Not many young DJs can claim an institution like We Love… Space as where they cut their teeth. But it was at the famous Sunday party where Horden native Ian Blevins learned his craft early on. Beginning with the party 2008 handing out flyers, he remained until it left Space in 2015. And soon after Ian also moved, trading the sunny climes of Ibiza for the industrial urbanscapes of Berlin, where he recently played his first gig at Panorama Bar with close friends Bicep.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Blevins says of the show. “So grateful to Bicep and the whole crew for having faith in me to do that opening.” But they had plenty reason for that faith, as Blevins has more than proved himself with regular appearances at UK clubs and club nights like Back to Basics, Ministry of Sound, Shindig, and Just Jack. His well-honed skills behind the decks are only possibly outmatched by his studio work—unique and melodic productions that have become bona fide hits on labels like ESP Institute, Futureboogie and Culprit. He’s a man on the rise.
Here, we find out more about his Panorama Bar debut, how he met Bicep, his move to Berlin, the old days of We Love…, and he provides a spectral house and techno mix full of delicious oddities and 6AM gems, which you can listen to below.
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve just got back from Glasgow where I played For Fenix at the Berkeley Suite. It's been a while since I visited the place and was great fun. Nice to make my debut on the other side of the decks this time. That was off the back of playing at Solarium in Berlin, which much more people need to know about.
Where and when was the mix recorded?
It was recorded in my house in Berlin in late July. I wanted to do something with the new music I've picked up of late.
What equipment did you use, and what was the idea behind the mix?
Two decks (one Technics and one Stanton, which I borrowed off my housemate as mine are still in the UK (cheers Ross), and a Kontrol Z2 mixer. This way I can play vinyl and digital music on the minimum of setups.
You recently had your first gig at Panorama Bar. Congratulations. What was it like stepping up to those decks for the first time, and how did the gig go?
Thank you kindly! It was a dream to be able to be invited to do that. I've pictured having the chance to play at this club since the first time I set foot in it many years ago, and to realise this dream was brilliant, to put it very lightly.
It went really well (I think). It was ace to be able to start really slow and patiently build the room up. The club filled up fast which helped a lot, especially as Ben Klock was on in Berghain. The last hour and half especially went by like a flash. It was a fantastic experience. So grateful to Bicep and the whole crew for having faith in me to do that opening.
You go pretty far back with the Bicep boys. How’d you first meet? There must be a good story there.
I started giving out flyers in Ibiza for We Love…, who I later became resident for. At this time I began working alongside long haired young whipper snapper called Andrew Livesey. He went to university with a one Andy Ferguson, which is how we became acquainted. And in due course I'd meet Mr. McBriar, plus a whole host of good hard folk.
It was the Andy's and another gent, by the name of Tinny, who first booked me to play in Manchester as it goes. I played for their night Careless Whisper many, many moons ago now. I've still got the poster back in Horden (my home village) but I can't find a picture on my computer or online. Shame, as it’s a beaut.
You’ve been in the game a fair few years—most notably as a resident of Space Ibiza for We Love... Sundays. What were those earliest parties like, and what did you learn as a DJ there that you still carry with you today?
It was all a bit surreal when that began. I've never really considered being able to do that as work. Where I'm from you're supposed to leave school, possibly college, job, house, car, family and that's you done. The idea of spending your summers on an island DJing wasn't really promoted as a “proper job” or healthy lifestyle choice on a whole. Finding myself as resident there, and returning to the island each summer, I really tried to just enjoy each party and soak up as much as I could from all around. You'd get a fantastic mix of music around the whole, which I doubt you'll probably get again on the island the way things look at the moment. I'd try and get around the club checking out as much as possible. It involved some long hours.
I suppose the the main lessons I took away there was to play the right music and the right time. Look at your job in context of not just your own set but the whole night. You're part of a greater whole.
Ian at Shindig
These days you’re calling Berlin home. What’s the city been like for you so far?
I do indeed. It's been great to be honest. The city does not make it easy for you to move, especially finding apartments and getting settled, but its all worth it. I was lucky to know enough nice people who could help with what they could when I arrived. And even those who'd I'd never met but only just been introduced to through friends were more to than happy to help or offer advice. Everyone who has moved there before as been there so can understand the difficulties of landing in the city and getting started.
Music, history, lakes, people, parks, museums. The ability to get around the city so quick. There's always something happening or you have the ability to hide from it all. I'm really enjoying living here and can't see me budging for some time.
Another ace reason, like my time in Ibiza, is that I'm more likely to see friends from around the world in this place than I was back in the North East of England.
You scored two very big releases on ESP Institute with “Hannibal” and “Poor Old Head.” Both feature multi-layered melodies and, at times, complex rhythms. How much time do you usually spend working on your releases before you consider them finished? And do you know what you want them to sound like before you sit down in the studio?
Sometimes I'll sit down with a rough vibe of what I want to make. That can soon change very soon after starting though.
With “Poor Old head,” I was nursing a hangover, which pretty much determined what I wanted to make. It’s rare I make music the day after a drink as well.
I think you can get bogged down too much with dwelling on projects. The best tracks are usually finished fairly quick I think. I generally spend a session jamming and getting as much as I can down. The next is generally to arrange and see what I think is good or shit, and what else I need. After that its running through the track fine tuning. If you can listen to it a couple of times without changing anything it’s done. Save, bounce, move on with your life. Get used to the process of finishing tracks.
It’s a good idea to give your ears and brain a break too and come back to things fresh. And don't be too precious about things. It’s probably a better idea to remove things as opposed to lumping more on.
Your catalogue goes back to 2014. How long have you been producing, and how important have your productions been to your career?
I think around 2008/09 I started getting more into it, though probably earlier on and off without success or being generally frustrated by my own ability. Most of my early productions were as Al Gobi with my friend Phil Moody. He can play a shitload of instruments, so that made it much quicker getting tracks and takes done. I’ve still got a load of unreleased stuff there too I'll have to revisit.
Unfortunately I think it’s important, though it shouldn't be. If someone can make a record it doesn't mean they're a great DJ and vice versa. Though there are vast amount of people who are a dab hand at both. Once I realised that I was very much up for wanting to DJ more it gave me a kick up the arse to delve more into the production side of things.
What’s next for you?
I'm currently in the process of finishing another EP for Not An Animal, and my first for MeMeMe. I'm hoping to get working on something else soon that I'm very excited but I won't give the game away with that until it begins to take shape more.
Myself and NY*AK have been getting blurry and making some noises on his visits to Berlin too so we'll see how these evolve.
Aside from this, I'm still doing my best to get my own label off the ground which will initially be a platform for my own music but I want that to grow into something more. 2025 is what I'm aiming for at this point but that could be optimistic.