Selective Hearing is one of the most revered club nights in the north. Founded in 2010, they regularly book high quality lineups in both Manchester, where it all began, and Leeds. Their recently compiled list of past artists reads like a who’s who of the last four years of house, techno and bass music. For their 4th birthday celebrations, they are planning 4 parties, two in each city. Our writer John Hardy caught up with the founder, Hugo Monypenny, for a chat about each city’s plus points, resident DJs and some of their disasters over the years.
JH: First and foremost, let’s talk about the upcoming parties. What gave you the idea to put on a series of events rather than just the one celebration?
HM: It really came about because we didn’t want to stick with the normal format which we’ve gone with in previous years: separate birthday events in either city. They’ve always felt a bit separate, plus a bit messy having two birthdays, who does that!?
So yeah, we came up with the idea of doing four parties, over four months, to celebrate all the years SH has been running. Also we wanted to encompass all the parties we’ve done in that time, including the series of events we did in Bath, the one off in London & Newcastle and the collaborations we have done with Abandon Silence in Liverpool. If we were really on our game I reckon we’d of liked to of done a birthday event down in London, maybe even abit of a tour, but we’re not and we ain’t.
I don’t want you to take the limelight off the other nights, but is there one of the four lineups that you’re particularly looking forward to?
It’s hard to say really, pretty much the sole reason we put on parties is so we can see the acts we book, selfish, but that’s how it started. Although financial costs are more of an issue these days, we still abide by the same ethos, so we’re looking forward to all of them. We’d like to think the way we’ve put together the parties, there’s a bit of something for everyone.
Obviously I’m over the moon we managed to book both Prosumer and Mano on the same line up, two DJs we’ve been head over heels about for years. Since the first time I saw Mano at iDiOSYNC in Manchester way back when, I’ve been hooked on his sets, and Prosumer is a legend in the game. Then Shed is one of my favourite producers, someone we’ve wanted for ages so to finally be able to book him is a great feeling, and Clouds are one of the hottest properties in techno at the minute and Clark, well, Clark is Clark.
The same applies to the events in Leeds, after putting on Vakula last summer, we knew we had to get him back, he’s a brilliant DJ and his productions just keep getting better, and I reckon he’ll go perfectly with Trus’me. I suppose though if I had to pick one I’m most excited about then it’s probably Ron Morelli, Kowton & Palms Trax. Ron Morelli is at the top of his game right now, and after witnessing his DJ set last year at Dimensions Festival first hand, there was no two ways about it, we had to get him on. Put him with up and comer Palms Trax, who we’ve previously booked before as Drop/Dead, and the man of the moment Kowton and Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s ya aunt, bish bash bosh, it’s gonna go off.
What differences do you find between Leeds and Manchester crowds? Are their certain lineups you wouldn’t try book in one city but would the other?
It’s hard to say because, I think the brand is bigger in Manchester, so people trust us more with our bookings, and if we book some acts that aren’t massive, people will still know that if they come down the music will be on point and they’ll have a quality night. So I’m a lot more akin to taking risks in Manchester. Leeds is a little less up for experiencing the unknown I find, which is something we’ve found out the hard way. I think Manchester has more of an educated scene than Leeds, that’s not to say Leeds doesn’t have its heads, cos obviously it does but I just think you’re more likely to sell out a party in Manchester that’s a little left field than the same lineup in Leeds.
I would be a brave man to try a full on techno line up in Leeds, but then that’s something we’re doing, so either I’m brave or just don’t heed my own advice, I think it’s a bit of both.
You’ve had some pretty bad luck with venues recently. The Garage shut down completely out the blue the night before your somethinksounds takeover and in December your Manchester warehouse event was called off, given a ray of hope and then cancelled again. What’s made you choose Gorilla and Wire for these events, and will they be permanent fixtures in the future?
Yeah, fuck me November & December were stressful months to say the least, they took a lot out of us! Wire, we’ve always been a fan of, we like to have our DJs play on good sound systems, systems fitting of the artists talent, so Wire was a no brainer really. The system is impeccable, and I’ve been going to their since I was about 16 and don’t think I’ve ever had a bad night there, except for that one time, that one time was terrible.
In Manchester, we really wanted to do something bigger, something to reflect what we feel we’ve given to the city over the past few years, we also wanted to book some of the bigger names on the spectrum, and obviously with DJs inflated fees these days it wouldn’t be viable to do these shows in a 300 capacity venue. Gorilla is also probably the best medium-large venue in the city at the minute, one which could accommodate these line ups without breaking the bank on hire fee anyway!
We like to keep a little nomadic these days, it serves to be a little more exciting for the punter when you’re off to a different venue each month. Although we have a couple more shows planned at Wire, and potentially a couple more at Gorilla, we’ll still be moving about.
If I’m correct, of the 10 headliners booked over the four events, only Vakula, Clouds & Kowton have previously played for you. One thing I have noticed when looking back on your past lineups, you’ve done some bookings for pretty low key events with artists who are now headlining and selling out much bigger nights all over the country. How important is it for you to keep the focus on newer artists?
When the night first started, there was a bit more of an emphasis on booking one big act, one small and one medium sized act. But now we’re not really so conscious we’re doing it, we just book guys we like, if they blow up, they blow up, if they don’t they don’t, we’ll still think they’re sick. One thing we have always tried to do is make sure each guest is different, playing a different style of music, to keep things interesting. We’ve also had a lot of luck I think, I’d like to say it’s all down to our insane musical predictions, but we’ve just been at the right place and the right time. In fact no scrap that, it’s all down to our insane musical predictions, always, always.
Recently there has been a lot of chat in the press about the death of the art of the resident DJ. I have been really impressed over the past year with the Transmission Collective boys at your events. They seem to have got the warm up vibe completely nailed. What have you looked for when sourcing your residents over the years?
Yeah, Tranny Collective are alright aren’t they. To be honest, we’ve never really actively gone on the hunt for residents, we’ve always just mutually come across each other. Although saying that we’re not going to give any Tom, Dick & Harry a residency, we need to know that they’re a sick DJ, being a bad ass producer helps aswell. We were introduced to the Transmission Collective lads through them Bondax lads. I randomly met Reflec at a party in my first year of Uni, when in the early stages of planning the nights. Bam is the co-founder of the brand. Versa was recommended by Reflec and getting Ste Roberts on board stemmed from a very drunk conversation at one of our parties. We’ve been quite fortunate in who we’ve had representing the brand and how we’ve come about meeting everybody.
Over your four years of experience, what have been your best and worst moments putting on nights?
Worst experience, there have been a few, to say the least. One that obviously still runs sore is the December 7th warehouse party in Manchester, being told by the venue literally 30 minutes before your due to load the sound system in, that you can no longer do it there, even after basically sorting everything out for the venue (we’re talking door staff, alcohol, sound system..all they needed was a few bar staff), cuts very deep, especially as we’d worked so hard to re-arrange it!
In October we did another Warehouse party, it was fucking banging, but what most people don’t know is we didn’t get into the venue til 8.30, giving us 2 and half hours to set absolutely everything up, that’s clearing the whole space (2 floors), carrying a stupidly heavy sound system up 4 flights of stairs, sorting toilets out, the system, sound checking, you name it, we had to sort it, and in 2 and a half hours it was stress to say the least! We had to get a locksmith out to break the lock cos the key we had was bust, I split my finger open on razor wire trying to break in round the back. In hindsight it’s pretty jokes, but at the time I was vexing. We also had to wire everything up from two floors below from one extension lead, and we didn’t have time to sound check any of the guests, (two of them were playing live). We absolutely winged it all night, but somehow managed to pull it off, and I reckon it’s safe to say that parties gonna go down as one of our best, if not definitely the sweatiest.
Other disasters.. Skudge’s live set, I kinda forgot to properly read over the tech spec until the day of the event, sourcing like 20 EU to UK power adapters with about an hour till we sound checked was not cool, their set up is ridiculous. Having to cancel the somethinksounds party was a nightmare too, I’m sure there have been plenty more to be honest, more times it’s gone wrong than right, ha, but that’s the fun of it, you gotta love a risk and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.. I hope.
Are there any future plans you can disclose?
Well we’ve just confirmed two massive techno DJs for the 30th & 31st of May in Manchester & Leeds, doing a bit of a ‘Selective Hearing weekender’, we’ve got some other great bookings coming up, and hopefully another trip down to London towards the summer. We’re also involved with a few festivals like Gottwood, Dimensions & potentially a few more…
Finally, what would your dream lineup be and where would you put it on?
Gold Panda live
Daphni b2b Four Tet
Midland b2b Ben UFO
I think that would be alright…
Where would we do it? in a quarry somewhere with an unreal sound system and visual 3D mapping on the quarry walls, that’d be fucking sweet, unrealistic, but sweet. Or the Moat at Fort Punta Christo, still searching for my mind that I lost there last year, anyone sees it, give me a shout.
Cheers for your time, man.
– John Hardy