As well as our gig promoting partner, Scared To Dance is also one of London’s finest indiepop, post-punk and New Wave club nights. At a time when we’re regularly being told about the demise of London night-life, Scared To Dance is bucking the trend and next month will celebrate their 10th anniversary.
The birthday special will take place at The Victoria in Dalston, and will feature a series of guest DJs who are firm favourites at the night, including the likes of 6 Music DJ Gideon Coe, radio personality Colin Murray as well as a host of bands like Flowers, Average Sex and Shrag. While the musical landscape is considerably different to when Scared To Dance came to life a decade ago, by moving forward without ever forgetting where they came from, the club night remains a beacon of liveliness in the London club scene. Ahead of the night, the man behind the club night, Paul Richards, answers our questions, discussing future plans, the changing face of London night life and the club turning ten years old.
For those who don’t know, who/what is Scared To Dance?
We’re club and gig promoters based in London. The club also takes place in Berlin, Glasgow and Brighton and we also have a monthly podcast and gig night where we put on new bands.
You’re approaching your 10th anniversary as a club night, what have you got planned for the evening?
I’ve invited a bunch of people to DJ who have helped make it what it’s become. Gideon Coe was an early supporter and he’s DJing along with Colin Murray who’s been a regular in more recent years, plus we’ve also just confirmed Pat Nevin. Amelia Fletcher is DJing too alongside a bunch of bands we’ve promoted in the past like Shrag, Tigercats, Flowers and Average Sex. There were a few others I’d loved to have had involved like Josie Long, Simon Armitage and Jon Ronson but for a variety of reasons they can’t make it.
What were your aspirations for the night when you started it?
Weirdly, it was to get to 10 years. I have no idea why. I wanted to be able to play music that I felt wasn’t being played elsewhere and try and shine a light on bands that maybe weren’t getting any exposure elsewhere.
We hear a lot about the changing shape of night life, how have things changed since you started the night?
I think it’s changed massively. I wouldn’t want to start an entry-fee paying club night now. People have grown accustomed to getting things for free which isn’t helped by the number of free gigs that happen. They’re not thinking DJs need to be paid, or there’s a venue hire fee, a doorperson, promotion etc. It’s just not on people’s radar. It’s tough and that’s not even getting into the reduction in late licenses which are essential for club nights. There’s not many good, independent venues left.
What advice would you have for anyone who wants to start a club night?
Be committed and be prepared to do everything yourself if you want it to be sustainable. It’s kind of all-consuming for me because of how regular it is. I’m not sure how healthy that is.
Your nights have become synonymous with the indie-pop scene, do you think the scene is in good health? What new bands are you enjoying?
I can’t speak for the scene myself, you’d have to ask someone who goes to Indietracks more regularly, but bands like L I P S, The Tubs, flirting, GHUM and Savage Mansion really stand out. It’s been brilliant to see GHUM getting such good exposure on BBC 6 Music and in the music press.
You’ve had some very eclectic guest DJs over the year, do you have any personal favourites?
We just had Gaizka Mendieta at the last club night and that was pretty surreal. We have mutual friends in Stephen from The Pastels and (Spanish football journalist) Graham Hunter so that’s how that came about. He had a great time and he’s coming back early next year. Pat Nevin, Josie Long and Gideon Coe were stoically supportive so they’ve always had a special place in our history. I’m incredibly proud that Edwyn Collins and Belle and Sebastian did it in Glasgow.
Is it difficult to balance promoting new music and playing what people want to hear? Are club goers still interested in hearing new bands?
Yes. When we were at King’s Cross Social Club and opened earlier you could do the first hour and play entirely new music. That’s probably closer to half an hour now as we open a lot later. I do my best to mix in as music new music as I can in-between the sort of thing people want to hear at 2am in Dalston on a Saturday night.
If there was one band that summed up what people can expect from a Scared To Dance club night, who would it be?
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Allo Darlin’ were the two bands that really took off the same time when we started so they’ve been bedfellows. It’s been strange seeing bands start and end in the time I’ve been doing this like The Spook School. We put on one of their early London shows at Power Lunches so seeing their final gig at The Garage was quite something. I still consider them a new band!
What’s next for Scared To Dance?
After the 10th anniversary we’ve got Dougie Anderson back at The Shacklewell Arms, then Brighton at the end of November, our gig night at The Victoria, a Withered Hand show and club night in mid-December then New Year’s Eve. Then I’ll have a think about our 11th year and where we go from there.