Having a ball

Published

Lauren Martin

Born in the basement of The Ivy bar to girls in zebra print leggings and the police arrest of a rowdy crowd member, Ballers Social Club was never destined to go quietly. Since it’s creation in late 2007, ‘Ballers’ has grown in musical and artistic directions that command international praise, allowing it to become a club with much more to offer than simply a dance floor. From its initial takeover of the lower quarters of The Ivy, and movements between The Glasgow School of Art, The Sub Club and Stereo throughout the years, it has been continually showcasing the most creative, unusual and genre-defying music in the world. It’s impressive rooster of guests include some of the most progressive artists around, with appearances from internationally acclaimed hip hop acts Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat and The Cool Kids. Yet far from concentrating on booking major label acts in favour of headline-snaring column inches, Ballers Social Club has nurtured and feverishly supported underground musical talent from the UK and beyond; Glasgow’s own Rustie, the schizophrenic, hardware-based sounds of the Scandinavian ‘skwee’ genre’s Flogsta Danshall label and the experimental electronica of Dorian Concept and Dimlite have all ignited the clubs darkened dance floors for the pleasure of the city’s most discerning music fans.

Founder Joe Coghill believes in supporting “extremely intelligently-put-together, fun club music. Our programme is eclectic, credible and groundbreaking. To narrow it down or define it further would be impossible because the residents and guests exist outside genres themselves. We want to appeal to open minded individuals who are willing to pick up on the music we wish to push.” The club appears to have the unique ability, in scenes of constant musical evolution into new nameless styles, to cherry-pick the ripest talent for the exposure of their sounds. Most notably, such talent comes from the forward-thinking LuckyMe collective. A Scottish family of artists, producers and DJs, their collaborative artistic vision allows them to act seamlessly with Ballers Social Club as a living multimedia experience; from video direction to music production, they undertake a truly all-encompassing creative process. Their associated artists create music as varied as the direction they take. Ballers Social Club favourite Mike Slott has been heralded by BBC Radio One’s Mary Anne Hobbs as “one of the deeply inspirational next generation beat builders pushing electronic sound into a whole new stratosphere for 2010”. His debut album ‘Lucky 9Teen’ is a glittering, luscious affair, with synth lines harmoniously weave into sparkling sequences that are as rich as they are light. Such talent lives amongst a solid network of support. With the collaborating efforts of LuckyMe, local record labels such as Wireblock, Stuff and Dress 2 Sweat (who have recently joined forces under the new name of Numbers) and internationally renowned institutions of sound such as the prestigious Warp and Hyperdub, Ballers is the love child of an amalgamation of passion, art, music and internet swagger.

Art director of LuckyMe and one half of production duo The Blessings Dom Flannigan aka Dom Sum defines LuckyMe as “an artist-led, music-led crew. We promote our vision ourselves and if someone wants to release and fit our vision then they can invest in our music. Our label is there to put out stuff we love but no one is either biting at or ready for. The label should be indulgent and pioneering, but it’s only a small part of the plan. What we do is inclusive and open to new ideas and influences.” His production partner FineArt heartily agrees. “We’re obsessed with hearing new music. And hip hop was always about progression – about making it your own.” This force of progression is most strikingly seen in LuckyMe’s greatest success story to date – the ex-Subcity Radio presenter and heralded artist Hudson Mohawke. As the latest signing to the aforementioned Warp Records, he has been ultimately billed as the young producer who is re-defining hip hop entirely; creating a distorted yet melodic form of the genre that has been championed in recent years from L.A. To Tokyo.

It is his eerie ability to create disjointed, synthetic sounds that sound so effortlessly natural and related that makes Hudson Mohawke supremely current and refreshing. For him, the principles of freedom and progression reinforced by the Ballers Social Club and LuckyMe ethics ring soundly in his new home at Warp. “It’s the only place I can get away with basically doing exactly what I want musically, right across the board, and still know that the label will give me full support and artistic freedom… what I really like about them is that they’re a big label doing a lot of massive things but they operate on a very grassroots level. Even Steve – who founded the label – you never feel like he’s out of reach. I like that grassroots way of operating. Just good, honest, friendly, hardworking people.” His hard work has surely paid off, with whispers of future productions with soul goddess Erykah Badu and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke in the air. His debut album ‘Butter’, available on Warp, solidifies his reputation as a heavyweight producer and innovator of modern electronic music.

The spread of such a young yet accomplished sound lead to the excitement around a one-off, house party hosted by Ballers Social Club featuring Ikonika and Hudson Mohawke. With only last minute invites, a secret location and a full PA sound system in a West End living room, Ballers encapsulated the spirit of the innovative clubbing experience; with hip hop heads, grime kids and art school students coming together to experience the darkest corners of music and make the floorboards dip it low. Most importantly however, Ballers Social Club does not discriminate. The acts are hand-picked for the love of the music, the venues for their atmosphere, and in doing so, the club pushes little-known producers and DJs to greater heights. The participation of many former guests in the famous Red Bull Music Academy speaks of the innovative processes undertaken to ensure that the talent truly is on a grassroots level, aligning musical and artistic talents that span continents. And who would have thought such acclaim and respect would have come about because a few guys in a city dominated by techno wanted a decent hip hop club?