Nextup Clubnight: Groove Kitchen (Tom Laidler)

In February of this year, the team that has bought us the much loved club night Hi-Ku, decided to throw us a slightly different party. With an emphasis on Afrobeat and tropical house vibes, Groove Kitchen debuted with Auntie Flo and has slowly been gaining traction. We caught up with co-head honcho, Tom Laidler ahead of their upcoming night at Joshua Brooks, where their residents will be joined by Bambooman and the highly touted Mo Kolours.

Let’s start with what and why. When you started Groove Kitchen, what kind of party where you trying to throw and what was the thought process behind putting on a night like this – how does it differ from your other HiKu venture?
The main aim, as with any party really, was just to do something fun.  Groove Kitchen was actually kicked off by a friend up in Newcastle, Jack Pearce; he ran a few parties there and even brought Gilles Peterson over for one. When it moveddown to Leeds and Manchester I jumped on board to help get things started and we kicked off with the Auntie Flo gig. Funnily enough I was flicking back through some photos of that party today, I’d forgotten just how good it was! Esain particular was sensational so things really started on a high. Around 3 years beforehand I’d discovered Soundway Records and their compilations and was blown away by the sounds they covered. At the time I was DJing at the Knockout Neds parties and we were always on the hunt for stand out records from all corners of the globe. I’ve got to give a shout to Nick Adelaide who was a great DJ at those parties and always seemed to unearth the best finds. After Ned’s ended I felt there was a big gap in both in the Manchester club scene and in my own musical exploits. Although the parties are different in many ways it was a no brainer to get involved with GK.

I’d say the only real difference from Hi Ku is that the music policy is more specific, with the focus on grooves with an organic feel and an aim to bring in more direct influence from continents other than Europe and North America. Given that worldwide policy I think the view from the outside may be that Hi Ku is the one with a narrower spectrum. People have a tendency to put things in boxes and in many minds we’re probably stuck in the ‘house’ or ‘Detroit’ box with that one when the Hi Ku policy is simply anything that’ll get people dancing. There hasn’t been one track played at GK yet that I wouldn’t drop at Hi Ku but that certainly isn’t true the other way round. Either way the main principle of both parties is to get people shaking their limbs.

Why ‘Groove Kitchen’?
You’ll have to ask Jack for an answer on that one! Thinking about it now though grooves are one of my favourite things and the kitchen is one of my favourite places so I’m happy with it. Plus it’s always fun to make puns about cooking up beats and bringing spice to the dancefloor. Fair play…so many puns to be made!

With regards to HiKu, is there any cross over in terms of ideas and residents? Have you learnt any lessons from one which you’ve put into the other?
Yeah there’s cross over for sure, I’m always getting in trouble from the Hi Ku lot for trying to bring bookings we’ve discussed to Groove Kitchen! Hi Ku was a steep learning curve for us. We just wanted to play music to our pals and in 3 parties we went from booking our mates to flying in Kyle Hall from Detroit for an album launch. We’ve just picked it up as we’ve gone along and thankfully managed to avoid any major disasters, despite Terrence Parker’s best efforts.  I now feel we’re at the point where we want to step it up a notch and work on the aesthetics of both events. With both nights being run solely by DJs that’s something that’s been neglected a bit until recently and I’m looking forward to working on improvements.

And how have you managed promoting and organising two nights in the rather competitive Manchester club scene, have there been and particular stand out moments?
There’s been a lot of standing out in the rain with flyers in hand being avoided like the plague! Manchester has a great scene and although the competition can be brutal at times, I actually think that on the whole that makes it easier to run events here. With so many people pushing good music there’s a really switched on crowd and if you do something good it’ll get noticed. In terms of stand out moments, well, I never thought I’d see Jurassic 5 at one of our parties! They turned up unexpected and without saying a word Akil hopped straight on the mic. They were all really humble and even said thanks before they left, to see childhood heroes in that context is pretty hard to top. The sense of relief and joywhen a party gets busy is always one of the best moments; the sense of dread beforehand is certainly the worst! One of my favourite moments was actually early on at the last Groove Kitchen, I looked up at an almost empty club and saw the only 10 people in there form a dance circle and fully go for it, before getting up to dance on the speakers later on! More recently, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting the Daniel Wang conga line experience before too long.

I feel that even amongst people who know about music, the word ‘afrobeat’ can still be a bit confusing, can you talk us through it in relation to Groove Kitchen?
I’ve waffled on for far too long in the other questions to go in to the history of a genre and its context in music! I’m sure there’ve been many books written on the topic but I’ll try to give a brief summary. Fela Kuti is its godfather. Fela was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist who took influences from jazz, which he studied in London, and the heavy brass of Ghanaian highlife and melded them with traditional Nigerian rhythms and harmonies. The genre is typified by complex rhythms and call-response vocals and it’s radical in its style and content. Afrobeat is revolution music, it’s politically charged, it’s full of powerful chants and powerful horns and it’s impossible not to dance to. As Fela said, music is the weapon. He was a real character and there’s much more I could say but instead I’ll just recommend reading up on him! He’s a figure that had huge influence both in politics (although unfortunately not enough) and in music. Fela and afrobeat can’t be mentioned without word to Tony Allen, Fela’s drummer, who continues to make amazing records to this day. Afrobeat is just one of the many genres you’ll find at GK but it’s one that’s had a huge impact on a lot of our favourite records.

Your night features a range of genres, particularly evident with your current booking of Mo Kolours who is famed for breaking boundaries, what can first timers expect from him and what are you looking forward to about his appearance?
Mo Kolours’ music is very unique. You hear that about a lot of artists but there’s a good quote that highlights how true it is in this case. After his session at the Maida Vale studios for Gilles Peterson the sound engineers were asked about the performance. They said they’d never heard anything like it before and you can imagine how many fresh sounds and talented artists there are in that place every week! He’s a vocalist and percussionist who’s taken inspiration from his Mauritian roots and fused the sounds of the native sega music with hip-hop, dub, soul and leftfield electronica and house. He’ll be playing live and using a few bits of kit to loop and play around with vocals and percussion. Bambooman is another real talent and he’ll be playing live too. It’s a first for us in that it’s angled more as a late gig with DJs on afterwards, rather than a straight club night. On a more personal level, I would love to try and relieve that moment at Gottwood Festival when the sun was shining and everything was beautiful! His set that day was something special. He’s a gifted and unique musician, as is Bambooman. It’ll be great, what more can I say!

And what kind of different flavours do your residents bring to the table? Do they bounce off each other or do they work in a more complimentary style?
Some nice cookery puns there, I like it! Well, our seasoned chefs have been cooking up beats together for a long time now so there’s definitely some chemistry there.  We tend to see what we’re feeling on the day in terms of preparing the menu. We each have our own preferred cuisines but it’s all about catering for the crowd so we’ll flavour our grooves dependent on what they’re hungry for. Fancy co-starting a music & cookery show?…

Looking even further into the future, what direction is Groove Kitchen heading in and what should we be looking forward to?
The pipe dream is to run the event across multiple rooms with live bands, art and percussion, dancers, drum clinics and to live up to our name and get a few actual cooks in to add palatable flavours to the auditory ones. The problems lie in the venue and budget. Manchester is really crying out for a new venue but we’ve been in discussions on a few things so hopefully the dream will happen before too long, touch wood.

It’s always a pleasure to get an insight into the mind of a promoter, so in terms of venue and line-up –with no constraints on this one – what would your dream party look like?
Having seen what Hoya:Hoya can do on a shoestring at The Roadhouse I’d probably just pass the unlimited budget on to them! Gottwood Festival is one that’d be hard to beat. Maybe I’d ship the Gottwood site from the coastline of North Wales to the coastline of Southern Italy. Sandy beaches, free pizza and ice cream for all. I’d also have a cheesecake stage, a 100-hour b2b from Mr. Scruff, Floating Points and Prosumer and everyone would get to give Nigel Farage a nipple cripple on entry. Sound alright? Sounds amazing!

Groove Kitchen will host Joshua Brooks on Tuesday the 18th of November.

Event here: Groove Kitchen presents Mo Kolours & Bambooman [Live]

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@KimJAKhan & @HamrajGulamali

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