With the return of Liverpool’s premier indie disco Liquidation, Getintothis’ Sue Bennett caught up with than man behind it all, and resident DJ Jules Bennett.
Whichever incarnation of Liquidation you witness, you can always be sure that you’re standing in the cross section of a movement. The people that party at Liquidation tend to be connected to the bands in the same way they are connected to their own identity; it is an essential and distinguishable mark of their character.
As a club night, it provided the scene with a base, a place to congregate, dance, hear new tunes and make new friends. As the last place you would go it would also form the conclusion of your evening and Jules Bennett was there at the very beginning of the story.
With its current home in the basement of Seel Street’s Heebie Jeebies under renovation, Liquidation has been on an extended break. However, with the makeover complete, the night is finally set to return. On September 17, the relaunch will feature live sets from The Floormen, Rongorongo as well as an Uptight DJ set.
With the return just around the corner, we spoke to Bennett about the past, present and future of Liquidation, and he has even put together a couple of Liquidation-approved spotify playlists.
Getintothis: Hi Jules. How did Liquidation start for you? What was the impetus behind putting on a night of guitar music?
Jules Bennett: I’d just graduated and had spent some of my student years putting on gigs and benefits, and I had the bug. There was nowhere I really wanted to go. With a few exceptions everywhere seemed to have a house DJ with two decks at the end of the bar playing the arse end of what should have been an inspiring scene. I basically wanted to put on a club that I would want to go to.
We were laughed at when we suggested putting an alternative night on a Saturday. Guitar bands? In a night club? In Liverpool? Err, yeah. What the hell had happened? Anyway, we were given a chance in Hardy’s on Hardman Street and were soon selling out the upstairs weekly. After nearly three years there the lease ran out, and was not renewed and we moved to pastures new.
Getintothis: Where did you relocate to?
JB: Most people associate Liquidation with Le Bateau, and we were proudly fighting our corner there for nearly 15 years. It was a sad day when it closed, and even sadder that the council refused to re-grant it a nightclub license, which meant the new owners had to change what it was about. I’ve so many memories of the place
La Bateau was the night’s longest permanent home (so far). Just as with music in general, everyone has their own idea of when Liquidation was at its best, and strangely enough it roughly ties in with being 18-23. There are 20 year olds that have only ever known Liquidation in the last 18 months in Heebies basement and will swear blind it’s at its peak right now. They’re right.
Getintothis: What’s happening with the renovation of Heebies basement? What can people expect?
JB: The owners and management had an idea of what they could do with the space down there. I’ve put nights on in that basement over the last 20 years in various forms, and it’s always four arches, and a bar at the end.
There’s not a lot you can do with something that’s holding the rest of the building up, right? Wrong! The designers and architects have totally transformed the space. It’s going to be like nothing else. Proper down the rabbit hole madness will ensue. I’m as enthused by this relaunch as anything I’ve ever done. The space will be immense, deep down and dirty, perfect for rock’n’roll musical mayhem. For the first time in many years the night will have a proper stage; it’s allowing Liquidation to give a nod to the next generation of bands.
Getintothis: What are the difficulties of maintaining Liquidation as a night, and how is it influenced by its position in Liverpool?
JB: I guess it’s weird. Liquidation is proudly independent, both spiritually and musically, but after over 1,000 events (and well before that) people see us as the mainstream. We’re still fighting for our right to party to the best tunes in the world, but others see Liquidation as this behemoth stalking the land. As with any long running night, you need to keep it fresh for the people that come and dance as well as for ourselves.
It’s great that a city with Liverpool’s history has a strong alternative club night. The Teardrops, The Bunnymen, The Boo Radleys and The Coral are as important to the musical landscape as anyone else you may mention.
Around the era of New Rave, indie clubs across the land ditched their sixties rooms and replaced them with New Rave. We held out a bit longer but eventually our 60s room, Uptight tailed off.
I’m glad that the time has come for it to return, initially as part of our opening night, but later as a regular fixture. Liquidation started on the same night as Blow Up in London and although our playlists have never been the same, I think there’s some kind of kindred spirit there. Plus we’ve both been littlest hobos running round different venues at times.
Getintothis: What is happening now that wasn’t happening in the 90s – both musically and in terms of whom you expect to see dancing in the Heebies basement? Does any of this influence how you put your set together?
JB: Liquidation has usually been at venues off the beaten track. It thrived because you knew everyone there had made an effort to find it, and that contributed to the atmosphere.
We’ve always been trouble free, and the music and the people combine to give it that special feeling of togetherness. We’ve often used the tagline “Liverpool’s most inclusive club”. A mass Liquidation sing-along to Arcade Fire’s Wake Up is a wondrous thing, Being on Seel Street has been a great boost. It’s a paid in club night so it’s not full of bar hoppers and Stag Dos. It’s hundreds of people here just to party hard.
There are dozens of articles out there on the death of scenes, how the way people access music has changed, 10 year cycles and all that. That’s a whole other interview really. Good music is always gonna be good music. Imagine dancing to Love Will Tear Us Apart or Rock the Casbah or All My Friends in a smoke filled room with the strobes rattling your brain for the very first time! Like all the best addicts, I’m still chasing that first high.
Getintothis: Does a different venue change the dynamic or feel of the night in any way?
JB: It does. It took two years after the move to Le Bateau to really pick up the speed again. Same DJs, same vibe, same staff, same promotion/design and: ‘it’s not the same’ was all we heard.
I don’t think I’d realised how much energy buildings have until then. We’d gone from a venue with white walls and a 5 foot diameter mirror ball over the dancefloor to a warren like den of iniquity. I should probably have been a bit less shocked it took some time for people to adjust. Moving underground physically was a great move though. That line “All the best clubs are downstairs. Everybody knows that” about Eric’s is true. The extra energy that EBGBS is gonna bring to the party will be something else.
Getintothis: The clubs and bars in the Baltic region are distinct from the small underground music scene frequented by bands in town, and yet the same people will migrate over there. How do you see Liquidation within this new configuration of place and its patrons? Has the alternative scene just gotten a lot larger and more confident?
JB: The Baltic resurgence is a great thing for the city. I love how you say “migrate” and people talk about it as if they’re taking a metro line to some distant suburb like in Berlin or Brooklyn. It’s a five minute walk from everything else (a fact I adore about this city). Back in the mists of time, we saw there wasn’t a night that catered for the music, and we wanted to hear it so we created Liquidation. The array of new venues means other people have got a chance to do the same. The more the merrier.
Getintothis: Does the Liquidation track list gather its energy from the success of particular bands? It was said that Liquidation was given a second renaissance when The Strokes hit.
JB: It is connected to the way scenes used to evolve and arrive, but that doesn’t happen now. The Strokes arrived at a particularly dull era for dancefloor ready guitar music. Perfectly formed and perfectly timed. The people who had their 3-5 Liquidation years then will tell you that it was never better than right then. They’re right too.
Getintothis: The re-launch sees live sets from The Floormen and RongoRongo. Is it important for you and the Liquidation night to keep strong links with the live scene?
JB: It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to put on live acts regularly. We used to in the early years in Hardy’s. We did some amazing one offs in Le Bateau (Le Tigre and mAKE uP in particular).
I haven’t ever had anywhere with a stage and live PA set up at my disposal on a Saturday, and with such talent bubbling under and bursting through in the city it just makes sense.
Every Saturday from 7pm until 11pm we’re putting on a free entry show with 2 great bands and a guest DJ. We’ll be announcing who it is, but the idea is that even if people miss the announcement, or don’t know the acts, they’ll know they can come and hear some great sounds. The space is going to be warm and welcoming, pre-club vibes, but coiled and ready to go off too.
Getintothis: Who do you have booked in to play live sets?
Plus DJ sets from Emily (Stealing Sheep), Bernie Connor, Revo, Scooter Paul, Mellowtone, Dig Vinyl, Probe Records and The Anfield Wrap and there’s already a couple of exciting bookings in for next year too.
Getintothis: What do you see the future being for Liquidation?
JB: I think the revamped EBGBS and the extended 9 hours of Liquidation every week will kill me (but not for another 23 years at least).
Getintothis: Will you be playing any of Getintothis’ bands from the New Breed list? Are there any new acts that you feel will become staple features of the Liquidation playlist?
JB: What was on that list? Like 30-35 bands. What a time to be alive! We’d already booked some of them. We’re working towards getting some of the rest down. Some weren’t my bag and some I hadn’t heard of but I’m now in touch with. Really, really exciting stuff.
One of the benefits of the venue redesign is that there are going to be 2 separate areas, so we can programme the playlist in one part and still have dancefloor mayhem in the other.
There’ll be a lot of the up and coming bands from Liverpool and beyond on that playlist so people will discover new music and then when the time’s right they can take a step up in the next room. It gives us more scope to play great tunes before they can carry hundreds of people on the dancefloor and to play tunes that aren’t written for the dancefloor but still gain the Liquidation seal of approval.
- Liquidation opens its dancefloor at EBGBS basement on the September 17.
Liquidation Playlist #1: Main Room
Liquidation Playlist #2: Psych Out Room