It’s always exciting to see a new night start at Wire, especially when they have travelled across the country to get in on the act. So, we spoke to Manchester promoters Ossia ahead of their first event with us, where Avalon Emerson will play an extended set.
What led you to make the trip over the pennines to Leeds?
It’s always been a goal to expand out of Manchester and Leeds seemed like the best bet. Both cities share a love for underground music that you don’t see anywhere else in the UK. Plus it’s only an hour away which means we can get home in time for a Spoons breakfast!
What would you say defines a night out in Manchester? What makes a Manc crowd tick?
One thing a Manchester crowd loves is a curveball during a set. Seeing Four Tet starting off with some slow reggae or Andre Bratten finishing off his set for MAYDAY with a live improvised jungle track sent the crowds mad. I think playing it safe in Manchester doesn’t get you anywhere, they appreciate risk takers! Whether that’s in the music you play, the people you book or the venues you find; something new and original will always go down well here.
Where on earth does your name come from?
The word ossia comes from the Italian for “alternatively” and is a musical term that means “an alternative passage which may be played instead of the original passage” – which sums us up quite well. Our plan from the outset has been to bring something a little different to the table with our nights; when we started out a while ago the scene in Manchester had become inundated with these huge lineups where acts who barely complemented each other were being booked for only ninety or even sixty minute sets – disjointed, hurried affairs where nobody got the opportunity to generate any real feeling with what they were doing. We wanted to bring it back to basics; move the focus away from producer-lead lineups and pick actual selectors to come down and play for much longer – giving them the opportunity to dig a little deeper than usual and take the audience on a journey. As a result our bookings often tend to deviate from the norm, which comes back to the “alternative” meaning. Also the way we go about putting the events together can be quite convoluted – with 10 of us involved often decision making can take a while! Most of the time we get to the end result we want…
Looking at your upcoming bookings, you definitely aren’t catering for a “popular” crowd. These are quality underground bookings who are on the verge of greatness, for me. Do you think it is the job of a promoter to take risks and make unknown music accessible for a new crowd? If not, what do you think the principal role of a promoter is?
You have to find the right balance. If promoters want to survive economically, then you can’t take a risk every show you do. But you also want to make sure you aren’t booking the same artists that are constantly doing the rounds. However it’s more difficult to book the big artists in Manchester – for obvious reasons – which means we have to take risks more often than not and be a little more inventive with our curation. Hopefully over the last two years we’ve proven that we know what we’re doing now and that people can come down and have a great night of music even if the don’t recognize the names on the bill. We believe that if the crowd trusts you and your choice in bookings then your role as a promoter is being fulfilled!
Do you remember the first events you went to? Which parties, promoters or DJs were the ones who played a role in opening your eyes to new music?
For all of us our first event in Manchester was probably at Sankeys. It was one of the most famous clubs in the North – possibly in the UK! It was a shame to see it close down last year – part of a worrying trend happening to clubs in Manchester at the moment. We’ve been strongly influenced by the independent Mancunian venues such as Soup Kitchen, Versions and Hidden, who all have incredibly good programming and are constantly putting out great events. Local promoters have played a very big part in our musical development too – when we started going out it was people like Hoya:Hoya, meandyou., Electric Chair & El Diablo’s Social Club who help us cut our teeth – while now there are so many amazing promoting teams coming through; people like Cult, High Hoops, Meat Free, Project13, Different Gravy, Club Pelicon, Euphony, B.L.O.O.M and many, many more – all doing their bit to keep the music scene in Manchester alive and kicking!
I notice you have done many collaborative events in Manchester with CULT, Mayday and Versions. Does Manchester encourage a collective or communal endeavour? This kind of vibe is definitely present in Leeds. How beneficial do you find collaboration? And how do you feel about going alone in Leeds?
It would be safe to say that Manchester as a city is all about community. Not just in the events scene but in a wider social context too – everyone stands up for each other. We love all the parties that go on in Manchester so it’s a shame we can’t team up more often! It’s refreshing to hear new ideas and voices as there’s always a perspective you haven’t thought of. Going alone in a new city is a little bit scary but we’re hopeful that the Leeds scene will embrace us and allow us to become part of your brilliant community.
Have you ever had a night out in Leeds? What do you make of the city?
Collectively we’ve all had quite a few nights out in Leeds; Ben UFO at Wire, Bicep at Canal Mills and Sub Dub at the West Indian Centre to name a few between us! The community and culture that has formed around the wide variety of underground music in Leeds makes it a very open and welcoming city for promoters and punters alike. It’s a great city with a forward thinking attitude towards everything it does – there’s a real positive vibe throughout Leeds which we hope to feed off of and give back to!
What was the best party you have thrown to date? What made it so special?
One of our favourites, and reason for asking her back, was Avalon Emerson back in March at Versions. She’s an incredibly gifted DJ. The way she utilises loops to create new sounds during her sets is amazing. On top of this, despite being so gifted she’s really down to earth! The crowd that night were also on top form dancing from open till close, we really felt everyone was there solely for their love of music – it was brilliant. Another great night back in 2016 was Bradley Zero and Auntie Flo b2b all night at the now defunct warehouse space called The Dolphin in Manchester. Equipped with an E&S R400, a couple of effects pedals, a red strobe, smoke machine and some killer records – it went off! Both are very talented selectors and really played to the warehouse vibe.
What makes an Ossia party different to others?
What we’d like to think makes us different is that, as much as we are all committed to the cause and want to see Ossia go the distance, at the end of the day we’re a group of really close friends who don’t take life too seriously. You’ll rarely catch us at our events without a huge grin on all our faces and we just want everyone who we have the pleasure of partying with to feel exactly the same!
If you could pick one track to sum up your event, what would it be?
For this event we should probably choose an Avalon song! Pretty difficult considering everything she’s put out recently is very good. The song that got us all interested in the first place though was ‘The Frontier’. It was something completely novel and different and we loved it straight away – hopefully we can have the same impact in Leeds. Coming in a close second is Ossia team favorite and an absolute percy of a tune; ‘Syclops – Where’s Jasons K’.
Ossia’s first event is on 29th September with Avalon Emerson at Wire.