We spoke to Kirk, the brains behind Blackhouse
He says this Blackhouse might be the last one
If you’re a young person living in Aberystwyth, then you’ve heard of Blackhouse. Hell, the chances are if you’re a young person anywhere in Mid Wales you’ve heard of Blackhouse. The Tab got the chance to have a couple of beers with Kirk, the man that started it all.
So it’s the 10th anniversary of Blackhouse this year, but how and why did you start it up?
The main reason we started up Blackhouse was because we were kind of bored of Aber night life. I always used to throw house parties and ended up finding a big community of amazing young producers, DJs, and artists of underground dance music. We felt there was no real platform for them in the area, so we decided to try and provide that.
The first Blackhouse, way back in 2007, was actually in Yoko’s, although it wasn’t called Blackhouse then. It was a sold out event and was so packed that people were stood on sofas, riding on each others shoulders…at one point the cheerleaders had a spontaneous dance off with the urban dance society!
I remember thinking to myself “shit, you actually pulled this together, this is amazing!” Unfortunately Yoko’s didn’t let us back, so we moved to a now closed club on the seafront called the Bay.
That’s actually where the name Blackhouse came from. The Bay had two floors with big room underneath the venue – The Bay Basement. It was a proper fight club style underground basement that was completely painted in black.
What sort of teething problems did you have?
In the early days of Blackhouse at The Bay, we managed to book a proper big (and future Grammy award winning) artist called Nero. Getting an artist like that in Aber was incredible. Unfortunately a few hours before the set the police confiscated the sound system we had booked, leading to a stressful few hours of searching for a replacement.
Then of course there was the Blackhouse baby…
Blackhouse baby? I remember hearing about this.
Yeah – it was a few years ago now. An act performing early on in the night asked if their whole family could come watch and support them, which was fine, but one of them turned up with her young baby.
They had their own dressing room, we asked them to stay backstage and to watch from the side. They saw the act and left. But at some point there was a miscommunication and a few hours later, the police stormed the main stage during the main act and announce over the mic that there was a baby in the crowd.
That would have been bad enough, but someone had got a photo of the mum and child, uploaded it to Facebook and it ended up being front page of both the Sun and the Daily Mail.
What would 19-year-old you say about what it grew into?
I wouldn’t believe it at all. We started off with an ideal that was very pure and community based, and over the past 10 years it’s moved towards being a bit more commercial at the Union, but then back to the ideal at the Arts Centre. I love that we’ve been able to hold on to our core values through this process.
10 Years is a long time to do anything – I don’t know if that means I’m too dedicated, or too lazy to do anything different!
But in all seriousness, it’s been a real tough job, a real labour of love. It’s a big name now and people have suggested to take it on tour outside of Mid-Wales, but that was never the goal.
I occasionally get people pop up thinking that because I run Black House that I must be loaded, but in reality we just about break even. Over the past ten years, all the shows together have cost hundreds of thousands to do. But 10 years on, after investing all that money and time, winning some, losing some, I think we’ve only made a 3 per cent return. Not too good for such a large investment! But money was never the point.
If you could have done anything different over the last few years, what would it have been?
To be honest, I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in the last five years and despite it being an upwards struggle, If I had to pick one thing, I think it would be to have found someone else to share the journey, workload and eventually take over Black House from me.
Ever thought about packing it in?
Definitely. My goal was to do ten years, and this show will be ten years. This might be the last one, as I quite want to develop the ONE festival.
It’s hard to appreciate how much time and effort it takes to do this and the extra attention you get isn’t always great. Aber is a small town and it’s hard to socialise without Black House coming in to it somehow. I don’t like to shout out about it
There is an unfortunate association between the EDM scene and drug use, what’s your take on this?
I feel life in general for young people in this country is associated with drugs. It’s a fact of life. Drugs are everywhere, legal and illegal, in every environment and walk of life and I think it’s a shame that it’s associated solely with dance music.
Dance music and dance music events are being persecuted as it’s an easy target instead of addressing the real issues. I wish the authorities would finally accept that people will take drugs, whether they are illegal or not, and concentrate on peoples safety instead of upholding the law.
At the end of the day, if they can’t stop it with their vast resources, how can a venue or promoter do any different?
Up until last year, no one was allowed to do drug testing at festivals and events in the UK, which I feel is a key way to approach the situation. We make sure to have a drug information group attend every event along with St Johns. I hope in the next few years attitudes about how we approach drugs changes from prohibition to a more realistic information based solution that concentrates on peoples safety.
The thought of someone getting hurt at one of my events is absolutely terrifying – it’s what keeps me up at night as Blackhouse comes up.
ONE 2016 – OFFICIAL HIGHLIGHTS VIDEOA huge thanks to everyone who joined us for ONE 2016!!Black House returns to Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Saturday 4th February for our 10 year anniversary show:Event page: http://bit.ly/2dUcjtNTickets: http://bit.ly/2dGCndxVideo produced by FareLight ProductionsAudio mixed by Fujin
Posted by BLACK HOUSE on Thursday, December 8, 2016
Do you get much of a chance to enjoy the artists as well? Anyone you’ve particularly enjoyed seeing?
Probably the worst part of doing these shows is that 9 times out of 10, I don’t get to see the artists I’ve booked perform. With events of this scale, the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to manage everything is insane! Usually I spend most the night running around sorting out problems, herding artists or sitting in an office.
On the lead up to the 10 year anniversary I actually realised technically, I’ve never been to a Black House! Of all the artists we’ve booked though, I think Dub FX at ONE 2015 was the most excited I’ve been to have someone on our stage (even more than Noisia!) He’s rarely in the UK with his band like that and we were so so lucky to be able to have him perform.
Unfortunately I only managed to catch the very end of their set – they even came off stage and said it was one of their best shows ever, which was very bittersweet for me!
So what’s been the highlight of your time with Blackhouse?
Definitely the 2015 One show, where we got the arts centre and the union together. I didn’t realise it, but it was the biggest indoor festival in Wales by a comfortable margin.
Other then that, it’s been great both showcasing up and coming artists and bringing something a little different to this corner of Wales.
When Blackhouse is all packed away and you’re back home, what’s the first thing you do to chill out?
Good question! I’ll probably buy a PS4 game, and finish it in a sitting.