The 24th of February sees Ministry of Sound host the first He.She.They party; a resurrection of the notion of the dance music club as a sanctuary for people to be themselves – a return to the ideological roots of individual expression and inclusivity.
Back To Culture caught up with The Weird And The Wonderful’s Steven Braines to find out more…
1. How did the idea for He.She.They come about? How would you describe the ethos behind it?
We basically just wanted to create a party that we wanted to go and bring all our mates too – and it’s a very varied friendship group. I’m bi and someone told me off for kissing a girl in an LGBT club before I reminded him what the “B” stood for. It really got under my skin. To feel unwelcome like that really affected me at the time as I was quite newly out and I don’t find aggression towards heterosexual peeps any more acceptable than homophobia. So our ethos is to create “a place without prejudice for people to be people”. We were a bit worried that it sounds a bit preachy but essentially that is what we want to do so we kept it. It doesn’t matter what your race, sexuality, sex, gender, age, etc, is, just be a nice person who likes good music and is respectful of others. It’s really simple. It’s how we think the world should be, not just our club night.
2. In the current climate of the intolerant right wing rearing it’s ugly head once again, do you believe that culture – specifically dance music culture – is reacting to that, in much the same way as it did in the late 1980s with the rise of acid house?
I think there is definitely a feeling of how important it is to resist powers and ideologies that deliberately aim to divide and create hatred. Dance music has also been a place for people to break down barriers because of the vibe. Everyone has to pay their bills but there is a balance to be struck because ethos, art and money always but too often the latter is seen as the most important. Also some of the racist, homophobic shit coming out of some producers and DJs over the last couple of years on social media is frightening. I’m glad people like Ten Walls got called out for it. I think electronic music handled that with a lot of pro activity. What I think is really exciting is how clubs like Panorama Bar/Berghain work where that level of freedom and good music combine. I would love that same thing to exist in the UK one day. I guess it does to a degree when nights like Torture Garden take over a space but UK law is still a bit more limiting.
3. I was at Printworks for Maya Jone Coles And Friends last year, and that was an amazing day – like an indoor festival in that huge venue! Are you looking forward to having a similar kind of vibe in the slightly more initimate surroundings of the Ministry?
The Maya Jane Coles & Friends party was amazing; from Wax Wings b2b Alinka, to Dan Avery, everything was on point. For our night; we felt that it’s nice to be able to listen to different types of music on a night out and not just be locked in one room. There is everything from techno to house to experimental electronica to a bit of hip hop and garage depending on which room you’re in. The DJs from straight and gay scenes too, because that was always a weird barrier we felt didn’t need to be there. A good DJ is a good DJ full stop.
“Treating a bill of excellent DJs who happen to also be female as some kind of novelty or departure from the norm is not putting women and men or non-binary peeps on an equal footing.”
4. The DJ lineup is a fairly astonishing collection of talent, but interesting in that it’s not just a bunch of usual suspects pulled together to shift tickets – there’s obviously been a lot of thought put into it. How did you go about curating that bill?
Well really, we largely picked our favourites of people we like to go see, and also hang out with. We will never book a DJ if they aren’t a nice person, because life is too short and it brings a bad energy to the night. Maya is the supreme being of all electronic music in our minds so we had to get her to play the debut party, otherwise it would have been sacrilege. Most of the lineup are producers too and we felt that was an important part of the decision. “Hate Me” by KDA is a belter of a tune but message wise it so important to us, so we wanted to have him play. Also wanting a mixed crowd of people we wanted to take people from different scenes but who we felt would mesh well and the musical flow could progress nicely throughout the night.
5. There is a very refreshingly strong representation of female DJ talent at this event – do you think that in the post-Weinstein world this will finally start to become more the norm?
Well for Ellen and Maya they’ve been headliners in their own right for years. I think there is an odd belief that men sell more tickets than women, and promoters seldom take that risk as most promoters don’t have big margins themselves. It’s woeful how many Ibiza clubs don’t take those risks. In more recent years, Maya has headlined out there before, Nina has, and I know Nervo have had a residency and erm, Paris Hilton… in the super clubs. Maya, Annie Mac and Hannah Wants have programmed big festival stages in the UK so hopefully promoters are being proven wrong by that outdated bias. Most of my favourite producers and DJs are women so I’ve always found it a bit baffling. There’s all this unintentional misogyny things like billing things as “all female line-ups” – you would never do that as an “all male line-up”. Treating a bill of excellent DJs who happen to also be female as some kind of novelty or departure from the norm is not putting women and men or non-binary peeps on an equal footing.
Tickets for He.She.They. are available here: http://club.ministryofsound.com/listings/events/2018/february/heshethey/