ITM’s Looking Local: Subconscious, Adelaide

As a part of ITM’s effort to spotlight some of the local clubs and events that are continually doing great things for the dance community – and doing it all out of a sheer love of it – we look at Adelaide’s trance squad Subconscious and regular DJ, Andrew Howlett. The Subconscious crew will be celebrating their 2nd birthday in August as well as the blossoming trance scene in the city of churches.

When you established Subconscious in 2008, did you feel something was missing from the Adelaide scene?

When Subconscious was started in 2008 it had a strong Trance focus with a hint of Hard style too it. Thinking that the brand Subconscious was going to reflect more on the Hard style industry, it wasn’t until after the first event a noticeable gap in the Trance market stood out. This is not to say that Trance didn’t exist prior to Subconscious, because at the time there were a few promoters who were running Trance events, and had been doing so for years prior. The difference however was the need for something fresh, including risks others weren’t prepared to take at the time.

How reliable is the trance following within Adelaide? Is there a strong community feel?

When we started out in 2008 it would be fair to say that the Trance faithful would have been no more than 3-400 strong and this reflected with the turn out of Trance focused events. While Subconscious has always had a Trance focus from the start, it was always about more than just Trance. It was about being able to throw a great party for everyone who attended so in time word would spread that when people heard Subconscious they knew what to expect in terms of a good night. However it would be fair to say two years later, the Trance scene is on its way up and in a big way too, with the Trance community now a lot larger than it was.

Do you feel in recent years the club scene has shifted from weekly events to more occasional parties such as yours?

Adelaide has always been one of those states in past years that was always overlooked by international artists/events etc. As it was always thought that big events couldn’t be sustained. As far as clubbing goes, history will show that very few club nights can be sustained for long periods of time, this could be for a number of reasons, hence why I think promoters like ourselves find it easier to throw a few big parties a year, keeping people interested rather than flood the market with the same thing every week. Keeping it occasional has probably helped maintain our success.

What do you think are the most important things for a promoter to get right?

There are so many factors which a promoter needs to get right in order to be able to host a successful event, and these things don’t come easy by any means, from the outside people may think this industry is easy…simply a matter of finding a venue, paying some DJs, minimal marketing, opening the doors on the night and bam instant success. This is very far from the truth, even two years later Subconscious is still finding ways to improve and become more efficient in order to continue to throw a successful party. In saying this above anything else when starting out it is very important never to over promise and under deliver. Always make sure the sound and lighting are more than above board, because it doesn’t matter who is behind the turntables, if the AV isn’t up-to scratch you will loose punters straight away. Be prepared to take risks despite what others may think, providing these risks are calculated. Respond to feedback, even if it is negative, if it is constructive criticism then that is an easy way to identify areas to improve. Always remember to enjoy what you do, the moment it becomes solely about making money you are already behind the 8-ball, if that was the case there probably wouldn’t be any promoters still left today.

Over the two years of Subconscious, are there any particular parties or moments that really stand out in your memory?

In our early stages the most memorable party would be hosting Roger Shah, it was our first international DJ and quite a big one at that, we managed to get St. Paul’s reopened for the Subconscious parties and despite a lot of criticism we managed to reach capacity on the night. We never really looked back from there, setting the standard for Subconscious parties and Trance in Adelaide, over the two years we continue to host a number of DJs including most recently moving to HQ with Eddie Halliwell, Sean Tyas, Signum, Solarstone and Matt Hardwick all on the bill this would see probably the biggest Trance line up to ever reach Adelaide and based on the turn out it is obvious the people of Adelaide want a lot more Trance.

We have also just announced what will surely be our biggest party to date and that is for the first time ever, Godskitchen will be reaching the shores of Adelaide, something Subconscious is more than excited to present!

For your second birthday celebrations, you’ve got an amazing line-up on board. Anything in particular planned for that night?

It definitely is an amazing line-up; John ‘00’ Fleming with a huge four hour closing set is something we are more than excited about, it shows Subconscious’ diversity proving that we push the sounds we love to try and educate a crowd and we’re not simply going down that mainstream/commercial line to try and sell venues. We have a lot of giveaways planned including: Subconscious Winter Sounds CD’s mixed by the Subconscious residents, Steve Strangis, Ahmet Atasever, Frost and Andrew Howlett as well as official Subconscious 2nd Birthday T-shirts. This 2nd Birthday will also be the Official Pre Godskitchen party, where tickets for Godskitchen will be available on the night. We look forward to seeing everyone their on the night.

DJ PROFILE: ANDREW HOWLETTHear the Subconscious mixtape

How important do you feel your radio show has been in raising your profile, both within Adelaide and further a field?

Extremely! Without my radio show I would most likely be without the majority of my fan base and I doubt I would be playing as many big gigs as I am. The beauty with radio is the freedom of programming. In club environments, patrons want to dance to the material they know, which in a small city like Adelaide is limited. My radio show enables me to feature 120 minutes of unreleased material and provides something completely separate from what you would get on any standard club night. Without my radio show, my playlists would be far more repetitive and I would have nowhere near the access to music like I currently have. The networking potential that has come with my show has been huge for me as well. International record labels and interstate touring companies provide me with interviews with DJs I would never have thought possible. The ability to network and communicate is crucial in this industry.

In your opinion, is there a strong trance scene in Adelaide, or can it be sometimes fickle?

The trance scene in Adelaide is consistent with the rest of the nation. The smaller club nights have simply vanished through lack of support, but when the big brands come to town the biggest of clubs struggle to hold the attendance. Recent nights like Subconscious, Cream and HiFi pres. Ferry Corsten and Ministry of Sound Trance Nation parties have been packed to the rafters. In his recent tour, Signum dubbed Adelaide his best gig in Australia, then featured the gig on his radio show. Trance may not be the major flavour in Adelaide, but given the chance to shine, Adelaide delivers.

Do you feel Adelaide can sometimes be short-changed on international tours, or has to really fight for them?

Certainly, but this is just economical. Adelaide’s demographic just isn’t large enough for consistent high budget parties. Over the past few years Adelaide has partied to the likes of Stereosonic, Future Music Festival, Summadayze, Parklife and We Love Sounds, with DJs like Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk, John Digweed, Markus Schulz and soon Tiesto. On the whole we get some amazing tours and festivals, but there have certainly been occasions where we have not been able afford the risk of the expensive of names, so Adelaide has inevitably missed out.

This said, the recent rise of brands like Subconscious in recent years has ensured many of the touring acts have hit town, such as Eddie Halliwell, Roger Shah, Sean Tyas and soon John O’Callaghan, so act profiles are definitely on the rise. I think DJ Frost deserves a mention on this one too, his Trancefusion nights have provided a considerably increased trance crowd in Adelaide since they started a few years ago. He has been responsible for the appearances of Jochen Miller, Kyau and Albert, David Forbes, Activa, Agnelli and Nelson, Mike Koglin, Daniel Kandi and Simon Patterson, not a bad effort for the past couple of years. Well done Frosty!

What would you say has contributed to the success of the Subconscious parties over the last couple of years?

Oh that’s simple. They are one, if not the only, crew that over the past few years has thrown caution to the wind and gambled on the big names of trance. To be totally honest, I don’t know if they are financially up or not, but they were the only brand willing the bring names like Roger Shah to town. This is why I love being part of their parties, it’s their rational for exposure of global giants in a commercially driven environment.

Armin van Buuren is a hero of yours – was it a buzz to host him on your radio show? What is it about Armin that has kept him so respected?

A buzz? It was a rush meets extreme nerves. For me, Armin (and Ferry) are where it began. Mixed Live and Spundae and Universal Religion Vol. 2 were literally life changing experiences for me. At the time I was a massive Nik Fish, Jumping Jack, Pee Wee Ferris fan, and over only a few weeks I completely changed direction. Since then, he has played consistently brilliant music, keeping just ahead of trends. Even now I still reference his live sets and radio shows to compare track listings. To be able to have an interview with, and then meet, someone that influential in your life, is truly overwhelming. Thank you Mark James!

You’re playing on a great line-up at the Subconscious second birthday – do you enjoy the warm-up slots?

I love them. Warm up sets have an amazing capacity to be able to match the music to the room and then progress with some melodic yet reserved music. There is no urgency or pressure to pack the dancefloor, and you can truly represent yourself musically. Playing chart topping peak time tunes is one thing, but warm up sets are so much more personal.