The Distant Planet crew have been putting on wicked and welcoming London raves in clubs, pubs, skate parks and more since 2011, with the emphasis on bringing back the classic good vibes from the ‘golden era’ of 1987-1995.
Declaring themselves an anthem-free and vinyl-only zone, they pride themselves on showcasing great old skool hardcore, acid house, jungle techno and related genres, and have played host to underground legends including Krome & Time, Controlled Weirdness, Jerome Hill, Hue Jah Fink? and Rob Stow.
I chewed the fat with the crew’s lovely Hughesee and Louise Plus One regarding their past, present and future…
What is the Distant Planet ethos? Why does Distant Planet exist and what does it hope to achieve?
Hughesee: The ethos is generally about keeping it real in terms of representing music from back in the day and not just putting on a party and banging out the same old anthems for a profit. There was a crazy amount of releases that came out over that classic ’87-’95 period, so why limit yourselves to the same set of music/ anthems?
At our all-dayer parties at The Royal Sovereign you will hear the earlier stuff – more Acid House/ Early Techno/ ’91-’92 Breakbeat Hardcore and Reggae … the foundations of dance music. When we do larger parties or Distant Planet TV we can ramp it up a bit and include harder music like Jungle, Drum and Bass and Techno. In terms of what we hope to achieve? Bringing people together through music and doing something a bit different from the rest.
When and how did your crew first come together?
Louise: Myself, Dexorcist, Hughesee and Ben Dead Silence met up one freezing cold January evening at the Stokey Records bar (a small basement venue in Stoke Newington) to discuss putting on a party. Dexorcist said he had always wanted to name a party ‘Distant Planet’ and that is how Distant Planet got its name.
Our first party was at the Grand Junction Arms in Harlesden, on May 1st, 2011, which Rory Moronik put us on to, being keen to throw a party with us after putting other events on in London with another crew (Rave or Die). The pub staff thought we were the local darts team when we went up there to check the pub out! I don’t think they quite expected the party that we put on… It was an amazing venue and we had music indoors and outdoors (in the garden next to the Regents Canal). Such a top location! We had 2 Up sound system outside run by Tim and Boycey, plus Gary and Mikey Red Eye’s rig inside. There were about 400 people raving there that day and we did a rave quiz too. Quite good for our first party.
Can you tell us a bit about your individual backgrounds and influences?
Louise: I had always bought records since I was a kid, as everyone did in those days. I grew up in Cardiff in South Wales and my earliest club experience was going to a Reggae Club down the docks there called the Casablanca every Friday in a disused church.
There were so many good musicians in Cardiff back then – much of the scene that I knew was based around Jazz Funk. Looking back, it was a bit like the rave scene is in London for me now. Lots of people that I knew going to different venues, all with the same purpose: to hear good music.
My raving origins are in the London Underground party scene. I started going to events in the late ’80s to early ’90s including Castle Morton and Club Dog at the George Robey, and saw ravers for the first time at Glastonbury in ’87. I went to the occasional squat party (but didn’t really know anyone else who was interested in parties to go with) and listened to a lot of stuff on the radio too. It wasn’t until around the time of the Criminal Justice Bill in 1994 that I started going to parties on a regular basis; mostly places like The Dungeons, The Rocket, Tyssen Street, Abbot Street, Trendz, The All Nations Club in Hackney and loads of squat parties.
Most of my early DJing was at these venues too. Myself and Jerome Hill put on a regular Sunday all-dayer at the Pembury Tavern in Hackney in the late Nineties where everyone would pile in after the squat parties had finished. We would have lots of different styles of dance music throughout the day, finishing off with some of the bigger names including acts such as Chris Liberator, Dave the Drummer and Jerome himself in the evening.
Hughesee: I grew up on a diet of pirate radio and started collecting records in 1991, but my first taste of real partying was at Asylum raves around Hertfordshire, around 1992. I moved to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire in the mid ’90s and met a safe raver through work who took me to Exodus, which blew my mind! I met so many safe ravers through that that I ended up starting up Survival sound system with some friends. Most weekends we would either be throwing a party or going to other parties such as Ooops, Junction 14, Destination and many more.
I moved to London in 2003, frequently going to squat parties armed with a bag of vinyl, playing anywhere that would let me on. I was also a resident at the Subliminal Discharge events at Jacks nightclub, playing at a few and helping out, which was great. Around this time, I would also go to nights such as Sick & Twisted and Live Evil London for the harder side of techno.
Distant Planet has been active across other media, including forays into radio and an online video podcast of interviews and mixes … what’s the impetus behind that and how’s the reception been?
Hughesee: I think it was in conversation with Jason (Warlock) that we were discussing recent interviews and he said something along the lines of now is a great time to document our scene before it is lost in time. He seemed really keen to do something with us after discussions and that was a great start for us. I think there is a lack of interviews/ documentaries out there that really digs deep into the history and culture of underground dance music, plus we know some amazing DJ’s/ Producers/ Ravers, so it’s nice to shine a light on them! We have also been doing broadcasts as Distant Planet TV, giving DJ’s the opportunity to put sets together and play on camera, with some great background visuals done by an amazing designer friend of ours, Rob at Fastmouse Graphics.
We have some new tech and plan to do more of these broadcasts with some new twists, as well as doing some more interviews and filming, so keep an eye on our YouTube channel. It’s worth checking our interviews with Controlled Weirdness and Warlock too, if you haven’t already – both really go in to some amazing topics and it was a pleasure working with them. These videos have been well received and it is nice when it comes up in conversation and the general feedback is that there is not much of this sort of stuff, which encourages us to do more.
Do you have any plans to venture further afield, for example, with a Distant Planet label, agency or festival?
Louise: We have plans to start running a Distant Planet label at some point soon. We’re busy in the studio right now and will be looking around for artists to collaborate/ work with. It’s always been my dream to put on a festival or run a Distant Planet stage at a festival too. We were lucky enough to go out to Portugal with the Distant Planet crew this year to represent on the Raveageddon stage at the Freekuency Festival.
You have an impressively inclusive view when it comes to putting on artists, whether they’re well-established acts or unknown youngsters. Has this been something you’ve aimed for consciously? What qualities do you look for when selecting acts for your events?
Hughesee: Thanks, that’s exactly what we aim for. We like to keep it all-inclusive so welcome both younger or older artists, established or up-and-coming. The main thing is that they are on our wavelength in terms of what we want to achieve. I think it’s a requirement that anyone wanting to play needs to come to a party first and to make themselves known to us. We don’t book DJ’s that just message us asking for a set and never really show an interest in what Distant Planet is doing as a whole. The main quality we look for in people is that they understand what real underground music is about and are genuine in their approach – that speaks volumes!
I believe Distant Planet still operates a vinyl-only policy at all its events – can you explain the reasoning behind this?
Louise: So many reasons! Apart from vinyl both sounding and looking great, it also takes effort for a DJ to build up a collection of vinyl records and that shows real commitment. There are far fewer opportunities for DJs to play vinyl at parties, so I suppose we are redressing the imbalance a bit there too. Nothing beats being able to walk up the decks and looking at the label on a record to try and figure out what it is! Also, we feel that as the music was released on vinyl back in the day, why not play it on vinyl now? There are DJs who had switched to playing digitally in recent years but have had to switch back to vinyl to play for us, which can only be a good thing. We always bring our own turntables to our events too, so that people know that when they play for us they will be playing on a decent set up.
Hughesee: Vinyl used to be the main format to play dance music for years. I appreciate technology has evolved for DJing, but there is still a healthy vinyl market, with new releases coming out on vinyl all the time. I still find out about records from years ago that are amazing and if you are going to play oldskool, vinyl is as authentic as you can get – we won’t be told otherwise!
What have been the highlights of the journey so far for you?
- Our 1st party at The Grand Junction Arms in Harlesden
- Party at The Dome in Tufnell Park
- Party at Heatham House – an all-dayer in the skate park in Twickenham, with graffiti and various activities
- All our parties at the Royal Sovereign in Hackney
- The Music Maker dancing in his mirror suit under laser fire at Bar 512
- Symmetry Festival
- Rupture and Distant Planet Old Skool and Reggae party at the Fox and Firkin in Lewisham
- Doing the interviews with Controlled Weirdness and Warlock
- The Distant Planet TV broadcasts
- Playing at parties in Portugal and Freekuency Festival for the last 3 years
- Radio shows – Johnny 5’s Urban Baseline show on Cambridge FM, Smutty’s SOS @ Hoxton FM, Tenners Ten Tun’s who on Koollondon, History of Jungle show on Deja Vu FM, Breakpirates, Jungletrain, OriginUK.net and Fright Night Radio
What are some pros and cons to consider for anybody wanting to put on their own events?
Louise: Putting on events is great as it gives you something to look forward to and a chance to showcase the music you love. The important thing is to be aware of the amount of work involved in order to put on something successful and to give yourself enough time to get the word out. If your heart is in the right place and you have a burning desire to do an event then it doesn’t feel like hard work!
I started by helping other people put their events on back in the 90s and gained experience that way, just by going out and doing the flyering. It wasn’t long before I was doing my own parties, as well as DJing for other promoters such as Stonka and Headfuk. I put on the Re-Rave-All parties at the Dungeons in Lea Bridge Road with Henry G, doing most of the promotion myself and organising the sound systems and many of the DJs to cover four rooms. It felt like such an easy thing at the time because I was so into it, plus the venue was behind what I was doing and I worked with some great people who were running the sound systems.
Tell us a good rave war story…
Hughesee: Ha ha, ok, from me probably the time I was doing a hard techno live set at Subliminal Discharge. DJ Donna Summer was over from America playing and before the party we were talking about good old British comedies, which he was really into. To my mind, from there the night panned out just like a sketch from one of them. So, I saw my friend Shaggy near the bar, who had just come back from holiday and was wearing this cool hat. I made a grab for this and really twisted my ankle … it kinda opened up an old injury where I snapped the same ankle dancing to gabber and hurt my ankle falling down a pothole at a free rave in Oxford … but that’s another story!
I was in excruciating pain and ended up having to go to hospital after the party (and take the following two weeks off work), but at the time I was determined to carry on regardless, as it was a chance to do a live set I had been preparing for months. Anyway, DJ Donna Summer took one look at me and thought “he’s not playing no set in that state”, so picked the mic up and announced I had injured myself and was unable to play, so if everyone wanted to make their way into the other room then another DJ was playing … this totally emptied the room! But yeah, I carried on playing my set grimacing in agony to a grand total of three or four people – it was really hard techno, so totally fit the mood.
Do you still go to warehouse raves/ free parties yourselves? What do you think of the current state of play if so?
Louise: We have been playing at some great underground parties recently! There are some wicked sound systems and the events are really well-organised – we’re really enjoying playing at them and the future looks bright for this type of events.
Hughesee: I thought the free/ warehouse party scene was over for us until recently, as so many people have moved on from the late ’90s-early 2000s London scene, but it seems the younger generation are carrying things well and really getting into the early ’90s sounds.
Do you think the continuing existence (and documentation) of an underground party scene is important? If so, why?
Hughesee: The existence of the squat/ free party scene is essential, as it is a non-profit based movement without all the imposed constraints of a modern club environment. It’s partying in its rawest form. In terms of documentation of that scene, it could be good if done carefully, but we have seen media who don’t understand it and represent its purpose badly – or just get it totally wrong by speaking to the wrong people.
What have been/are your own personal favourite sound systems and raves?
Hughesee: Rupture is a great party for Jungle and Oldskool sounds and it is amazing not just for the line-ups but for the vibe and people who are there, which really makes it special every time. I used to love Headfuk, Crossbones and Panik back in the day London-wise and Survival, Ooops, Destination, Junction 14 and others out in Bedfordshire/ Buckinghamshire/ Hertfordshire in the mid to late ’90s were special days.
Louise: Back in the ’90s there were so many good sound systems around. Stonka and Malfaiteurs gave me an amazing opportunity to play out on a regular basis (and to some big crowds too) and Headfuk parties were always wicked. Rupture is the best current London event for Jungle/ DnB/ Oldskool and is held at Corsica Studios three times a year. It showcases some of the best Underground artists, as well as lesser-known DJs who may not get the opportunity to play elsewhere. The music is always top quality and the crowd are very friendly too. Just recently we have been DJing for a sound system called Deeper at some Underground parties, which has been an amazing experience.
What’s coming up for Distant Planet over the next twelve months?
Both: Firstly, we are in the studio a lot recently. We have a whole heap of hardware: Akai samplers (S950, S1000), synths (Alpha Juno, JV1080, TB 303, etc.) and drum machines and are trying to create some tracks sounding like the great tunes we play from that era … some people have come around and think we are mad as it’s overkill, but that’s how it is.
Plans for the return of Distant Planet TV – we are just looking into venues so we aim to make that a bi-monthly broadcast.
We want to put on a bigger all-night party in London and are looking for venues for that at present. We will no doubt carry on doing regular family-friendly all-dayers at The Royal Sovereign too. We love that pub! The bar staff and kitchen staff seem to like what we do and Simon the landlord is always behind us, so it makes it really special to be able to do something there. We have a party on June 9th for Hughesee’s birthday and will no doubt do one in September for Louise Plus One’s birthday too.
More interviews and features – keep an eye on our website and YouTube. At this stage we can’t really say who or what as we don’t want to announce anything that is not completed, but we have just uploaded footage from Freekuency Festival featuring Hughesee, Louise Plus One, Jerome Hill, Hijack, Dave Faze, Dwarde and Gand and a few others.
Hopefully more trips to Europe too!
Keep track of the latest Distant Planet news via their website.
If you’re in London on the 9th June, come down to the Royal Sovereign for a Distant Planet party – featuring the return of the Rave pub quiz!