We sat down with London-based DJ and producer Imogen ahead of her return to Dublin for #SAVETHENIGHT on September 29th – a club night hosted by Jägermeister and The Shed Residents, with Dr. Rubenstein. The WIGS boss delves into the importance of community-driven club nights, the effect of the cost of living crisis on the London scene, the importance of staying humble and more.
UK native Imogen Richmond better known as Imogen grew up on a diet that consisted of rave-soaked techno, breaks and gritty club rhythms. Some of her earliest memories were spent driving through Southampton with the top down soaking in the sounds of Plump DJs, Stanton Warriors and The Prodigy. Imogen’s mother’s longstanding love of rave was the catalyst for her daughter’s meteoric climb in the UK techno scene.
The WIGS boss recalls her mum’s weekly cleaning ritual that still somewhat haunts her today, yet brings back fond memories. “We’d have acid house Sundays when my mum would just play acid house because that was the only thing she could clean the house to. So we’d be trying to clean the house and it was like torture, but when I got a bit older, say 14 or 15, I started to listen to more commercial house and I was always the one putting the tunes on at house parties.”
At the tender age of 16 Imogen had already decided that she wanted to pursue music as a career and made the move to London to study music production. Studying under Ben Pest, Imogen was quickly exposed to a whole new brand of crushing techno and electro, which would pave the way for early clubbing experiences at Corsican Studios with Jaded Sundays becoming a weekly pilgrimage.
She first cut her teeth in the London scene through a radio residency on Radar Radio, which was a pinnacle moment for the young selector. Imogen secured a slew of high-profile guest mixes, including contributions from Ryan James Ford, Sync 24, UMWELT, and Fran Hartnett, to name a few. When she reflects on inviting these revered DJs to guest on her show, she credits her gutsy attitude and hard work, as well as some assistance from her friend Tony from Radar. While Imogen has since moved to NTS Radio, she still credits her courageous demeanour for her early success and keeps this in mind when managing her own requests today.
“If someone is really into my music and stuff, and they want me to do something, I probably will say yes because it’s still nice. People normally do say yes, which is cool.”
The London-based artist’s career took a slightly different trajectory from most artists in terms of obtaining industry-standard success quite early in her career. The young artist recognises that her ascendance in the techno scene came quick and fast, and credits her meteoric rise to finding the right balance between studio grit and dancefloor experience.
Imogen reflects on her debut release on Sunil Sharpe‘s esteemed Earwiggle imprint which came at just 19. The young producer was nestled in between a horde of Function 1’s at Corsica Studios, two-stepping to the sounds of Tinfoil live [Sunil Sharpe and DeFeKT] when she thought “I think Sunil’s going to like these songs I’ve made. So I literally messaged his Facebook page, and he got back the next day to said that he liked one, and he wanted to sign it.”
Imogen’s follow-up release on Earwiggle saw her showcase one of her most accomplished bodies of work to date, as she teamed up with former college tutor, Ben Pest, for a collaborative EP. The ‘Volts’ EP galvanised Imogen’s production repertoire, unleashing one of the most sought-after techno EPs during the Covid period. The pair’s workflow runs in sync, and their studio ethics seem to coincide with how each other likes to work as they dive into the studio with a hands-on approach, quickly laying down ideas to refine later. “I find with both of us that we just like to get it done, and we’re not perfectionists, so we just get stuff finished up quickly. We both like a lot of the same things, so it just works really well.”
We continue to chat about Imogen’s connection with Ireland, which seems integral to her success today, as she reflects on the importance that Sunil has had on her career, as well as Shampain who booked her for one of her first shows in Galway. Recently Imogen returned to Galway from the debut G-TOWN RECORDS Festival at The Big Top, which was one of the most important techno showcases of the year in Ireland. “It kind of felt like for 360 moment to come back to Galway after Cóilí had booked me and see them [Shampain and Kettama] do that. It was so euphoric.”
“There’s so much conflict between live music and dance music, so it was great that everything went really smoothly and it sold well. I think it’s actually shown that the Irish government has to show more respect to the electronic music scene. It just doesn’t get treated as proper music.“
Imogen speaks passionately about breaking down barriers for both younger artists and promoters within the techno scene in the UK.
“I don’t understand exclusivity with smaller and middle-tier artists. I don’t think there’s really that much damage if they’re going to be playing a sold-out show in a massive venue anyway. I don’t understand why younger and up-and-coming promoters can’t book these artists for a normal budget. I think it’s important to give new promoters the space to run these shows.“
“DJs need to understand that your fees are gonna vary and the promoter is taking a risk in booking you. It’s important to know your worth, but you need to be able to kind of balance yourself in between these big promoters that are earning loads of money and the smaller promoters that are keeping the scene alive.”
Imogen echoes the importance of looking after the local scene, and not just chasing the massive shows. The London-based artist has had the opportunity to strip things back and play a lot more local shows in more intimate venues, which is in contrast to a hectic touring schedule which consisted of back to back big room shows.
“I’ve done a lot of small headline club shows, which I really liked. When you’re the third person on the lineup or whatever, you don’t really think people are there for you, even if they are. I always found I was nervous to play what I wanted because there were headliners. So this year I’ve had the chance to play for the right parties which has definitely helped me hone in on what I want to play a lot more.”
A stint of teaching music production over Zoom during Covid combined with a desire to build clubbing communities within different cities led Imogen to build her own brand, WIGS. The community-based initiative is built on the ethos of forming a like-minded affinity within the techno scene, taking inspiration from years in education as well as touring, Imogen was compelled to craft something she could identify fully with. From idiosyncratic lineups to pre-gig workshops, WIGS is a home for like-minded people across the board.
“We did a workshop in Milan and loads of people came in on their own and then we had a dinner before the night started and we could see people start to make friends, and then I could see them at the end of the night all hanging out. When I first got to London I felt like this was missing, I didn’t feel like I could go out on my own because there were loads of cliques already. So I wanted to kind of bring that idea into it.”
The idea of giving back to the dance music community is very much central to Imogen’s longevity as a DJ, she sees WIGS as an opportunity to create something more enjoyable and sustainable, rather than just mindlessly touring. The social aspect of touring with friends, and building communities from place to place makes the somewhat chaotic lifestyle more viable.
“I could honestly go a week without speaking to anyone if I wanted to, I could sit here and make tunes and then go to my gig and not speak to anyone. But if I was to do that I’d just end up so depressed, and I don’t want to do that.”
Imogen is very aware that she’s in a lucky position to be able to tour and make music as a living, and she feels she has some sort of duty to give back to the community. Remaining humble and down to earth is vital to the continuation of her success, and she’s mindful that it’s not a solo mission within music.
“Just because you’re a DJ doesn’t mean you’re better than everyone else, it’s literally a job. So many people have the same love and the same talent, so just try and give back as much as you can and don’t be a dick.“
Playing across various scenes and cultures, Imogen touches on the importance of being locked into a night and totally immersed in the music. Imogen reflects on playing in places like Georgia or Ukraine and how the social and political movements happening in these countries have affected the club culture.
“I find that in countries where something is happening politically or there’s been a war in the past, or when they haven’t had the freedom, their parties are so amazing. People are literally fighting for their freedom by going out and it feels like they’re actually partying for a reason.”
Imogen speaks about the UK and Irish scene, and the challenges young DJs and promoters are facing as they try to carve out their own story amidst a cost of living crisis.
“If you’re a new person starting out, and you want to book an artist, you might end up spending £2,000 on budget, flights, or whatever. To actually have that upfront money is a big help”
“For younger promoters, I think the best is to try to get co-promotions, that way you don’t have to take the full hit yourself. If you can get a bigger promoter or club owner to trust you, that’s a really good way to start.”
“It would be nice to see more movements and big crews forming together. If you’ve got four promoters working together, there’s gonna be a vibe, and you’re gonna get regulars, and that’s what I want to do with WIGS. I want to find a home for it and create a core community.”
As we draw towards the end of our conversation Imogen speaks about her WIGS parties in Milan which perfectly encapsulate what she’s trying to convey with the brand. Milan represents the closest thing to a home for WIGS thus far, and the people, party, location and vibe all feed into each other, like a perfect community that Imogen is trying to express through her new venture. It’s clear that Milan is a representation of something much more than the music itself, it’s a home for those on the fringes of society, a breeding ground for the new, the bold, the daring and a place that Imogen is trying to build for her younger self.
“People are really waiting for the party there and that excites me so much. The venue used to be a squat and now it’s a really established club but the morals have always stayed the same. They do a lot of free workshops and have a market there, and that really ties in with Wigs, so I would say that Milan is kind of the home right now even though it’s a London-based party.”
We’re very excited to catch Imogen’s set as she returns to Dublin with Jägermeister, The Shed Residents and Dr. Rubenstein for #SAVETHENIGHT: Irish Edition – a techno club night taking place September 29th in Here & Now. Get your tickets HERE, and learn more about Jägermeister’s #SAVETHENIGHT campaign to support nightlife communities across the country.