Distant Planet has certainly established a name for itself in the London underground rave scene by embracing the ecstasy of 90s UK rave nostalgia through its dance events. Louise Beer, AKA Louise+1 and Simon Hughes, AKA DJ Hughesee co-founded Distant Planet in 2011
and have been collecting old-school vinyl records as well as attending free parties since the late 80s/early 90s. Together, they started their all-vinyl raves in various pubs and dark basement bars around London. With 13 years in the game, Distant Planet continues to host their events at MOT and the Fox & Firkin, right in the heart of South-East London’s vibrant nightlife. Louise+1 and Hughesee’s recognition has extended beyond London as they have also started hosting Distant Planet parties at Lost Horizon and Cosie’s in Bristol as well as representing Distant Planet at the Black Swan for An Experience Presents and Dharma Hifi Sound System at St Paul’s Carnival.
With their profound understanding and devotion to old-school rave culture, Louise+1 and Hughesee have proven their unique ability to curate an excellent and intriguing lineup. Distant Planet has involved the likes of Future Retro London head honcho Tim Reaper and Myor Massive‘s Coco Bryce/ DJ Y alongside Dwarde & Equinox. Through their Bristol connections, DJ Azure (Dissonance) and Artificial Network (Omerta Records) are also regularly incorporated into their event lineups. By exploring the riveting realms of proper old-school rave sound beyond the genres of jungle, techno, hardcore, and drum & bass, the Distant Planet parties are never one to miss.
The Distant Planet nights have always generally attracted an older crowd of the old skool ravers and free-party goers. However, more young people are attending their raves due to the recent resurgence of the old-skool sound. Distant Planet persists in making an effort to include up-and-coming DJs in their lineups (CONVICT, DJ B. and Techtonic to name some) since attracting a younger crowd. We sat down with Louise+1 to reflect on her journey organizing/ promoting their Distant Planet events and her perspective on the progression of intergenerational raving in the London underground scene.
As you have been running events in and around London for over a decade now, could you tell us the story of how Distant Planet first came about?
I have been putting on events since the late 90s. I used to do a night called Re-Rave-All at the Dungeons in Lea Bridge Road, which I did for quite a few years. It started off really well when it was at the Dungeons, but after I left the Dungeons it went up-and-down in terms of getting numbers in. I tried a few other projects before I got together with Simon when we got involved in a night called Deep Acid, which was an acid house and techno night. Our first Distant Planet event was up in Harlesden at this big pub that backed onto the canal. We had a sound system inside and one outside, and we had about 400 people there. It went really well. We moved around different venues in London, this was, 12 years ago- 2011. It’s going to be 13 years this May.
And we just had the five-year celebration of Distant Planet at MOT recently…
When we first went to MOT, that was when everything really came together for us. Before, it was hard to find a good venue that suited us. We tried a few different
places, there is a place called the Sovereign in Hackney which we still do parties at, they were really good events. There was this other place called Bar 512 in Hackney, We then did a party in Peckham at this place called Peckham Palais, it was a massive venue. That was all at a time when you had to do enough flying, as you couldn’t rely on the internet. The party went off but we struggled to get the numbers we needed. The next four parties we did were all in really good venues, but they were all venues where we would do a party once and then they weren’t sure about going back and doing them again. There was a bit of a lack of places.
Then it was another couple of years later that MOT came about and since then it’s just been amazing. It’s proper underground. Jan, the guy that runs it, just wants it to be a good rave basically, he does really care about that. The sense of community is amazing! We never thought in a million years that we would come across a venue like that. We were optimistic about stuff, but that just completely changed our lives.
Do you think that the London underground rave scene has become a more progressive space?
Yes, in a lot of ways because not so long ago there weren’t that many young people getting involved. Both myself and Hughesee come from a free party background, but there was a time when a lot of the sound systems stopped doing it, for one reason or the other. But over time, I don’t know if it was the children of the parents that have come to a certain age, but it’s been amazing to see the number of younger people getting involved and putting on events. They are very progressive in their outlook and very inclusive. It was good to see and really refreshing!
Love it! How do you feel about different generations of ravers uniting in places like Distant Planet parties?
I think it’s brilliant, and I think that from what people say, we have a particularly good representation for that. It’s great, I love it. I love all the people that eat. All the older people who come can’t believe that there are all these younger people in the rave.
You make an effort to include younger DJs on the Distant Planet lineup, could you tell me more about the intention behind that?
It took us a while. When we were doing parties in Bar 512 in Hackney, there weren’t those many younger DJs around. There was only Dwarde and Gand. At the time, the crowd was mostly older people, there was hardly anybody young at all. It’s brilliant that there are a lot of younger DJs coming to the forefront now.
When did younger people start coming to your raves then, was it a gradual process?
It was interesting. It was a bit of a gradual progression, but I definitely noticed it from the first couple of times that we did Distant Planet at MOT. Goldsmiths University is around the corner, so it’s close-by to the students. Being at MOT, I was quite blown away.
I love seeing your and Simon’s names on the lineups of the Hardcore Hanging, Singularity, and Brazen Records flyers. How did your relationship with the younger promoters start?
With Hardcore HangingI think Ariel (The Bass Injector) desde Singularity had been schooling them a bit on old-skool. We have DJ’d for his event up in Manchester (Da Demolition Squad Tour) recently. I noticed Dan (DJ Drinkwater) and Sam at Distant Planet, who are always at the front and always dancing, they’ll be dancing all night long, it is amazing! They started working opposite MOT at one of the lock-ups outside the venue. I clocked them and said “alright”, and we got to know each other. This might have been during lockdown or right after. I don’t know if Hardcore Hanging already existed then but they started building their friendships, I think. Then, Jonah (Breeza) and Jacob (Master 4) who played for the Distant Planet: Celebrating 5 Year anniversary at MOT on New Year’s Day. Even though they’re from High Wycombe, they have been coming to every event, even just family DJ gigs at the pub. Over time, they started doing postering for us, which has been good. When they became friends with the Hardcore Hanging lot, I was really pleased as they now had friends their age in London. It’s so nice, it was on my birthday that I was DJing and all of the Hardcore Hanging lot were all dancing in front of the decks. It was such a lovely and amazing thing.
Hardcore Hanging and Distant Planet raves at MOT both have that strong sense of community, it’s very wholesome. Both generations connect in these spaces, as everyone is all there for the same reason…
Yeah, totally! I couldn’t make it to their recent party, I had a gig at Planet Wax before that night. But while I was there, it was the same kind of feeling. I was talking to this one guy, he was probably in his 40s or something, but he felt that there is a power building in South-East London.
That’s a very beautiful saying. South-East London venues are very active at the moment.
It is incredible! Even though I am from North London, I have been watching this grow and been amazed by all these places, Avalon cafe, MOT. I have really noticed it.
You have mentioned flyering, with the age of social media and attracting a younger crowd, do you think that the way you promote Distant Planet has changed?
We probably don’t do as much flying as before. A lot of promoters don’t do any kind of paper promotion, but we still do flyers and posters. We also like the art side of it. We have a flyer designer that we really like. Even though it is a bit of money and a bit of effort, it is definitely worth it. There may also be people who don’t happen to be on your internet network or don’t use the internet, so if they see the poster, it keeps it more inclusive.
South-East London is an area of London where flyering is still done by a lot of promoters.
How do you think the underground rave scene will evolve?
I always try to be optimistic. It is hard, some people are more optimistic, and some are more pessimistic. It is difficult, people don’t have as much money to go out which is a bit worrying. There are a lot of people still doing outdoor events, but hopefully, it will continue to grow. I have noticed over the years, that the underground scene always pops up again, you can’t get rid of it. At the same time, you now have people all over the country participating.
What is your favorite aspect of where the scene is at, currently?
The multi-generation aspect, just seeing so many young people being involved. Seeing the growth in it since lockdown, it has created this big vacuum. Seeing the younger people coming to the parties, being super friendly and not ageist in any way, I would say that is my favorite aspect.
A lot of other rave scenes in London are experiencing ageism. Do you think this is relevant to Distant Planet?
I don’t think it is. I can see how it makes sense in other spaces, maybe older people aren’t
getting bookings. Everyone is always super friendly at Distant Planet raves. Bigger commercial events where agents are used might want to book younger DJs because they think that might bring in money. Whereas in the underground scene, we just do our own thing, it doesn’t matter what everyone else does.
What advice would you give to the younger generation of upcoming DJs, producers and promoters of the old-skool sound?
I would say be real and genuine. Do what you love rather than what you think you should be doing or following any trends. Just be as original as possible. Don’t be scared to try out different things, the same with music as well. That’s how you will stand out. A lot of people, follow a trend and then they don’t stand out and wonder why they aren’t getting anywhere. It is really important for promoters to put in the hard graft. If you put on a party that doesn’t do well and you have done everything you can think of in terms of promotion, that’s one thing. But if you don’t bother with flyering or putting posters up then things go wrong, that’s another one. Also, it is not necessarily all about big names. It is more about creating a vibe with good music, which is important. A lot of the time, people want to go see their friends DJ, they’re not really bothered about a huge lineup. So many nights fail where they bother to cover the headliners but can’t chuck the money anywhere else, they can’t get the numbers in. Start small, build something up until you ram up and then go and do bigger venues.
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