Behind the Overground curtain: in conversation with Wrisk

The whole entourage sat about 20-deep at a table in Checkpoint, drinking overpriced, delicious beers out of chilled mugs, gentle house pulsing throughout the room. The dinner was to celebrate one year of the Overground club night, and also to host the only non-vicenarian, and most-wizardly looking at the table, Danny Wolfers, alias Legowelt. Next to him, busy on his laptop, was the real wizard behind the Overground curtain, James “Wrisk” Wright, who had just booked Legowelt for his first Scotland performance in 8 years. The previous month, he booked the debut of young upstart Happa. Before that was the sold-out return of much hyped lo-fi skater-boi Mall Grab. In summary, a string of successful club nights, borne out of the simple desire to give Edinburgh the acid techno party it never knew it needed. I caught up with Mr. Wrisk to discuss his accomplishments with The Student:

 

When you decided to make your night a regular thing, did you have an idea in mind of what you wanted it to be or represent?

That first acid night was intended as a one-off event for a laugh, and initially I didn’t plan to do any bookings. Around the same time I noticed that Mall Grab was playing his first set of shows outside Australia. I’d been following him for a while and noticed that he was starting to get more recognition. I hesitantly emailed his agent asking how long he was around for. One thing led to another, and I ended up booking him for The Mash House having convinced [two other student nights] Creme Fresh and Shapework to get involved too. The night was a huge success and I immediately arranged a second date with him for when he was next back, as well as a number of other bookings in the meantime.

 

Who are some artists who you think are underrated right now?

I was lucky enough to catch Palmbomen II last year as part of Sneaky Petes’ always stellar “Night Music” series. He has the best sounding hi-hats in the game. Without Sneaks, it’s unlikely that such a niche act would have played Edinburgh. I recently discovered Cherrystones – really avant-garde, off-kilter, genre-defying music. I can see him being a good fit for the more experimental Whities labe. Svengali put out a crazy self-release 6 months ago called ‘Active Denial System’. Its got the same feel as a lot of the Bristol stuff. He also has a bunch of crazy hardcore pop edits, and makes rap beats as well. I know he’s really struggling as an artist and too few people know him, but he’s got talent so I hope he perseveres. So many more that I wanna mention but I’ll have to be brief – Cube has had a number of cassette releases of super raw guitar-laden noise-techno from California; 1989 produces some of my favourite emotive ambient and super lo-fi atmospheric house;  Pessimist started out in drum and bass, but nowadays is working on some truly cutting edge techno productions; Intimacy from Memphis has been putting out incredible lush house that’s gone somewhat under the radar; Cru Servers are a duo from Glasgow who make some of the coolest, weirdest stuff you’re ever likely to hear. Honourary mentions to NAH, Consulate, Dellity, Partisan, E Myers, SWAN MEAT, Ziur, and the artists of Altered States Tapes who I also wanted to include among countless others.

 

What does the word “independence” in the music industry mean to you? How difficult/easy has it been to run an independent club night in Edinburgh?

I’d say “independent” means without help from interested parties. In that sense, Overground has been pretty much as DIY as you get. Not even because I wanted it to be, but because I didn’t know anyone who could offer much help with it. I only started DJing out after I’d moved away from Edinburgh and gone back home to Fife, and didn’t really have any connections to the Edin scene. The usual path for DJs is that they get their first gigs by playing at friends’ nights, and build from there. I didn’t really get those kinds of opportunities, so I had to make them myself. For Overground, I take care of everything from the admin to the artwork, with no prior experience. It’s a lot of work to take on alone, especially on top of a 4th year Physics degree workload, so it’s been a steep learning curve. The advantage to this is that I make all the decisions and don’t have to compromise. The disadvantage is that I don’t have enough time or resources to achieve what I could with the help of other promoters and designers. Plus there’s nobody to overrule my dumb ideas.

To answer how easy it is, I guess it’s circumstantial. The way I do things is pretty weird. It’s probably not the smartest approach, and to be honest it hasn’t been particularly easy. That’s not to say it’s difficult to run an independent club night in Edinburgh. Unlike other cities, the scene isn’t oversaturated and there’s room for new promoters. If you have lots of pals, a decent amount of free time, and actually live in Edinburgh, you’re in a good position!

 

What are some of plans for Overground year 2?

New venues, more bookings, filthier drops.

 

Image: Roberto Ricutti /Getty Images

 

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