Slam’s Orde Meikle Talks Riverside Festival

Ahead of the return of the Riverside Festival, we spoke with Orde Meikle, one half of legendary DJ duo SLAM, about this years outstanding line-up, the crazy amount of work that goes into putting on a huge event like Riverside and possible future locations for Pressure. 

What acts should we make sure to catch at the Riverside Festival, who stands out?

Orde Meikle: All of them!

SVEN VATH. The ultimate showman. Never seems to fail for me when I see him. Always plays something I’ve not heard before. There’s a handful of DJs that I’ve ever come across that just seem to play something that you maybe have but the B side or another mix. When he plays it I’m like damn I missed that.

NINA KRAVIZ: Nina of course is a fantastic DJ. Been big supporters of her for quite a few years now. Just has her own vision musically. Always a surprise, great DJ, great tunes and always something different.

RØDHÅD: Rødhåd is Rødhåd. Loved every set I’ve heard him play. Plays things that sometimes surprise you because they’re kind of obvious in a strange way. It’s the way he puts it together that becomes so infectious. Great label with Dystopian as well.

ALAN FITZPATRICK… Just finished a remix for him which we sent over last week. We DJ’ed with him lat week in Ghent, Belgium in this kind of old factory space, old warehouse – huge ceilings, really long and thin. Fantastic gig, really enjoyed it. Great to see him and played that remix which went down well and he seems really happy with it. Again always nice to see him. Alan is someone who we’ve known for a long time through the Drumcode connection and various gigs we’ve did over the years.

SURGEON: A man who we signed to Soma 20 years ago or more. Again a true visionary of British techno, a man who never looks over his shoulder. It’s nice to have him live as well, his live set is really infectious. It’s quite a minimal set up in some respects – a couple of drum machines, a sequencer in a small briefcase sized modular rig. It’s just really groovy, really funky techno. Definitely one of the people who’ve been at the forefront of British techno for many years.

LEVON VINCENT: Well you know, ‘Man or Mistress’ what a song. Still finds its way into our sets even to this day – really infectious. Great DJ. You’re never sure what you’re going to get from Levon. I think some people try to pigeon-hole him into being a soft techno DJ or what have you. Really exciting to have him on.

ILARIO ALICANTE: Released on Soma, a Cocoon resident – DJ’ed with him last year at Cocoon in Ibiza and a huge open air thing in Milan at the tail end of last year. Always delivers as many of the Italian techno maestros do. Just seems to really get in a groove and just keeps building the intensity.

PAULA TEMPLE: Been a huge fan of hers for ages. Really pleased to have her on the lineup.

ANIMAL FARM: Local heroes. What can you say about the boys? [Laughing] Doing some great stuff, great label. Sunday. Slightly different angle with the Sunday.

GROOVE ARMADA: The only man I know that’s taller than me, at 7 foot the only person who I have to look up to. Good to have them on, got their own thing going on.

LOCO DICE: Another gentleman we seen move through the ranks, used to DJ with him years ago. He’s another real natural, when it comes to putting things together he has a real flow. He makes music sound more powerful than some of its elements. He’s got a little bit more techy like some of those who kind of floated in that tech-house scene who have come a little bit towards the harder side recently.

JACKMASTER: Another local hero. Meteoric rise, the ultimate party boy. You’re never surprised when you hear the story about some of his antics. Really pleased to see Jack doing so well, well deserved and very much has his own vibe, his own vision of music. He’s really helped mould the Sunday, his input’s been really important there.

DJ KOZE: Appears so many times on people’s favourite DJ lists. Another gentleman you just can’t pigeon hole. His productions are great and I’ve been playing quite a few of them recently. He’s got a little bit darker which falls into my remit.

ART DEPARTMENT: One of those house phenomena which has just grown and he’s huge in some territories whereas in others he’s not so well-known. A big one for the Resident Advisor parties, Croatia and places like that.

MR G: One of my heroes, so pleased to have him on. We’ve quite often met in the most bizarre of places. Very underground with a very recognisable sound. After he left The Advent he married that slightly more raw house edge with the soulful sampling. I think I have just about everything on his label. Possibly myself and Stuart, our sound has got a little bit darker recently but I still buy his stuff and in our lighter moments always play a Mr G record. He’s really in demand at the moment, doesn’t do that may gigs so it a real coup to get him up to Glasgow.

GEORGE FITZGERALD B2B SCUBA: Scuba again a really good friend, a big supporter of Soma and particularly Slam. Played at his Hotflush night last year at Sonar in Barcelona which was a great honour. A really interesting marriage there between George and Scuba which I think will be a real highlight of the Sunday.

DERRICK CARTER: In a different genre from us but he really is the turn-to housemeister. We did a gig at the Smart Bar in Chicago a couple of years ago and he came down with all of his party friends and we got riotous on cocktails. Irvine Welsh was there as well so you can imagine.

JASPER JAMES: One of those younger housemeisters along with Jack and son of our long time friend and college Harri from Sub Club. Really pleased Jasper is joining us.

I’m always rather perturbed with the way you sometimes have to lay out these names on a list, up and down. It makes some people look bigger – you know ‘I’m above this person’ and stuff like that, especially with Jasper being at the end. There’s no real order of priority in there. Every guest is equally as good as another.

A really strong Sunday I think and nicely different from the Saturday. But still the two days joined together you’ll get a really qualitative selection of music.

How long does it take to put together an event like this?

It’s a bit like T in the Park. Ritually the weekend after the festival had finished we were on the phone to agents saying how about this person for next year and that’s only got harder over the years with some of the bigger people having possibilities in their diaries maybe two and three years ahead.  Especially over the summer season with the big festivals all going for the same names. So this year the booking started mid to the end of the summer last year.

What agents tend to do is they’ll gather in a number of requests for a weeke
nd and then they’ll look down to see the amounts being offered, how close festivals are to each other – see if it’s possible to do an early set at one and then fly and do a late set somewhere else.  It means that sometimes you can be a couple of months before the festival and the agent still hasn’t made a call.

You think you’ve got the person and counting on that person to be in the lineup. It gets kind of torturous trying to create that kind of line up, the agents maybe ten or fifteen years ago were people that you knew from the scene. They were good blokes and obviously wanted the best for their artist. I think to be fair, at the top echelons of dance music now you’re up with agents that might work for Coldplay or something like that, there’s no love there at all it’s all about the bottom line.

I’ve seen a change in that respect so from a bookings point of view it can be really hard and in that respect I’m really happy with who we’ve managed to put on for this weekend. It’s the same weekend as Movement in Detroit so a lot of people are playing there.

So every summer over the last ten or fifteen years it’s got harder and harder as all these festivals spring up across Europe, America and the Far East. Some of the people at the top are really spoilt for choice to where they can go, how much they can demand.

Not having the Slam Tent this year did that change how you approached putting together Riverside? 

The T in the Park thing, well you know things have got to change, everything does. We did it for 19 years so it’s quite nice to have a bit of time. It really controlled our summer, we couldn’t do anything in the run up to it and then when T in The Park finished we all ran away for quick holidays so it’s quite nice not to have that pressure hanging over you.

The word is it’s coming back next year so we’ll wait and see if we’re back and involved, I don’t know but I think it made the Riverside all that more important and special to get as good a line-up as we could for it.

With the proliferation of cheap home studios and ease of getting music out and available to the world have you noticed a change in the variety or influences of music?

Absolutely, I find it really hard to keep up with what’s coming out, that’s the problem. You’ve got to resign yourself to missing stuff, there is a limit to how much you can listen to if you have other things in your life and you’re not stuck in a room listening to music all the time.

I did an interview a couple of days ago actually where I said that the reason we started Soma back in the early 90’s was to put out music. It wasn’t to make money back, that wasn’t the priority it was more about putting music out that we felt had something to say or was a bit different. I think there’s a real plethora of labels now that enjoy the same sort of vision in some respects.

They’re putting out music they believe in, they think is advancing the cause, slightly different. It’s not about enhancing the bottom line, facilitating them getting a bigger car or moving to bigger offices or what have you. So from that point of view there’s far more labels on the scene that have the same ethos as Soma now.

I think that as you say the democratisation of the production of music and the software and being able to get it up on the web very quickly and not having to go through record pressing and stuff like that has removed some of the filters that exist that some people might argue allowed better stuff to actually make it to the finished stage.

But I’m not 100% sure that that’s a valid argument, what with the bigger pot of music there’s bound to be more good stuff for people who are looking for a particular sort of sound. I think it’s been a good thing that more people can make music, that more people can be let hear it and at the end of the day it’s for the listener to make their mind up and the less hurdles you can put between the musician and the producer of the music and the listener the better.

Why do you think that for techno being such a mechanical genre does it bring out such an emotional response from so many?

I think it’s such a global language now more so than other forms of dance music. Techno is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance now. I can remember a number of periods in the last 20 or 25 years where techno became quite a dirty word and quite unfashionable. I was speaking to Jeff Mills about this, Jeff’s done an exclusive track for Soma 25 and I think one of the reasons he said he wanted to do something for Soma was because he remembered the mid 90’s when it became quite hard for him to come to the UK.

A lot of promoters weren’t interested in supporting his style of music whereas with Soma and what we do as promoters we did.  I also remember another period when minimal came in, the whole Richie Hawtin and Minus thing and totally cleared out a lot of techno performers and producers.

I remember France, in particular Paris, you couldn’t get a gig for two or three years, they weren’t interested in techno – it has to either be on Minus or it had to be minimal.  France and Paris now are enjoying a fantastic young techno scene, some of the producers and clubs are great now.  I’d like to think that these people have a vision that goes beyond and it doesn’t have a stylish element to it.  “That was yesterday, I’m not into that anymore now I’m into this”, now I’m into Brazilian Samba or something.  It just seems really shallow and really style driven so I would like to see that not happen.

Not that it doesn’t in a way help music move forwards, music always has to evolve but it’s the way that they really turned off was really worrying to see.  The good thing about techno is that in some respects it’s a genre of music that doesn’t demand or want to be liked.  It’s not interested in everyone liking it, it doesn’t want to become super popular.

In the early days it was very much that electronic marriage of the electronica – the Depeche Mode’s and the European electronic movement with a lot of people in America’s predominance of a kind of soul and disco upbringing in music. It was the marriage of that. You hear that even in techno today.

It has become a universal language, Argentina and South America has a vast techno scene and China’s started to grow one, Japan’s always had one. Australia is a little bit MixMaggy and still caught up in that style of music. They look at the European magazines and just cherry pick.

Favourite venues?

Non Scottish, let’s go for Berghain in Berlin. It’s a bit of a cliché and it’s been number one in magazines and stuff but I find that the venue is really inspiring. The shape of it the height of the ceiling, the sound system is fantastic. The entrance policy is fantastic, they’re not interested in packing in as many people as they want, the door price is quite low.

It reminds me of years gone by when clubs had a door policy. It seems like anyone who’s bought a ticket you just let them in. The overriding thing about the venue is the musical open-mindedness of the crowd – you really can play things and go on journeys there that you would find hard to do pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Favourite Scottish venue is one that hasn’t actually opened yet. Apart from The Arches and the Sub Club for me, Sub Club is my home where I first started clubbing, Arches is where I spent most of my DJ career in Glasgow growing up. SWG3 has been a fantastic place to move to because of the control we have been able to exert over the sound system and various other bits and bobs.

There’s a new site being developed called The Galvanisers which is to the side of SWG3 which is a long thin high ceilinged concert space. We were in seeing it the other week, for me I was really excited about that. The thought of doing Pressure in there seems right. We have a load of ideas that we’ve taken from other gigs that we’ve done on our travels and we have some really strong ideas of about how we want a venue that we take on to look like.

The Galvanisers seems to tick a lot of boxes. We’re looking at a lot of spaces across Glasgow that we’ve got interest in for doing one off parties so I suppose to be fair my favourite Scottish venue is one I’ve still to find.

Anything else you would like to mention?

The Soma 25 Triple Vinyl Box Set is dropping very soon, it’s been almost three years in the offing. That will be an exciting time for us all to actually see the hard copies come through. We’ve already had multiple requests, people like Sven Vath and various other people asking us to keep them a copy so there’s a bit of demand already there. That’ll be happy days when that arrives.

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