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A World Unknown mix

The duo behind the fantasy club nights under an arch in Brixton go head-to-head & craft an exclusive mix for us ahead of their NYE showdown

In a dark heaving room clouded with smoke under the arches in Brixton, bodies writhe to heavy electronic sounds throbbing on in the night for the monthly assembly of an underground, aphotic culture called World Unknown. The aptly-named club night and now label operates on a simple ethos where its two founders and residents armed with eclectic, informed selections spanning techno, acid house and disco to Balearic-influenced electronic sounds pulsate all night long. Having started off as a place for 12" versions of cult 80s pop songs, new beat and industrial, as well as live shows from acts like Detachments, Shemale and Villa Nah, World Unknown has since attained a cult following in their South London home.

Laughing in the face of trend-led club nights, RA chart house and east London venue-hopping, they've somehow replicated the semblance of a fantasy club environment, whilst their offspring label releases epic tracks from the widely-varying electronic likes of Neville Watson and Apiento to Timothy J Fairplay and Semtek. Set to relocate to the depths of Hackney Wick for a blowout celebration on the eve of the new year, the duo Andy Blake (Dissident/Cave Paintings) and Joe Hart (Body Hammer) spoke to Dazed in a rare head-to-head about their humble beginnings and future to come - alongside an exclusive mix from Mr Blake.

Dazed Digital: How would you describe the music policy/ethos at World Unknown?
Andy Blake: I think when we started, because Joe [Hart] asked me to play at Body Hammer and to bring down a load of new beat records down and we talked about doing a night, and that became World Unknown (WU). At the beginning there was definitely a lot more emphasis on new beat and industrial and heavy acid stuff, and over the years, that aesthetic is still big part of it but... there's a definite line of what isn't a WU record - and quite a lot of records you assumed wouldn't be but are.

DD: I think you've referred to it as 'throbbing music' before…
Andy Blake: We throb - I had a long discussion with someone about this - it's not chugging 'cause that's quite directional, like a train, but throbbing is out in every direction at once and that's more us. Anything that throbs is potentially 'in' basically.

DD: Do you still maintain an analogue aesthetic/sound?
Andy Blake: There's loads of pre-analogue stuff as well, it's definitely not very digital, but there's quite a lot of pop songs as well - like ones that weren't a big deal here but maybe in Europe or the States. The 7"s are played on TV in the 80s in Germany and Belgium, and we play the weird 12" versions -
Joe Hart: Old Simple Minds...
Andy Blake: Blancmange records, a fair bit of Frankie, and Trevor Horn productions - he's a master of that. An instrumental of 'Welcome to the Pleasure Dome'… World Unknown to me often comes across like those fantasy night clubs in films and they always look much better than in real life - films from the 70s, 80s it'll often be in actual clubs like Limelight or Sanctuary - in Robocop or Basic Instinct - it's something of that. With these larger than life records - there's a lot of tracky minimal acid records just there tonking away - but there's something a little bit of what nightclubs used to be like. Going out in Berlin for 85 hours listening to the same records, and not really enjoying yourself - that's not what WU is about. It's quite wild, hedonistic, anything can happen. It's not about a sound, but it's a definite aesthetic.

DD: Having always defied trends as such, how does the music evolve over the years?
Andy Blake: In a very natural way - I still buy a lot of records, not many new ones if I'm honest.
Joe Hart: Nor me, I sort of pride myself in not knowing what's going on in dance music at the moment…
Andy Blake: Yeah some off the crowd as well - I hate the idea [of a Facebook group] but we have a Facebook group which is more like a forum, but they're like 'have you thought about playing this?' and there's lots of really good suggestions. It's not just me and Joe dictating terms to people - there's a big crowd of regulars, it's their club not ours.
Joe Hart: The crowd has influenced the music as well - as the nights become busier, and people get more stuck in - it's a heaving crowd so it's more techno now rather than those pop songs, the crowd has evolved the night.

DD: Does not playing the new release charts mean you can avoid a trendy crowd?
Andy Blake: We're very separate from things. As we're getting bigger, that in its own way is putting us more in the middle of things but kinda on our own terms. We're not trend-led at all, if there's a great new record, it might get played, it probably won't I suppose - but we're different and deliberately so - it's a party, a big full on party - it's not there to trend spot. It's deliberately not part of the music business or club business - everything seems to be deliberately part of these things, now, underground doesn't really exist. A friend said there's no such thing as underground, it's just undiscovered - in our days we didn't want our songs on mobile adverts and now everyone's desperate to, to make money I suppose…

Andy Blake: One of the reasons we play less new beat and industrial is because there's a blip in east London with a trend for that - we still play bits but we didn't want to be lumped in with those trendy new beat electronica nights. If we're part of anything, it's the great British tradition of things that aren't part of things. We thought to do an NYE [party] but Brixton wasn't big enough, it would be chaos… this [Hackney Wick venue] is our friend's place and we really liked it. There's windows here too so the sun will start coming in in the morning. Basically at our nights, it's fucking dark - but we do this thing where half hour before the party ends, we throw the lights on, then there's this jubilant thing… it sounds corny but people do sort of come together, a communal thing takes place. We might be inclined to do more here… but there'll be other nights on here and WU really needs to be in its own place…
Joe Hart: We made such a big deal out of being where we were too…
Andy Blake: You have to be slightly nervous on your own way there.

DD: It's nice, it's like journey.
Andy Blake: Yeah exactly, it's a commitment, not like I'll go here and here then here, people who choose it get into it. People these days give something 20, 30 minutes and then say they don't really like it and fuck off - people don't stick with stuff and let things unfold.
Joe Hart: It's quite a London thing to work the circuit - go to a few parties in one night, and that's fun, but it's different where there are people who are there - from the first record to the end of the night.

DD: What have been your most memorable moments from WU?
Andy Blake: We can't talk about those!…
Joe Hart: Well there was one I remember in the summer, during that heatwave - there was kinda no option not to get your top off - whether you're into getting your top off or not - do that or suffer (and I suffered actually), but at the end when the lights came on, it looked like one of those paintings like Dante's Inferno - like so much flesh and out of shape blokes… Then there was that thing with the staple gun as well…
Andy Blake: Yeah the guy who owns the venue was buying a lot of photocopiers and they were everywhere, just pushed in the corner. Then he got motorbikes and there were more and more, he went through a phase - and they would clear just enough of the motorbikes out the way for the nights and he was freaking out - we were like 'well, maybe you could move them?' I dunno, he's a lovely guy but yeah so he had a staple gun and he would shoot staples at people in a vain attempt to get people off leaning on them - but they weren't going very fast…

Joe Hart: But we've never had any trouble in three years.
Andy Blake: Touch wood yeah - it's a really friendly, warm, vibey place - but I was talking to a friend who said some people are very intimidated, loads of them won't come… I guess it's quite a full on experience. You go into a dark room where all there is - is dancing, half the people with their tops off, and it's full of smoke. It's pretty disorientating and a lot of people are taken aback - it gets described to some people and they find it quite a terrifying idea. Which is quite nice I suppose.

DD: Is the vibe/place quite a London-centric thing?
Joe Hart: I think the vibe's more like going up North?
Andy Blake: It's like what London used to be, when it was a bit mental and open-minded, but it's nothing like east in Dalston or the 'TBA Hackney warehouse thing'. It's just free-spirited and London's not at the moment, a lot of people are quite geared towards getting on, getting shit shorted - it's a new generation. WU is our night off, for the south London thing that's happening now is part of it - at a lot of east London parties you get the impression everyone wants to be DJing but at our parties round our way, everyone is happy to have a night off and cut loose. 'Important people' is a strange thing to say, but a lot of people [who come] down are connected and doing their thing but they don't rub our noses in it. We had a girl try to jump the queue by saying I work for Vogue Magazine - and we're like 'it's not really that kind of place love, back of the queue'.

DD: How linked are your Body Hammer nights with World Unknown?
Joe Hart: It's a similar formula… the Body Hammer nights birthed WU in some ways…
Andy Blake: If Joe hadn't asked me to play that night, there would be no WU. If Joe hadn't ask me to play those records there would be no WU - that's a fact. It's all your fault.

DD: When you first met... did you just find your tastes were totally synced?
Andy Blake: Love at first sight -
Joe Hart: I first heard about Andy through Dissident records - but I thought he was part of like that cosmic disco, Daniele Baldelli and all that scene - I thought he was like Balearic Mike. Dissident was around for a good few years but me and Paul who I do Bodyhammer with never thought to book Andy at all, but he brought out a record, S.C.S - Model Specific that we really liked, but still I was thinking he was maybe that kind of balearic 40th birthday BBQ DJ. (laughs) Sorry. Then we ended up at Hotel Pacific which was a night done by the Cocadisco lot and the Top Nice guys. We went to that and there was this guy with long hair just pumping out tracks…
Andy Blake: I was pissing all the hipsters off - not deliberately - but I was basically tonking it and a bunch of people were dancing on the tables and some were leaving... I was pummelling it.
Joe Hart: He was just haemorrhaging the crowd and they were all leaving…
Andy Blake: Not all of them. I was… polarizing the crowd. Not haemorrhaging them…
Joe Hart: Haha, it was just completely by chance that I asked Piers, 'is that Casionova?' on the way out.. and he was like 'no, that's Andy Blake' and shortly after that we emailed him and got things started… I think it's just 'cause at the time, there was this whole cosmic thing about...

Andy Blake: Well I got totally fucked off with it… when they all said it was a disco label, I said "well which ones are disco?". I've put 60 records out in two years, five, six of them maybe had a relation to more electronic strands of disco, but it just got lumped in. It was basically a techno label if anything, but people are lazy and everything is house now isn't it… there was the Italo thing, and the disco thing and the cosmic thing and everyone was into 707-y and 909-y house and now all this techno. It's like 'sorry mate, that's not fucking techno'. Techno is a very different thing to what people call it now. World Unknown is a techno night if anything, it's a bit techno and a bit - I hesitate to say, Balearic. Not this old fat guys playing twiddly guitar music - proper Balearic is what we play. It's wild body music, and I guess you never really heard it played in that way because of course it's got this reputation for being dreamy and drifty and a little bit mature and grown up, and it doesn't have to be. Everyone is very linear so all those dubstep guys who don't make dubstep anymore - they're all going to be dubstep guys till the day they die aren't they, whatever they do, just because someone will write it up as being some form of dubstep.
Joe Hart: Dubstep-infused house. Or, Croydon meets Berlin in this...
Andy Blake: Exactly, so I got fucking furious about it being labelled disco because I like disco records, but I like loads of other records…

DD: What about the WU label now?
Andy Blake: ... I think it helped when Andrew Weatherall put two [tracks] on that Ministry compilation of his… Typically me being the contrary twit I am - anyone else would be rubbing their hands at that and going 'wicked, we've got a whole new audience' - but I just got really cross with these people. I thought "where were you last week?" sort of thing, which is a little bit unfair of me, because as I was talking to Andrew about this, and he said, 'the reason I did that comp for Ministry, rather than for someone else was to push all of us and our mates to everyone else and the outside world'. It takes an ungrateful cunt like me to suddenly think, "Oh it's really annoying that all these people have got into us." I'm partially annoyed by it and partially pleased by it.

DD: You said the night is now where you always wanted it to be… what will World Unknown be like in 2013?
Andy Blake: God knows.
Joe Hart: Looking after our punters is the first thing… Making sure everyone can fit into the club and maybe doing a decent festival. There's loads of bands that we'd love to put on, given the budget and decent facilities… It's about the music, people dancing and having a wicked time. And we've got that so it would be nice to change and develop enough so that us and other people don't get bored of it.

World Unknown NYE party: 31st December 2012 at Hackney Wick