Saturday Night: Drop in on Mr C

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Indy Lifestyle Online
SO I'M gently bouncing off the walls as I drift off the dance floor and down the corridor to the toilets when this face appears next to my shoulder, peering at it, and says: 'I always have to check a good tattoo.' I look around and there's a dark-skinned girl, hair cropped and slicked like Josephine Baker, wearing see-through black flares and a knotted sleeveless blouse, grinning at me.

'I've got one, too,' she says, turning sideways and sticking her hip out. There is a .38 revolver the size of Frank Bruno's fist tattooed on it. I think, is it real? And I wake from my trance to find myself examining this elegant stranger's hip. Through chiffon pants. Whoops] So I say, 'Wow, fantastic] I'm really impressed,' and dive into the toilet.

And that's all the trouble I saw at The Drop last Saturday night, which is remarkable, since 500 people from south-east England were there, security was efficient but minimal, it was hot, crowded and every social class was represented.

The Drop is the name given to a series of parties held in Farringdon over the past four months by Richard, better know as Mr C, of the techno-pop duo The Shamen, to showcase some of the talent signed to his new record label, Plink Plonk. The result was one of the best techno parties in London this year.

Dozens came from Brighton, Bognor, Norwich, Colchester, Milton Keynes and even north Wales. Apparently, 50 came from Portsmouth alone. There were trendies, crusties and Goa-types, geezers with ponytails and tech-heads in wraparound shades. And by 7.30am they were mostly in one heaving, sweating, whooping mass, being buffeted this way and that, blasted by furious techno and dazzled by a maelstrom of strobe lights. The energy level was stratospheric. All of this was done by word of mouth, through friends. The secret is the curious double life of Mr C. 'I've been DJ-ing on the underground circuit for five years,' he explains, 'playing all over the country. And wherever I go, I always try to befriend the hardcore, the real music people. So when we do a party I send those people the flyers and tell them to give them to their best friends, who then give them to their best friends, and so on.'

But there's more to it than that. The small room, capacity 120, has no record decks. Instead it has two studio systems, each with an Atari computer, effects rack, digital sampler, analogue synthesisers, sequencers, drum machines and mixing desk. Tonight, Plink Plonk techno artists such as Ramjack, Megalon, Pluto and Audiorama will perform their music straight from the computer discs on which it is stored, remixing it in situ. The effect is electrifying: studio-quality sound through a 5kW rig in a room the size of three squash courts. Upstairs, in 'the kennel', there's a similar system.

The main room has a 10kW rig, twin decks, two industrial fans, quality lighting, fluorescent banners, and holds 300, maybe 350. A 10kW rig is more than ample for a medium-sized field, and could deafen the crowd if abused. And yet, remarkably, though the bass thumps you in the chest like a shock wave, you can actually talk over the sound.

But still the most impressive aspect is the cultural mix of the crowd and the ease with which it mingles. 'Entertainment in the Nineties is very different from the Seventies,' says Mr C. 'It requires a degree of interaction. I don't want people here standing against the walls waiting for something to happen, expecting to be impressed. I want them to get excited, get involved, contribute some energy.

'There are a few kids, which is good for the excitement level, but this is mainly an educated crowd, older people who were around in '88, before the whole house music thing got hijacked by a bunch of monsters, out to make as much money as possible. They know that this is not a money-making venture. Look around you. These parties cost me six-and-a-half grand. I'll be lucky if I break even.'

This was the last party for three or four months. Meanwhile, the building is being refurbished, a separate, soundproofed ambient room built, with a glass wall overlooking the main dance floor. By October he hopes to have the necessary licences to open as a legitimate night-club.

Will it still retain the atmosphere when everything goes legit? Only time will tell. For the moment, The Drop has passed into legend and Mr C has a new Shamen album to co-write and record, and his Plink Plonk label to build. In between, he may DJ on the south coast, or in East Anglia. Wherever he is, the music and the crowd will be something special: catch him if you can.