After originally taking place for a trial run of 4 nights in 1998 in a medieval hall in York, the El Segundo night migrated to Edinburgh for a short period at the La Belle Angelle and later took up residence at the Bongo Club…
A totally original venue with a capacity of just 400. It also houses a cafe by day and an arts centre comprising studios, rehearsal rooms as well as performance and dance studios.
The main moving force behind the monthly night is DJ Red 6 who is the only DJ to have played at every El Segundo night ever and has taken over 2 years to build the night up to what it is now, instilling some key philosophies into the running of the club.
El Segundo is dedicated to supporting live Hip Hop and every night you can hear MCs and Crews getting down. MCs are encouraged to freestyle and Open Mics are a regular feature.
Applying these fundamentals the night has gone from strength to strength, regularly selling out and has been able to move to Friday nights, which has in turn allowed larger acts to be booked with out diminishing the support shown to smaller up and coming acts. El Segundo supports and showcases UK Hip Hop to the max.
Behind the decks are the Naked Circle an ever changing line up of DJs and MCs from all over the country who have recently turned to production and hope to have their debut EP released soon. Amongst their ranks they can claim lead MC Tostie Tailor (of NF4O) and Zero (aka Jed 104) as well as DJs Red 6 and Kristo.
There is also a back room in which a separate set of DJs most commonly Mr Chango and Smirc (aka Bald Mike), spin a selection of more relaxed Hip Hop, Jazz, Soul and Funk. For a while they played alongside a live band ‘Big Henry’s Monster’ which only added to the atmosphere and gave something different. They have even had a half pipe erected in the back room for skaters to do their business.
Over the years the night has played host to a long list of some of the biggest names in UK Hip Hop. The list is testament to the booking skills of DJ Red 6, shows the overall quality of the nights and includes: Lewis Parker, Killa Kela, Jehst, Braintax with Mystro and Harry Love, Disorda, Phi Life Cypher, DJ Mike L (DMC finalist 1998 a& 2000), Tommy Evans accompanied by DJ Cee & Daks, Scotland Yard MCs & Nasty P, DJ Dema (Freak Menouvers) and New Flesh For Old as well as Part 2 & DJ Weston playing solo sets.
Some of the less well known people to play El Segundo including: Out Of Order (Ex NF4O), 1SP (France), Kong, Enema and Wooz (better known collectively as the Flardeycats). Considering this we thought we had better find out some more from DJ Red 6, check what he had to say below.
How did you get into this club promotion lark?
Me and my ex flatmate Will were trying to find ways of raising money to set up a label and thought we might make a bit of quick cash running a couple of nights up in Edinburgh. Big mistake. We ended up losing loads through a combination of bad advice and lack of experience.
What made you leave York and set up in Edinburgh?
Well, I’d already left York cos I’d gone up to university in Edinburgh. Me and Will had got these nights booked but I was in York again over the summer and was impatient, so I ran a few nights down in York as a kind of test run. They went pretty well, and when things went wrong in Edinburgh we went back to running things the way I had done in York (ie with as little outlay as possible – photocopied paper flyers, etc – and shitloads of flyering) and that’s when things started picking up in Edinburgh.
Did you need an amount of capital to get it going, or did you rely on favours and word of mouth publicity?
In York it was word of mouth and favours combined with lots of flyering. The problem we had in Edinburgh is that we were told by the club (La Belle Angelle)we had to get full colour flyers and posters and we should get them done at this printing place, and basically we felt like we got fucked over pretty big style. We probably put up over a grand between us over the two nights and lost most of it. It then took us over a year to get it back cos me and Will didn’t want other people to be working for us (DJing & MCing, etc) and not getting paid. We used to pay people and then if there was any left we’d split it between us to go towards getting back what we’d lost.
Do you have to bother with licensing laws or does the venue sort that out for you?
The venue does all of that, although you can ask them to apply for late licences if you need it (doesn’t mean you’ll get it though).
El Segundo appears to be mainly a Hip Hop night – Does this represent your personal musical tastes?
Yeah. I think the original idea was that it would be two nights, one Hip Hop, one Drum & Bass. Will was really into Drum & Bass when we set it up and me into Hip Hop. We decided that having a Hip Hop/Drum & Bass night was cliched cos everyone was doing that and I hated it when good Hip Hop turned to D&B half way through the night and Will didn’t want to listen to Hip Hop when he went to a D&B night. The oiginal plan was to have a fortnightly night alternately playing Hip Hop and D&B. I was kind of forceful in getting the first couple of nights in Edinburgh to be just Hip Hop cos that’s what I’d done in York and Will, I think, got caught up in the excitement of live shows so now we only play Hip Hop in the main room and then in the Back Room we play mainly Hip Hop breaks with a bit of Latin and stuff thrown in. Actually I’m kind of lying about York being just Hip Hop cos it was me and Smirc DJing and he plays mostly Latin and Afro-Rock…..
You seem to be repping UK Hip Hop hard, whereas others might sideline it. I believe UK Hip Hop acts can be just as good as their US counterparts and on occasion better, because I can relate to them more. Is this a conscious effort or did it just evolve that way?
That’s exactly my point. UK acts consistently put on better live shows than US acts yet everyone wets themselves when some nobody from America comes to do a show.
I guess it has kind of evolved that way though cos when I first starting running nights I didn’t know much about UK Hip Hop. Through doing the nights in York I met New Flesh For Old and what was to become The Naked Circle and that had a massive influence on me. I think that was where I realised that UK Hip Hop can be equally as good as anything else…
What I try hard not to do though is put on stuff just cos its from the UK. I know DJs who play stuff just because its UK. That’s shite – I understand where they’re coming from but I think that does more harm than good. I try to play good Hip Hop and put on good Hip Hop nights. I don’t limit myself by only looking to the US or the UK, I try to be open to everything and if its a good track I’ll play it. Coupled with that I also think that the UK scene needs a helping hand so if I’ve got a choice between a good UK 12 and an equally good US 12 then I’ll play the UK one, but playing stuff just because its from the UK is bollocks.
What’s happening in Edinburgh now is that we’ve got ourselves a reputation of putting on good nights. That means a lot of people come as much for the night as for the act – we put on Braintax just after New Year, and people were coming up to the door and paying to come in and then after they’d paid they asked who was on and they’d never heard of him!! But that’s an ideal situation cos it means that now we can showcase UK hip hop to an audience who’ve mostly never even realised that anyone outside of America does Hip Hop. After the show everyone knew who Braintax was, and that’s what matters.
Have you had any problems either getting hold of, or booking UK acts?
I tend not to have problems getting hold of people cos over the last three years I’ve built up a network of phone numbers. Anyone I personally can’t get to I can usually get to via Zero (one of the Naked Circle MCs who has been doing shit for years). Also, you can usually get to people via the internet if you look hard enough.
I do have problems booking people sometimes cos they can forget that comparatively no one knows them. Like even the biggest selling UK people only sell a few hundred records in the whole country so in a town the size of Edinburgh there might be twenty or thirty people who know them. Then if you think that most people are south of us so we have to pay for them to come up and stay over, and then still they’re wanting paying as much as they do in London or where ever and some people want more cos they’ve got to travel. I’m all for paying people properly, and I’m not the kind of promoter who’s gonna pay someone twenty quid and walk off with two hundred, but there’s got to be a limit. When they’re like that they’re helping no one cos they lose out on a show and we miss out on seeing them.
The flip side is that there are some acts who totally recognise this. I booked Dark Circle last week, for example, and they were absolutely wicked about us booking them – they were keen for exposure up here but realised that it’d cost us a fair bit to get them up. The people who are like that are the people who you want to help out as much as possible and I hope that in the long term they’re the people who’ll make it. Braintax and Disorda were another two who were totally sorted…
Which night sticks in your mind as one of the best and why?
That’s really hard cos I don’t think there’s ever been a night where there hasn’t been something. Kela blew my mind last month and Braintax, Disorda and Phi Life were all wicked. The one that I guess really sticks out is the first time the Newcastle City Krew came up. That was back in July 99 and there were 120 people in the club including all the staff. I think probably half those people were breakers and it just went off. There was plenty of room so everyone could see everything and there were some of the best breakers in the country just going for it. I felt really priveledged to be seeing what I was seeing when so many people weren’t there. Yeah, that night was fucking mint.
Have you had any disastrous nights, and do you know why it happened?
Yeah, well, I mentioned those first couple of nights in Edinburgh were a bit of a fuck up, and if you’re looking at it from the point of view of “why weren’t more people there” then that was totally due to lack of experience. We learnt a lot from them and when I look back, I’m glad it happened cos it means that we’ve never got complacent. Also we had a night in September 99 when eight people came in and four of them were on the guest list!! We knew that was gonna happen though cos no one’s around in Edinburgh in September – the students are all away and everyone who lives there is recovering from the festival. It actually turned out pretty nice cos we just turned down the music and sat having a few beers with our mates and the staff….
Do you have any interesting anecdotes?
When Jehst came up in October he tried to stage dive. The stage is only 18 inches high and everyone moved!!
December 2000 saw the club begin to expand, moving to Newcastle and adding an additional regular Wednesday night at the Quay Club in Newcastle. This Night is often frequented by the Newcastle City Krew, a local breakdancing posse who can be seen tearing it up. So how did this come about and do you have plans to expand else where?
Well, we’d had plans to go somewhere else for ages, and them two of our DJs, Kristo & Imposter, moved to Newcastle so it seemed like the ideal opportunity. It’s been going really, really well.
We’re hoping to start something in Leeds, probably in September, and we’d like to go elsewhere. The problem we have is that to run a successful night somewhere else, you have to have people living there who you know you can trust to go out in the piss pouring rain at two or three in the morning to hand out flyers. I mean, we usually shift between 3 and 5 thousand flyers to advertise a night in Edinburgh and we’re fortunate to be in the position where people actively look for our flyers. You don’t have that when you’re starting from scratch, and its not like we’re nationally known. We’re slowly finding people though…
Do you ever take El Segundo on the road and give other heads throughout the country a chance to feel the vibe?
Same problem as running a regular night somewhere – you need people there to promote it. I’d love to do it though so if anyone reads this and is interested they should get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Is it true that you have played every El Segundo, and after years of doing it don’t you need a break?
Yeah I have, and no I don’t. Why would I? We run this club on the basis that we try to imagine what our ideal club night would be like and then we try to put that on. If I wasn’t running this night I honestly would be paying to come in every month. Sometimes I try to not DJ too much so I can actually sit back and enjoy the night, but then there’s always a record that I want to hear so I have to go back on.
What would you do with your time off if you had any?
Well, I produce for the Naked Circle and there’s a few scratches I want to get down tight. I spose if I was taking total time out though I’d like to go traveling somewhere interesting with my girlfriend cos I know she’d like to do that and I always spend too much time with this Hip Hop thing.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Check out our website at www.elsegundo.co.uk, watch out for The Naked Circle and I don’t like people having egos – its easy to fall into and these people forget that 99.9% of us (including Hip Hop promoters) are in this because we just fucking love Hip Hop.
Do your shout outs here:
I ‘spose I better shout my bird, Katy, my crew The Naked Circle (Zero, Toastie Tailor and myself), Scotland Yard, Will and everyone from El Segundo.
DJ Red 6 thank you for your time.
The night has its own good looking website packed full of information on previous and up coming nights, as well as a new web based email service. Future bands lined up include: Nonconformists – 4th May, Dark Circle – June 1st, and there is a B-Boy showcase on April 6th with cash prizes for B-Boys entering the competition. You can also check DJ Red 6 at Rush on Cowgate on Satuday evenings. So if you are in the area when it is on pop down and enjoy yourself.