Two Nights at Heaven: D’Julz on the Birth of D&B and Progressive House
Those familiar with dance music in Paris will recognize D’Julz as a prominent figure and unrelenting all-rounder in the scene. As a producer, he has released tough tech-house on revered labels like Ovum, Circus Compapny, Robsoul and 20:20 Vision. As a promoter, he was behind the ongoing Bass Culture night at Rex Club (legendary Paris hotspot) and was responsible for the launch of that night’s label. As a DJ, he has taken his brand of deepness global, spinning at the likes of Panorama Bar, Amnesia and DC10.
Ahead of his set at Fabric this weekend, D’Julz (real name Julien Veniel) wanted to tell us about the dedication to music that led him to a pair of pivotal experiences at London’s premier gay club Heaven.
I found myself on a record shopping expedition to London towards the end of October 1991. I’d come to find a single record that I was obsessed with—all that way for one record. It was one I’d heard at a rave but couldn’t track down. Someone told me, eventually, that a few copies were in a shop over in London. I had to have it.
I spent my week alternating between grabbing every flyer I could and buying endless white labels from local artists. After the sun went down, I spent endless hours in basements, rubbing my fingers raw in the crates I stumbled upon. Eventually, I found myself heading to Heaven at about 10pm. This was probably the earliest I’d ever been to a club, but even at that hour the queue was massive. That didn’t happen in Paris.
The entrance to Heaven
The night was called Rage. Rage, I later learned, was headed by Fabio & Grooverider (two denzens of breakbeat and acid house) so the buzz back then was understandable. I reasoned that the excitement around the place had to be an indicator that something special was happening inside. It was. I stepped in and it immediately felt like it was 5am. The room was packed, the audience was electrified, and the music was loud, dark, and intense. It was the first time that I’d witnessed the energy and sound of a warehouse rave translated to an actual club.
I think Fabio and Colin Faver were playing that particular night. (Colin Faver is one of those DJs who’s kind of forgotten about these days, but was big in those heady days of acid house. He used to play harder stuff, proper techno, too.) That night they played an incredible combination of techno (by people like Frank de Wulf,Meng Syndicate, Joey Beltram – that kind of sound) and early UK hardcore breakbeat stuff. I don’t know if people still listen to stuff on Rabbit City or Lennie De Ice tracks, but they killed clubs back then. That mix of material made things feel funkier than if it’d been straight up cold European techno thumping away all night. I think that’s what attracted people to Rage. And given that blend of sounds, it’s not surprising that people say that this was where D&B found it’s roots.
The crowd that night was just ecstatic. There was a really particular, peculiar dance that was confined to the UK rave scene: people hopped like rabbits from one leg to another, occasionally miming complex shapes with their hands like Marcel Marceau on pills. Poppers and Vicks were very generously shared on the dancefloor. You turned round and just saw a sea of smiling, sweaty faces. I stayed till the end (only 2am). That kind of early closure worked both ways: as a dancer you’re frustrated that a packed floor at peak time is turfed out into the night, but you also have that urge to go the night week after week and live it all again.
I made my return to Heaven’s gates a year after. This time it was to hit up a night called Drum Club – that one went on to birth what we later called progressive house. Darren Emerson, Charlie Hall and Fabbi Parras were on the decks that night. It was excellent. For a club to pretty much incubate one scene is incredible. To do it twice is out of this world. I guess the name was fitting.