Concrete Collar’s Karter speaks to FZKS‘s Dean Pattison about running a successful club night, how he got into DJ’ing and their big plans for the next few weeks…
“The last FZKS event… it was the most stressful day of my life! I was working from 9am to 5.15 am the next day, and for the entire show I was sat in the back counting money. I mean, how can you work for that long without seeing any of the DJ’s?”
It certainly sounded stressful, that’s for sure. But for Dean Pattison and his FZKS team, it is definitely a labour of love.
If you’re a bit unsure what FZKS is… well, they’re a number of things. They’re a club night that has been smashing up Amusement 13. They’re a DJ collective that have been making waves in the heavy techno scene.
The marketing spiel defines them as “a Birmingham based brand that specialises in curating underground bass music events [which aim] to transform your night into a world of a science by creating their own conceptual laboratory full of beakers, bubbles and bass… a fully immersive experience.”
But I think Dean sums it up best when he calls it;
“beats, bass, breaks & drum and bass”
FZKS has only been around for about 2 years, but Dean’s passion for the music began way before then.
“I was from just outside London, and mainly listened to bands and all that, but when I moved to college, all my new friends were from London and they were big into people like Burial, Skream, Benga…They’d been massive in the original UK dubstep scene; that 140bpm sound… now all my mates were going on about it, so I kind of started listening to it and found I really liked it.”
While now, many associate dubstep with that grating, Americanised ‘brostep’ sound popularised by Skrillex, it is difficult to quantify how big that original UK sound was. Artists were coming out of nowhere, at a young age, and producing nothing like you’d ever heard before. Imagine producing something like this at 17, like Skream and Benga did back in 2003…
It made sense, therefore, that, when their sound changed “into the slightly slower 125-130bpm techno sound” in recent years, their fans followed them.
Eventually, just listening wasn’t enough for Dean, and he decided to push things forward.
“One day I just decided to go for it, so I bought myself some decks and tried to teach myself. Luckily, I’ve got a mate who’s quite a good drum ’n’ bass DJ, so I just picked up quite a few tips from him. You’ve just got to get your ear in, because there’s obviously so much going on… but once you get used to it, you’re alright.”
Things have certainly been alright for Dean since then. His DJ career has gone from strength to strength since his move to Birmingham for university, becoming a regular at house institution Seedy Sonics, both solo and as part of the FZKS collective. But this wasn’t quite enough for him.
“When I’d DJ solo, I’d be at places like Seedy, and I’d always be thinking, “I cant play some of the stuff I want to play because it’s too weird”! You feel like you’d get people looking at you thinking ‘What the fuck is this?’ and it wouldn’t be what they came out for! I kind of wanted to do some events where we could play the weird stuff, and eventually, me and the rest of the FZKS lads (Connor, Laurence and Jack) decided to put on our own events, and I have to say, I probably enjoy it just as much as DJ’ing now!”
You’ve all read ‘The Hacienda: How not to run a club’ by ex-New Order bassist, Peter Hook, haven’t you? If you haven’t, you definitely should, but if you have, you’ll know how much of a nightmare running a nightclub (or event) can be. You’ll know how you can be one of the biggest (and best) bands on Earth at the peak of their powers, financing probably the most famous nightclub on the planet; one that popularised a youth culture movement (acid house) on a scale that this country has never seen before or since… yet still lose a tenner on every punter that came in.
Of course, Amusement 13 isn’t quite The Hacienda, heavy techno isn’t quite at the level of the Second Summer of Love yet, and they’re clearly not losing money on every punter like Tony Wilson’s financially-challenged crew of musical geniuses. But it honestly all sounds bit of a ball-ache, nonetheless.
“The thing is, we all know the music we want to do, we know our sound… that sort of heavy techno, people like Burial, Skream, Ransomer, Boudicca, Woz, Paleman; the Swamp 81 label… we play a lot of good stuff, so that bit’s fine. But when you’re promoting, it’s all about numbers… and there’s literally so many variables into getting people to come to your club. They’ve got to know about it… for the last event, in the 4 weeks leading up to it, every weekend we were standing outside rainbow at 3 in the morning, handing out flyers, waking up the next day in the afternoon feeling ill because you’ve been stood outside all night…”
All to hand out flyers that, for 95% of people, will be chucked away while they concentrate on not chewing their gums up. And even if they know, and are up for it, things can go wrong.
“Imagine you’ve got a room of 20 people, saying they’ll go to your night… you can be 10 minutes away from them getting a taxi, and someone just turns round and says “let’s go somewhere else”… and that’s 20 sales down the drain, in the blink of an eye. And even if you turn up and love the event… it doesn’t mean you’re gonna go back.”
And that’s certainly true. While it’s easy to fall into a pattern of cheap shitty student nights or cheap and cheerful clubs that serve VK and play Mr Brightside; the real, proper, dangerous, hedonistic, sweaty nights out always seem to be harder to plan for. Maybe it’s the thought of the crushing comedown that will follow; maybe you’ve pushed it too far last time and don’t want to pass out in the toilets and get dragged out by a pissed off security guard; maybe you just don’t want to listen to techno and want a different vibe… either way, imagine being at the whims of that for every single event you put on.
Admittedly, Birmingham’s not a bad place to hold an event.
“It’s changed so much in the past few years… I remember my dad told me how it used to be a shithole! But now, I read somewhere that it has the youngest population of any city in Europe…there’s a massive captive audience, and there’s a really big dance music scene around here, with so many well-established brands, like Rainbow and places like that.”
And that’s certainly true. Rainbow, Boxxed and the like do pull in huge amounts of punters from around the Midlands and beyond. But Birmingham never really took to dubstep in the same way that London did…
“Traditionally, Birmingham was always more about speed garage than dubstep, for sure. For the last event we did, we had Sgt. Pokes in, who was the host MC for a lot of the original dubstep stuff. He performed with Magnetic Man when they were huge, which was around 2010, and he said that they popped off everywhere else… but in Birmingham it didn’t quite get going. And also, I saw Youngsta in London just before I came to uni, and it was completely rammed… I was pretty excited to see him in Birmingham a few months later… there must’ve been no more than 100 people there. It was mad how different it was.”
Of course, since then, electronic dance music has exploded back into everybody’s consciousness. Every cunt with a man bag and Huaraches and a fake tan’s probably gonna end up spending half their summer raving away and the other half coming down off some shit pills; your nerdy flatmate probably sits in his room listening to EDM while playing his 18th successive FIFA game on career mode, and your mum’s a bit gutted that Avicii announced his last tour. With Birmingham’s big club scene, it was only right that the big names in Digbeth were at the forefront of this, but of course, they do cater somewhat to the “House Every Weekend” crew, simply because there’s more of them out there. FZKS, what with their science-themed parties, artistic vision and heavy techno sound inspired by dubstep, isn’t quite set up like that.
“We do feel we’re offering something different. We do it because we’re passionate, not because there’s a gap in the market… but over time, we’ve probably became more astute. You have to remember that it is a business and you do have to get those bigger names in for people to come.”
At the end of the day, while we all have to start somewhere, there’s a reason super-clubs exist; people want to see the big names. More people want to see Four Tet behind the decks than plain old Joe Bloggs, no matter how much potential Bloggsy has. There is one issue with that though…
“Headline DJ’s go for big money, expenses, travel and riders, and the real big cream-of-the-crop ones will ask for it all upfront as well. And if the promoter cancels for any reason, the DJ still gets paid… but if it’s vice versa and the DJ cancels, even a few hours before the event, the promoter has to go on and do the event without potentially their headline act. Of course I do kind of sympathise with the DJ’s because it’s their job, and no matter how much they enjoy it, they’ve still got to pay the rent at the end of the month.”
But Dean does as well. Luckily, it’s clear from the amount of time they’ve been putting on shows (about 18 months) that they’re not doing a bad job of it. The shows have been successful, have attracted big names to Amusement 13 and have a loyal fan-base (more on that later). Unfortunately, currently FZKS are having to take a bit of time out from hosting shows.
“Amusement 13 has been shut for a little bit, but it’s relaunching on May 27th, with us doing a show during Pride weekend, which will be massive.The club’s invested in new infrastructure, like a new sound system, and we’re gonna show people what it’s about… and then for fresher’s week, we’re planning on hosting a big event as well!”
In the meantime however, FZKS has some big things lined up.
“We’re partnering up with Forbidden Forest festival , which is this brand new thing near Donington Park [near East Midlands Airport] on Bank Holiday Sunday (May 1st). It sounds massive, and it’s got some big headliners…Leftwing & Kody, My Nu Leng, Skream… We’re doing coaches on it, and we’ve got 150 people coming from Amusement 13, and then we’ll hopefully be playing a 2 hour set there as FZKS Audio, which we’re looking at experimenting with different genres during… hopefully we’ll get some original dubstep in there!”
“We’re trying to keep everything ticking over at the moment, but unfortunately, I’ve got tinnitus at the moment… my ears aren’t damaged but I’ve just got to lay low for the while, but we’ll be getting mixes out and all that in the next few weeks.”
Luckily, they have some proper committed fans waiting for their next shows and sets, and presumably praying for a speedy recovery…
“Someone actually has a FZKS tattoo! They turned up with it on our first night as well… our mate did it- despite the fact he can’t actually tattoo- with one of those DIY kits. It was mad!”