In Summer 2015 Oval Space announced that they would be opening a new venue next door in a former pickle factory. Already, with less than 6 months of regular programming, Pickle Factory has earned a reputation as one of London’s best small clubs. We thought we’d take this opportunity to talk to the people behind the club, including co-founder of Oval Space Jordan Gross, about the new venue and the wider scene in London.
Despite being a relatively new venture, the team behind Pickle Factory jumped right in October with a string of in house curated nights featuring DJs such as Thomas Melchior, Dana Ruh, Suciu, Efdemin, Dorisburg, Fred P and Lakuti. The club has also hosted promoters such as Undersound, who invited Alex Picone, TC80 and Harry McCanna to their party in January (with an unannounced visit from Etienne, who played at the afters), Miro with his Sunday Club*, having invited artists such as Jane Fitz, and Dream States by Kristina Records, who hosted a sold out affair with Slow Life, including Sergio Moreira’s famous live set.
From talking to Jordan Gross it becomes clear that the decision to start a new venue was based not on a desire to get more bodies through the door, but a feeling that London was genuinely lacking a small intimate club with great sound; a place that could become a home to a slightly more esoteric set of promoters and DJ’s. ‘Plastic People was a big inspiration for us. Since it closed there’s been nothing really like it in London.’
The parallels with the now legendary Shoreditch club are obvious and unavoidable, despite differences in aesthetic and music. Central to the success and popularity of both clubs is a no-expenses-spared approach to sound quality.
‘We got a lot of help from d&b who provided the PA system. Michael Guerra, who is a designer and sustainability consultant, helped with the room design and set up, so the system really was custom built for the space. What we basically have in there is a sound system that is far too big for the size of the room, so we’re only tickling the volume on club nights.’
Jordan insists that Pickle Factory shares the Oval Space ethos completely, emphasizing the in-house nights and careful, consistent programming. ‘The size is the main difference,’ he argues ‘as well as a tighter door policy.’
Size matters, because it gives promoters and the in-house programmers much greater freedom to invite artists that may not pull in the massive crowds, catering instead to smaller, in the know audiences. Small clubs are important because they provide this platform and a unique vibe. In Jordan’s own words:
‘One of the things about smaller venues, something we were aiming for with Pickle Factory, is that it’s like going to a house party. You’re comfortable, you’re able to make eye contact with people around you and you see people a number of times over the evening. You can get comfortable with the environment and with the people that are around you. That’s a really different experience to being somewhere bigger. It’s also somewhere you can go by yourself as well. We get lots of people, boys and girls that go quite a lot on their own and have a really good time. From personal experience, I think that’s really important.’
While Gross is generally positive about the London club scene, he laments a lack of clubs with genuine personality. Clubs that you judge on their own terms and would go to purely because you trust the programming. ‘That’s what London has lost a bit recently, and it’s something I think you can only get through careful programming, a comfortable setting and a great system.’
For us, Pickle Factory is one of the best small clubs London has to offer. Unsurprisingly, Gross points to the famous Robert Johnson in Frankfurt as an inspiration for Pickle Factory. Closer to home, Dance Tunnel is another London club with a great in house programming team and strong connection with underground promoters. We look forward to this Saturday when Pickle Factory host Isherwood, Peter Glasspool and Atjim, while on Friday the 18th of March, Nicolas Lutz, Andrew James Gustav and Gwenan collaborate with the Pickle Factory in-house team to bring a My Own Jupiter showcase. In the more distant future, Open are holding their 3rd birthday and label launch at Pickle Factory on the 2nd of April, and finally, for now, Undersound return to Pickle Factory on two occasions: The 22nd of April for their 4th birthday party with Etienne, Harry McCanna and a secret guest, and the 25th June with more surprises.