With the Studio 338 terrace rising from the ashes this weekend, I sat down with Dan Perrin, one of the brains behind bringing one of London’s best venues to the forefront of the clubbing world. Take a look at what he had to say.
On August 8th 2016, the music world awoke to the scenes of Studio 338 on fire. The harrowing scene in North Greenwich had taken place only hours after ABODE had finished the garden party for one final time. The thick black smoke that rose over London that day was tinged with the even sadder news that Tomas Ceidukas, a Studio 338 employee, had become trapped in the fire getting others out, later dying in hospital due to his injuries. For many of us, we thought that that would be that for Studio 338. For Dan Perrin, that wasn’t the case.
Dan is one of the main men behind Studio 338, bringing it to the forefront of London’s nightlife a few years ago. Dan, alongside Colin Chiddle, are the reason why the venue was considered one of the best in the world, bringing a slice of Ibiza to South East London. For many of us, the only reason we now know about Studio 338 is because of these guys. After the tragic events that took place last year, it looked like that might be it. Perhaps the venue had danced it’s last dance. But not for Dan.
It’s Thursday 19th October and we’re roughly a week away from The Terrace being reopened and Dan Perrin is extremely busy. After scheduling, rescheduling and then rescheduling again, I finally have the chance to sit down and have a quick call with the man who is responsible for pushing London’s most famous terrace into the forefront of the music industry. Having been preparing for this night for well over a year, facing countless obstacles, picking the right artists to represent the reopening of Studio 338, I can now understand just why Dan is so busy.
The phone rings and rings (and rings and rings) and eventually I finally get through. Dan has just finished his final meeting of the day as he tells me and we’re all good to start our chat.
Hello mate, you ok?
Dan Perrin: Hello mate, I’m very well, very well, how are you?
Not too bad, I bet you’re busy!
Super busy! I was in a meeting before and it ran over so you’ll have to excuse me, but it’s hectic down here (laughs). But yes, we are very, very busy. We’re now in the final leg of the renovation so there are all the wrinkles to iron of that before we reopen. Then we’re just putting all the final touches onto the programme calendar for next year and making sure that we’ve got all the right acts for those brands. So yeah there’s lots of plates in the air at the moment! (laughs)
Only a few things to do then! So for those that don’t know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how your career in music started?
I was always a huge music fan and I used to DJ garage and was on pirate radio stations but on the interim I was actually a headhunter. Then, I started a little warehouse party called Art of Dark which led me do various projects like London Pleasure Gardens, which unfortunately didn’t get off the ground.
After that, I went off to Ibiza to run some beach parties for Art of Dark, came back and the week I was home I went to the first iteration of Studio 338 to see if we could do Art of Dark’s 3rd Birthday there. I met the owners, we got on really well and it was apparent that with my input that the venue could accelerate forward a lot quicker and the rest is history!
For people that don’t know what Studio 338 is, can you describe it to them?
It’s a music and arts events base - we certainly wouldn’t use the word “nightclub” because it's not a nightclub in the traditional sense of the word. We do lots of different things here from electronic music, to live music and food events. I guess what makes it unique is that is very unlike anything else in the UK. It feels more like something that you’d find in Ibiza or Croatia, with the centre piece for the venue being a large glass atrium which gives you the feeling that you’re not in somewhere so dreary as London (laughs). We do a lot of day to night parties so it goes from sunset to sunrise which is a unique thing to see in London, which has made it so popular.
I’ve been going for a number of years now so I’ve seen it develop massively, how would you say that the clubs developed since you first saw it to now?
Well when I first came along it was a very cool space that had a lot of potential, but the first rounds of development weren’t focussed on the type of people that I was going to be bringing in for the majority of our events. There was a lot “shiny stuff” like mirrors and glitter so I had to set about changing that and making it feel more underground, which went really well and we had a very successful first couple of years.
Then we decided to go ahead with another round of redevelopments which was to get rid of the “plastic tent” that we had over our terrace area and replace it with a much higher soundproof glass atrium, which had a mezzanine balcony wrapped around it which was a huge leap forward for us.
So that was all completed for only two weeks before we then suffered the fire, which now leads us into the third chapter in redeveloping it again. I think people are gonna be very pleasantly surprised when we reopen it next week and they see what the new reincarnation of Studio 338 is. That iconic glass atrium is still there but the venue has a much much more slick feel to it. There’s a much more consistent, well thought out element which stretches throughout the whole space and it feels more connected.
On the subject of the fire, when it happened did yourself and the Studio 338 team think that “that’s it, it’s over”?
I’m the kind of person that never really admits defeat. Obviously, the first few days were really about Tomas, the colleague that we very sadly lost, but then after that we started to be able to look at what we were going to do and of course there are times I thought “this is going to be too big a mountain to climb” but there was never any doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t give it our best shot.
We’ve had to go through quite a meandering road to get to where we are due to a number of things when reinstating a venue like this (as well great expense!) but I don’t think there was any doubt from any of us that we wouldn’t come back. My view was that we had put so much time, energy, love and money into the place that we couldn’t just give up, you know? We’d got to the point where we were literally two weeks away from being considered a world class venue so we couldn’t just let the story end there.
Well thankfully the story hasn’t ended and The Garden reopened in summer - was it as successful as you guys hope that it would be?
Yeah absolutely, it was as successful as we hoped it would be. It’s a really fun space anyway and it was always really successful when it was The Beach the year before in the summer and that’s because it’s a really unique thing to have in London when it comes to outdoor parties. We’re fortunate enough where we’re not so close to residents that we have to be excessively careful with sound! I guess what magnified that success was that it was the first opportunity for people to come back to the site, you know?
We have a lot of very loyal loves of Studio 338 and they want to support us in any way they can, so as soon as we started announcing events in that garden there was no murmur of “oh well what if it's not the same” it was always just “yes! Can’t wait” and a completely positive attitude to the venue. That attitude is probably the main engine which has led us to be able to rebuild the venue.
The Terrace is obviously reopening next week, can you tell us anything about the lineups and what Studio 338 has got planned?
Yeah of course - so the lineups have now been announced for the opening weekend. I think it would have been very easy to kind of put together the biggest names and huge festival headliners but actually, that doesn’t represent who we are and what we want to do. It’s about giving people the latest, very high quality and best underground music rather than the acts that have got the most Facebook likes and hype around them.
We start off with a pretty underground and very upfront first couple of days and on the Friday we have got a few of my favourites Italojohnson who are big in the Berlin scene as well as Steve O’Sullivan, Djebali and my partner in Art of Dark, Colin Chiddle, who’ll be opening up The Terrace for us on the first night. Then on the Saturday we have got another underground lineup starting with Funk E who’s on the Romanian minimal techno scene. Alongside him will be Christian AB, we’ve got our first set from a resident for us called Andrew Kay, then Barem and Molly and then we’ve got Seb Zito of FUSE and Traumer.
Finally we have ABODE, which I think people are very familiar with, which is that more rolling tech house type sound and is always popular. I am very, very confident that this is going to be some of the best music that people will hear all year round.
If you could have any act play at Studio 338 who would it be?
I can’t answer that, there’s too many (laughs)! I think most of the people that I would want to play here actually do. RPR, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Sven Väth and Steve Lawler have all played here. If I’m honest, the one who is missing at the moment for me is Ricardo Villalobos, but only time will tell.
So now you’re finally reopening after last years events and you’ve been through all of this with the venue, how would you describe the journey that you’ve had with the Studio 338?
(laughs) Like a rollercoaster! But always fun. Even in the times where we’ve been fighting to come back, it’s always been a lot of fun and exciting. It’s always like trying to achieve the impossible and like climbing a mountain which most people might find impossible but we’ve got a good team here who are always positive no matter what. You look around and know that you are going to achieve what you want to achieve.
It’s been a real winding road and we’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome. We put all our money into the first renovations so we had to fight out of that corner. Then we got to the point where we didn’t have to worry about the money and we were really popular and successful, so we invested all our money into developing the venue, even more, then we watched it burn down which was another battle. But now we’ve rebuilt and are so close to reopening, I think people will come along and they’ll be really pleasantly surprised at the new evolution of Studio 338 and I feel that it will be held in the same breath as some of the most renowned venues in the world.
What have been some of your favourite memories in Studio 338?
I think the first ever big event that we did which was MK on the old terrace under the plastic roof - that was special. Then the first time we opened the new atrium, which was when tINI and The Gang was on. We had everybody outside in the car park as it was back then, and we were frantically getting everything ready in The Terrace.
What we did was actually let everyone in through the studio doors and for about two minutes or so, people were locked out of The Terrace with everyone piling up to get in and have a look at this new atrium when suddenly we opened the doors to them all. Seeing everyone's faces in that state of “wow” was really special. That’s one of the things I can’t wait for everyone to see next Friday because it’s going to be that multiplied by a million!
Finally, what would you say that Studio 338 has taught you about yourself?
I probably already knew this, but I would say that I am not defeated very easily. Obviously, there has been lots of times in the past where I thought I was on the brink of something really special and for reasons outside of my control, that slips away which could have been the case when the venue had burned down and we’d just spent all of our financial resources on rebuilding it. I think it’s taught me that I’m a bit tougher than I think I am.
Nice one mate, see you next week.
It takes a certain type of character to be able to pick yourself up when you've had your whole dream quite literally burned to the ground. For most people, this would be an easy enough reason to give up. But not for Dan Perrin and the Studio 338 team. Whilst many might have only seen a pile of ash on 338 Boord Street, Dan saw a new path for the club to go down. Although there was huge expense, an unbelievable amount of obstacles and even a slight flicker of "this might not happen" through it all, he believed one day it would reopen. And that day is almost here.
Talking to Dan gave me a real sense of hope in London's nightlife and underground scene. I felt that determination when I spoke to him and I can now see why his team couldn't just give up. Studio 338's reopening will be an emotional event. Months of hard work will culminate this weekend and see more people flock to the club than ever before. Thankfully, we know that the guys can rise to the occasion.