Highland Club Culture

State Of Grace

1993 - present

In Inverness there had been a loose scene I was involved with since mid to late 87, it was very small, a tight clique of folks, underground, very controlled in way of membership, not what we experience today, and it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a fully formed living thing. I played in the Eastgate bar pretty frequently which involved myself and Andy Stacey sneaking in as many house tunes as we could, between the chart-based sounds that were the mainstream requirement. I feel It was way more about the hedonism than the music for most at that point, and it swept us along for a while.

Over time clubs like Dillinger’s became the place where you could experience the fledgling club scene experience, it still didn’t really feel like have any substance or direction to me personally (others may have felt differently), it was just a new thing for a now slightly wider audience. People enjoyed it, popularity in the music was on the rise, but there was for me no real feeling of group connection with the music or people, that would come later.

For a time although still following the music and its evolution I had personally stopped going out to these nights, they fell short on the feeling of connection to the people and music, and I wanted more. So, I disconnected and waited whilst still collecting all the music I could get my hands on. Then along came The Greaves Brothers in circa 91.

I met Jim Greaves at his new shop at the bottom of Stephens Brae, (They sold urban wear, and latterly music), he told me he was going to start a new club night, and surprisingly to me already knew who I was, and that I had some DJ experience. He told me that if I wanted to play at his new night that I was most welcome to do so, an offer I’ll always regret not following up on. The night was called Kick n Hard, Kick for short and it really started what I consider to be the modern underground scene in Inverness. Membership was mandatory but freely available to those in the know, gigs would pop up in the most unexpected of places keeping things very fresh, and the gigs were all awesome. They later morphed into the night Disco Frenzy as I remember it, and had stellar DJs like Andy Weatherall, Paul Wain, Harri, Sasha and a host more. They were also responsible for Tribal Fusion, and the Friday the 13 th All dayer events. Some crazy times back then.

Next for me was Blam Blam, and the Dove Club, both very different nights in how they were delivered, but some amazing nights had a both. Justin Robertson and Craig Walsh were repeat visitors, and Highland favourites. I met some of my Lifelong friends over these years attending Kick, Blam, and Dove club, brilliant, funny and kind people, the perfect club buddies. The scene helped create lots of bonds for those who attended these nights.

While all of this was going on I had made my first foray to Ibiza with some friends, it was 1991/92. One of those friends came back so enthused by the scene that he decided to start a hardcore night called Fusion. This was run by Evan McNeill and Miles Simpson. I started to help the guys out where I could on local gigs, setting up decor, helping with sound, general work to help the nights run. The lads where really successful at what they were doing, got quickly tied into many top DJ’s and producers in the Hardcore scene, worked with M8, and other club publications, and took Fusion to other cities.

There was a problem. I hated the music – I had had my fill of the Hardcore scene, had almost walked out of the last Rez I had travelled to, just could not stomach it anymore. I had bought my own first set of decks (instead of going to Magaluf with the boys), and was really enjoying the latest music that was available in the house arena…. So I had an epiphany……

A forthcoming Fusion run gig, which was going to be called “Luv Dup”, was to be run up in the Culloden Community Centre where they had two rooms. I asked if I could take the reins on that room, and pick the DJ’s. The lads were in agreement, Evan focused on the main room, and Miles and I ploughed ourselves into getting things arranged for room two. The idea was simple, get a more house orientated list of DJ’s who could play a more eclectic sound, and see if we could create a room that vibed for everyone, creating a real party feel to the atmosphere, rather than what I considered an oppressive feeling in hardcore events. This is when we first approached a young Mr Scott Langley, who was playing some parties, some of which I had played at also, as his music selection was exactly where I was in my music journey. He was Joined by Brother Dave and Chris U.N. both brilliant DJs from the time. On the night the room was quickly packed, a great atmosphere, exactly the vibe I had hoped for. Its success on the night however, was also its downfall.

So busy was room two, dubbed ‘Loved up lite’, that the main room was more or less empty, meaning Mr Mikey B and Bass Generator were playing to a sparse expanse of dancefloor. It was quickly decided (much to my disappointment), that room 2 would shut early so the revellers could be passed through to room 1. To say I was most displeased is largely an understatement, but such things happen in the gigging world.

This was however just the sign I needed. Post the gig I spoke to the lads and said I was going to start another night that replicated the vibe in room 2. Miles was interested in getting involved and so we went off into planning mode.

I remember very vividly meeting with a group of pals, who were part of our team of club goers. A few were DJs themselves that had played at ‘Luv Dup Lite’, and would end up playing many times at our new little club night, and go on to create nights of their own, like the Ewen Brothers who formed Club U.N. We met in Lauders for a few jars, and Miles and I told them what we were planning, and when/were, but we had not decided on a name yet. I had listed about 20 names I liked, which we went through on the night. Much hilarity as we went through the suggestions, as some where just awful.

I was influenced at the time by a new club called Renaissance, that had purposely removed itself from the rave scene, and had a different view, more opulence and decadence, and a very definite sound, which struck a chord with me. So my final club name choice tried to capture that spirit and the separation from the mainstream, elevated to a ‘State of Grace’.

The guys liked this idea, and I am glad to say that’s what we chose as a group, but it was a close call, we nearly ended up being called “Hypnotic Fish”!

Our venue from the offset was the Railway Club in Inverness. It was used to a largely band oriented night being put on, and it did take some negotiation with the chairman to get his permission to allow the night to actually happen, several assurances where made, and in truth I’m surprised it actually happened at all. The club scene and its music were still not the norm and very underground, there were associations with drug use and trouble. The police, church, and council did not like that these parties and events being on at all, and as many of the council where regular church goers. Venues where shit scared of jeopardising their licences by having such events on. Any trouble would not be tolerated. We also understood that any issues with Police would make the headlines in the local rags, and we didn’t want to add to any anti-club fuel.

Miles and I then needed to decide who would be playing at the night. It was quickly agreed that the locals who had supported us in the ‘Luv Dup Lite’ gig and who had set the place alight would be called up again. We did also decide we wanted a guest DJ to play also.

I had recently attended a night with good friend Nicol T, at the smallest club space I had ever seen, it was a night called “No Pets Please” in Bridge of Allan. Nicol had said the residents were a different class, and that it would be right up my street. The DJ’s playing were from a night called Cool Lemon in Glasgow, Iain Paterson and Trevor price. Nicol was right, by 30 mins in I was hooked. Two of the best selectors I had ever heard, and at the end of the night I chatted with the lads and got Iain’s number. Although I didn't know it then, this meeting would lead to Iain becoming a regular at SOG, and was the start of a great friendship. To this day he remains one of my favourite DJ’s, and sadly no longer with us, RIP old friend.

Iain was then duly booked to play and we amassed the team we needed to put the night on. One thing that brilliant in these early days was the amount of people willing to help setting up the club for these events, and share equipment and decor. We’d have a squad of folks, some who ran their own nights, arrive and spend the best part of a day helping us bring in the sound, lighting, and put up the decor. We’d spend a whole day dressing up the Railway Club, it was a real labour of love. We just wanted to make these spaces look as best as we could for those that would attend. Camo netting was a favourite, and we had enough of the stuff to hide a battalion of tanks.

Blam Blam supplied our Soundsystem in the early days, it was great to have these guys helping us out and giving us advice when we needed it. Mark Grey and Scaryman projections also become our main lighting gurus in the gigs that followed. Many others contributed, some painting backdrops, helping design flyers. A true collaboration.

The first SOG went off big time, Scott Langley, Bro Dave, Chis UN, and Iain Paterson on DJ duties, and the place was packed. In these days we were usually full by 9.30pm every time we had a gig on. 200 to 250 folks jumping about like loons till close.

It unfortunately didn’t go all well, as a fight broke out in the bathroom, and two doors were destroyed. Luckily with some amazing help from the promoters of the Dove Club who were in attendance, we had managed to fix all of the damage by Monday afternoon. Which the Chairman was very pleased with and commented was very commendable. He said that in light of how we honoured our word on damages, that we could continue to use the club.

So SOG had become a thing. The feedback was positive. We had set out to create a party, by the people, for the people. It was never our club, it was theirs. This was always the ethos. Over time we would adopt the tagline – More Adventures in House Muzik – which summed up what the nights were all about.

It also became quickly apparent that we should firm up the resident DJ situation, and get more help on board running the nights. It was at this point that Miles and I unanimously agreed that Mr Langley should be asked to join us as a permanent member of the team, and we were glad when he agreed. (He didn’t take much persuading).

We did regular gigs from then on, it was labour intensive, every time we were also very aware it could come to an end, if anything happened to upset the powers. It was still very frowned upon by the local authorities, and every gig, before and during we would have a visit by the Police. Most of these “Visits” were from fairly unpleasant representatives, who took great enjoyment in warning us about how things would go if things got out of line. It wasn’t easy.

We never scrimped on our budget for DJ’s, this was our main drive, get the best music played at the club that we could. I will never forget my first call to Geoff Oaks who ran what was quickly becoming one of the UK’s first super clubs, Renaissance, absolutely shitting myself trying to explain our ethos, and convince him we could be trusted with his stable of DJ’s. After a couple of calls I could not believe he was willing to work with us and send up the duo who Scott and I adored at the time, Parks and Wilson. That night will go down in Highland club history.

S.O.G then went on to bring some of the finest DJs and producers to the highland Capital, DJs usually found in clubs like Renaissance, Gatecrasher, Rhumba, and Cream. Including, Harri, Zammo, Scott Gibson, Jamie Anderson, Louis Osbourne, Parks and Wilson (Renaissance) , Anthony Pappa (Renaissance), Mauro Piccotto, Patterson and Price (Cool Lemon), James Holden, Jon Pleased Wimmun, Nigel Dawson (Renaissance), Red Jerry (Hooj Choons), Blu Peter (Reactivate), Mrs Woods (Reactivate), Sean Pollen (Airtight), Jon Mancini (Streetrave), Ian Boney; Clark (Streetrave), Lee Burridge (Burning Man/Tyrant), Taka Motumura (Protocol Japan), Mark Luvdup, Steve Mac (Rhythm masters), Junior Perez (Club UK), Alex Anderson (Neo), Elliot Needham, Richard Skinner (Club Blart)and more we cant remember. All with support from a host of local DJs including Chris U.N, Bro Dave, Woody, Mike Fraser, Big Ben Davies, Donald Haughey, Blair Massari, Mr B, Nik Mac, Steve Dell. Our music policy has always been pretty eclectic, we have literally played all things over the years, from Deep House to Goa Trance, but we always had a solid base in the more Progressive House sound.

We used multiple venues over the years. Many picked because they were the only places we could find willing to put on such parties after the Railway Club was turned into a car park. We used Chili Palmers as a pre club venue on many occasions, often having the guest come down and play a while before hitting the main venue. (Lee Burridge in the Drover anyone – The Jolly Drover, Portland Club, Barbazzas, Chili Palmers, Clubzone, Blue, various boats, The Bishops, Bakoo, amongst others were used.

The club is still running today, so that’s 1993 till present day, although our nights tend to be bi- annual in nature nowadays, but as SOG we still are very grateful that we get opportunities to play at various clubs and events, and to record for various radio shows.

Between them Al and Scott have held DJ residencies in Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand. Played gigs in Japan, the legendary Full Moon Parties on Paradise beach, and the backyard club in Koh Phangan in Thailand. There were even SOG Global nights held in Sydney Australia, and a spin off night called Naked Twister also in Sydney.

Back closer to home SOG DJs have played at events such as Belladrum, Carnival 56, Dundee Dance event, Shenanigan, Dornoch Beach Party, OutDores, Groove, and nights such as Joy, Boogie, Jungle Palace, Deviation, Notion, Love Distinction, Passion Fruit, Filth, Somethings Cooking, Audiolife, and Moba held at the venue now known as SWG3.