Interview: Rory Colgan – Underland – Sound & Motion

With bookings ranging from disco-centric Stevie Wonderland, through techno faves Dense & Pika to garage legends RIP Productions, we thought it only appropriate to get Rory Colgan, booking & events manager at new abattoir-turned club Underland, to tell us how he does it:

You’ve got RIP Productions/Double 99 on at the next Sound & Motion. Constantly hearing RIP Groove about, it’s such a timeless song. How do you go about booking the artists? What’s the hardest part when securing a booking? 
RIP Groove certainly is a timeless song, I’d cite it as the watershed of garage into the mainstream culture. Regarding bookings we contact the agents, then it’s a lengthy process of agreeing a performance fee. RIP Productions was quite an easy booking to secure, their booking agent is Andy, who runs ice cream records, the label they have always released on, so it was quite a smooth process; he really liked the event too which is cool, I wish every booking we made was that easy.

Is it something you know will appeal to both students and older people or do you lean more towards the ‘classic old skool raver’ vibe?
The whole point of the Sound & Motion events is to pay homage to the scenes which have shaped the sound of UK dance music, so were really trying to re-create the original UK garage vibe with the line-up. The acts we have for the garage event rarely play in Manchester, Norris doesn’t even play out anymore, but luckily Alex (the director of the Rewind 4 Ever documentary) was able to get in contact with him so we were really lucky there. I’d like the event to appeal to the students as well as the older heads to be honest, I’m sure they’re all aware of RIP Groove, it’s just trying to get them to attend events with names they don’t see playing here every term which can be tough, I think there’s a certain sheep like mentality regarding a lot of the students choice of nightlife these days, which is a shame when you have so many people working hard in the scene to deliver something different. I’m really hoping this event has a broad appeal, creating nostalgia for some and education for others.

What does the Underland offer that enables it to book such ‘classic’ artists?
The club area has a really underground vibe to it, there’s no fancy decor just four concreted walls and our projections, which really add to the atmosphere once it’s packed, all of this is really enhanced by our amazing sound system courtesy of Neuron Audio. The hangar is a really cool space which provides a great counterbalance to the gritty heads-down vibe of the club area; the hangar certainly is one of the most vibrant spaces in Manchester! But yea we have had a really great feedback from all the artists who have performed here so far; Marshall Jefferson liked the space so much that he asked to come back and play sometime, so we must be doing something right!

What do you think of the resurgence of ‘warehouse’ venues, would you say Underland is an example of one? How is booking warehouse venues different from other clubs?
No, as mentioned, although the hangar has a warehouse vibe to it, we have added as much to it as possible in order to make it something special. Warehouse party is a buzz word which I’m growing kind of tired of now to be honest; a good venue is a good venue regardless. The WHP brought round the resurge the warehouse vibe years ago, and did a damn good job, however as a result of their success every major city has some super hip ‘warehouse’ venue, complete with poorly maintained porta loos, sparsely stocked bars and terrible sound installations. A good space is a good space regardless of whether or not people are trying to make it feel like a warehouse party (a well branded, fully licensed, ‘authentic’ Warehouse party). Booking in Underland was hard to start with because the venue is still becoming established, but we’re slowly but surely getting there regarding the reputation, March’s month of solid bookings demonstrates this!

What have you learnt from your previous jobs and how will this be used for Underland? What’s been your most stressful/rewarding experience at Underland and what has been your highest point so far?
I’ve been involved in running events in Manchester for several years, all I can say is that it’s a lot of hard work, but it can be equally rewarding when everything comes together, there’s a lot more to it than book a DJ, find a venue, print a flyer, which I think a lot of people fail to see. But yea to summarise it’s quite a stressful affair!

Regards to most stressful/rewarding experience I’d say the Gerald event – there was so many additional logistics with respect to making the cinema space – then we had to turn the hangar round after, it was basically the world’s fastest pop up cinema, but the whole event was a great success from start to finish, especially Gerald’s set, was great to see the basement packed full of people after all the hard work!

High point so far was probably the first Sound & Motion event which we did featuring Gerald, doing the documentary screening of high on hope prior to the club opening really made me realise how much we can do with the space, like I said before it’s a lot of work but it can be really rewarding! For me Gerald playing Adam F – Circles was the best part of that night, I wasn’t expecting to hear any jungle that night, so it was a pleasant surprise.

What does the future hold for Underland? 
We have a really busy month in March, some great bookings coming through, a lot more in house stuff will be coming as of September and our main goal for the time being is working on getting the venue established.

Any tips for aspiring events/booking managers?
It’s always good to think outside the box with your bookings, especially in such a busy scene, however you need to think smart and ensure a crowd too. With regards to bookings, it’s a case of trying to do something different because obviously there are so many nights on, bringing so many acts to Manchester but there’s also the risk element and it’s all within the nature of promoting events too!

Finally, if money was no object, what would be your ideal line-up?
Dizzee, Wiley, Slimzee. Simples.


– Kim Kahan


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