In the last quarter of 1993, a pioneering nightclub manager called Nodd McDonagh called me to say he’d been head-hunted to run a new venue in Dublin’s Temple Bar district, to be named, ‘The Kitchen’ – the owners of which, were U2. ‘Would you like to DJ for the opening night and see how you like it?’ he asked me. Hmmmm, let me think about that one. This then is the story of how my one year hug-fest with Irish clubbers (the world’s most enthusiastic, appreciative and up-for-it crowd) began.
The first night the club was to operate was for a private party, due to open the weekend after to the general public. The party in question was the wedding night of former Virgin Prunes front-man (and Bono’s best mate), Gavin Friday. I got to the club in the afternoon before the night time shenanigans commenced. To say I was disappointed with what I saw and heard is an understatement. The ‘Kitchen’ was appropriately named and sat in the basement of the ultra-fashionable, Clarence Hotel (owned as part of the band’s property portfolio). A bog standard red brick dancefloor had pretty much zero in the way of club lighting and the sound system consisted of 4 (check ‘em) amazingly enough, free standing mobile-DJ style speakers on each corner. The underground basement looked ‘grungy’, dark and dingy, with absolutely the most bog-standard of furnishings, bar and decor.
The night came and went with me playing a mixed music ‘wedding’ set to a small, nay intimate crowd of well-wishers, rock-stars [spanning the 'fading' and 'biggest in the world' categories] and the odd drunken super-model trying to crash the booth with her manager insisting that she DJ’d (thank you Naomi!). The next day, I had coffee with the newly ensconced manager, Nodd. ‘The band aren’t happy with the club – it’s not opening next week’ he informed me. No surprise there then. I high-tailed it back to the UK and waited for news. That news came soon as it transpired the band had contacted the guy who designed the stage concept for their ‘Pop’ tour to come and save the day – or night(s).
Study the images that pepper this post. The remit for the new ‘Kitchen’ design was ‘less is more’ – and boy was that nailed. Decor wise the inside of the space was transformed and literally ‘smoothed out’, the shell of which appeared to be endless curves sweeping the walls and ceiling. The air-conditioning vents were even rendered invisible been formed out of what looked like giant cheese carvings. Neutral colours prevailed with a ‘stone’ theme prevalent, juxtaposing the elegant leather seating with ‘Starck’ styled aluminimum, steel and chrome multi-leveled drinks tables. The main, elongated bar (which hung a right to the entrance area you see in the image above) was faced by a seating area with large (again, sweeping) pillars supporting the structure with luxurious, velvet drapes emphasising the division of tables. A secondary VIP area was accessed via a small, curtain covered doorway, leading to another seated, bar area with a monastic atmosphere (resplendent with a ‘baby Jesus’ looking out on the soon to come gathered hedonists).
But it was the main dancefloor area (image left) that took mine and many others breath away. Still an intimate venue, though capable of holding 600 people, the ‘Kitchen’ had a modestly sized dancefloor and was surrounded by a canal (or, the ‘moat’ as it became known), which weaved around it, disappearing into a pillar and out of sight. The new, then state-of-the-art Coemar MicroScans and Baby Colour lighting system literally bounced a beautiful array of colour into the rippling water, which itself reflected back and onto the back wall (thereafter nicknamed, ‘the Wave’) containing the huge JBL bass bins. The mid and tweeter units were flown around the dancefloor area, all resulting in probably one of the best club systems I’ve ever heard, became a priority attraction and leading to comments by Dublin’s RTE radio station that “people must go there if only to ‘listen’ to the sound”.
The DJ booth was a tiny pod-like unit, front-faced with brown leather and had room for literally one DJ and no hangers-on (yay!). Facing out to the crowd, the light-jock sat on a stool just outside it and to my left, operating a Roland MIDI keyboard to trigger the then version 2, ShowCad system. As you can probably see from very top image of this blog post and partially on the one below, I had two Technics decks, a Formula Sound PM90, Denon DN2000F CD player and a Sony DAT player to entertain the crowd. Behind me as I faced forward were the amp stacks, and on top of that was an Akai S900 sampler that I coaxed out of ‘The Edge’s studio racks. The Akai was used to trigger primarily sound FX, film dialogue and other random sonics over and in-between the tunes to create additional atmospherics.
So, enough of technical specs and design concepts. Within a short space of what seemed just weeks since the false start, ‘rip it up ‘n start again’ debacle, early ’94 arrived and the ‘Kitchen’ was ready for it’s official opening to an eager Dublin party-crowd. Although I signed on for resident DJ duties (much to the disgust of certain Dublin based jocks I’m afraid), the big opening night was headlined by the bands favourite ‘Paul’, Mr Oakenfold. Paul and I had and have known each other since day dot of this industry, so I was happy to support him that night and together we rocked it! The Kitchen was a huge success in its opening weekend and then quickly settled into its stride, both musically and with the efficient, friendly, cool as f**k staff that worked there. I got used to flying out to Dublin on a Thursday afternoon and returning Sunday for quite a few months after that, and had some amazing nights playing house music all night long (well apart from the again, odd super-model insisting I play ‘No,No, No’ by Dawn Penn, clearing the floor reggae-tastically in the process). As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the Irish crowd are simply the most incredibly appreciative souls you could ever wish to entertain as a DJ. They totally absorbed and recognised every single ‘special’ thing I did, cheering their support and demanding multiple encores – obviously, a discerning bunch as well, lol.
After about 6 months, my time at the Kitchen had looked like it had the writing on the wall for two reasons. Number one was that my ‘Tinman’ record was gaining huge momentum back in the UK and I could no longer afford the time to be out of the country and away from the studio for 4 days of my week, plus, in a change of management and a re-shuffle which included Nodd making his departure back to England, I faced a non-too appreciative promoter with a seemingly different agenda to the one we started out with. So after around 8 months of solid ‘Kitchen’ clubbing, my time on the emerald isle was, temporarily at least, over. The Kitchen carried on of course, turning into a primarily underground venue and had a good life thereafter, visited by I believe some great local and international DJ talent, and though closing its doors for good in 2005, remains one of the iconic clubbing ventures in dance music history.
I made some good friends in Dublin and to any of them reading this – Sláinte! For you, them and everyone else I’ll leave you with a few sentimental memories that remain of my time ‘in the Kitchen at parties’.
- Bono – “So tell me Paul, why d’ya wanna play House music in my club?” Followed by yours truly enriching the Irish rocker with the spiritual philosophies, tribal references, origins and relevance behind [and of] h.o.u.s.e. music! Shit, I got the gig and sold the dude the vibes – what can I say.. ha ha
- Bringing my studio sensibilities firmly to the assembled masses playing a DAT tape with a repetitive, rhythmic computer voice, spelling out the individual letters ‘K _I _T _C _H _E _N’ at 120 bpm, whilst I mixed in whatever hot-tune was rockin’ it then.
- Listening to, then watching, the entrance of ten tribal drummers, beating in unison when I dropped the classic ’20Hz’ by Capricorn (check video below). The crowd went nuts as these bare torsoed Adonis’ banged ‘to the beat of the drum’, exactly duplicating the records distinctive break down – to this day I’ve never seen anything as original, exciting and vibrant in a nightclub.
- Playing the now seminal ‘Acperience’ by Hardfloor for the first time, switching the Technics deck power off as the acid breakdown started, then finger controlling the vinyl manually at slow speed, gradually picking up the tracks tempo nearing it’s original, in time with the snare-fill crescendo – then, powering the deck back up at full speed – hell yeah!
- Watching 3 of the world’s highest paid super-models (place was bloody full of ‘em) saunter onto the dancefloor for just ‘one’ record, flanked by two bodyguards the size of planets, boogie a bit (can’t mess the hair up!), much to the amusement of the surrounding crowd, then just as quietly, saunter off again, never to re-emerge from the confines of the VIP area.
I could go on, but I really should save the rest for a book.. ?