A year’s demise is a year to reflect. Just as all of our hopes, aspirations, successes and improvements were called upon, celebrated and cursed at the turn of the new year, so are those of Crilli Dnb – Belfast’s only dedicated drum & bass and jungle night – as they celebrate turning fourteen years old. Running any night for over ten years is a celebration, never mind it being a drum and bass event.
The North of Ireland, despite only being separated by two hundred and seventy-six miles of water, seemed to miss out on the mainland UK aesthetic that many parts of England have experienced. As drum and bass, jungle and grime reign supreme across the water, house and techno has been the order of the day for much of Ireland’s past. But, things are changing. I caught up with founder David Campbell and resident DJ Seamus Barnett to talk about the current popularity wave of breakbeat, stand out memories from the last fourteen years and THAT back-to-back between Chimpo and Fracture taking place this Saturday night at Ulster Sports Club.
How did you get into D&B and how did that lead to you starting your own night?
David: There was a guy that I went to secondary school with and his dad owned a shop in Bangor called ‘Underground Music’. He was hearing electronic music from an incredibly young age. Underground Music was
electronic music and punk, the two specialties! Ross was letting me listen to a lot of music from there, I didn’t know what the fuck it was. He got three tapes around Christmas time – one of them was by a band called The Osmands, Crazy Horses, and another was Goldie – Angel tape cassette single. At such a young age you don’t know what music is supposed to sound like. I can distinctly remember the Metalheadz logo – the white background and the blue skull – it sticks in your mind. My first time properly listening to drum and bass was probably when I was around 12 or 13. A record label called Moving Shadows used to do these compilations. They were 99p and you got ten tracks. Around then jazzy drum and bass was quite popular, but the compilations got progressively harder towards the end of each CD. Seamus: I came to it much, much later. I’m from Halifax, between Leeds and Manchester. There’s a pretty good scene for it over there. I would have been going to a lot of dubstep, drum and bass, jungle, glitch-hop and the UK
Funky/Garage stuff as well when I was around 18 or 19, but I didn’t get into it properly until I came to Belfast. I started going to the Crilli nights and got a set of turntables and totally threw myself into it.
When was your first party and when did Seamus end up linking up?
David: First ever gig was at the end of 2005 and came off the back of doing music technology in Bangor Tech. Part of the thing that drove me was that my friends would never let me DJ at their nights. I just kind of thought, alright then, I’m going to do it myself. It started with elements of hip-hop turntablism, house, techno, dubstep and would finish with me playing drum and bass at the end.
Seamus: I came here for uni and immediately started looking for underground electronic music nights. My first Crilli was Dom & Roland around four years ago in Black Box. I hassled Soupy a little bit and managed to win a DJ competition they were doing with another night. I started playing regularly and last year I really became a part of the team in terms of organizing and helping beyond just playing. Because it’s such a small scene here, people generally do want to help you. It’s not faceless people coming to the gigs, we know half the crowd every time.
Breaks are pretty in right now – how do you feel about it?
David: It’s a weird one. I think, maybe, through people like Special Request or Chase & Status if you’re taking it back a few years, breaks feel in right now. People are more conscious of it now than ever before. I’ve always been very passionate about trying to bring something new to Belfast. I’m always conscious of just doing breaks because everyone likes them. We’re always going to be 160bpm+. It’s great that it’s become popular in a way, as it’s introducing people to it who maybe wouldn’t have heard it before, and it’s driving people to become a little more intrigued with our night.
Seamus: I’ve noticed quite a few times now at techno nights that the DJ will usually start rinsing the jungle and faster tempo stuff for the last half hour.
David: You do wonder, is this just another brief fad or can we keep a few of these new listeners on board. It’s great to have new people showing interest in the scene, but you want them to stay and not just come to a gig then be into something completely different four months later. Convert them so to speak.
Seamus: I think there is. If you look at the rest of the UK scene, especially up North, drum and bass is basically what house and techno is to people here. I don’t see why things can’t shift here as well. It’s exciting. That’s one of things that makes us as passionate as we are about it, because we know how much potential it really has.
David: That’s why with Fracture and Chimpo, we’re thinking people are starting to get, let’s roll the dice. Fracture and Chimpo have been playing back-to-back, that 160bpm footwork/jungle stuff, for five years or more. It’s a real fantasy line up. We’re not getting any younger, fuck it, let’s put on something really special.
Do you feel Crilli has in any way influenced the electronic landscape of Belfast? Were there many drum and bass nights about before you came along? How did the city react to it initially?
David: There’s always been a crowd. We describe it as a motley crew of people at jungle nights. You have all your heads who have been into it since the 90’s, who were probably at Shine whenever they did a drum and bass second room every month, through to English students who come here to study and a sprinkling of a free party scene element to it, and just cool people of all ages.
Seamus: The crowd is very diverse. You’re not going to get two hundred students that are all out to get wrecked for the night. It’s nice in that sense, that people are there to put the music first.
David: We had a guy come over from Cambridge for the Calibre gig. He’s the biggest fan ever. I think he’s the guy that started a Calibre appreciation society on Facebook, it has like thousands of members! On a smaller scale, if you book a cool guest, you’re going to get people coming up from Dublin on the night bus as well. That’s cool, as that’s what I used to do when heading to Dublin for the night. Seamus: I enjoy that. When you’re in Dublin and people ask where you’re free, I feel that there’s this respect that you’ve come from up North. It’s the same thing whenever we meet someone from Dublin at our gigs.
Looking back at your parties, what are you most proud of? Stand out memories?
David: The tenth birthday was great. The parties weren’t happening as frequently at that time as it was just me doing it. There hadn’t been a drum and bass night in Belfast for a few months, so we booked Dom & Roland in the Black Box and it sold out. We did not know how to manage the place. The bar manager came over and was like, “how many people are in here?!”, and we were like “I don’t know!” That was a huge one. That was Liam Kelly
(Bass Invaders) first clubbing experience too. It’s cool that a few people were influenced by that night. Om Unit was a real nice one, Tomas brought in a really good PA and these floor monitors that actually made my
insides start to rumble when Om started playing. He was playing some real deep and dubby shit, it was really special. Seamus: Calibre was insane, obviously. He hadn’t played Belfast for a number of years, so to have him come and play The Menagerie – such an iconic venue for Belfast – playing to a sold out room. There was a proper buzz about that event. David: One of my favourite events was not necessarily drum and bass. We teamed up with Phil Lucas of Twitch to bring DJ Food over to Bangor for OpenHouse Festival, to do his Aphex Twin audio-visual show. The sound in that auditorium was incredible. We couldn’t believe that we got one hundred and fifty people into a venue in Bangor to watch a guy DJ loads of Aphex Twin. We lost money on that, not that much but it didn’t matter anyway. Sometimes you just need to do something because you really want to see it.
What’s the plan going forward?
David: I’m just really enjoying its natural growth. We’re definitely looking forward to the fifteenth birthday, it just feels like such a big milestone.
Seamus: There isn’t that many promotions in Belfast that have been around for 10+ years. That’s something in itself.
David: We’ve pretty much planned our first half of the year already. Seamus: Yeah, what we really wanted to do was going into this year with a strong focus on putting on these parties fairly regularly. We were falling into the trap of booking someone really good and then not throwing a party for around two months and you kind of lose that momentum. This year we’re definitely being more pro-active.
David: We want to keep quality really high – that’s why we’re trying out different venues and different styles. We want to keep it culturally positive. Anyone with four grand can throw some money at a booking, but it doesn’t mean it’s bringing any real value. We would never book someone that we weren’t into ourselves.
Crilli Dnb celebrate their fourteenth birthday this Saturday at Ulster Sports Club with Fracture and Chimpo. Join the Facebook event here.
Interview and article written by: Andrew Moore
Photography credit: Ryan Johnston.