accompany the release, with each track having its own video. Rest of 2014 will be played by ear but it’s wise to expect more events, a release here and there and exciting new locations.
/ Thanks for chatting with us. Looking forward to Saturday!
Wake me up Monday when its all over!