Party hard in GlasgowForget London, forget Berlin: Glasgow is the true party capital of Europe. The Red Bulletin samples the combined power of sprint-paced parties and monastic wine with the city’s superstar DJ and local hero, Jackmaster
Glasgow is a city of extremes. It has the highest crime rate in all of Scotland, the lowest life expectancy in the UK, and some say it’s one of the least attractive cities in Europe. Glaswegian actor Billy Connolly once joked, “The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.”
And yet this city of almost 600,000 has become northern Europe’s boomtown for club music. Around eight years ago, local musicians such as Rustie and Hudson Mohawke broke through with their garish take on wonky hip-hop; today, they’re producing hits for rap icons like Kanye West.
And last year it was scene newcomer SOPHIE who helped more seasoned stars such as Madonna and Charli XCX find chart success.
James Murphy, frontman of New York dance-punk legends LCD Soundsystem, has equally extreme views on Glasgow: for him, it’s the best city in the world. “The crowd is really committed, one way or the other,” he says. “They’re your friend or your enemy; there’s no grey area. Glasgow crowds have been really generous to us, really going for it and giving us as much energy as they can, and that makes us play better.”
How does the city’s tarnished reputation tally with the intense creativity and party spirit of its inhabitants? What is this hidden pulse beneath the shabby exterior? The man partly responsible for its emerging party rep is Jack Revill, aka Jackmaster. Since 2006, the rough- voiced Glaswegian with the ’50s quiff has been bringing local talent to the world via his record labels, such as Numbers.
Revill also happens to be one of the most sought-after underground DJs on the planet – he came fifth in club music bible Resident Advisor’s Top DJs Of 2015 poll – and is behind the decks three times a week at the world’s hottest clubs, jetting between Ibiza, Berlin and his hometown with his trusty record bag.
To celebrate Revill’s 30th birthday, The Red Bulletin went to Glasgow to party with the Red Bull Music Academy alumnus and discover what – strict opening hours and Buckie, a legendary tipple brewed by monks, are just two factors – has shaped its unique club culture.
A low-lit burger joint in Glasgow’s West End. Film posters from Hollywood’s golden era adorn the dark red walls. Rock’n’roll classics waft tinnily from an old-fashioned jukebox. Jack Revill sips his cola and stares a little mournfully out of the fogged-up window.
Outside, the rain continues to fall. Two days ago, he was performing on a luxury cruise ship in the Caribbean. He wouldn’t have minded tagging a couple of days’ holiday onto his trip to paradise, but celebrate a milestone birthday without his crew? No way.
Jackmaster has hired one of the biggest clubs in the city for the occasion, and well-known fellow DJs including Skream and Oneman have confirmed they’ll be joining him. Local newspaper Evening Times has billed the night as “a riot of epic proportions”, and the 1,500 tickets sold out in the time it takes to read those words.
No wonder: the DJ is a hero in the city, because he can make any event – from an underground club night to a corporate party – rock like no one else. And he does all this with a glow of local pride.
“My life would be easier if I moved to London,” says Revill, “but Glasgow keeps me grounded. When you’ve performed in some big club in Europe in front of 5,000 people, it’s good to get back home and have your friends slag you off! The people here have a special sense of humour. You don’t get away with any diva nonsense.“
The taxi ride to the venue – SWG3, close to the River Clyde – takes us past dilapidated Victorian brick buildings covered in crumbling dirty-grey plaster. Revill points to a link between the level of decline in the city and the rise in the party scene.
“From an objective point of view, living here is sh-t,” he says. “There’s nothing to do in Glasgow. Unless you’re really clever and get good grades at school, you end up working in a call centre, getting f–ked up on a Friday night. Hudson Mohawke is a perfect example of someone who started making music as a kind of escape.”
The queue outside SWG3 stretches round the corner. Security guards in neon orange waistcoats try to herd the excited crowd into something resembling a line.
In spite of the rain and 4°C temperatures, women wear miniskirts and spaghetti-strap tops, apparently seeing no need for a jacket. “Scottish women are tough,” says the driver as Revill hauls his record bag onto his shoulder.
The 500m2 main section of the club, formerly a bonded warehouse owned by Customs & Excise, has all the charm of an underground car park. Six bare concrete pillars break up the space, and there are thick metal pipes running along the length of the ceiling.
Not that the aesthetics have done anything to dampen spirits. Heavy house beats boom from the two huge sound systems onstage. The party is already in full swing.
DJ Oneman plays the new Four Tet remix of Eric Prydz’s club anthem Opus. The track has a now-infamous five-minute break where the beat dies away, leaving just a synthesiser melody that builds in intensity.
It lives up to its reputation as an aural secret weapon: when the beat kicks back in, the place goes wild. Arms rise into the air, and those dancing close to the stage shake the crowd barrier. A stage-diver pushes against the sound system and almost brings it down.
The party has already been going for two hours, yet in Glasgow’s living rooms the evening’s primetime viewing hasn’t even begun. It’s already wilder here than it would be at primetime at a rave in Berlin. In fact, nowhere do parties go from 0-100 quicker than in Glasgow. The reason? Strict closing times.
Tonight, Sunday, the club shuts at midnight. On Friday and Saturday it’s 3am, with no exceptions. These laws were introduced in 1993 as a response to the high levels of drunkenness and violence in the city.
“That may seem provincial compared with London,” Revill roars over the throbbing noise, “but it’s these strict rules that make our parties so exuberant. The earlier the clubs close, the more people go for it. Parties in other cities are marathons.
Here, they’re sprints, driven on by an all-or-nothing lifestyle of excess. Nobody here has time. Nobody’s patient. Nobody waits at the bar for the party to get into gear. Everyone goes for it.
“Do you want to know how party animals get into the mood?” Revill asks. In his hand is a glass containing something black. Its taste is hard to describe, something like old Jägermeister mixed with cough syrup, and it takes some getting used to.
The mystery liquid is Buckfast Tonic Wine – or Buckie for short – a fortified drink that’s been made by monks in Devon since the 1880s. Originally marketed as a medicine, it’s now legendary on the Scottish party scene for its absinthe-like effects.
Revill arrives onstage atop Skream’s shoulders and the crowd goes wild. He surveys the scene with satisfaction, then starts his set with a pumping techno track. Oneman dances at the front of the stage and pours vodka straight from the bottle into revellers’ mouths.
Ten minutes in, Revill mixes a house track with a rock’n’roll number, blending the two so elegantly that few of the clubbers notice they’re on a musical journey through time.
Only when Chuck Berry’s guitar erupts and the famous refrain rings out – “Riding along in my automobile…” – does everyone recognise the classic. The crowd goes insane. Revill clambers up onto the decks himself and shakes his hips in time.
Revill’s protégé DJ Krystal Klear, fresh from a set on the second dancefloor, stands grinning next to the stage. “Jack is the George Best of the DJ world,” he says. “He’s a brilliant technician and a showman. That’s why people love him.” Revill doesn’t hide behind the decks. He’s part of the party and lets the crowd fête him.
The backstage area upstairs looks like someone’s flat the morning after the night before: wine stains on the white sofa, a man-sized teddy bear gagged with gaffer tape, a glass table strewn with half-drained plastic beakers, confetti on the floor.
Revill slumps on the couch, enjoying some peace and quiet while his friends dance on downstairs. “I love playing in Glasgow because the crowd gets the best out of me,” he says. These ‘sprint’ parties have shaped his mixing technique, too.
“With the local crowd, you’re always going for the drop; sometimes you’re dropping a new tune every minute. It’s very gratifying. People are constantly cheering and whistling.“
At midnight on the dot, the lights come on. The crowd make their feelings known, but security are unmoved, stony-faced. “You know the rules. Be off with you!” a red-bearded Viking-of-a-man in a neon waistcoat bellows. “Time to call a taxi,” says Revill.
Parties in Glasgow don’t always end so peacefully, he explains in the back of the cab; the city’s legendary Sub Club has low ceilings full of holes, because revellers would bang on them at the end of a night to applaud the DJ. “The Italian DJ duo Tale Of Us even took a piece of the ceiling home after their gig,” he grins.
On his way out, some friends invited Revill to carry on at a private after-party, but this time he gave it a miss. He has a gig the next day. No sooner does one party end than another begins.