Behind the Scenes of 'Big Night Out'

Clive explains how a VICE column that saw him abandoning his real social life to get drunk in the distant corners of UK club culture became a video series.

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Aug 5 2013, 11:29am
Clive Martin is the boyish star writer at our sister site Vice.com. Over the past year, his nightlife column, Big Night Out, has seen him travel the breadth of the UK searching out the clubs you normally only read about on A-Road flyposters or in local news obituaries. From emo clubs to psytrance raves, Clive's been there, Jägerbomb in hand, trying to make sense of it all. As Big Night Out transfers from the written word to a brand new video series on Noisey, Clive explains what it's been like going to parties for a living.

Over the last year or so, the concept of the “Big Night Out” has slowly taken over my life. Through a strange set of circumstances I still don’t quite understand, it became my almost-weekly duty to abandon my real social life, get drunk in the distant corners of UK club culture, in rooms full of people I don’t know and try to dance to music I don’t like.

I guess the idea behind it is something a bit like “what would happen if John Pilger got bored of exposing war criminals, and went to ‘Napa, knocked up a nightclub hostess and glassed a bouncer?” It’s kind of the natural link between Jonathan Meades and Ibiza Uncovered, or Joan Didion and Booze Britain. It’s alcoholic anthropology, if you will.

It was only natural that we should make a video of it. Something about the cavernous, unfolding nature of clubs, and the weird, wonderful and wasted people that throw themselves at the camera really couldn’t be conveyed truly on still photos alone. And more excitingly, video gave us the ability to show what I believe is the true heart of these nights out: the music. It’s all very well taking pics of people dancing, but you have to watch them dance to the music to really understand what they’re up to.

So when Noisey told us they wanted to take the series into the realm of Live Action, l had to oblige. Even if it did mean spending five nights of my life traipsing around provincial clubs with a fuck off camera rig and only a vague idea of what we were doing.

In terms of what we wanted to do, one of the first places we knew we wanted to go was a gabber night. I’ve always been kind of fascinated by gabber, then I found out that Rhys and Grant (who produced and shot the series) were obsessed too. It’s fascinating because it’s only listened to in about three places, all of which are industrial cities (Rotterdam, Newcastle, Glasgow). It’s music that’s brutal and ridiculous in equal turns, it’s constantly aggressive but really playful as well. They’re almost impossible to find too, but we managed to find one, in Glasgow...of course.

So we went off and shot at a night where a guy called Angerfist (who’s kind of the Guetta of gabber) was playing. Despite the fact that he wears a hockey mask and plays this unreal stadium hardcore stuff, he was actually a really moderate Dutch bloke who spent most of the night chatting away backstage.

All in all, it was probably the most truly visceral clubbing experience of my life. Imagine being the very low budget Speed 3, set in a club, where the music had to stay above 170bpm otherwise the audience would tear each other’s throats out. It was awesome and I’m willing to bet that some of the stuff in the film is going to stay with you forever.

In contrast, for the second film we went to a really terrible indie night in one of those godforsaken bar/clubs in the hinterland between Shoreditch and The City. The Pigeon Detectives played a secret set (who knew they were still a “thing”?), and it was full of guys who clearly hate all music unless it’s made by straight, white, northern men. We met an amazing American guy who had an outlandish theory that the reason curries are so successful on Brick Lane is because they “combine them with music”. He kept telling us he was mates with Laura Marling, but I wasn’t sure.

Then we went off to Reading to see DJ Hype do his thing in front of 500 or so Berkshire bassheads, which was, needless to say, quite an experience. Whilst gabber is a totally niche stream of electronic music, D&B is kind of a staple. If you haven’t been to a D&B night, then you’re probably either American or a member of some puritanical cult. Even people who despise D&B have seen Hype or Dillinja on the 1s and 2s. It’s just a rite of passage for anyone who wants to have sex or take drugs.

In the club we met a guy who told us about all the different beefs between the satellite town D&B crews, and legend of the Reading scene, DJ Pressure. Although the most surreal part of the night was probably that waiting around in the dressing rooms in the early part of the night were 90s AOR kings, the Spin Doctors, of “Two Princes” fame, who played the same venue earlier in the night. Sadly they didn’t stick around for Hype’s set, so we ate some of their cheese. Sorry lads.

You’ll have to see the episode to see what happens, but I can assure you that they haven’t changed at all in the last fifteen years or so.

One of the things people seemed to be fascinated by in the articles, was the focus on the student, uni lad, white rum, sodomy and getting on the lash lifestyle so prevalent in 2013 culture. So we thought we’d try replicate that in the video series, by getting ungodly fucked up with the Cardiff Uni Rugby team.

Originally we wanted to film at a club which is owned by one of the guys from The Valleys, but he wouldn’t give us permission, and I think we got someone fired in the confusion (sorry!) Luckily a place called Retro welcomed us in with open arms, and got me absolutely slaughtered on luminous blue dirty pints, plastic beer bottles, traffic light shots and, inevitably, Jägerbombs. By the end of it it turned into some weird passion of the Christ alcohol abuse ritual, and we missed our train back.

We’ve got a few more up our sleeves, so, if you happen to see three scared, drunk and confused men with a heavy camera equipment and heavy hearts, it could well be the Big Night Out team blowing up your endz.

Follow Clive on Twitter @thugclive