Glasgow's clubbing pedigree is now the stuff of legend, with the city's international reputation assured.
It wasn't always like that, though. It took pioneers like Kevin McKay to build a platform for others to use, but when they did the city took to rave culture like a duck to water.
Kevin forged Glasgow Underground two decades ago, with this always-vital, ever on-point imprint recently toasting its 20th birthday with nary a wrinkle in place.
New compilation 'The Underground Sound Of Glasgow 2017' is out now, so we decided to take a walk down memory lane with Kevin McKay and explore the raves, the parties, and the tunes that forged the Glasgow Underground ethos...
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Boxing Day 1994, Absolute Malarkey @ The Voodoo Room, Glasgow
In its early days, Glasgow’s Tunnel Club was one of the best in the city. In the perennial DJ battle between education and entertainment it stood - for me - just the right side of the “cheese line”. When Colin Barr, one of the original founders, sold his shares in 1993, he had a year where he wasn’t allowed to open a competing nightclub.
In that year I was sacked by The Tunnels' new management team for not being commercial enough. Thankfully Colin opened up the Voodoo Room and offered me the Saturday night residency and invited DJs like Roger Sanchez and CJ Mackintosh up to Glasgow.
One of the best irregular parties I did there was called Malarkey. For those of us in the know, Gavin - the promoter - had got a bunch of free vodka from Absolut to which he added some “magic” foraging of his own (you can have a good guess what it was if you see the flyer). The music that Harri (Sub Club), myself and Mike Swan played moved from the hypnotic to the anthemic and was a great accompaniment for the “journey” we were all on.
Some big tunes from the night:
Daniel Dixon “Dance Dance” (Nitegrooves)
Junior Vasquez “Get Your Hands Off My Man” (Tribal US)
Danny Tenaglia “Bottom Heavy” (Tribal US)
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Easter Sunday 1997, Klub Club @ The Apartment, Glasgow
After the Voodoo Room, Colin Barr opened up the Apartment in Glasgow’s Royal Exchange Square. At the time I was a big fan of DJs like Deep Dish, Roger Sanchez, Francois Kevorkian and Danny Tenaglia. Most of the time the fees these guys charged meant that you could only see them in 1000-1500 capacity venues.
While I thought that was good, I much preferred seeing DJs play in more intimate surroundings where they could have more of a free reign with what they played. I managed to talk a well known cigarette brand into sponsoring my parties so that I could make this happen.
Deep Dish were the first people I invited to play at the 350 capacity Apartment. The queue was ridiculous from 11pm and - to date - it is one of the best parties I have been to in Glasgow. Dubfire and Sharam didn’t disappoint with their music selection either taking us from garage to techno and all points in between. Some notable highlights:
The Mod Wheel (aka Tom Middleton) “Moroccan Jack” (Heard)
And of course…
Sandy B “Make The World Go Round” (Deep Dish Remix) (Champion)
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Tuesday 28th of March 2000, Miami Winter Music Conference @ Push, Miami
I started Glasgow Underground in 1997 but it was only once I started working with Romanthony in ’98 that the label started to connect with a much bigger audience.
Romanthony’s iconic track “Bring U Up” had been promo’d a few months before the WMC that year and already it was making the kind of waves I could only dream of when I signed it. The list of DJs supporting the record read like a club promoters A-list of the time; Masters @ Work, Francois K, Gilles Peterson, Farley & Heller, Roger Sanchez and so on.
This was the first party we did in Miami and what a year to do it! For someone who set up the label three years previously to see myself playing alongside house music legends like Murk, Soulfuric’s Brian Tappert (now the owner of Traxsource.com), Miguel Migs and Mark Farina was a dream come true. Here’s the biggest tune of that night (and loads of other WMC parties that year).
Romanthony “Bring U Up” (Glasgow Underground)
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Saturday 27th January 2001, Le Gibus, Paris
Paris in the late 90s and early 2000s was one of my favourite places to play. I’m not sure what it was that musically connected Glasgow and Paris so closely but I know it wasn’t just me that felt it. The same energy lead Daft Punk to give their first demo to Slam at a rave in Paris and brought Laurent Garnier soooo many times to Glasgow to create absolute mayhem on the dance floor at the Arches.
David Duriez has always been a producer I’ve admired and so I was really excited to play this party with him. By 2001, house music was toughening up. The progressive house sounds of the US West Coast had firmly taken hold in Europe and artists like H Foundation and Silicone Soul were on DJs playlists everywhere.
At Glasgow Underground, we had our own progressive production genius. Phil Kelsey, former chart-topper and DMC remixer to the stars was making dub and latin influenced house music as Powder Productions. I used to love his records but sometimes I would want to play both his instrumental and dub versions and so I asked him to make some more beat-heavy mixes.
The result was his 'Powder Beats' EP. I played all four tracks at this party and the place went off! From then on, Phil concentrated on making tougher beat-focussed tracks and saw his music played by everyone from Steve Lawler to Pete Tong.
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Thursday 25 October 2001, Propaganda Moscow
Thanks to my labels distribution deal with PIAS in the UK and their export departments willingness to set up accounts in new markets, Glasgow Underground was a popular label in Moscow in the late 90s and early 2000s. The owner of the best record store in the city decided to move into promoting nights and - thanks to my label - I became the first western DJ to play at this now legendary venue.
Back in 1998 the westernisation of Moscow was underway but it was a far cry from the global city it is now. One of the best things about dance music is that none of that really matters. What mattered was that I was there and 500 clubbers who hadn’t experienced a deeper house sound were going absolutely nuts for it.
I played there twice or three times a year for the next 15 years and this party in 2001 was particularly brilliant. Since I had been coming for a few years, the nights that I played would fill up very quickly and you had a full dance floor pretty much from the off. It allowed you to - as cliched as it sounds - a bit of a journey taking the crowd from deep emotional house through to more jacking grooves.
In reality there was no worry about clearing the dance floor, the muscovite crowds back then were so up for it you could have probably played a straight kick drum for five minutes and got away with it! This killer remix from Ian Pooley was the tune of the night...
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