Words: Colin Brownbill
Club culture under attack, musical icons gone to soon and political chaos that would suggest the idiots are winning…2016 hasn’t been great. But if the doom and gloom has taught us anything, it’s that we need to keep calm and party on.
It’s certainly been a triumphant year for Rory Hamilton aka Hammer. The Belfast-born, Glasgow/London-based DJ and producer has been riding a wave of self-generated dancefloor heat this year, which looks set to detonate in 2017.
Steadily building his reputation as a solid selector, highlights from the past twelve months have included sets and studio collaborations with close pals, Bicep, as well as gigs in Berlin and Ibiza. The most sensational moment from 2016, however, was perhaps in Belfast where he made his Boiler Room debut in front of a home crowd at the city’s burgeoning AVA festival.
“Playing at the AVA Boiler Room was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had to date”, he tells us. “My parents were even there and they loved the whole thing. When I came off I had to go and lie down because I thought I was about to take off.” Delivering a pumped-up workout of bassline bumpers, cinematic house and sleazy disco, the audience were definitely keen to show their appreciation, recognising the significance of the occasion for the local lad.
Back in Glasgow, meanwhile, his residency with Thunder Disco Club at the Sub Club has helped him hone his skills and discover his full potential as a DJ: “When you have one of the world’s best clubs on your doorstep, with a crowd that is unmatched, you will get inspired and be given a hunger to dig deeper” he says with conviction.
With JD Twitch signing his first EP to Optimo Music and further releases in the pipeline for Dixon Avenue Basement Jams and Loft Records, Hamilton has dropped the Hammer, and he’s absolutely smashing it.
Check out Hammer’s AVA Boiler Room set below, as well as our full interview ahead of Thunder Disco Club’s 7th birthday this Friday (25th) at the Sub Club:
SynthGlasgow: 2016 has been shit for a lot of reasons, but it’s been pretty special for you; can you start by picking out a couple of gig highlights which really made the year for you?
Hammer: Closing the Sub Club at the last Thunder Disco Club was amazing - we had Bicep performing with their live show and the place was electric after they finished. The energy of the Glasgow crowd is infectious and very inspiring.
Another definite highlight this year was playing at Renate in Berlin; I had the 4-7am slot, so the first hour was focused on getting into the vibe, but the last 2 hours was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The crowd was amazing, and after my set the whole room stopped dancing and gave me a round of applause which almost had me in bits; normally the Germans just carry on dancing heads down.
SG: Earlier this year you hooked up with Bicep for ‘Aracari’ and we’ve been informed that your new studio is directly above theirs in the same building; where do you feel you meet in terms of your creative and musical connection?
Hammer: Yeah, I’ve just moved into the studio upstairs from Matt & Andy. It’s great for bouncing ideas off each other and talking things through. It’s also very nice having some company at lunchtime! We have a very deep musical connection considering we have been friends since childhood - we like similar sounds, but we all have a different take on things. Usually this is good for jamming, and sometimes it can become tough when everyone is offering so many different ideas.
SG: You’ve just announced a huge ‘Feel My Bicep’ party in Glasgow next year and the response has been very positive. Do you think the Bicep brand has established something of a foothold in Glasgow and who are you most excited to have on the line-up?
Hammer: Yeah, it felt natural to have the Feel My Bicep brand come to Glasgow; a lot of our old friends from Belfast live here, so it’s almost another home from home for Matt and Andy, who have been visiting a lot over the last 10 years.
Obviously with me running parties in Glasgow it made even more sense, and we managed to get a line-up that we are all very excited about it! I’m not sure who I’m most excited about; it’s a varied bunch of amazing acts, from full on live techno with Shed, to deeper stuff from Jane Fitz and the sheer class of Job Jobse and Tim Sweeney.
SG: You returned to Belfast to play at AVA Festival alongside Optimo for Boiler Room this summer; how did it feel to return to Belfast and play in front of the home crowd?
Hammer: AVA was an amazing success and next year it is coming back strong! Playing at the AVA Boiler Room was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had to date: the Belfast crowd in a state of frenzy, the vibe, the backdrop. My parents were even there and they loved the whole thing. When I came off I had to go lie down because I thought I was about to take off. After Optimo’s set JD Twitch actually said something similar about his experience so it made me feel OK about it.
SG: Optimo Music have just shared previews of your new ‘At Once’ EP which is coming on their ‘Disco Plate’ series. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the release and how you approached it?
Hammer: I had sent Twitch some demos and he came back saying he had been playing them at every gig and loved them. I rarely play my own tracks out, so I played ‘At Once’ on Boiler Room and it got a great response. Stripes’ seems to be doing the trick too!
The idea behind the EP was to combine my love for heavier beat-driven tracks and weirder more sporadic stuff, bringing in disco elements but ultimately keeping it really driving and club orientated - basically music for freaks. Being asked to release stuff on Optimo was an absolute honour. I've been buzzing about it from the moment Keith asked me and it drops on Dec 2nd so I'm currently at fever pitch!
SG: This Friday you celebrate seven years of Thunder Disco Club which is quite an achievement; what have been your most memorable moments from TDC’s timeline?
Hammer: Ooft…how long do you have? Bringing Paranoid London to Scotland for the first time and have them tear Sub Club apart was pretty special. Todd Terje playing live last NYE at SWG3 was also memorable. I got to play up until the bells; I think I played ‘Blue Monday’ and then he came on straight after. He really is amazing live.
SG: The Sub Club residency has obviously been a huge part of the TDC story. Do you think Sub Club plays an important role in nurturing and inspiring local talent?
Hammer: When you have one of the world’s best clubs on your doorstep, with a crowd that is unmatched, you will get inspired, and be given a hunger to dig deeper, find new music and maybe start making music yourself. So yes, it is definitely inspiring.
It also nurtures talent and initiative: there are some nights in particular, like iAM and Optimo where everyone pushes through the good times and the hard times, and this has helped them build into something very special. Also, being able to run a party from a younger age helps people learn a lot; the Sub Rosa guys certainly learnt a lot over the 5 years of running their weekly Wednesday night; skills that can be put into any walk of life.
SG: 2017 is on the horizon and it feels like it could be the year of Hammer. Do you set personal goals when thinking about your career as a DJ? And what should we be looking out for release and gig-wise in the New Year?
Hammer: My personal goals are to make music that I love and that leaves me feeling accomplished. I also want play in all my favourite clubs…naturally! Release-wise I have two EPs forthcoming in 2017 that I really love, one on DABJ and one on Loft Records, along with lots of remixes and a few other ideas that I have yet to finalise. Gig-wise there is a lot of stuff getting locked in, including lots of Thunder Disco at Sub Club, festivals and a few shows I’m really excited about.
Hammer’s ‘At Once’ EP is available via Optimo Music Disco Plates on December 2nd. Hammer plays at Thunder Disco Club’s 7th birthday with Horse Meat Disco and Jube this Friday 25th November. Advance tickets are available from Resident Advisor priced at £12.00 (excl fees).