In Conversation with… Aidan Doherty Founder of Warm Up
My first time seeing Aidan Doherty, owner of Warm Up, was at Noisily Festival. It was one of the best sets I witnessed over the Summer festival season and on my return to London there was no question in my mind. I headed down to my first Warm Up and was hooked from the get go, line and sinker. It’s an absolutely unique experience in the London scene. Their events are musically and production wise out of this world. But what truly makes it great is the community that it has fostered over the last 4.5 years. A titanic clash of beautiful souls and spirits, in their natural habitat, listening to a diverse cosmic soundtrack for marathonesque periods. Why do we keep coming back? If I had to boil it down to one thing it would be the almost meditative oneness felt through shared cathartic release. This is something you can only experience in person so get yourself down soon. Having had some spiritual and down right back to basic moments at Warm Up I decided it was high time that I got some words from the man himself. Aidan is a humble G and would happily get on with it quietly, forever. However, it just seemed right to do a get to know. Who knows what the future holds for Warm Up but it has the potential to be one of the greats in my eyes so without further ado…
Hi Aidan, you seem to be really starting to make a positive impact on the London scene with Warm Up. But as with anything there was groundwork that led you into the position that you find yourself in now. Tell us a bit about the journey of Aidan prior to Warm Up: where you’re from, early memories/raves/influences, getting into DJ’ing, working in events/music, life/job/career away from music, how your music taste changed over the years?
I was born in Belgium, not really sure why, but hey-ho. Moved to Lancaster around two years old and grew up there until I was twenty. I then moved to London to study Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon School of Art and graduated in 2008 with a first and put all my energies into pursuing a career as a painter. It was going very well, I was showing in very prestigious exhibitions and making a name for myself. However, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t really feel like I fitted in within the art world. There were a hell of a lot of pillocks and bullshitters within the scene. I don’t like fakers, and it felt like you had to be good at chatting garbage and kissing ass (kind of like the industry I’m in now ha) to make it in the art word and less about raw talent. Maybe I’m wrong, it’s just how I felt. It really wasn’t for me so I decided to quit painting and leave it all behind. It was a great five years though because I was also working as a nightclub bouncer. Being an artist in my dingy studio in Hackney Wick from Monday-Friday to being a doorman all weekend was a really strange juxtaposition. I really enjoyed living two lives, well, three come to think of it as I was also a very dedicated body builder as well, ha. It wasn’t until 2013 that I began this current journey as a DJ and event organiser. Prior to that I was still really into electronic music and raving, but had no interest in DJ’ing or anything else. I was going out to places like The End, Turnmills and also KOKOs on a Friday for the indie nights, that’s right, I used to be a little indie bopper before I really fell in love with dance music. My biggest influence was going to James Holden’s Border Community nights at The End. This was where London’s ravers started to hear a fresh new sound that was really focused on melody, more experimental rhythms and grooves which lead the way for what people call melodic techno. Personally, I think this description has become way too over used. Genres have really started to blend into each other now. For me the only way to describe the music I love is “emotive”. Technically I play all kinds of styles in my sets; progressive house, techno, tech house, minimal, deep house, electronica. It’s about having that emotional attachment to your music, whatever genre it is, that is the only thing that is important to me.
To someone who’s never attended Warm Up how would you describe it?
Warm Up is definitely way more than just another one of London’s many club brands. It has grown into a community. It’s a place where people feel connected to each other through emotional music. It’s a place where you will definitely make new friends, because we are lucky that our crowd are a lovely welcoming bunch! Everyone’s there to have a good time, to enjoy the music, to connect physically and mentally. It’s a place where you will hear the finest emotive music out there, and I really mean that. No one in London does it quite like we do. The atmosphere is really like no other. It’s an experience that you need to feel physically, and emotionally, for yourself. Me trying to sum it up in words is never truly going to do it justice. The notion of “family” really prevails at Warm Up. I feel like I know almost everyone who attends, everyone knows each other and we are like brothers and sisters. It’s an incredibly special feeling and something that has developed beautifully over the 4.5 years of our existence in London.
What was your original concept with Warm Up and do you feel that you’ve stayed true to that down the line. If not, how has it changed over the years?
Warm Up was conceived in 2013 through my desire to start playing the music I had been collecting to more people than just my cousin James in my kitchen! I had been a “Bedroom DJ” for only a few months but became addicted to it very quickly. Even though I wasn’t really very good, the urge to play a DJ set in front of more than one person became too much, so I decided to do something about it. I was working as a bouncer on a bar at the time and had somehow managed to convince the manger to let me host a night there. We made a Facebook event page and decided to call the party “Warm Up”. The idea was that this might develop into a weekly party that would be a pre-rave event happening from 6 – 11, before people went on to the clubs. We did it, about 30 people came and it was great fun. I played my very first set to a very small crowd and loved every second of it. After that I was hooked and determined to do more. From then on it just seemed to grow and grow super fast. I think that is because we had created a hub where people who loved melodic sounds could come and hear it in London and at the time there wasn’t really anywhere in London representing that sound. I believe I have stayed true to my initial vision in that I managed to create a hub for people to enjoy this kind of music whist feeling a part of a community where people share the same musical tastes.
Favourite event of the year and why?
That’s a very hard question, because as everyone knows we now have two separate branches of Warm Up: WUITW (Warm Up In The Woods) and Warm Up. I run WUITW with my good friend and partner Steffan Phil. We launched it in 2015, so since then the amount of events we do in London has doubled. So I’m going to give you my favourite WUITW event and official Warm Up club show.
I think my favourite club show of 2017 has to be when I invited Lee Burridge & Bedouin to join us at The Steelyard in April. The music & vibe that night was simply gorgeous. I decked the venue out with hanging flowers, the place looked beautiful and the music even more so. Stunning night, I won’t ever forget.
A stand out WUITW event was recently actually. We were some how blessed with lovely warm weather in mid-October, so we decided to throw one last outdoor event of the year. It was really misty and eerie at night, the sky was clear and sprinkled with stars, old father moon was watching over us. Everything was perfect, the crowd, the music, the sunrise. It was just incredible. Again, you really need to experience it to believe it. I also think I played my best set of 2017 at this one.
Describe some of your stand out memories/moments from the year.
Receiving a phone call from Lee Burridge telling me he’s coming down early to hear me play. That was a pretty memorable few moments, I really admire him, he’s such a professional and genuine guy. The endless crazy adventures I’ve had with Steffan and Jorge Martins preparing for the WUITW events, total madness! Also, closing our ‘4 Years Of Warm Up’ day party in May with the unreleased track “Koreless – Ivana (Applescal Rework)”, I shed a little tear, it really gets me this one.
We also had a really overwhelming response from the crowd and I felt that we had really achieved something in that moment. The fact that all these beautiful souls had come to see me, Jorge and Gus Emmett, the residents of Warm Up play, without any big headline names made me feel really proud and a bit emotional. That was a very special moment which led to us doing two more day parties that I called, ‘Warm Up Open Air’. We will definitely be doing them again in 2018.
Tell us about the team. How was the crew assembled? How did you meet them? How do you bounce of each other?
Our WUITW team is massive, led by myself and Steffan. We all have a lot of fun working together. It can get stressful at times, but we have slowly learnt how to work together really well, after a few ups and downs. The crew was assembled through friendship groups. Everyone knows each other and we only work with people we fully trust and can rely on.
The official Warm Up club shows are run purely by myself, as I founded Warm Up off my own back in 2013. However, Jorge has become a key figure. I would say he is my right hand man who helps with things like production and stage management. As you all know he is also my resident DJ alongside Gus. Jorge is not only a really skilled DJ but also a super hard working and very knowledgeable guy who always seems to come to my rescue when I need him! I’m very lucky to have such wonderful people around me. Between myself, Jorge & Gus, we form Warm Up’s musical identity. I met both Jorge and Gus through FB. They both sent me separate messages with links to their Soundclouds etc and asked to be considered as a booking for Warm Up, the rest is history. All three of us have our own unique musical vision. And that’s why the range of music at Warm Up is so diverse and fresh. We work incredibly hard on our jobs as DJs and always deliver seriously high standards whenever we play. I couldn’t ask for a better team of resident DJs. We are like brothers, constantly taking the piss out of each other, which I’m sure plenty of people have witnessed on Facebook. Crazy Mehdi-ting.
What is the average week between your crew with regards to music and planning the events? Who does what?
Well, when it comes to planning our Warm Up events it’s just me and my laptop. Jorge and Gus know their roles, and that is to prepare their music and get ready to deliver stand out sets. I spend every day doing my music hunting and research along side emailing and planning future events. I’m currently working on putting together our spring Warm Up shows. It’s becoming tough though, it’s really hard to lock down artists you want, there’s a lot of politics involved and I’m starting to get a bit tired of it all to be honest. I’ve realised that we now have the power to do events with just myself, Jorge and Gus on the decks. I’m very confident in our abilities to play stand out sets that are as good as the big names, if not better. We have proved this month in, month out, here in London and will continue to raise the standards.
What are your plans for Warm Up moving forward? Can you give us any ideas about what to expect in terms of programming and production over the next year?
Well, I’ve now realised that I don’t need to stress myself trying to compete with other brands in London in terms of booking the biggest names or who can book the most artists on one line up. I’m going to leave that to the big boys. I will continue to book artists I truly admire, but you will only see one or two guest names max on any Warm Up line up. I’m already looking forward to another summer of ‘Warm Up Open Air’ day parties at STYX with myself, Jorge and Gus. We will of course be continuing with our monthly WUITW events, both indoors and outdoors. My main objective in 2018 is simply to have fun and enjoy putting on events instead of getting stressed out by them. Live to say you have lived, do what makes you truly happy. I want to continue to spread love as well as musically educate peoples’ minds through my DJ sets. Warm Up & WUITW have had such a positive effect on people and I hope they keep bringing joy and happiness to peoples’ lives. I don’t really like to plan ahead too much. I have always been one of these people who just go with the flow. I honestly have no idea what’s around the corner, and that’s kind of exciting. I think the day party concept is where I will be focusing a lot of energy next year, let’s see what develops.
Favourite city, venue, festival and headliner?
I’ve not really ventured out in the world that much, but my favourite city, after London of course, would be Amsterdam. Best venue I’ve experienced has to be Printworks, but on a more standard club scale I would say Corsica Studios. Festival wise, Noisily steals my heart, but very close after that would be Gottwood and of course Glasto. Ame live has always blown my mind, especially at ADE this year, just unbelievable.
Outline an average day in the life of Aidan the Wizard.
Every day is different depending on what we have coming up at the weekend. But I always start with porridge & blueberries. Then hit the Mac. If we have WUITW at the weekend then me and Steffan are out and about doing what we do. If it’s an official Warm Up weekend then I’m planning and also thinking about music ahead of my set. I’m very lucky to say that this is my full time work. Being able to say that you truly love what you do for a living is rare, so I feel blessed in that respect. It can get a bit stressful towards the weekend when you have lots of logistics stuff to plan, whilst also thinking about set preparation. I seem to juggle the two pretty well now though.
Favourite DJ and why? Feel free to choose more than one.
There are loads of lesser knows DJs I admire but one of my favourites has to be Kolsch. I take a lot of inspiration from the way he mixes and constructs really interesting musical combinations. Gabriel Ananda is also one of my big inspirations, not only as a DJ/artist but as a human. Lee Burridge, Dominik Eulberg, Patrice Baumel, Guy J are also names I admire greatly.
Favourite producer and why? Feel free to choose more than one.
Producers that are making music that I’m currently enjoying / playing out – Jay Shepherd, Tom Demac, Kalipo, Upercent, Marino Canal, Applescal, Deltawerk, Henry Saiz, Acid Pauli, Daniel van der Zwaag, Aparde, Ryan Davis, Kolsch, Underspreche, HOSH, 1979, Giddyhead, Gab Rhome, Modd, Andhim, Jeremy Olander, Tim Engelhardt, Joeski, Compuphonic, Nicolas Petracca. I could go on and on to be honest. There are so many great producers out there. Why do I like these ones? High quality productions, and they make me feel emotional one way or the other, it’s that simple.
Track you wish you’d written/produced and why?
Emmy – Ferdy & Daniel van der Zwaag. Why? Because it’s perfect. These kind of emotional progressive tunes are what I hunt for every day. It’s not so easy to find melodies like this these days. Stand out stuff I can really connect with.
Track that you enjoy playing most and why?
I’ve really enjoyed dropping Toto – Africa (Cass Remix) this summer. Pure love and happiness every time.
Track that got the greatest response over the Summer?
That would have to be Hans Zimmer – Time (Nihilum Remix).
Guilty pleasure track?
Pet Shop Boys – Go West
Favourite non electronic music genre / track?
Classical. Karl Jenkins – Benedictus.
When you’re not cooking up beats what are you cooking?
Aidan’s special pasta. Trust, it’s the best damn pasta you’re ever gonna eat fam. I fry up lots of garlic in oil, then add leaks and plenty of salt and pepper. Sweat it down, then add loads of white wine, soya cream and juice of a whole lemon. Simmer, then add fresh fennel, cherry tomatoes, more white wine, soya cream and seasoning. Simmer a bit more, then add prawns, scallops and more lemon juice. Simmer for 5 minutes, pour in the cooked pasta, mix with smoked salmon and serve with a cold glass of Muscadet. Banging!
Any labels/artists you’re really digging at the moment?
In terms of labels, big moves are coming from Oleeva Records. Been watching these guys grow for a while now. I have a lot of respect for them. HOSH’s new label fryhide is also really good, very strong releases so far. Anjunadeep are on fire, Lost & Found always delivering the goods, Einmusika, Sincopat, My Favorite Robot Records, Poker Flat, Polymath, The Purr. There are so many it makes my brain hurt.
Keep your eyes on Clint Stewart, John Monkman, Simao, Quatri, Joseph Ashworth, Third Son, all on the rise. I could list hundreds more to be honest, but these guys have made some real beauties recently.
Final words and shout outs?
BIG shout out to Amy, Steffan, Jorge, Gus and all of our close Warm Up fam, you guys know who you are. Mad-ting. Shout out to all the ravers who travel far and wide to dance with us week in, week out. Without you we don’t have a brand. Much love to all the people who have supported me on my journey as a DJ. I’m still very much towards the bottom of the ladder in the general scheme of things but I know I’m good enough to be at the top. However, am I willing to conform and play the games to get there? No, I don’t think so. I would rather create my own game where I make up the rules… 😉 and that’s what we are doing! Onward and upwards. DIY.