Phil Lucas and Matt Burns on the club night celebrating riotous house and techno in Belfast since 2006.
How did Twitch begin?
Phil Lucas: Three of us knew each other through putting up mixes online, me, Chris [McGinn, now in Australia as ‘the silent fourth member’] and Paddy Towe. There was a festival in Keady called Homemade Jam and they had a dance stage so we rented a really bad soundsystem and ended up playing back-to-back.
Afterwards, we put on a night in Larry’s Piano Bar [now Harlem Café in Belfast] and the police came in at about 11 o’clock – the manager was running around with plates of sandwiches, saying, ‘It’s a private function!’ Then we moved to Lavery’s and were there for a few years, and ended up going to the Stiff Kitten, and the the Bunatee at Queen’s Students’ Union.
Matt Burns: That’s when I joined in. The first night we did in Queen’s was August four years ago with Timmy Stewart.
What type of club night did you want Twitch to be?
M: As much of a party as possible, a bit rowdy and loud. We always try to book people who will live up to that. It’s usually quite upbeat house or techno. We always book people that we want to hear ourselves. We don’t ever book anyone because they’re hyped at the time or on reputation. If they’re not good now and I wouldn’t pay to see them, I won’t book them.
Over the last couple of years, the club has definitely grown in popularity. Why do you think that is?
M: A few years ago we were doing more [nights] and that was going against people having less money and going out less. We were spreading ourselves thin and booking low-ish cost stuff. We stopped doing that and made a move towards doing fewer events with bigger names, because people were being more selective about their nights out.
[Early last year] we had Boddika and then Steffi & Virginia, which was huge for us. It snowballed from there. Like anything, you get what you pay for. Those guys were more expensive but they were pulling twice as many people.
After his first visit, Paul Woolford tweeted about the ‘life-affirming insanity’ of Twitch, and its intense, febrile atmosphere has become infamous. How much of that is down to the Bunatee venue itself?
P: It’s such a good space. It’s weird, it shouldn’t work, and the sound in the booth is an absolute bass trap, but it just does. Even the quieter nights, if you have 40 or 50 people who are crowded around [the booth] and really into it, it keeps the energy in the room.
I think the Belfast crowd plays a big part in it as well. Some people are really shocked by it – it’s more like a rock concert. One night that always jumps out at me is Efdemin. He said, ‘This room is crazy, the people are crazy, Belfast is crazy!’
A lot of people comment on [the fact] that you’ve only got from 10 o’clock to 3 o’clock. In Berlin, it just keeps going. In London it goes on to 7 or 8 in the morning. It’s a shorter blast, so people expect more and DJs play to that. they play an impact set.
You have Omar-S playing your eighth birthday. For those unaware of his material, what should we expect?
M: I love Omar-S. We’d been talking about it for ages, trying to get him and it just wasn’t happening, but then we were able to tie it in with his gig in Dublin on Saturday. He’s never played here and he’s so amazing – everything he puts out is just incredible. We play so much of his music at Twitch. I’ve never seen him DJ, but I’ve heard a lot of his mixes and they’re really good. He plays a lot of his own tracks but that’s what you want to hear. I can’t wait for it.
Club nights and promoters come and go, so why do you feel Twitch has lasted for as long as it has?
M: I’d like to highlight how good Queen’s have been to us in the past four years. Dee McAdams has been really supportive and during the trickier times he stuck by us and recognised that it would come good. We’ve worked really hard to get the night where it is now and we’re always pushing ourselves and striving to get really great DJs that we never would have dreamed of booking a few years ago.
The big thing was to try and actually sell a night out and that only happened for the first time last year. This year we’ve sold out more nights than we haven’t and had one huge Mandela Hall gig with Bicep, who have been really supportive too, and we’re looking to do even more of those kinds of gigs next year.
I think another important reason we’ve had a bit of longevity is that we’ve stuck to our guns, musically speaking. We’re essentially just music fans putting on DJs we want to see and playing ourselves to a really great, clued-up crowd. You don’t get any requests for chart music at Twitch and the venue has a part to play in that.
Everyone who is there is there because Twitch is on. There is no footfall and we wouldn’t want to do something to dilute the number of music heads too much, as that’s part of why the atmosphere is so good. It’s an exciting time for us at the minute. We feel like we can take a few more risks with who we bring over, as well as getting over some of the biggest and best DJs around.