Ten years ago, a 20-year-old called Deano Jo was hatching a plan to rebirth London’s nightlife under the moniker of Real Gold. Frustrated by the somewhat ‘tribal’ nature of the city’s club scene, Jo, who had already been doing his time as part of a DJ collective, had a brainwave.
Real Gold was a collective, but conveniently it was also a group of his best friends. A motley crew of photographers, DJs and creatives all influenced by a love of music a belief that the best things happen after dark.
Its first night was a leaving party for fellow member and Rita’s restaurant co-founder Gabriel Pryce. After that, came a Hackney Wick warehouse rave, where the crew had no idea if anyone (including the police) would turn up. Luckily, the event was rammed and from then on, the ethos was simple. Based around London’s creative hub, Real Gold set out to provide the best DIY nights they could. Within the ten years it’s been active, their events have spanned day parties, film nights and restaurant openings. They’ve created zines, t-shirts, pins and posters, and despite the ongoing threat to nightlife brought about by gentrification and the increased policing of clubs, they are about to open a new venue, expanding the Real Gold reach to Seven Sisters.
From warehouse raves to summer jams, with lineups spanning everyone from grime DJs to Boiler Room bosses, word of their parties spread. Today Jo runs seminal venues the Alibi and Pamela Bar, while Real Gold is one of the MVPs of east London nightlife.
To mark the ten years that have passed since its inception, Jo joined forces with musician Steve Braiden and director Joe Rideout to make X Years in London. Featuring familiar faces such as NTS’s Femi Adeyemi, Ditto’s Ben Freeman, The Mushpit’s Char and Bertie, singer Eliza Doolittle, WAH nails owner Sharmadean Reid and Dazed’s own Ronojoy Dam among many others, the film explores London’s changing nightlife and its intersection with the city’s art, culture and music scenes. As we celebrate the online premiere of the full film here, we speak with Jo about how Real Gold has become the godfather of the twilight hours…
Real Gold is celebrating its tenth anniversary – what made you decide to make a film about it?
Deano Jo: I told Joe (Ridout) and Steve (Braiden) the idea: that we wanted to do something reflective of our London, and somehow they’ve managed to do it. Joe told me that the first Real Gold event he went to, he was forced to listen to a grime set and a psychedelic band. It sounds silly to say it now, but nights at the time were very genre specific. London was very tribal in that sense. We started around the same time as Young Turks and Merok records, all the Palace guys, and it felt like this change was happening. Real Gold was a bit of an open door, from the entrance policy to the music we played.
Steve did the film soundtrack. We were in a metal band when we were growing up and we stayed friends. He’s always had an interesting take on DJing and music. It just clicked that it might be a good idea to get him involved with the film, and he knocked it out the park!
Why did you start Real Gold?
Deano Jo: I was 20 so I was thinking long-term. I DJed at the time, and with a lot of the things we did, the word went out from text messages or MySpace bulletins. There was a flippant approach to it: ‘Hey, come to this thing tonight, it starts at x time.’ So I suppose when I started Real Gold the idea was to almost be completely over the top with the care we took with things. To really consider the lineup, what the poster looked like. Every single thing we’ve ever done has a catalogue number – influenced by Factory records. We had that approach. We treated it like an archive.
Across the board we try to put on parties that look towards the future, as opposed to just featuring whoever is hot at the time. At the Alibi, every manager we’ve had started out doing the cloakroom. It wasn’t on purpose, but I think it’s kind of my take on things. That philosophy has always worked for us.
When did things get serious?
Deano Jo: I basically realised what it was I wanted to do with Real Gold in December 2006. We put on a rave in Hackney Wick on a bit of a whim; we had a friend who had a space. We’d never run a bar or hired a sound system before. It was hard to gauge whether anyone would turn up. I had a list in my pocket of all the things I should and shouldn’t say if the police turned up. I was terrified. The doors opened at 9pm and I was just staring out of the window, worried we’d lose all the money we spent on the deposit for the soundsystem. An hour and a half later, thousands of people were there. I look at that lineup now, and I’d be proud to put it on today. We had Femi who is head of NTS, Blaise Bellville who went on set up Boiler Room – we chose a bunch of people who we thought were really good selectors and they all brought their friends. It was one of those nights where I realised what I wanted to do for the next ten years.
“I remember the early days of the Alibi, every time a new venue opened I would get a bit scared and think, ‘Is this the point where it will all fall down?’ But ultimately I celebrate new places opening. It strengthens this notion that good stuff happens outside of traditional working hours” – Deano Jo
Nightlife in London has been under threat for the last few years, how did it feel when venues like Fabric and Plastic People got shut down?
Deano Jo: From a selfish point of view, there was a period of time when I thought if these places can’t survive then what hope do I have with a dive bar in Dalston? Who is going to fight for me?
I remember the early days of the Alibi, every time a new venue opened I would get a bit scared and think, is this the point where it will all fall down? But ultimately I celebrate new places opening. It strengthens this notion that good stuff happens outside of traditional working hours. Nightlife is really special and it’s important. We should be celebrating and supporting it rather than pushing it underground.
Where will Real Gold be in the next ten years?
Deano Jo: We’re opening a nightclub in Seven Sisters. A friend had a space and asked if we’d be interested in running something there. The plan is to open in March next year, whether that happens we will see – it might be April, it might be May. We just felt it was really important for there to be a new club in London and stop the trend of them closing.
What does the future hold for UK nightlife?
Deano Jo: I think a change is already happening. Maybe we won’t see so many big club spaces, but I think people’s tastes have gotten centred on smaller spaces, and with that, you can have programming which is a little more niche. You don’t have to keep 1,000 people happy, you just have to keep 100 or 200 people happy. It’s exciting, you can take more risks.
The Alibi is hosting DANCE For Aleppo this Sunday (December 18). DJs include Blaise Bellville, CKtrl and James Massiah. A minimum door charge donation is £5 and Jo is donating ten per cent of the bar takings. More information here