, - on 24/7/09
Fresh new Sydney collective CO-OP blazed into the local music scene a couple of months ago with their inaugural party featuring disco aficionado The Revenge and deep house merchants Motorcitysoul. CO-OP’s unique formula for the kicking first event was a simple but effective one: hire a little-known venue in the Latin Quarter of Sydney’s CBD, kit it out with a couple of Funktion-One systems and have the two internationals play simultaneously before swapping rooms. This created a more specialised experience than the local standard of hosting parties in overused venues, with the international playing for a maximum of two hours at peak time. Also, giving each international an opportunity to show off their wares in a variety of situations made for a more comprehensive showcase. Claire Morgan talks to CO-OP ahead of their highly anticipated second party featuring native Hamburg-er and master of the deep, Vincenzo. Speaking to the promoters about flying in the face of diversity in a city already full of wagon jumpers, something relevant the world over.
Pulse: So do you feel like you are doing something that special in giving the artists more time to perform? CO-OP: In essence, if we’ve invested in getting someone over here from wherever it may be, then we want to get the most out of them while also giving them the best opportunity to really represent what they’re about – it’s better for us, it’s better for our crowd and its better for the DJs. In light of this, it’s a fairly safe bet that future parties will involve more dual sets from headliners as well as long stints in the booth from these guests. It’s not radical, but it is an angle that maybe differentiates us to a small extent, which is pretty key in a big city when it comes to getting a new club recognised amongst a lot of competition. So long as we can keep the quality high, viva la difference.
Who is involved with CO-OP?: It seems to vary from day to day to be honest, or at least that’s how it feels – on a Monday we can be a finely tuned orchestra and by Friday we’re a one man band. To pin it down a bit, however, on this particular day CO-OP includes, but isn’t limited to, various dancefloor deviants from the not really that famous Better Days and A Disco Stole My Baby crews, namely messieurs Terry, Scott, Webster, Stanley, Connell and Stenner. Basically, if someone can bring something to our slightly rickety table they’re involved whether they like or not (often without their consent).
Why did you guys decide to join forces? The usual story, we have massive egos and think we’re more capable of putting on memorable parties than every other fucker who’s ever walked the earth. Or, just to offer an alternative, we were speaking to the same artist about coming down under (The Revenge) and decided to employ a bit of radical and outlandish thinking by coming together to do something bigger and better for the artist and the punters rather than go it alone, split the crowd and indulge ourselves as promoters in the interests of not much at all. That and we kind of got on when we started speaking, which helped. Believe whichever of those explanations you prefer – there is probably an element of truth in both.
How does CO-OP differ from your individual parties (Better Days and A Disco Stole My Baby)? Is it more than just the sum of its parts? More effort, more investment, more stress and more people to disagree about everything. In terms of a comparison to our individual ventures, CO-OP is bigger in terms of ambition – not as far as crowd size, lavish production or profit is concerned, but in relation to the level of talent we’re tapping up and what we’re investing in making our events a bit more than a typical club experience. Even individually, our efforts have been focused upon getting what we think are the fundamentals of a decent party right – cool venues, amazing sound, nice people and, of course, great music, so CO-OP is a meeting of minds in that sense.
"With either a couple of quality internationals delving through their collections to give clubbers a bit of scope, potentially across a couple of sets in a night, or a single headliner playing for an extended period, hopefully people can see we’re trying to offer at least some form of ‘wow’ factor with CO-OP, even if that might mean not winning any awards for the business plan."
As separate entities, Better Days have been working on intimate warehouse takeovers and selected Discofied showcases with talent such as Greg Wilson and The Unabombers, while A Disco Stole My Baby was launched 12 months ago as an outlet for quality local DJs to do their thing without that often underlying annoyance of being treated as a quasi promoter for someone else’s night. Everyone involved in both crews has a fairly long background of putting on events and playing records, both here and in the UK, but it seems with CO-OP that we have stumbled upon a collective of people that generally place the party itself above any personal agenda, which can be rarer than you might think in this scene.
It’s fair to say that the music policy pushed by CO-OP stands out in the Sydney scene. How have you found it promoting a party in a big city, when you are flying in the face of current musical trends? Genre-lising is a nasty affliction but there’s obviously a need to give people some idea of what you’re whoring in terms of music, so we’d generally refer to what we peddle as deep Disco and deeper House – basically, decent electronic music with some sort of swagger. CO-OP isn’t necessarily reinventing the wheel in terms of making or breaking new forms, but where we might be slightly different to other offerings in this city is that we try to embrace a variety of shades within our favoured sounds. Yes it is Disco, yes it is House, but as those who have studied the roots and history of both will know, these genres are not only inextricably linked but also open to a huge range of interpretations. From the gay to the deep, the pitched down to the peak time and the dark to the light, its about moods and mixing it up – we’re music fans first and foremost and try to let a night play out in its own way, not try too hard to pre-determine a flow which might not sit right when push comes to shove.
We want our crowd to develop a level of trust in CO-OP – rather than knowing what they will definitely hear in our club, we’d prefer them to be excited that they don’t really know what we’ll do any more than we do before the doors open. From that comes our aim to give the talent we source for our nights the opportunity to really explore what turns them on musically – we book them because we trust their taste and encourage them to get on with judging where to take the crowd without feeling they have to deliver a particular style or risk scaring the life out of the narrow minded. In our experience, it’s in these situations that there is the best chance of having some real moments on the dancefloor.
And what is your ethos as a collective? Pretty simple really – do things properly, don’t do anything unless it feels right (if that means only doing something every couple of months then so be it), try and be honest with people (especially those who pay to come to parties), look after those who look after you and wherever possible don’t fuck anyone around if you can help it. Oh, and equally as important as all that, play and support good music or risk a slap and enjoy what you’re doing or don’t bother in the first place.
Is CO-OP more of a dictatorship or democracy? A democratic dictatorship is probably the best way to describe it. We’ll find out exactly after a couple more parties no doubt, but its definitely a case that everyone involved commands some level of respect for where their strengths lie (most would never admit that to each other, but we are all aware of it).
Hopefully none of us are cocky or stupid enough to think that we know it all, anyone who knows us individually would certainly know that’s not the case, but maybe that’s why together we try to talk things out, get opinions, take chances when we’re all in agreement and accept that from time to time we’ll all fuck something up. It’s the same with DJing, we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses but we always know that if one of us gets overly inebriated someone else will step in and do a job – its satisfying hearing one of your mates play something incredible in a context you might not have considered and really buzzing off of that.
Do you think that the lack of real musical diversity present in Sydney makes it harder or easier for smaller promoters like yourselves? We would say it’s one of those double edged sword things really, but then aren’t all swords double edged? Anyway, the Sydney scene for the sounds we’re pushing is small but fairly active, so while it is true that we are competing against other promoters for a limited pool of people, at least the believers do seem to appreciate when someone goes to the effort of investing in quality talent and support it. Make no mistake, its tough getting even a couple of hundred people into one place at one time, particularly for the type of names headlining CO-OP who aren’t in any way commercial in their output or recognized by mainstream media. But what it does mean is that the people who do come out for the parties are generally musically savvy and respectful of the effort that goes into risking mortgage payments by putting some dude from Europe on a plane with a laptop or a few CDs. This isn’t a main job for any of us, so we’d prefer to do something more intimate as far as a club experience goes but do it well, and not kid ourselves that we will be filling a racecourse in a matter of months.
The other thing to note about CO-OP, as you may well have figured out from the name, is that we’re not that into any ‘us against them’ scenarios – in a tight scene where the line between success and failure is so fine, we’re totally open to working together with other likeminded people (promoters, venues, DJs, creatives etc.) if its in the best interests of CO-OP in terms of making it a better party than we can ourselves. We’re not going to jump into bed with someone just because they can get heads through the door, but if the timing is right and the association an exciting prospect which is in keeping with what we’re about, then bring it on. For example, we’ve already had input and support from Resident Advisor, Pulse Radio, Smirnoff and Funktion-One among others, and will continue to bring others into our CO-OPerative when the planets align.
We’re very wary about not treading on toes by running events on the same nights as other similar promotions, booking the same DJs, using the same venues in exactly the same ways or anything else which results in clubbers missing out on something cool because an already limited pool of heads is being split. Obviously this can’t always be avoided, but surely it makes sense to minimise clashes wherever possible and gives everyone, not just us, some sort of exclusivity in what they’re doing – besides, more than anything we want to go to these other parties as well!
What's happening at your next party? We’ve got another international coming to Sydney for the first time ever to play exclusively for CO-OP – Berlin’s Vincenzo, who is best known for his work on Steve Bug’s revered Dessous and Poker Flat labels, and something of a chameleon as a DJ and producer, taking in sounds from deep Disco to warm Techno. To celebrate his breadth of influences, we’ve pretty much given him free reign for the entire night (well, 5 hours) to impress in whatever manner he sees fit on Sydney’s undisputed king of club sound-systems courtesy of The Civic’s Underground.
As per the first party, we’ll be hijacking another space in the venue to give the residents record collections the chance to shine (or at least glow intermittently) with some old, new, borrowed and, err, blue, this time in the form of The Civic’s ground floor, where we’re again lugging in our favoured Funktion-One rig to provide a sonic kick up the arse for the evening. All in all, it should be sweaty, in the best possible sense.
Any other exciting events on the agenda for the remainder of 2009? We’ll know more in the next couple of weeks, but what we can say for sure now is that if even some of what we’re plotting comes to pass, Sydneysiders are in for some big wins over the next 6 months or so. If CO-OP is currently your friend it could become your lover in the near future should our fingers in pies not get burnt. You’ll be the first to know, obviously…
CO-OP’s second shake-up features Vincenzo and will be held at the Civic Underground on Saturday 1 August.
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