Tempo Comodo: A Chug-a-Lug Chat with Uncle Ru
Ahead of his headline set at Tempo Comodo this week, we throw a few questions to Uncle Ru – much loved Sydney DJ and key figure in the early UK club scene. Here’s what came back.
Can you tell us about your journey into music? What first piqued your interest as a kid? Did your parents tastes have much to do with shaping your tastes?
Weirdly, I have a very clear memory of when I was first interested in music. I was about five or six I guess, and our neighbours had a garden party. For some reason I was insistent on sticking on the 1812 Overture, a classical piece of music by Tchaikovsky, much to the amusement of the guests!
My parents weren’t musical at all though, which made it all the more strange that they insisted that their three sons were all choristers in the local cathedral choir. Maybe it made them feel closer to God? Probably why I’m an atheist.
When did you first discover electronic music and then when did you first come into contact with the scene?
I suppose it depends on your definition of electronic music. I was really an ‘80s kid, so I was very aware of synths being used by post-punk and new-wave bands. Depeche Mode, Siouxie & The Banshees, New Order, The Human League, Duran Duran, B-52’s and Talking Heads are all bands I remember well.
Though you also have to understand that a more accessible synth-pop sound was also quite mainstream. Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ topped the UK charts in the early ‘80s. I think I started buying 49p singles from Woolworths in 1982 (no doubt horrific quality). I do remember buying ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics in ‘83, so that was probably the first record I was proud of!
When did you start DJing? Was there a moment, party or specific DJ who inspired you to become one yourself?
It was late 1991 when I started university in London. There wasn’t really a specific moment that was the catalyst. The scene was huge by then and I’d already been out clubbing with mates in Manchester and Nottingham, my hometown. I heavily gravitated towards Detroit techno though.
In my mid to late teens I was massively into U.S. punk - Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Husker Du etc - so techno to me was the electronic equivalent of punk; caustic and gritty. Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Juan Atkins, all those guys I loved. I guess it’s really interesting when I look back on something that was so big, shiny and new. People came into it from all different directions.
Can you tell us about the beginnings of your Rotters Golf Club night in London?
In the mid-90s I ran a night in Brixton at the George IV called vent. London has always had a tendency to have ‘in’ creative spots around the city. Brixton was huge then, the epicentre of going out. I remember approaching Andrew Curley, who ran his label at the time to see if they wanted to do an Audio Emissions Output Christmas Disco (challenging flyer design!). Off the back of that Andrew asked me if I wanted to do a techno night with him at the same venue.
Circulation was born, which we ran for about a year. After that, we wanted to do something different, so we moved to The Fortress - a rehearsal studio in Shoreditch. That’s where the Rotters Golf Club night came from, which he later used for his label. I think the original name was dreamt up after too many cups of tea, biscuits and joints with his mates playing skins golf on an early Sony or Nintendo box.
“To me [Balearic] is a feeling, as opposed to a sound”
What’s your relationship with the Balearic sound/movement? Have you spent much time in Ibiza?
Not especially. I’ve been there a number of times but never did the whole season kinda thing. Too dangerous! Balearic is an interesting word though, as it seems to mean so many different things to different people. Apart from the literal geographic reference, you’ll rarely hear two people describe it in the same way.
To me it’s a feeling, as opposed to a sound. I certainly don’t only bolt it onto a chug type of sound. There are ‘80s yacht rock tracks that are balearic, as well as early ‘90s electronica. The diversity is just too huge to pin down.
When did you emigrate to Australia and what are your memories of the Sydney scene back then?
I arrived in early 2002, which now seems crazy! I actually met Phil [Smart] fairly early days too. There were probably two nights that really stand out in my memory though. Wobble at The Mandarin Club in Chinatown (which I think was Mark Walton’s night?) and undoubtedly Mad Racket. I loved those nights. They were and still are all great DJs, so it was ace when Simon (Caldwell) agreed to play Andrew’s tribute night in June last year. On the whole, Sydney was great then - Baron’s, The Gaslight, Gilligans were all so much fun.
Can you recall one of the best moments from your Family Matter parties?
Not really, they’ve all been good! The Monkey Tennis one was great though, as everyone seemed to turn up early and at the same time - which never happens. We went from empty to jumpin’ in minutes, with not a lot in between!
What can punters expect from your upcoming set at Tempo Comodo?
Good question. Probably not a lot faster than 110bpm for starters. When I first chatted to Phil about his new night, I actually asked him about genres and styles, because there are so many different directions that you can go in. I’m going to try and be as diverse as I can though. They’ll be disco, Italo, some dark chugginess, a few classics…who knows!
What’s the best thing about playing and dancing to slo-mo chug and disco?
The music’s just gotta work harder, which often gives rise to more interesting tracks. Often playing faster tunes can be like shooting fish in a barrel. I find that I get more immersed in slower sets. You can really go down a rabbit hole and get lost on some trippy, hypnotic journey.
What are four of your favourite slo-mo tracks right now?
Teddy Bear feat Eva Jeanne - Fred Berthet
Big Heat (Bedford Falls Players Remix) - Rude Audio
Support Program – Daco
Boxes - Ainz