Glasgow Clubbing Roundtable: Bake, Richard Chater, Telford

In the last two decades, Glasgow has undergone something of a renaissance. It has overcome a period of post-industrial decay and economic stagnation to become one of Europe’s most culturally vibrant cities. Where electronic music is concerned, it has long been recognised as a host to some of the best parties on the continent, attracting world-class talent to a relatively small population of just 600,000. Moreover, Scotland’s largest city is home to a horde of internationally established labels such as Soma, Numbers, LuckyMe, Optimo Music and Seventh Sign, as well as more recent ventures like Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and All Caps.

Richard Chater, Barkat Jit Singh and Ross Telford are all integral to the city's electronic music scene. Chater is a co-founder of Numbers, a label and party collective approaching its 10th anniversary. As well as having a hand in releasing everything from classic Chicago house records to near-unclassifiable 12-inches from the likes of Rustie and Redinho, he is heavily involved in Rubadub, a record and music equipment store that doubles as a major distributor. Singh, better known as Bake, is a co-founder of All Caps and a DJ who, despite having only played out for three years, is widely regarded as one of the city's most talented selectors. Reared on FWD-era dubstep, he has since found himself incorporating everything from downtempo Moodymann classics to aggressive techno-grime hybrids. Telford is a pillar of what is arguably Glasgow's most venerated venue, the Sub Club. Alongside the duo of Harri and Domenic, he has held a residency at Subculture for six years. Approaching its 20th birthday, Subculture is one of the world's longest-running house nights.


The first thing people who aren't from Glasgow seem to mention about the city is how wild and up-for-it the crowds are. How do your experiences reconcile with that perception?

Richard Chater: Clubs finish at 3 AM. So you've only got 11 PM 'till 3 AM to do your thing in a club. There's not a lot of time, whereas say you play in London or abroad, clubs are open until 5 AM. That 4 AM to 5 AM [slot] is like the dregs. There's fuck all people there, everyone’s just kind of like uggghhh, like, wonky, not really dancing. In Glasgow, that last hour is pretty intense, because everyone's really zoned in on the party, on the music, whatever the DJ's doing and everyone around them. It just kicks off, and you don't get that anywhere else.

Telford: The impression I get from everyone in the scene is that everyone in Glasgow is really hard-working. It's kind of a grafting city. I think it always has been quite an industrial city, [and it still has] that kind of ethos. So when you go out on a Friday night, you're really going for it. They've got four hours, they're really going for it, they're not fucking about.

I read an interview with Jackmaster from a few years ago where he said Glasgow has historically been a house and techno-centric city. Labels like Numbers and All Caps seem to have expanded that a bit. To what extent, especially in the last five years, have you all noticed a broadening of the club music available in Glasgow?

Richard Chater: It's always been pretty wide-ranging in Glasgow. You had Optimo which was, you know... There was a lot of Optimo stuff I wasn't into, but a lot that I was really into, like ESG and stuff like that. But then you had a lot of nights just pushing minimal [techno]. It didn't feel like there was much excitement in Glasgow. There were some nights pushing Ed Banger-type things. So that was what was hot at that point in time, over five or six years ago. And now it's the sort of garage-y, house type vibes. So that's the new minimal. It's not really broadened as such, but subgenres change and move with the times.

Bake: For me, it's a lot different. I started going to clubs when I was 15, so I used to go to old Fortified nights, when dubstep was still good and credible. At that point I didn't really know anything else, so that was the only thing I was ever subjected to. I never went to Optimo or the Sub Club; it was only after that that I started going there. I guess when dubstep was still really fresh, you had all these older guys there [at Fortified] that grew up listening to techno. They'd been listening to it for so long that dubstep sounded so fresh to them as well. Even when me and my friends weren't really into dance music at that point, it's kinda hard to get away from 4/4 music, it's just all around you. After that [dubstep] kinda died down, for me there was a whole new world that opened, because I started getting into old house and techno records. I was digging back into 30 years of music, so it was a massive, massive change for me.

"In terms of traditional house and techno in Glasgow, dubstep was one of the best things that could have happened."

Richard Chater

Richard Chater: In terms of traditional house and techno in Glasgow, dubstep was one of the best things that could have happened. It gave a younger generation an "in" into the world of what we were listening to: Detroit, Chicago, things like Autechre, hip hop, stuff like that, so kids had an entirely new genre to call their own, and through that they discovered a whole new world of records. A whole new generation of kids coming to Rubadub started off buying Tempa and Hyperdub records; now they're all over the Sex Tags Mania and L.I.E.S. section, going through all the Underground Resistance back catalogue and stuff like that, so it did a hell of a lot of good. Optimo was at the forefront of the sort of first youth revolution at the turn of the century, which was old DFA, the indie-dance scene that happened. When Optimo kind of fizzled out, that's when dubstep kicked off. And previous to all that, it was all house and techno.

Bake: When the old Fortified nights were going on I used to get snuck into the Art School. I had the worst fake ID ever, passed off as a 22-year-old doctor, my sister's boyfriend who didn't look anything like me. There was only me and four other people my age, like 15, 16 that were at these nights, and the rest were just older people. But that was such a cool thing about dubstep, you never felt cut off from anyone. It was so new to everyone that was there. I think nowadays I feel sometimes if you go to a club, it's like, "Oh, there's this big DJ coming," and there's such a massive difference between being in the crowd and this DJ. That's sometimes a good and a bad thing. It's also cool to see a really big DJ play, don't get me wrong. But I'm not sure how much of a positive impact it would have had musically if I'd started going to house and techno nights, instead of going to these dubstep nights at the start, because I really felt like you could give something back to it. When I first went to it I'd never been to any sort of live music. The first thing I went to was Skream in 2007, and I was so young and impressionable. I'd only listened to these songs on my iPod; then I hear it on a full Mungo's [Hi Fi] rig, and… it's quite a clichéd thing [to say], but it changed my life.

As far as entry points, how did you each find was the most effective way of finding out about music growing up in Glasgow?

Richard Chater: I'm not actually from Glasgow. I grew up in a village called Aviemore, so I was taping the Top 40 as a kid. I'm 38 – a bit older than this lot – so at that point in time, late '80s, early'’90s, N.W.A. and Steve "Silk" Hurley were in the charts, "Jack Your Body" was #1 at one point, in '87 or something like that. You'd get a Now That's What I Call Music tape for Christmas. That led me to rap music, which in turn led me to techno. I knew of Detroit techno and Chicago house through compilations and reading music magazines and things. I moved into Glasgow in '93 for uni thinking, "It's gonna be amazing, it's gonna be so hip hop," but I found that most hip hop heads were utter dicks, so… then I found house and techno, which seemed more underground than hip hop. The clubs felt more real, there was more vibe, and there were more girls… the girls are very important!

Bake: Honestly...

Telford: I had an older cousin who used to DJ and work at various discos down south, and he used to send up tapes sometimes, and CDs. It was slightly more well-known stuff. Harvey, Masters At Work, everyone in the mid-to-late '90s that did the Sessions CDs for Ministry of Sound. I bought them maybe four or five years later, maybe 1999-2000, and through that I discovered Radio 1 on a Friday night. Danny Rampling had a show, which was my personal favourite. I used to tape it on the Friday night, and then try to go buy what I heard the next day, but obviously you couldn't because he was playing a bunch of promos. So that was my entry, [and also] knowing a few people, discovering the Sub Club and Rubadub and the whole sort of underground scene.

Richard Chater

When people think of Glasgow, the two clubs people most readily associate with the city are the Arches and the Sub Club. But we were talking earlier about Club 69 in Paisley, and how important that has been to people involved in Glasgow's scene. What role did Club 69 play in forming what Glasgow does now?

Richard Chater: Club 69 was started by the owners of Rubadub in the early '90s. It used to be this place I would hear about in Glasgow. In the record shop, you'd see the daft posters and you'd just hear there'd be amazing music, that the crowd was amazing, so you just started going through. There was nothing like it. The sound was pretty loud – sounded great – you could smoke in the club, and there was no security. Beer was always £2.50, for a can of Red Stripe, even back in the days when it was about £1.50 for a can of Red Stripe. Abdul who owned the place always charged £2.50 – he pioneered that price plan! You'd go there and literally hear the music developed before your ears: Mecca, Direct Beat, Drexciya stuff, UR, all this obscure Detroit stuff that no one else had picked up on. It was a mixture of that and early Skam stuff, the first Boards of Canada records, Autechre-type things, really weird, strange instrumental hip hop things and then really mental techno and noisy tracks. And then they'd finish up with something totally irreverent, like a Specials record or some daft Russ Abbot.

"The music was so serious at 69, but the atmosphere and the patter were total hilarity."

Richard Chater

The music was so serious, but the atmosphere and the patter were total hilarity. The humour was there, the records were there, all your pals were there. It wasn't just loads of skinheads in UR t-shirts. There were lots of girls and it just felt right. Nothing like that was happening in Glasgow really. It's the only place pretty much in Europe that had Underground Resistance play live, and this was 1999. You'd walk into the club – well, you couldn't get into the club, you actually had to wait upstairs in the restaurant – then they allowed you down into the club, and then there's still no music, and all of a sudden UR just ripped into it. You could hardly see them because of the smoke. I remember it pretty well because we were all absolutely smashed. We were back at our mates' and my sister got chatting to someone at UR, and she's going "UR are coming back to ours for a party." And I'm like, "Are they fuck!" And then at 5 AM or something like that, chapping on the door is Suburban Knight. That sort of stuff, that really raw, underground, completely off-the-cuff vibe is not something you get in the city centre. I don't think anyone bar Club 69 could pull that off.

The former incarnation of Glasgow Art School Credit: Mike Jones

The Art School is re-opening up soon. How important was it to Glasgow before it was demolished, and how do you think it will shape things once it opens up?

Richard Chater: We did a lot of Numbers parties there, but everyone did parties there: Pure, Rubadub had a few things. We actually did a Model 500 night there. It was kind of like the place where you would end up if you weren't going to Club 69 on a Friday or Saturday night. Again, a good wee place to meet girls as well, so…

Bake: This guy, man… It was pretty vital for me actually, it was the mecca, really. Going back to 69, I've only been there once, and there were only four people there. I remember Jack Revill [AKA Jackmaster], I was speaking to him just when I first started chatting to him, this must’ve been like 2009. He was like, "Yeah, 69 was my FWD," because when he came into music it was through techno. But for me, the only thing I can really talk about is the Art School as my first ever club night. The soundsystem was such a small, compact area, but it was amazing seeing that absolutely rammed to this weird new music. It was amazing.

How do you see the re-opening in November panning out? Is its reintroduction a good thing, and what will it bring that has been missing, if anything?

Richard Chater: I don't think anything's been missing, to be honest. I've certainly not missed it, it's just more variety.

Bake: You have three, four places to go to. A fifth would definitely not hurt.

Richard Chater: The only clubs we'd ever go to is Sub Club, The Arches and La Cheetah. That's it.

Telford: I think it's kinda needed, for the scene. If we forget musical styles, but just for an actual electronic music scene in the city, you need variety and difference spaces, you need different people who know different things. And that's how you grow.

When you were talking about 69, you said certain labels were more prevalent in certain clubs. Is Glasgow less tribal now? Do people have more of an open mind when they go to clubs as far as what they expect to hear?

Richard Chater: I think at the moment, yeah, because good house music is so prevalent. A lot of the best records coming out at the moment are house records, so there are a lot of shared records between all the clubs. There's probably never been a time where Subculture and Numbers have crossed over so much. Joy Orbison records get played at Subculture, get played at Numbers and it'll get played at La Cheetah too.

Bake: I've felt a little bit stagnant going out in Glasgow in the last two or three months, but it's worth adding that Nice N Sleazy's has some really good stuff going on there. I'm still yet to really go there properly, but it speaks volumes that I can pick this up from not even going there.

Richard Chater: Like, Hieroglyphic Being on Thursday night. I went to see Vatican Shadow there a while back. It's wee things like that, it's a little bit different. It doesn't feel like a club.

"You don't really know what you're getting at Sleazy's until you go... That's a really cool thing."


Bake: Nah, it doesn't at all. It's one of those things I was talking about. When I used to go to dubstep nights, I didn't feel cut off from the DJ or anyone else. And I was saying that if I go to a club to see a DJ who's a big thing… you don't necessarily feel cut off in a bad sense, but the general consensus I get from Sleazy's is that there's total freedom and musical choice, and you have people going that aren't necessarily, like, "Oh, I'm gonna hear this style of music." You don't really know what you're getting until you go to the night, and you figure it out for yourself. That's a really cool thing.

Richard Chater: There are a few guys in there that have taken a lead from the more industrial end of things that are doing the rounds at the moment, some really good records that are coming from the more noise, industrial end of things. L.I.E.S. is part of that, you've got your Vatican Shadows and the Morphine stuff, like Metasplice, Container and stuff like that. That's why people go to Sleazy's a lot. The Cry Parrot guys are putting on a lot of that stuff.

Bake: You've also got the So Weit So Gut nights. That guy Laurie Pitt does that Golden Teacher thing.

Richard Chater: That band's amazing.

Bake: Fuckin' outta control man.

Let's go right back to the beginning, when we were talking about the licensing issues, and how that affects the experience of going out and DJing in Glasgow. How significant is the afterparty scene?

Richard Chater: Very important. I've touched on this plenty of times in interviews. You only get half the story in clubs in Glasgow. The rest happens back at people's flats.

Bake: The majority of it happens outside a club.

Richard Chater: The conversations, the patter, the jokes… there's more discovery of other music. That happens back in a flat with your pals, talking pure shite, getting wrecked, listening to records. You can listen to pure pish on YouTube or your mate DJing his record collection and stuff like that, all kinds. Ideas and friendships are bonded there.

Bake: You can actually genuinely socialise with someone outside a loud club. I don't really partake in the afterparty activities, but it definitely is nice because at 3 AM, man – even for me, I don't drink or anything – I still feel weird going home at 3, so it's nice to be able to chill for a bit afterwards and keep on going.

"I always get the feeling that I'd be a better DJ if you could play for longer [in Glasgow]."


Telford: It is good fun, now and again. But I always get the feeling that I think that maybe I'd be a better DJ if you could play for longer. The first time I played in Berlin last year, I was like "Fuck, yeah it doesn't close at 3 AM!" But the bar manager comes up to you at 6 AM and he goes [puts on German accent], "How long do you want to play for?" And I'm going, "Two hours?" And the guy goes, "Yeah, cool, go for it." And then you end up playing for fucking eight hours in a club, which is insane. It was the first time it'd ever happened, and I was just like, "What the fuck?" And then you get the experience of: "Aah, right, so if I did that every week, imagine how good a DJ you would be?" So it's a kinda double-edged thing for me. I think the afterparty thing is really cool and amazing, and I don't think it's like any other city. But I'm like, "Yeah, I'd probably be a better DJ if I could play for longer."

Richard Chater: That's the thing though. Maybe this is me being too old, but you always used to go back to some afterparty, and there'd always be decks in the corner, someone DJing for hours upon end. That seems to be less prevalent now. You listen to something on someone's computer now.

Bake: I think the only reason I do actually go to an afterparty is to DJ. That just seems to be me all the time, the whole night.

Telford: The one thing that Glasgow does to us is, if you have four hours you play completely differently. You have to mix it up and play slightly different styles – you only have four hours. So, you've got 20 tracks you wanna play, but they're across the board, so it's acid stuff, it's a vocal thing, it's a techno thing, it's a house thing. You kind of have to learn how to put it together, and you kind of have to be on your shit, otherwise it's just not gonna happen.

"Every decision you make [as a DJ in Glasgow] is an important decision."


Bake: It's nice to be kinda expansive within that four-hour limit. There are lots of pros and cons, but I guess the main pro for that side of DJing is that you can test how well you know your music. You've got four hours, you can't just be like, "Oh fuck, that was a kinda shite 45 minutes, I'll just build it back up," you know what I mean? Every decision you make is an important decision, in terms of what you're gonna select musically. The bouncers come on at ten minutes to 3, and be like, "Right, you have to stop mate, make sure you stop right at three," and you're just cut off completely.

Richard Chater: As much as the opening hours lend themselves to a really, really good party, sometimes when a night's firing on all cylinders and everything's going fucking amazingly, you do get a little bit fucked off.

Ross Telford and Bake: Yeah, I know.

Another thing I wanted to talk about was some of the institutions that are important to Glasgow that are non-club spaces. Two that come to mind are Rubadub and Subcity Radio. Bake, you had a show on Subcity, and for a lot of younger people that seems to have been quite an important in-point into either running nights or discovering music. How important are those two places to the city's infrastructure?

Bake: I'm not too sure, actually. I don't know how many people actually listen to it. I know when we were doing regular shows, it was just nice to be able to be at your house and mix without your mum telling you to turn it down, so it's good to just go somewhere. I know I don't do it often now – that's not out of choice, that's purely circumstantial – but radio is nice, because it's nice to play stuff and figure out things on the radio that you wouldn't necessarily play in the club. Subcity is really good for that. It has a huge wealth of talent from Glasgow, or just people who know their shit about music and play records on Subcity. It's a shame that people don't dig into it as much, because there's so much good shit going on. Subcity is definitely important, but Rubadub is really, really important. Especially for me. I wouldn't even say the shop itself, it's more the people that work there, like Richard and Jack [AKA Jackmaster]. And when Ryan [Martin], who I run All Caps with, started working in Rubadub we were both in the same boat.

Richard Chater: Much to our sins.

Bake: He was getting all the new shit, and I was finding all this new stuff. After he finished work, he'd be like, "Man, look at all this music I got." The Rubadub guys are so helpful, and they helped us a lot with label stuff. But in terms of musical taste, it really helped us cut out the good shit from the bad shit, so it's a really important institution.

"I'm obviously biased, but… the role Rubadub plays in Glasgow goes beyond Glasgow."

Richard Chater

Richard Chater: I'm obviously biased, but every scene needs a backbone, and a record shop is a backbone for any music-based scene. Everything is a bit more spread out now because of online shopping, but you still need that one place where you can congregate, listen to these records, chat to other people buying these records. You need that social space for it to happen. That's just as important as afterparties, clubs. It's where ideas flourish, contacts are made, and you end up making friends because you see them all the time in the shop. The role Rubadub plays in Glasgow goes beyond Glasgow. The whole distribution set-up, stuff like that. There's not many places in the world that do what Rubadub do. You can walk into the shop and buy really good records, but you can also buy really good equipment. The same principles that we put into buying records for the shop go into the equipment as well. You see the rise of the modular [synth] stuff… the same spirit is applied. You can ask about music to your heart's content, but you can also ask about synths and stuff. But then if you want hope setting up a label, or going through the process of releasing a record, manufacturing a record, mastering a record, then Rubadub's there for you.


We were talking about Optimo and Subculture earlier. Optimo are well-known for playing a lot more besides club music. Does that breadth reflect people’s appetite for music in general?

Bake: I never really went to those nights. I know the guys at Subculture, the Optimo guys and they're all really sound people. I'm still very much experiencing that as a new thing. I know exactly what they do and what they're known for and all that shit. But I couldn't really tell you experiences from a Subculture night or an Optimo night, because I've not really had them yet.

Richard Chater: I've never been a big Subculture goer. And Optimo was a Sunday night, and I'm not really a big Sunday night man. There are certain things Optimo played that I wasn't into, but a lot of music I discovered was down to knowing the Optimo guys. Before, I'd only listen to straight up house and techno, abstract shit, hip-hop, R&B and funk records, and through Optimo I discovered more about industrial music, like Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey, those things and the whole New York no wave stuff, like James Chance and The Contortions, and all those sort of bands, you know, things like The Pop Group and post-punk stuff, which I really love. I really wouldn't have gotten there had it not been for not knowing the Optimo guys. That was a massive thing for a lot of people, and a game-changing night around the world. No one else was doing it in the way they did it. They massively changed it for a lot of people.

Bake: They still are. It's not as if they're slowing down. The first show I ever played was at Optimo, at Hung Up! That was the first time I ever played in a club, which was pretty cool to look back on. I'd never ever met them before and they were still so welcoming, and not just looking down on me as this wee guy. They were so sound to me and Jack [Revill], who I was playing with.

Richard Chater: They've always been big supporters of Numbers, our releases and stuff. We're all pals, and we've got a lot of mutual friends as well. You always get a nice vibe at Optimo. Glasgow would be a much poorer place if there was no Keith and Jonnie about.

"Glasgow would be a much poorer place if there was no Keith and Jonnie [AKA Optimo] about."

Richard Chater

Telford: When it comes down to both of those nights, the four guys that run it… they're just music lovers. Through and through, they just love music. They love what they do and they love playing out. So it doesn't matter if Harri and Domenic are playing house and techno, or Jonnie and Keith are playing – yeah, they play house and techno as well, but they play across the board. They really introduced us three to ESG, all the no wave stuff, you name it. Stuff you weren't hearing at other nights. Another thing is that they don't really bow down to fads, and what's of the moment and what’s cool. So, they might like something, but they don't then go and make the whole night about it.

Richard Chater: That's why nights like Harri and Domenic's, Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes's are always going to be around, because their ears are never closed. There's always new records, there's always good old records, but none of them are resting on their laurels, whereas a lot of people try and relive their heyday.

Something I've frequently noticed among DJs and promoters in Glasgow is a healthy skepticism about artists who have a reputation. I hear stories about certain artists arriving in the city who carry a big reputation for being credible, but, after playing, haven't perhaps met those expectations. Without mentioning specific instances…

Telford: But it'd make this so much better…

It seems to be a feature of the city's character. Do you all agree with that?

Richard Chater: You're only as good as the records you play.

Telford: There's a phrase that kicks about that Domenic always says to me, which keeps you on your fucking toes. He says, "You're only as good as your last mix." Now, as someone walking into the Sub Club on a Saturday night about to play records to a capacity basement with everyone crying for your blood, punching the ceiling, tap half off, and him saying, "You're only as good as your last mix," it's quite a fucking statement.

Richard Chater: That's very true. In terms of Numbers, you're only as good as your last party. No one's going to remember a really good party three months down the line, you have to make every one good, or else people won't go to your parties.

Bake: Or buy your records.

Have we covered everything?

Richard Chater: The only thing that I think deserves a mention is the Soundhaus and Monox. Monox had a lot of really good nights, and put a huge amount of effort into it. You had Front 242 play, Suburban Knight, Robert Hood, Passarani, Lory D… they pushed all that industrial techno stuff. That doesn't get its credit enough. Dan [Monox] and Kenny [Grieve] are getting their props now, thanks to Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, but a lot of people miss out on that when writing about Glasgow.

Bake: That's true. I wonder why that is...

Richard Chater: 'Cause it's in the Soundhaus, man. It was a total shithole. But that was the only place that opened 'till five, because it was a private members' club. But the bar shut at three, so it was always a painful last two hours.

Images of Bake, Richard Chater, Telford: Jamie Dunn

By Ray Philp on October 25, 2013