Behind the Scenes: The Promoter – with Dolan Bergin

In this new series, Flux will interview a variety of individuals whose involvement within the underground music scene has given them unique perspectives on the ways in which it operates. We hope to give a voice not only to those prominent people who shape the parties we attend and the music we listen to, but also to shine a light on some of those who work quietly in the shadows and rarely receive any acknowledgment for the vital role they play.

In this, our first instalment, we will be looking at the role of the promoter. In the wake of his plethora of festival showcases and sold out events across London and Berlin – and most recently his acclaimed series, The Hydra – it was a privilege for us to have the opportunity to meet the Electric Mind of DJ and promoter Dolan Bergin:.

Hi Dolan, how are you?

I’m good thanks, have a weekend off so nice to have some time at home.

Quality, insightful and timely bookings have always been at the core of your events. Do you see the role of the promoter as being one of capturing the prevailing mood of the time or of actively looking to shape people’s future tastes by exposing them to new sounds?

I’d like to think we spend a lot of time researching current and future tastes and presenting new & innovative music has always been at the core of what Ajay and I do. There are plenty of promoters who just follow the same theme or try and replicate what others do but we do our best to distance ourselves from that world.

Is there a pressure to stay ahead of the curve? Or are you comfortable that good music is good music and that remains the case regardless of what’s going on in the wider scene?

There will always be an audience for what we believe is good music, it’s a niche audience but we feel most comfortable operating in this world. If you are interested in good music then I guess you will stay ahead of the curve as you’ll naturally be seeking out what you believe to be new and interesting. Good music spans all genres so while it’s difficult to keep up with it all, it helps to try and maintain a balance between the electronic world and what happens outside.

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Your party mantra is ‘exceptional music, presented expertly’. What does that actually mean to you on both a logistical and emotional level?

It means that we put all of our resources into making sure that the whole experience from walking into one of our events until leaving is as exciting as possible. We have a team who we believe to be the best in London, from the sound to the bar we only want to work with the best and most professional companies. Of course we face many challenges when it comes to developing new spaces but we like to think we learn from our mistakes and try and put them right as soon as possible.

I attended an Electric Minds years ago with Session Victim in the photography studio off Kingsland Road and was so struck by the importance of venue choice. What do you look for in spaces you use and how has the relative decline of traditional clubs and rise of warehouse parties affected what you do?

I think the one thing that separates us from the other events in London is that in recent years we’ve always had a home be that at the studio in Shoreditch or the studios in Wapping. We’ve worked very closely with the studios to maintain a balance between the needs of the spaces during the week and weekends. With improvements being made to the studios every week over the years we’d like to think people associate us with our name and also the quality of the venues we use and develop to become our permanent homes.

With artist fees rising exponentially due to the current surge in the popularity of electronic music, is it sometimes difficult to keep events commercially viable without pricing out some of the very people you most want to attend?

I think very few people understand how much it costs to produce an event in London and with such fierce competition there will always be a few who will be tempted by the large offers over a reasonable offer with a quality venue and set up behind things. We have a strong relationship though with key artists and they know what to expect from our events & venues so we’re lucky that they choose to work with us over what I’m sure are bigger offers elsewhere at larger venues. We really appreciate they see a quality in what we do.

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Going into any event you play at or run, what do you hope for and from the audience?

I think we’re very lucky with our audience; they are open minded and interested in the music and having fun over any negative values. If you experience any event you’d hope your fellow audience are there to have fun.

In terms of your own events, how important was it for you to maintain what you had originally created with institutions like Electric Minds when embarking on new projects like The Hydra?

When Ajay and I started the Hydra we stuck to our core values, which were to present the music we care about in the best way possible, be that through an amazing sound system or an interesting venue. We still very much believe in these values for all of our Hydra events.

Whose production and live work is inspiring you the most at the moment in terms of who you’re booking and what you’re playing?

We’re really enjoying Leon Vynehall’s latest releases and i think it’s fair to say Daniel Bortz caused a bit of a storm when Dixon & Ame played one of as yet unreleased tracks at the Innervisions party at the studio last month (see the video here).

What plans do you have for the future, for your events and for you individually?

Our main focus right now is to develop the next Hydra series and to continue to develop Studio Spaces in Wapping, which is the venue where all of our events take place. It’s been a really challenging three years but we’re getting some great feedback on both projects so excited to see what can happen next year. We’re also thrilled to be part of Bloc’s festival next March, Bugged Out in January plus some dates at Panorama Bar , Robert Johnson, Culture Box which are always big highlights of the year.

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If you weren’t in music, could you see yourself doing anything else?

The hustle of a busy kitchen always seemed like a challenge I wanted to take up but I’m not exactly a good cook so it’s probably best to stick to what I know.

What’s the strangest rider request you’ve had from a DJ?

They grow stranger by the day, some people are so cool about things and just take it in their stride and others need to express themselves by demanding the earth. Coconut water seems to be flavour of the month this year, orange & cranberry juice I guess went out of fashion.

And lastly, what’s the worst spelling of your name you’ve been
subjected to?

Too many to mention although I do remember someone writing my name as Berghain recently so not a bad association to be mixed up with.

Thanks for speaking to us Dolan.