The co-founder of the long-running A Love From Outer Space club night alongside legendary producer Andrew Weatherall, Johnston reflects on five years of success, and lets us know what the duo have in store for 2017
With their increasingly popular touring club night A Love From Outer Space now entering its fifth year, veteran DJs Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston have developed a reputation for shunning frantic BPMs in favour of a diversity that reflects the experience and expertise of their long careers in the industry.
Launched in Stoke-Newington, ALFOS first visited Glasgow in 2011, and has since grown from a mid-week night at The Berkeley Suite to a Saturday night affair at its new home The Art School, where the duo held three shows in May, October and December last year. 1 April marks their first show in Glasgow for 2017, and we caught up with Sean Johnston to chat about what we can expect from ALFOS this year.
The Skinny: The last time we spoke to you, back in 2013, ALFOS was already a big success across the country. With the club night now in its fifth year, did you anticipate that the night would become so popular, or have such longevity?
SJ: Both Andrew and I have never been big on brand or strategy so it certainly wasn't planned in any way. I don't think either of us thought that it would prove to have such enduring popularity when we started. To be honest we were hopeful that we would get 120 people once a month to a basement in Stoke Newington.
What makes The Art School the best home for the current run of ALFOS? With regards to the show, do you have any surprises in store for the first gig of 2017?
That room certainly has a special vibe. The sound is good and the production is special. As for surprises, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if we gave it away at this stage...
Where did the original ALFOS idea come from, and why do you think the club night has remained so popular?
Going back to 2009, we had both been buying a lot of slower music. One night I was driving Andrew to a gig in Brighton and played him a mix of slower music that I was into and it struck a chord with him. Later in 2010 we were offered the Thursday night at The Drop [the Stoke Newington basement since renamed The Waiting Room] and that's really how it happened. As for the popularity, I'd like to think that people appreciate how the night has evolved and pushed forward musically – plus of course it is always good fun.
What have been the pros and cons about working as a duo for so long?
The best thing about working as a duo is the opportunity to appreciate a variety of airport cuisine.
Andrew worked on a Ministry of Sound Masterpiece series a few years ago – would you ever want to take ALFOS into the studio as a recording project?
I think we are both happy with our individual production projects, plus I have a lot of other commitments which makes time to work on productions scarce for me.
As part of the event you'll be doing a free two-hour show in the Vic Bar, a live version of Andrew's monthly 'Music's Not For Everyone' programme on NTS Radio. Do you think underground radio still plays an important part in today's dance music scene?
One hundred percent. NTS is doing a great job supporting a wide variety of music that otherwise wouldn't get an airing.
How would you describe an ALFOS event for someone who has never experienced one before?
50% inspiration, 50% perspiration.
From your own experiences, how would you say clubbing in Scotland differs to that of the rest of the UK?
Surely, the Glasgae banter…
What makes the 'ultimate' club night? What elements underpin a great clubbing experience?
A red light, a basement, great sound – and never trust a DJ who doesn't sweat like a dinner lady.
You both have lengthy careers that no doubt incorporate many influences, but what new music and artists have particularly inspired you most recently?
How do you manage the constant touring and club and festival appearances – is fatigue an inevitable part of this line of work? What's the secret to carving out a long career in this industry?
Throw in a family and full time job as well and then you begin to get an idea of fatigue. The travelling can be tiring, but I still find the gigs so exciting that adrenaline carries me through.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I'm producing an album for Sarah Rebecca Krebs, remixes for Duncan Gray, Josefin Ohrn & The Liberation, Marius Circus on new Norwegian label In The Garden, and producing a new EP as Hardway Bros for Throne of Blood.
What advice would you give to people wanting to make a career in DJing and producing?
It's not a career, it's a calling; don't do it unless you feel utterly drawn to it!
A Love From Outer Space, Art School, Glasgow, 1 Apr, tickets £9.