We meet one half of the Unabombers before they pull the plug on Electric Chair
With the last ever Electric Chair selling out 18 weeks in advance, and the recent news that the Last Supper in December is now sold out too, it is clear that the night's popularity is as strong as ever - so why have Luke and Justin Unabomber decided to call it a day? We caught up with Luke to find out.
1. Electric Chair has been going for thirteen years now. Can you tell me how the night first got started?
In around 93, Manchester had become saturated with cocaine and shiny clubs and gangsters and it had lost the energy that used to inspire everyone. Myself and Justin wanted to put on parties for our friends and that was how it started. It was just friends, lovers, brothers, cousins and friends coming down to hear us badly mix records we all knew well. We chose the Roadhouse because it was this dirty little rock club with soaked carpets, overflowing toilets and sweaty walls – so none of the aforementioned people, none of the shiny people or gangsters wanted to come in. It was the antithesis of what was going on in Manchester at the time, but there was no game plan, no agenda.
2. What have been the high points for you over that time?
I think the last few months have been one of the high points – it sounds cheesy but just experiencing the solidarity of people with the imminent closure. I’ve been quite touched from the feedback we’ve been getting. I guess musically another highlight was when Laurent Garnier played. The crowd was something else that night and he was so inspired by it that he used the club as an introduction to his album. Then, I guess when Francois Kevorkian came to Manchester and he ended up playing this after-hours party some friends of mine were throwing for free until he went to get his plane. They didn’t even know who he was! He just DJ’d there for four hours at this weird after hours lesbian party. It was brilliant.
3. With only two nights left to go, why did you decide to call it a day?
It might sound a little bit pious but we just didn’t believe that that night was ever about just making a dollar. We’ve always said we’d kill it the moment it got comfortable and became about receiving a wage. Twelve years in the same space is a long time and we felt we’d done everything we wanted to do so it was the right time to end on a high note, break out of our velvet handcuffs, start again and bomb the past.
It’s really sad on the one hand but it’s exciting on the other that we’re freeing ourselves and starting to inspire people in other ways. It’s the beginning of another era. Hopefully we can maintain the philosophy we had in the beginning, which is playing the music that we love to good people without putting the DJ on a pedestal and distancing ourselves from that sort of Tesco clubbing with its hierarchy of £20,000 DJs and no passion.
4. Can you give us any more details about ‘The Wake’?
It’s kind of hush-hush, that. It’s nothing, just a bit of a laugh really. The last night of Electric Chair sold out about three months ago and there was so many people travelling up from London – obviously we’re not talking a Ricky Hatton situation with 27,000 people outside but certainly a lot... It’s not there to make money, put it that way. We’re charging the original door price, £3, and it’s first come first served. No tickets, just people turning up on the night.
5. As well as Electric Chair and Unabombers, what other projects have you and Justin been focussing on recently?
Production in the studio and the live project with Elektrons has been the main focus for us. Elektrons is a manifestation of all the music we’ve soaked up and road-tested in basements across Old Britannia over the last twelve years. If Electric Chair was a sweating basement below the pavements, the Elektrons was an attempt to get out and spread the word onwards and outwards in the sunshine. Our first album, Red LIght Don't Stop, came out this year, which Justin and I wrote and produced along with Mpho Skeef, Pete Simpson, Eska, Holly and Soup from Jurassic 5. We did various festivals including Glastonbury and Rock Ness and V and all the rest of it and it was absolutely awesome, we loved it.
Apart from touring and producing that, we’ve been doing a lot in Europe and around the world, and we’ve been very busy in the studio too – we’ve just done stuff for Just Jack, Reverend and the Makers, James Brown, Lovemonk, lots of remixing and production and lots of new writing as well. We’ve also been doing a weekly radio show on XFM. Despite the fact that it’s a rock-based show it’s been a really good thing for me and Justin to be playing musically right across the board to a crowd that would usually be listing to more rock-orientated music. So it’s been a really busy year, really exciting, which is one reason why the demise of Electric Chair is good. It frees us to be much busier in other areas.
7. Pete Simpson’s vocals steal the show on the album. How did you first hook up with him?
I knew Pete from Sheffield. To start off he was freestyling at our gigs, coming out on the road with us as Unabombers and that developed into Electric Souls Soundsystem where Pete would be singing freestyle over various instrumentals of varying tempos. Pete’s philosophy is very similar to ours. He’s a very humble guy. We were attracted to that because we didn’t want to be the next brand, the next Ikea or Hot Chip – no offence to Hot Chip because they’re fantastic – we were very happy for it to be simply the logical conclusion to what we’ve been doing in the clubs all these years, and to make it more dynamic with Pete singing and drummers and keyboards and all the rest of it. So Pete was very, very fundamental to the project.
8. What do you think of the clubbing scene in Manchester at the moment?
The most interesting thing to hit the city has been the Warehouse Project. I’m very glad that the nights that have worked there the most haven’t necessarily been Pete Tong and Eric Morillo, though they’ve done well. They’ve been about the idiosyncratic bookings, acts from Detroit, Underground Resistance through to the new sort of Klaxons, nu-rave style of thing going on there.
If I was talking on a much smaller level, there is a night called Detroit Public Radio which is absolutely fantastic. It happens in Rusholme and various other small gaffs. I think they did one at the Music Box as well. So those two things, both polar opposites in terms of numbers and budgets, have been very, very inspiring.
9. Will you still be seen around the city after Electric Chair finishes?
We live and breathe Manchester. We’ve always done stuff in London anyway, but this is our home, this is where we live. It won’t be so parochially based in Manchester but the parties will still happen here, and the heart of the citadel will still be in Manchester. It’s about spreading the word outside the city walls but still keeping ourselves firmly rooted here at the same time.
words: Claire Symonds
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