benji b breaks down the secret of deviation’s success

As Metro Boomin makes his UK debut at Koko this weekend, we celebrate one of London's most aurally audacious nights.

by Hattie Collins
14 April 2016, 11:24pm

Nearly 9 years ago, a new night arrived on the London landscape; its name was Deviation and its music policy was restricted only to the truly dope. Run by Radio 1's Benji B and host-with-the-most Judah, Deviation has booked everyone from Flying Lotus to Floating Points, James Blake to BokBok, Travi$ Scott to Skepta to Zomby, with ravers including A$AP Rocky and a low-key Kanye West. With the night returning this weekend at Camden's Koko - guests include Metro Boomin, Little Baby Angel, Martelo, GILA and Josey Rebelle. Benji B breaks down six of the steps to creating a truly legendary club night…

1. From humble beginnings…
"Deviation began at a club in east London called Gramaphone. I spent a few years searching for a venue off the beaten track and one that had never been used before. I wanted to create a party on a Wednesday night -- something that was a destination you had to travel to -- something with its own bespoke sound system installed every month. Somewhere that DJs from around the world could come and play exactly what they wanted to play, and hopefully somewhere that would remind them why they do what they do."

2. The voyage of discovery...
"When we launched in 2007 it was not the best time for club culture in London -- I felt something was missing and I wanted to create what was missing. I also wanted a space that musically could represent my lane and what I do on the radio -- hopefully someone would come wanting to see Moodymann or Mala and leave loving Flying Lotus. Maybe someone that loved hip hop would come and discover there was house music that they liked too - or vice versa."

3. Keep it low-key and the love will come...
"Ultimately all club nights are about trust. And for us it was always about introducing new talent as much as celebrating established dons. It was never about big names to fill the place -- more the trust that we developed with the crowd to present new acts that they were open too. In a pre-Instagram and Soundcloud world that was an important trust. For example, Flying Lotus' first London gig, Hudson Mohawke's first London gig, Dorian Concepts' first London gig, Dam Funk's first UK gig, The Internet's first live gig etc. We'll continue that with our KOKO show this week with Metro Boomin's UK debut and the first chance to see new emerging talent GILA and Little Baby Angel who are both artists I'm into."

"The crowd there on the dance floor on any week could include James Blake and Joy Orbison, at the bar you might find DJ Zinc chatting to Kode 9 and Skream, Floating Points and Katy B by the booth, at the back maybe Mark Ronson with a rapper from America visiting town…. We turned the basement into something very special. Most of the nights we had there seemed like high points, and it was a defining era for a lot of DJs and regulars.
The wildest we've had so far was the opening night of my 13-week residency at XOYO last year. A few people passed though - JME, Skepta, A$AP Rocky, Mos Def, Jammer, Novelist, Kaytranada…!"

4. Create classic moments...
"If I was forced to pick out some moments from that era, I would definitely mention the very first night, as well as the first Birthday session which was a legendary "if you were there" type moment - the first 5-hour set I played there, which was probably the best one I ever did… the time Moodymann turned up in Roller-skates and DJ'd, The time we put on Theo Parrish with Kode 9, the time the amps blew on our soundsytem and not a single person left for 45 mins while it was being fixed and the party turning into an absolute classic when it started again." 

5. Celebrate your birthday in style...
"The 5th birthday was probably the best party I have ever created from start to finish; we did it in an old gospel church in east London from 10pm - 6am and it was the closest to perfect I have ever experienced as a club goer and organiser. The line up was amazing and the vibe was the perfect celebration of Deviation's 5th birthday I could have thought of." 

6. And kill Carnival -- every time…
"I have to mention our world famous Carnival party which we do in west London once a year -- I mean each one seems crazier than the last. 2014 was possibly the most insane though, with DJ Zinc followed by DJ EZ followed by Rodigan -- it kept going up a level just when I thought it couldn't get more hype. Those parties really have been some of the most special events we have ever created."

Get tickets for this Saturday's Deviation here


A$AP Rocky:
Floating Points
Benji B
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