Originating as a radio show, Audiobahn is a club night too, celebrating its first birthday in June with Space Dimension Controller. Oliver Payne caught up with organisers Callum and Rory to ponder booking a personal favourite, the importance of the resident DJ and the buzz about our city’s music scene.
Having started out on university radio dishing out techno, house, disco and italo-disco sounds to the student masses at UoN, brothers, owners and residents Rory and Callum decided to branch out to events. They started Audio Café at Market Bar (now Trade), later moving to Bar Eleven and renaming as Audiobahn - the name of their show, which still continues to broadcast.
Each event is soundtracked by a solid team of residents; Nikki O, Kurty, Auld Rab and Tam O’Shanter (Rory and Callum), with the introduction of incredible headliners to show Nottingham what they’re made of. And often these aren’t your usual picks. Bruce, for example, was an expertly timed booking, one that turned heads from all over the city - student or not. And now they’ve done it again, choosing the legendary Space Dimension Controller to celebrate their birthday next weekend.
“It was just Callum, the residents and myself playing all night,” Rory says, referring to the first event, “which actually was good. We didn’t get loads of people down but enough to make Market Bar a good vibe and it was just the first stepping stone.”
Though the brothers are from Edinburgh, they both came to Nottingham for University. Callum explains how it all started way back when he was studying here almost 10 years ago: “The city exposed me to a lot of music that I hadn’t experienced in Edinburgh. I caught the tail end of the amazing Firefly parties held at Marcus Garvey, the peak of bass music when post-dubstep UK Techno was exploding and Swamp 81, Hessle Audio and affiliates would regularly come through town and Stealth would be sold-out every Friday with really exciting, jam-packed line-ups and tickets costing next to nothing.
“I still have a poster from a 2012 Zleep with Bicep, Nina Kraviz and Space Dimension Controller playing - my ticket cost me just £12. I loved music before moving but I just hadn’t really experienced it in the way I did when I came to Notts. It has left me with an unbelievably strong connection to the city. One of the motivations for Audiobhan was that I felt like Notts nightlife had changed loads since then, and didn’t have the same offerings anymore.
“Audiobahn began as a radio show and now it has become a platform to connect with other brands. [The show] started off as a mixtape but we found that had run its course and we weren’t getting the same quality of mixes over time, so we then changed to Audiobahn and focused on culture. We recently started up the mixtape feature again as a monthly part of the Audiobahn shows. It’s all evolved as we’ve figured out what works for us.
“So far we’ve had Peach Fuzz residents, Jaskkkkkkk [of local brand Parallax], Coralie, who plays and runs a night here, and our resident Kurty played this month. We’re looking to reach out to a few other residents just to show what’s happening in Nottingham.”
Both feel that the role of a resident DJ is hugely important, which is unsurprising considering they used to watch Sub Club and FLY resident Theo Kottis’ unstoppable rise each weekend when back on Scottish home turf. It’s an admirable focus of the brand - as the world of DJing has become a little saturated, these are the hard-working members of the scene that have a huge weight on their shoulders to deliver authentic sounds from authentic sources that makes the night go in the right direction, and ensures the dancefloor groove is neither stiff or forced.
One name they both look up to is Lukas Wigflex, the DIY promo king of Nottingham and special selector, responsible for the Wigflex City Festival’s recent debut. Hard working characters like this are the glue that keeps the most exciting nights together, giving a heightened, unique and hedonistic feel to the events they run and play at.
“All around the country there are amazing residents doing amazing things,” Rory says, “and they go under the radar quite a lot. They struggle to get beyond a local following in the city. They’re always amazing DJs and often they’re as good - if not better - than the headliner. Someone like Lukas is an amazing DJ - always the 5-6 guy and actually, y’know, he’s so good.”
“Rory and I grew up in Scotland where the best clubs, such as Sneaky Pete’s and La Cheetah, are only around 100 capacity,” Callum adds. “They still pull in big names because of their reputation and also have consistently busy residents’ nights week in, week out. Nottingham is much more about planning to go to individual events rather than turning up to regular, consistent trusted club nights and that’s what we’d like to offer.
“We wanted to get involved and help push a scene that we absolutely love and provide something different to the high ticket price, big club and warehouse events that have become the staple. Throwing parties in small venues where the intimacy amplifies the energy in the room and connection between the DJ and crowd was non-negotiable. Audiobahn is sort of a mashup of what we love from both the Scottish and Nottingham nights.”
Rory and Callum can’t fall short of praise for those around them and believe supporting the local promoters and reaching out to other brands at the same level as Audiobahn is the key to a healthy scene.
Callum continued: “Since starting Audiobahn there have been a number of small nights that have popped up in Notts and are doing well. It’s been really positive for the nightlife here and it’s also been really cool how the nights have been supporting each other and going through the learning curve together. When we started out, Rory and I talked with trepidation about how competitive and unpleasant the music industry can be. Whilst I have seen it from brands/clubs in Notts in the past, it hasn’t been our experience at all.”
“Getting recognised by Lukas alongside all of the other great Notts talent was also really special at the Wigflex City Festival. I’ve been going to the parties for years and Rory has become a recent regular. They’ve been holding it down for Notts, despite all the challenges and change that’s been going on around them, and are now rightly getting recognised all over the place for their efforts.”
“We started the night to contribute to this scene and it’s funny because, at the time, the way we saw it was there weren’t that many small ‘intermediate’ level brands - just people like Wigflex and Stealth booking big names. But there wasn’t anything down from that. Since we started a lot of people have thought similar things and loads have cropped up: Peach Fuzz, Parallax, the Quake guys, Wild Brunch are doing some great stuff. We’re all doing the same thing at the end of the day and we don’t want to be seen as a competition, but as people contributing the same thing to Nottingham - to build up those relationships is nice.”
The next event they are running will feature the mighty Space Dimension Controller, who the boys are big fans of.
“Our first birthday booking had to be special and someone who has been a big influence for us, but we're also pretty keen to give people a platform in Notts who might not play here regularly.”
“We kind of just decided rather than rush into another event we’ll take a few months to sit back,” Rory says on the idea of keeping headliners far apart throughout the year. “We knew we had our birthday coming up so we wanted to make sure we got the booking right, the promo right – everything. Rather than rushing into another one we said we’ll focus on the one in June and make sure we do it properly.”
Audiobahn celebrates its first birthday at Bar Eleven on Friday 7 June, with Space Dimension Controller, Auld Rab & Tam O'Shanter and Nikki O. & Kurty.