Substance comes of age

One of Edinburgh's premier techno nights, Substance reached its fifth birthday last month in spectacular style by hosting Nathan Fake. We speak to one of the guys behind the success, Adam Richardson

Feature by Neil Murchison | 29 Nov 2011
  • Substance

Adam Richardson is explaining what first caused him to put on his own night Substance five years ago. “We found ourselves newly in Edinburgh at a bit of a transitional time and after a good few years of clubbing we knew what we wanted to hear and how a party should go. We ended up putting one on at a basement called Henry’s for one of our birthdays and it just grew from there.”

As one of Edinburgh’s premier techno nights Substance has been serving up some of most thundering innovators to the capital for half a decade now across various clubs, including The Caves, Henry’s Cellar Bar, The Store and The Bongo Club. This movable feast, dedicated to stripped down, electronic pounding has grown itself a solid following which has been enhanced by the number of DJs and artists who have guested over recent years. Luke Vibert, Paul Daley, Luke Slater, Subhead, Dave Clarke and Altern 8 are among the fine roster that have taken up the reins over the years as the night has become known for its unswerving quality. For their 5th anniversary in November it was no different with techno wunderkind Nathan Fake delivering a set with dark edge and undeniable beauty that was followed up by DJ Pete unleashing a slice of pure Berlin powered, magnetically locked structures.

The group who began the night consist of Adam, his brother Richard, his girlfriend Jane and another friend Iain Weston. The same members continue to this day with the exception of Iain, with Richard being the sole permanent resident. The purpose of the night hasn’t changed either and Adam is clear that the ethos is still to provide “a place to escape the shit of the week, where you can get a proper dance, with sound people, to the best electronic music we can find.”

Defining 'a proper dance' is not unlike defining pornography: you just know it when you see it. The crowd at Substance seem to know it and enjoy it too (dancing, not pornography). Within these limits Adam has always found a way to keep the night fresh and exciting, even to the regulars. “The music that gets played is pretty varied. A friend recently pointed out that you never know what you’re going to get and that’s why she keeps coming back. Broadly speaking though it is based around numerous techno variants whilst drawing from new emergent styles and digging back to find records which were overlooked, forgotten, or are just amazing and need to be played out.” 

I ask Adam about which guest DJs had been the most significant and he is careful to give recognition to those who he managed to book in the early days. “In those early days we had a strong Sativae/Test influence with Dave Tarrida, Steve Glencross and Tim Wright alongside Adam X (Traversable Wormhole), The Wee DJs, Jerome Hill. We were chuffed to bits to have convinced those artists to play a venue that size. A very young Jackmaster and Brian d’Souza (Auntie Flo) also rocked things in that first year.” Now with the ability to attract some of the biggest techno names such a Nathan Fake I wonder how much do they actually get to enjoy who is playing? “We aren’t the types to spend the night beside the headliner trying to look important so we enjoy our own night too! There's obviously a special buzz when it rolls around as we’ve invested so much into it beforehand.”

The crowd during Nathan Fake are certainly tuned into his layered and warped sound which manages to keep everyone dancing without resorting to all out 4/4 warfare. This is not your classic main room techno but the crowd are focused entirely upon him as he finishes up his set with his recent shimmering, evolving remix of Radiohead’s Mr. Magpie. The changing location for the night has meant it has never become ingrained in the fabric of a single club and they have had to develop a sense of identity in other ways; but Adam believes that this has been to their benefit. “It allowed us to base ourselves small at the outset, develop a strong core crowd and do bigger parties when it felt right to do so,” he says. “Holding events at various clubs has helped us to pitch different styles of parties and kept it all feeling new.”

With the success of the club nights set to continue Adam’s attention is now focused on expanding the Substance brand with the first release under the label name of Substance/Audio. A compilation album featuring tracks by Mark Archer (Altern8), Ital Tek and Forward Strategy Group came out in late summer and the first vinyl releases are currently being prepared. Based on the success of Substance so far it would seem that the future success of the label is in very good hands.


Ten Tracks is available on Substance Audio via now