On 8th December, The Warehouse Project Presents returns with a deft and deep showcase of the finest underground techno curated by Nina Kraviz. The line-up includes old and new talent ranging from the likes of legendary techno wizard Jeff Mills, Clark, artists from Kraviz’ трип label and Manchester based DJs Willow, Jay Clarke and Meat Free to name a few. Our pick of Room 3 is the talented group behind Meat Free, Manchester’s finest regular techno soirée. We caught up with Steffi, Natasha, Alice and Lucy ahead of their upcoming Warehouse Project set…
You've been in the Manchester scene for quite a while now... how did it all begin? When and how did Meat Free come together?
Steffi: Meat Free is due to celebrate its fifth birthday in March next year, however we all met each other about six months prior to starting up the night.
Myself & Tash met through a mutual friend ten years back but never really connected until we knew the other was djing. Me and Tash met Alice at Sankeys when we were djing the back room and then I met Lucy after having inquired about a production course at Manchester Midi School, where she works. Naturally we all got to meet each through partying and then before you know it we got involved in promoting a night called Fundamental which wasn’t really a great success. However off the back of this we created Meat Free and genuinely believe it gave us a good grounding for all the potential pitfalls of promoting.
Seems like things are going well for Meat Free at the mo, and you've had a busy year DJing and putting on monthly parties... What’s been your favourite party of 2017 thus far?
Steffi: Yeah I’m really happy with how stuff is going for Meat Free at the minute and looking back we’ve had a really good run. From a personal point of view, djing has definitely picked up for myself and Tash over the last year or so, having Meat Free as a platform is definitely a great help in that respect.
In terms of my favourite party, I think the One Love fundraiser we did with High Hoops back in July was it. After having attended the vigil in St. Ann’s square myself, Alice & Robbie (from High Hoops) felt compelled to do something as we all felt a little helpless and devastated by what had taken place on our doorstep.
Within two weeks we’d arranged an incredible lineup of djs, all of which played for free! Legowelt, John Heckle, Space Dimension Controller and Cleric all took part and somehow we managed to pull off an outdoor party in Manchester. Everything just worked that day, the weather, music and general vibe were on point and we raised £2,000 to go to the relief fund. Nothing in the grand scale of things and by no means does it take away the horror of what happened , but nonetheless it was uplifting to see how the city mobilised and came through to support the cause.
It must be a challenge to put on such high standard lineups so regularly... Has it been a struggle at points to put together big monthly line-ups that'll sell well, while staying true to the Meat Free ethos?
Steffi: It’s been a long hard graft to get to this point and even though some would consider us established, every event is still a worry. Five years ago when we first started out, Manchester didn’t have anywhere near the number of Techno nights it does now. Even though it’s still difficult to operate in the current climate I do actually think it's forced us to be creative with line-ups and even venue choice. As a result I’d say we’ve had about an 80% success rate with events in terms of breaking even, which I don’t consider too bad.
Luckily, I don’t think we’ve ever had to compromise on who we book either. No artists have ever been booked on the back of what we think they can sell ticketwise - it’s always been down to the fact that we appreciate the artist's individual style. If it ever got to that point we would most definitely call it a day.
Manchester's techno scene has developed in recent years due to yourselves, Eastern Bloc Records, and various new venues opening. Everyone seems to be working together to keep the scene alive - Do you agree? What's been the main factor of Manchester's techno resurgence in your opinion?
Steffi: One thing that can be said for the scene in Manchester is that we do try and support each other when we can, whether it’s attending events or doing a fb/instagram post to help promote; it’s really nice and I don’t think it’s something you see often in such a competitive environment.
I can’t really specify how the resurgence has come about although I can attribute some of it to the opening up of venues such a Mantra Warehouse and The White Hotel. These spaces have provided a backdrop for some of the best parties in Manchester in recent years including nights such as High Hoops, P13, Process etc.
Do you find there's much more competition for these kind of events in Manchester now compared to when you started?
Steffi: Yes, most definitely. When we started promoting there really wasn’t much - or none that I knew about anyway. Colour had finished about 6 months prior, Sankeys was no longer booking Techno artists and the scene was saturated with those “deep” house/ tech house parties. Manchester looks a lot different today!
You've got a big gig at The Warehouse Project... Have you played at WHP before? How did you find it?
Steffi: No we’ve never played before, however Alice (from Meat Free) played last year and she had a really great time. This time we’re all playing and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about, I’ve been on the other side a few times over the years, so it’ll be a welcome change.
Will this be one of the biggest gigs you've played to date? Do you ever get pre-set nerves?
Steffi: I would say our biggest gig-to-date was probably the Boiler Room we played last October – the fact that it’s streamed live and recorded adds to the pressure I guess. In a club, you just go with the flow, mistakes happen, mixes go out of time, it’s impossible to play the perfect set but if the crowd is with you, none of that actually matters. However, when the set can be replayed it can be picked apart.
As a rule, yes I do get a little nervous – but this is mainly due to not knowing what state the turntables are in ;) There’s a running joke with me and Tash that whichever gig we play, if there’s a problem, it will always be on my side of the decks – so I just have to roll with it!
Did you go to any festivals this year? If so, what was your favourite?
Steffi: This year was all about Field Maneuvres for me! It always happens over my birthday, but this year it was my 30th on the first day of the festival so obviously I went all out. It has such a wicked vibe and there’s a lot of attention to detail. I loved the visuals they had playing at night in the centre of the field, I had to really focus though as I thought I was seeing things ;)
A definite highlight of FM was DJ Storm’s set on the Saturday night. I along with the rest of the tent were left completely in awe. She was absolutely seamless. That night will stay with me for a long time.
Both of you are true music heads and love record digging... what's your favourite record shop and why?
Steffi: Unfortunately, we don’t get chance to go digging in Manchester as much as we’d like – we ask Ben at Eastern Bloc to put aside the odd record here and there. From time to time I love spending an afternoon in Vinyl Exchange; I’ve always found a really good bargain in there, including the white vinyl pressing of Ruskin’s Work ep for £25 when it was going for over £50 on Discogs.
We tend to do most of our shopping online and use a mixture of Juno, Red Eye, Phonica & Discogs.
Some might say that a lot of DJs fail to switch up the selection in their record bags, do guys tend re-pack your bag before every gig or do you always keep a select few records in there?
Steffi: Oh god yes! In the weeks leading up to the gig, we’ll have a chat about which direction we want to take the set based on which artist we are playing with or just how we think it should go in general. Due to this approach, we find that we tend to play very varied sets and obviously that means switching things up.
Although, we are both guilty of keeping certain records in the bag! Especially if you know it’s one that’ll get things going. About 6 months ago I went through a stage of playing Fix – Flash and always had a great reaction from the crowd - so you sort of find it hard to let go, but then something new comes and takes it place!
Now for the big question... Have you ever thought about making your own productions, and do you have any plans to start producing in the near future?
Steffi: Yeah myself and Tash have been making stuff on and off for the last few years and just getting to grips with the whole process. Personally, it’s something I do find really challenging although I’m starting to overcome a few of those hurdles now. Tash is starting to come up with the goods though! Lucy has also been making stuff for the last 8/9 years.
Listen to their latest mix on KMAH radio below: