dBs graduate Keanu and his mate Sam are at the forefront of Plymouth’s burgeoning European techno scene. We caught up with them to discuss their love of Euro techno and how they’re importing it to Ocean City via their club night Spektra at THÊ DEPØ.
dBs Bristol graduate Keanu Jarvis and Sam Evans (aka Kompanion) are mates who go back years and have a unifying passion for the flavour of hard European techno you will find blasting through sound systems from Berlin to Bucharest. Although Keanu spent 4 years at sea with the Navy and 3 years studying Electronic Music Production in Bristol, both he and Sam are Plymouth natives and their new club night Spektra, which is hosted at Union Street’s THÊ DEPØ, aims to create a tight-knit community around their favourite genre.
With clubs like Dance Academy and Warehouse, Plymouth used to be a major part of the nightlife culture in the UK. Over the years, Ocean City’s iconic clubs have slowly closed down but, new party spaces like THÊ DEPØ, Cosmic Kitchen and Strobe, are beginning to breathe life back into the nighttime economy of the city.
Alongside this renewal, there is also a curiously high concentration of hard techno DJs and producers in the city spinning the type of music you more commonly find on the continent. Kompanion and their night Spektra, are part of this new tradition. We caught up with them to find out more.
Hey guys! Please introduce yourselves and how you got into music
Keanu Jarvis: My name is Keanu and I'm 26 years old. Originally, I had absolutely no formal training in music. I started teaching myself in 2016 when I was in the Navy before going to university at dBs in Bristol. I decided I wanted to learn to make music, so I started teaching myself Logic and reading up on compression and things like that while I was on a warship in the middle of the ocean. I didn't actually have any formal training, I just learnt from what I was reading. Luckily, I did my A Levels, so I didn’t have to do a Foundation to join dBs. University gives you so much but it's also very much about self-teaching as well. They give you the tools and then you can go and learn by yourself. I love techno and, in Bristol, there isn’t that much hard techno so it was quite difficult to find my niche. After uni, I moved back to Plymouth and now me and Sam are on our journey here!
Sam Evans: For me, my introduction to music came a long time ago thanks to my mum. My family is very musically orientated, going back to my great nan. She played the piano and passed her love for music down to my granddad, who plays anything with strings, and he passed the vibe down to my mum. She's basically an old-school raver and when I was a kid, she would be getting ready to go to Plymouth’s old-school clubs; Dance Academy, Warehouse and places like that. She'd be getting ready and always had the music on. I was only young but subconsciously, without even knowing, it basically gave me a love for electronic music and then, when I was 13, she surprised me with a set of turntables for my birthday! She was sort of in the scene in Plymouth. Loads of DJs were her mates. They'd be throwing nights in the city and they would also come around and teach me how to DJ. My stepdad also used to run some of the biggest nights in the South West back in the day. He was one of the people behind Disco Biz Kids, which was basically him and Jefferson Vandike. Jefferson recently passed, unfortunately. He was a big Plymouth legend. All these people were really big influences on my life and that's where it all comes from for me.
How did you guys first meet and how did Kompanion start?
SE: I actually met Keanu through his brother, his older brother. He would come to events and we'd go raving together.
KJ: We went to school together but he was two years above me so we never really interacted. Then we met on a night out at Motion. We had that mutual relationship through my brother Liam and then we decided to go to Amsterdam Dance Event together for my 21st birthday. And that's really where we started talking about DJing together. Did we DJ together much before that?
SE: We played around in the studio and stuff like that, but we never played a set out or anything.
KJ: So at the Amsterdam Dance Event, we were partying together all week and the whole time we were brainstorming ideas for our name.
SE: Yeah, I came up with it in Mediahaven. It just popped into my head - Kompanion.
KJ: He just tapped me on the shoulder.
SE: Yeah I said, “What do you think about that?” We were over there partying and we were thinking, “Are we actually going to make this happen?”
KJ: With the event, it's something that we've talked about for so long. A lot of people talk about things and they don't follow through with them. We were always doing little bits, but now we've really been pushing it. There are three of us that run the actual event and then there are two of us in Kompanion. Now we're just pushing and pushing and pushing. We want to make this our life now.
So tell me about Spektra. How did it come about and what are your plans for the night?
KJ: It was similar to the way Kompanion started. It just happened naturally.
SE: We would always be talking about throwing events. We have travelled a lot around Europe and we still do it now, going to events like Awakenings, Time Warp and all the best parties on the continent. At the same time, the only thing that was really on in Plymouth was Casa, which is a tech-house event. They're obviously amazing at what they do but we’d be the only people playing techno and some of our friends would say to us after they'd watch us play, "You need to throw your own nights.” We thought, “Can we do it?” We were a bit young but we just wanted to make our own movement.
KJ: This all happened around the same time that there was a lot going on up North and in other places with techno events. The techno in Ireland, Scotland and in London is pretty good. In Manchester, in particular, it's really going crazy up there. In Plymouth, we're so far from the epicentre of it all. It's such hard work to get down here, so the only thing we can do is cultivate something ourselves. We had a platform to play out as Kompanion but it would be few and far between. The easiest way to do it, if no one else is going to, is to do it ourselves! We have full creative control over the event. There's no one saying to us, “Oh, you need to be doing this and you need to be doing that.” We can decide on the music we want to play. The whole point of Spektra - the name comes from the word spectrum - is that we don't want it to be one-dimensional. It's not this linear thing. Techno is a whole umbrella. People that have followed us from the start will realise that because the sound we play now is generally a lot faster and it is quite a lot harder than when we started. We used to play like 128-130 and now we're like playing out at like 150 BPM. We do change it up as well, we're versatile. It's not just the same sound. We will cater to different audiences from one set to the next. We don't deviate too much from our sound but we're still respectful of other tastes and other people.
What do you think about the nightlife culture in Plymouth at the moment?
KJ: Some of the events that are happening at the minute, they're ‘reverse climaxes’ I would say. They're really good at the start and then they end up losing momentum. Other DJs sometimes go a bit too hard and too fast early on in the night. You’re wearing out the ravers! [laughs] We've learnt that, in Plymouth, at about 3 am suddenly the club is starting to die down a little bit.
SE: Whereas if you go to a European rave - I just got back from Blackworks in Madrid last weekend - and it's like a 12-hour rave, at the end, it's probably busier than what it was like at the beginning! There are people screaming wanting it to carry on even at the end [laughs].
KJ: Yeah, I went to a rave in Amsterdam recently and there were 6000 people and I think it was like 12 hours or something like that. When I was there, it was about 5 am and I'm looking around and all the Dutch people were there dancing and absolutely loving it as if they had just arrived - like it was the peak of the night still. It was madness. You don't get that over here.
Is that European flavour of nightlife culture something you want to bring to Plymouth?
KJ: We want to do that but we also want to create a community, do you know what I mean? It's Plymouth. It's our home and we want everyone to know each other. What we want for Spektra is for everyone to come and know they'll have a good time. We just want to make it as big and as good as possible.
SE: What we're trying to do with Spektra is to handpick all of our favourite things about the raving experience that we've picked up along the way and try to create our own little movement but we want to innovate not imitate.
KJ: We're taking everything we've learned and just kind of making it our own. Adapting and evolving things.
Is that something you think the UK scene is lacking then? A European-style techno scene?
KJ: Yeah, for sure. At least in our opinion. It's the sound that people don’t know they need. For example, we will get invited to play at Casa and then we'll always get put on last.
SE: Every time we play there, they pack the club for an extra half an hour or hour. The last four or five times we've played there, that’s happened.
KJ: So the club will close at 4 am, but we've ended up playing until 5.30 before.
SE: You get these people who have obviously never really heard techno. You hear the word ‘techno’ and some people who like house and stuff and they're like, "Oh no. That's not for us," and then when you're actually on the dance floor and feeling the vibe, they're actually loving it. I think the main differences between UK nightlife and the European side of things are stamina and the absolute love for it. It's almost like a religion for some of them.
KJ: For the Dutch, it is like a religion. Whereas over here, it’s not so much. It definitely is for some people. It is a religion for us.
SE: I think it is starting to turn and this is obviously what we're trying to do. We want to show that this is music, this is real music. The same with any sort of electronic music. We’re trying to get people to really find a love for it.
KJ: It's just that energy, you know? For me, with techno, it often doesn't have words and you can create what you want from it. Don't get me wrong, if you don't like techno, then someone might be like 'Jesus Christ! This is hard work'. But I wake up in the morning and listen to it and I feel energised and ready to take on the day. With electronic music, I think it's one of those things that you either understand or you don't. For me, techno was an acquired taste. I started off liking tech-house and going to Ibiza and then I met Sam and we went to ADE and ever since then, I've just never looked back. I still have an appreciation for that stuff as well. I will go back and listen to house music from 2016 and think, "This is a tune!"
SE: We appreciate everything that falls under the umbrella of electronic music. Drum and bass, it's not my thing and I respect everyone else who would say the same thing about techno but I still respect it and still rate it and still love it that people are pushing that for other people to love, do you know what I mean?
KJ: You can kind of make anything you want from it. You can go and meet your mate that produces DnB and make a techno track and it will have breakbeats and Reese basses and it can easily amalgamate with all these other genres, you know? All it is is a four-to-the-floor kick drum and then it's the energy from the high hats and what you're putting in between is really up to you.
So where do you want to take Spektra from here?
KJ: I think we want to expand eventually. Our eyes aren't only set on Plymouth. They're set on expansion outside of Plymouth. It’s good to be part of something here and Plymouth is always going to be our home, but we want to push Spektra outside through collaboration. You're only going to go further if you're working with people that are in the cities that you want to be in or that are from other cities and then meeting somewhere in the middle.
SE: Yeah, making a name for ourselves here first is the key. We want to be doing that and then it's looking at the next adventure.
Want to be a part of Plymouth's growing electronic music scene? Check out the courses we have at dBs Plymouth to help you on your journey!