Pressure Turns 15

We chat to frequent guest Ben Sims, newcomer Hans Bouffmyhre and residents Slam, ahead of the legendary club night’s birthday celebrations…

Feature by Calum Sutherland | 01 Nov 2013

Chances are, if you are reading this and live in Scotland you need no introduction to Pressure. You probably count it as one of your first dancefloor stomping grounds, where you cut your teeth (or at least your gums) to futuristic music that had never sounded so powerful until it clattered and crashed from a PA that wouldn’t fit in your house. Pressure is many things to many people; the site of chance encounters, life-long friendships, hedonistic nights and game changing musical epiphanies. Without wishing to romanticise too much about this vital piece of Scottish music heritage, were it not for Pressure, Friday nights in Glasgow would be a different prospect altogether.

Carrying on from Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle’s weekly Slam at the Arches parties, Pressure was sprung upon Glasgow’s clubbing community in 1998 and has since brought the city some of the most notable names in electronic music, on the last Friday of every month, for 15 years. A run-down of previous guests would be ridiculous at this stage in the game, but a few of this author’s notable highlights would undoubtedly include Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills, Adam Beyer and Marco Carola, and that was just in the last three years.

It should be of no surprise then that the birthday party line-up is nothing short of a colossus. Loco Dice, Maya Jane Coles, Ben Sims, Kirk Degiorgio and Hans Bouffmyhre will all be bringing to the table their own bludgeoning brands of mind-bending techno, to blow out the candles on what is undoubtedly one of this year’s most important UK club night anniversaries.

Despite being the home of Slam and a landmark party in Scotland, the significance of a party like Pressure can sometimes be lost on those for whom it is a constant presence in their clubbing calendars. With this in mind, we thought it only fitting to catch up with some of the upcoming birthday party guests, to exalt parties gone by and consider those yet to arrive… 

Ben Sims’ illustrious career of 30 years has seen him visit the iconic club night numerous times and is in many ways a typical Pressure guest. Consistently hard-hitting, disorientating and fast-paced, yet always with the capacity to surprise, Ben’s sets have been a welcome addition to any Arches lineup since his debut nearly ten years ago. “It's always been a great place to play, [with] consistently passionate, energetic and occasionally fanatical crowds. I don't think I've ever had a bad gig there, some better than others, yeah, but no bad ones and that's bloody rare…”

For DJs and fans alike, Pressure stands out as something special. This can be attributed to a number of resonating factors; insightful bookings which recognise the present, look to the future, and remember to recognise older generations; The Arches itself and most importantly, the legions of dedicated electronic music fans across the city. According to Sims, “aside from the up for it, ready to go as soon as the fucking door opens crowd, the key to its success and individuality is everyone behind it genuinely loves and knows the music. They book the people they want to see/hear and you can feel that, it's not a case of just booking who's supposedly hot, and the line-ups don't read like some money man has just read Mixmag, which is typically how big multi room parties are these days.” This ideal was in place since the very first party says Slam’s Stuart McMillan.

“We have always pushed fairly underground sounds, albeit balanced with some diverse and more eclectic offerings at times. We have managed to balance headlining techno from the likes of Richie Hawtin, Chris Liebing, Len Faki, Jeff Mills, Pan-Pot and more underground talents like Surgeon, Marcel Dettmann, Regis and Robert Hood alongside slots for house DJs like Derrick Carter, Levon Vincent, Cassy, Sneak & Heidi, and live shows from amazing musicians like Galaxy 2 Galaxy or Laurent Garnier's band. We've managed to bring names like Sven Vath, Luciano, Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Magda and Matthew Dear to Glasgow early in their careers and over the years we have also managed to programme more eclectic and left of centre artists like Vitalic, Boys Noize, Tiga, Green Velvet, DJ Shadow, the Chemical Brothers and DJ Yoda. We've always played which gives the night a link and continuity too – sometimes opening up, sometimes closing and occasionally performing a live set – but always in the main room no matter what the style of the headliner.”

“The philosophy has not changed much – we have tried not to waiver in our desire to put on the best music from an ever-expanding scene without compromising. We've seen a lot of musical fads come and go and our primary passion for techno and house has stayed strong and been re-affirmed by the popularity of the night. If anything it's stronger now than it has ever been, regularly pulling 2000 people. We're constantly working behind the scenes with our team to improve and maintain levels of production, and have been working with the same Front of House Sound engineer, lighting designer and VJ that have worked with us on bigger projects like the Slam Tent over the last 17 years, as well as being part of the Pressure team. We also focus a lot of energy on promotion and pushing what we do to a new audience and bringing in new artists too. We have been able to bring some great local talent through over the years, like Silicone Soul, Funk D Void, Alex Smoke, Gary Beck, Harvey Mckay, Petrichor (Simon Stokes), Lindsay Green and (making his Pressure debut at the birthday) Hans Bouffmyhre."

Bouffmyhre is no stranger to Pressure though. Real name Stephen Gorrie from Paisley, Hans grew up with the night and has gone on to become an internationally respected DJ and producer in his own right. “It was certainly a big influence on me when I started getting into techno. It was amazing to have big nights happening in Glasgow every month and Pressure was the most consistent. I'm sure I went to Pressure every month for a whole year when I was 18… Soma and Slam in particular have been among my biggest influences. They are well known across the world and everywhere I go when you mention 'Glasgow Techno' they are the first to come up.”

Ben Sims also recognises this sentiment; “You just can't argue with their history and the back catalogue of the label, it speaks for itself. They've influenced many over the years and continue to do so. Soma is a truly global brand with the broadest range of acts, whether you're into Detroit techno, Chicago house, dub tech or machine funk, there's something for you on the label and there's very few labels you can say that about.”

In considering such a diverse array of electronic treats made readily available, it would be callous to overlook the venue that hosts such a spectacle. The Arches is undoubtedly a hub for many different artistic outgoings in Scotland, but is perhaps most closely tied within music circles as the home of Pressure. “It's never all about one DJ in the main room,” says Stuart. “We often hear that the Warehouse project can be a little too big and impersonal – from DJs and clubbers alike – Pressure is just about as big as you can go and still have that scale where it's possible to find a friend you know is there and get a drink at the bar easily enough – we love Fabric in London too and Space in Ibiza – probably two of the best [venues] we play each year and these places manage to get a good vibe going over all the rooms that are open.”

With all three vital components of a successful club night in place, highlighting stand out moments is a daunting task. “We've had many – a couple of the live performances spring to mind – maybe because having live musicians on stage at a techno club is a rarer event. Laurent Garnier's sax player, the first time he performed at Pressure he did an amazing freestyle solo of the Man with the Red Face and he was visibly awestruck by the reaction of the crowd. Similarly the first time UR brought Galaxy 2 Galaxy live to Pressure there were tears of joy. DJ performances that stand out are at one of the birthdays several years back, when Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos played back to back for a few hours, both at the peak of their strength. Maybe seeing Jeff Mills for the first time, jamming on the 909 drum machine for the last 20 minutes of a blinding DJ set like a man possessed!”

Sims struggles to pin down a single party too, “I’ve had lots of really good times there; the one that most springs to mind today is the night with Jeff Mills and Random Noise Generation live in 2006. I played relatively early and saw how mental the crowd were from the get go for the first time but then I got to hang out and watch two incredible sets too, so best of both worlds for me…”

And Hans Bouffmyhre’s? “The one that sticks in my head the most was seeing Jeff Mills for the first time in 2004. I think it was part of his Exhibitionist tour and it was absolutely banging! That was my first night at Pressure and I was blown away.”

With so many years chalked up already, this landmark party’s impact is immeasurable. In the words of Slam’s Stuart MacMillan, “Pressure has helped to inspire a generation of DJs and club promoters. Some who love and respect the night and some for whom it's not their thing so they create something else instead. Hopefully it's helped, alongside the Sub Club, to keep Glasgow firmly on the clubbing map as one of the best places to party and one of the best cities for music and nightlife too.”

Pressure's 15th Birthday takes place at The Arches, 29 Nov, 11pm-5am, £20