Words: Colin Brownbill
For those who are willing to dig that bit deeper into Glasgow’s club scene, the rewards can be great. Away from the headline DJs and touring behemoths there are a plethora of parties which operate beyond the mainstream radar with a unique DIY drive. Chief among them is Tribal Pulse.
Founded by Irish producer, Kyle Thompson aka Boom Merchant in 2013, Tribal Pulse is primarily a label, releasing distinctive cuts of house and techno from an ever-growing collective of European artists. The club night provides an arena to hear their futuristic sounds.
Previously hosting parties with Renaissance legend Dave Seaman, as well former Trouw resident Sandrien and Tribal Pulse label affiliates, Pole Folder and Acidulant, there is a real focus on bringing fresh talent to Glasgow - DJs who are arguably overlooked by the city’s techno establishment.
Working with visual artists to create a truly memorable club environment is also part of the Tribal Pulse experience. Whether it be towering lighting structures, trippy projections or the Tribal Pulse mask dancing through the crowds, there is a concerted effort to help people surrender their senses.
This Friday (18th November), Boom Merchant plays all night long at Stereo where you can expect to hear him delve deep into the Tribal Pulse sound. Ahead of the event, we hooked-up to discover more about the label pumping new life into Glasgow’s underground:
SynthGlasgow: Techno is well represented in Glasgow, and while there are the obvious large-scale parties with headline DJs, smaller promoters also seem to thrive. How do you feel Tribal Pulse fits into Glasgow’s techno scene?
Boom Merchant: Glasgow is definitely a big location for techno music, and every weekend at least a couple of the biggest names in the genre pass through the city. As a label we don't exclusively focus on techno sounds, but instead on any music that is fresh, psychedelic, innovative and really tells a story. This mentality trickles through to the club night too; for example, our last guest Pole Folder is a guy who can really whisk you through a diverse selection of beats, sounds and tones throughout a set. One minute you're listening to something that wouldn't sound out of place at Tresor, and the next you're dancing to music that sounds like it came from a tribe in the rainforest.
At our next event, I've got all 4 hours to myself so I'll have time to delve into all sorts of house, breaks, electro, ethnic grooves and of course a lot of techno; anything really, as long as it's music that pushes the boundaries and has that special magic that keeps you dancing.
SG: You seem to put a lot of effort into the identity of Tribal Pulse, with impressive visuals and fresh guests. How important is it to create and maintain a distinctive image and sound in a city like Glasgow?
BM: Our sound has always been distinctive because we had a very solid group of innovative artists from the start. I think the rest is just about complimenting the music and giving it the positive image it deserves. Keeping your ideas fresh is a priority, because if you don't, things get boring pretty fast. It's all quite close-knit and that helps with really pushing things forward.
For example, the cover art for our latest EP was designed by Toni Gialanze, who forms a big part of the Acidulant live shows, and it was Acidulant who contributed the opening track of our latest EP. The visuals for our next event will be provided by Fragile X. He's been part of the crew from the start, has released a track on the label and has probably sat through about 10,000 hours of my DJ’ing to date - so he has a fantastic idea of what's going to work and what isn't.
SG: You’ve actually been throwing parties in Glasgow for a few years now, welcoming guests ranging from Sandrien to Ramon Tapia; what have been some of the highlights from your past events?
BM: It's hard to pick highlights because we've had so many fantastic artists over to play. We've run parties all across the city and beyond, but because of the way we put the parties together, they've always been really intense ‘sweatbox’ scenarios with great crowds and energy - so it all kinda merges into one big party in my memory.
There are some definite crowd favourites though, and they include Pole Folder, Sandrien and Johnny Kaos. These guys always blow the roof off and leave a stream of people in their wake asking when they'll be back again, so I think they deserve a mention. Many of the best and funniest stories come from our less official 'extra-curricular' events. That side of things has been total madness!
SG: You also of course manage the Tribal Pulse label, while producing music under your Boom Merchant moniker; what were the origins of the label and how does it compliment the club night?
BM: The label came about as a home for these very organic and progressive, but machine-driven recordings that I was both finding and playing in my sets and creating in the studio. The label and the club night bounce off one another quite nicely actually.
The vast majority of the guests we've had play at our events are producing, or have produced music for the label, so it's one big operation really. The events, the vinyl releases and the podcast series all compliment one another and give our artists various platforms to express themselves.
Boom Merchant photographed by Kazki Yamamoto
SG: This Friday you’ll be playing for the whole night in Stereo’s basement; what do you enjoy most about extended sets and what tunes should we listen out for?
BM: Ever since I was in my teens I had huge respect and admiration for DJs like Danny Howells, Derrick May and Dave Seaman who could play for hours and hold a crowd's attention with a diverse but consistently great track selection and razor sharp mixing. They were painting a picture in time, and I think the Traktor-sync era and 1-hour set culture have ruined that appreciation in the younger generation.
Electronic music is more of a show now where you pay 20 quid to film the big name DJ play his biggest tune on your phone, and that's just not right. It's the bastardisation of a transcendental experience. Playing for 4 hours allows me to really get everything out, instead of stressing about what I'm going to be able to fit in.
If I want to play a solid 45 mins of breakbeat, I can. I can drop a chilled out mix of a track early on, and then drop a heavier mix later in the set. I can control the intensity and the flow; it's anything goes, and that's how I like it. I never have a set plan beforehand so I can't tell you anything specific to look out for, but the last year has been my busiest year in the studio to date, so I'll definitely be playing a lot of my new unreleased material.
SG: You’ve just returned from playing at ADE while you also have a track called ‘Night Drive’ on the latest Tribal Pulse EP; can you tell us a little about your sound, style and what you have coming up release-wise?
BM: I really enjoyed my time at ADE and the gig was sensational. Now I'm in Italy where I played last night, so it's all go at the moment. I don't know how to best describe my sound, but ‘Night Drive’ is a good representation of where I'm at right now.
It came out on Tribal Pulse last week as part of our 8th release, and it's basically my usual combination of drum machines, synths, a huge analogue bassline and sampled sounds from all corners of the globe; but this one has a lot of thump so it's a great peak-time weapon. After that I'll be releasing my track 'Forest Drums' on Pole Folder's Reworck label with a very special remixer, and after that a 3-track EP on ProBTech.
Both of these releases feature some really melodic content and a lot of building synths and progressions, but the 3-track in particular has some more slamming grooves also. In 2017 I'll be releasing more music than I have in any year to date on some excellent labels, but I'll keep a lid on the details for now!
Boom Merchant plays Tribal Pulse at Stereo all night long this Friday (18th November). Tickets are available on the door priced at £5. Boom Merchant ‘Night Drive’ is available now as part of ‘Tribal Pulse 008’ on Beatport.
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