WORDS: Alex Caslano
When you’re asked to play a club based purely on the strength of a mixtape, you know that you’re doing something right. When you’re asked to play Subculture, Harri & Domenic’s legendary Saturday night at the Sub Club, based purely on the strength of a mixtape, then you know you’re doing something really right. This was exactly what happened for Ross Telford (or just Telford to the Subbie faithful), who had been working behind the Sub Club’s bar with one eye on the DJ booth. “I had been working there for a year or two when I finally had the courage to give Domenic a mix CD one night as he was leaving the club” he tells us. “He listened to it in the car on the way home that night and next thing I knew I was being asked to play the club.”
After proving himself behind the decks, Telford was asked to come on board roughly a year later and has been playing Subculture every month since. Warming up for the likes of Jeff Mills, Theo Parrish and Ame, it’s been a steep learning curve, but one which has moulded him into an exceptional DJ. “I remember once getting a phone call at 6pm on the day and being asked if I could open up for Larry Heard that night - those were pretty surreal times” he reflects. But for all the nights he’s played alongside the big names and legends (including his fellow residents, Harri & Domenic), this Saturday at Subculture is set to be particularly special, as for the first time he takes control for the full four hours. “Having played over the years with many great DJs, it’s a massive honour for me and something I’ve dreamt of since I first started to visit the club itself.” An honour yes, but something Ross Telford truly deserves.
Check out a live recording of Telford’s warm up for Silicone Soul at the Sub Club, as well as the full interview in which we talk more about his induction to Subculture and why the night is so important to him and Glasgow:
SG: You’re of course no stranger to Subculture, however some people might not be aware that you’re in fact a resident; can you tell us about how you got involved with the night? You started by working behind the bar at the Sub Club, right?
Telford: I started working at the club in my late teens. I’d been involved with music and buying records for a few years previous and was always a massive fan of Subculture, the weekly Saturday night at the club. I had been working there for a year or two when I finally had the courage to give Domenic a mix CD one night as he was leaving the club. He listened to it in the car on the way home that night and the next thing I knew (literally the next week) I was being asked to play the club on a Saturday night. I remember once getting a phone call at 6pm on the day and being asked if I could open up for Larry Heard that night - those were pretty surreal times. The first few times I played there it wasn’t even advertised or anything, which I really loved as no one knew who you were, so no one had any expectations from me so it was easy to surprise people. A year or two later the club asked me to come on board in an unofficial residency type roll at Subculture - which of course I accepted. I’ve been playing roughly once a month there since.
SG: How long had you been DJ’ing before you were asked to play at Subculture? Presumably it must have been quite daunting stepping into the booth for the first time given the night’s heritage?
Telford: I’ve been buying records and into music since I was 13/14 and playing out in bars and such beforehand, so I suppose it was my first foray into playing at a proper venue; it was definitely a learning curve. At first no one really knew who I was, but then you become a bit more known, and folk start comparing you with your peers and in particular Harri & Domenic, which I always thought was unfair as we’re different people but I suppose its only natural to compare.
SG: Obviously Subculture is an institution and Harri & Domenic are two of the city’s best and most popular DJs; has it been satisfying to see all the attention Subculture and the guys have been getting recently? And why do you think they’re so important to the Glasgow scene?
Telford: Of course, it’s always satisfying to see your mates and anything you are involved with do well, although I still fundamentally believe that if you have talent in what you do then somehow you will succeed. Naive maybe, but in my (still relatively short) life experience I’ve found it to be true the vast majority of the time. It’s a bit of a shitty industry, but still there aren’t very many accidents. If you want to be successful in the long term you need to work at it. And whether they realise it or not, this is exactly what Harri & Domenic have done over the years. First and foremost they play the music they love. Secondly, they’re 100% trusted by the club to do what they do and are playing there almost every week as a result, something which almost non-existent these days - hence the term ‘Resident DJs’. This trust is then reciprocated by the people who come to the club every Saturday night no matter who the guest might be, because they trust the club, its booking policy and its resident DJs. Third, and no less important, is the space (club) itself and the sound system. Only with these factors in place will you have a weekly club night which will run for 20+ years! And it’s for this reason that they are so important to the Glasgow scene.
SG: This Saturday you’ll be playing all night at Subculture for the first time; what does it mean to have that opportunity? And what can we expect from you musically over the full four hours?
Telford: Having played over the years with many great DJs, it’s a massive honour for me and something I’ve dreamt of since I first started to visit the club itself. I’ll be playing a mixture of current favourites and long-forgotten tried and tested tracks which I love to play at the club, but haven’t heard anyone else play there. That’s the plan anyway, but these things never seem to happen that way…
Telford plays Subculture all night long this Saturday. Entry is £5 on the door before midnight.
Telford on Soundcloud