Rhys Webb looks back on the vital London freakout den...

London freakout den The Cave Club is a place for true believers and bemused passers by to bask in the undulating sounds of the first psychedelic era.

Kicked off in 2007 by a loose coterie of crate-diggers and other freakbeat fiends, the night quickly established a reputation for offering something different.

London has no shortage of 60s nights, but the sheer dedication both of the team behind the Cave Club and the club-goers themselves made each event stand out.

Blessed with a superb music policy - all served off chunky black wax, naturally - the Cave Club spent time at Highbury sweatpit the Buffalo Bar before gentrification forced it on its travels.

Now ensconced at Hackney's Moth Club, a venue virtually unchanged since the early 70s, the Cave Club remains one of London's most unusual clubbing experiences, a true portal into extra-dimensional activities.

And then there's the bands. Boasting a live band on (almost) every outing, the night has boasted numerous firsts, with members of the crowd forming psychedelic offshoots purely to have the glory of appearing onstage.

Clash chats to founding resident, Horrors musician, and psychedelic aficionado Rhys Webb about the Cave Club's roots, its survival, and its future...

- - -

- - -

London has lots of 60s nights, what was the motivation behind founding Cave Club?

The Cave Club started as a place for the DJ's to share music and dance to their favourite records in a dark and sweaty basement. I wanted to try and present the music in a way that didn't feel nostalgic.

Horrors, Joe and Tom were both residents so it was like a gang hang out, a proper underground freakout where people really dressed up to come down and listen to weird and wonderful music.

The music has obviously changed, adapted, and expanded over the decade, but what was the original policy?

There's never been any particular rules, which is why I think the club has always endured but the sound has definitely evolved over the years. The original soundtrack was a complete representation of what The Horrors were listening to at that time. We played twangy rock and roll instrumentals, surf, snotty American garage punk, loads of Joe Meek productions and I'd always end the night with a set of obscure British psychedelic singles.

We soon started playing new releases and hosting bands that were creeping in from the UK scene and around the world, that was exciting as it felt like the club was right at the forefront of that psychedelic explosion.

- - -

It was like a gang hang out, a proper underground freakout...

- - -

Can you remember the first night? Any nerves? And what was the first record?

I do remember it quite well. The first DJ's to play were The She Set who went on to host their own parties at Catch on Kingsland Road. I don't remember the very first record played but I do remember hearing an amazing track called 'Good Evening' by The Tickle very early on in the evening and saying to them, "this is where it begins", it was an absolute favourite of mine and exactly what the club was all about.

When Cave Club was founded vinyl was an endangered music form. Have you taken advantage of re-issues, re-presses etc or do you stick to the originals?

The majority of the stuff I play is on original 45's as I’ve been an obsessive collector since I was in my mid teens but I have definitely taken advantage of re issues over the years and think it's great to have access to music, which is otherwise almost impossible to find.

You’ve had live acts right from the start, why did you take this decision? Who was the first live act to play, and how did they go down?

The Horrors had just started so it made perfect sense to want to have new bands playing the club, it gave a stage to groups with similar interests and kept the night fresh and exciting as it wasn't just focused on old records. We had three groups on the first night, The Guillotines, Ipso Facto and an American duo called Rob K and Uncle Butcher. They were all great but my first lesson learnt was that three bands was too many so the focus has always been on one live act ever since.

Any special live performances stick out from the first 10 years?

A number of Cave Club acts have gone on to get signed and release material of their own… Billy Childish played the second date in December 2007 with his group Musicians Of The British Empire that was a great one as I had been a big fan for a long time. Connan Mockasin played one of his first London shows after the release of Forever Dolphin Love which was amazing. Moon Duo played a mental secret gig.

We had debut shows from bands like TOY, Temples, Telegram and The Voyeurs who were all Cave regulars before they started up, it really felt like something new and exciting was happening and directly linked with the club.

A particularly special moment for me was having psychedelic legends July play their first show in 43 years at The Cave. Their sole album and two singles are all time favourites and had been the soundtrack to my teens, I think they only played a handful of gigs in the 60's so the very fact that they got back together in the first place was a surprise and having them play the club was mind-blowing.

- - -

I loved The Buffalo Bar, there was something very special about walking down into that basement...

- - -

You started in the Buffalo Bar, before trying other venues. Does your current home of the Moth Club match the sleazy atmosphere of the Buffalo? How important is finding the right venue to the night?

I think the right venue is really important, I loved The Buffalo Bar, there was something very special about walking down into that basement and leaving the rest of the world behind. Unfortunately like too many great London venues they were forced to close down.

Moth Club is perfect though, I can't think of many venues left in London with the same charm and personality. The fact that it has remained pretty much untouched since the early 70's makes it the perfect place to lose your mind for the evening.

Cave Club has become a landmark for those interested in the freakier end of 60s and 70s music, with many dedicated fans who would attend each night. What’s it like to be at the centre of that? Is it humbling?

For me the music played is so special that I love sharing it with other people, lots of whom are often hearing it for the first time; there are so many great lost records played that it's exciting to see full dancefloors enjoying sounds that were ignored at the time of their release and trying to create an atmosphere and experience that you can't really get anywhere else. I hope it has inspired a few people over the years, ultimately I just want it to be a great party for everyone to enjoy.

- - -

There are so many great lost records played...

- - -

You’re celebrating David Bowie this weekend, how important was he in forming your musical outlook? Will you have a few left-field / rare cuts to celebrate him by?

Bowie is one of my favourite artists and a constant inspiration. I think a Cave Club tribute to him is probably unlike most others. I've had a few unreleased early 70's tracks pressed up on 7" especially for the evening. As well as playing his classics I'll be delving in to the great album tracks and early releases that you don't hear out so much. 'You've Got A Habit Of Leaving', his second single from 1965 is a favourite of mine, and I’ll be giving that a spin.

What do you have planned for the club? Will there be more live guests or even special events?

Definitely more live music, I've been thinking about taking it up to Manchester for a couple of special dates in the future, which I think, could be fun.

And finally… if you could sum up the Cave Club’s ethos in one record which would it be?

It would have to be 'Dandelion Seeds' by July, one of my favourite 45's and probably played more than any other at the club over the years. It's ultimately psychedelic, exciting, visceral and wild.

- - -

Catch The Cave Club's Bowie tribute at London's Moth Club this Saturday (January 13th).

Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.

Buy Clash Magazine


Join us on VERO

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.

Follow Clash: