”Written byLiam Falls Girie
Robin and Aidan were counted among the creatures in the basement during the roaring days of Vice City where, in 2015, they got the opportunity to run their first Database event together. Amidst the grinding jaws and swaying hips, the pair pursued the musical journey they have been sharing since high school to solid effect. Today, despite now being professional software engineers by day, their kindred commitment to the Rave remains solidly intact – enough so to blow the fucking socks off anyone brave enough to descend the Mødular staircase on a First Thursday night.
If you’ve made plans to join us at this year’s Smalltown Beat, you will be glad to know that the Database boys will be joining yet again to supply the jol with a heavy dose of eclectic beats carefully curated to smack the smoke from your lungs and leave you rasping for water. In further prep for the upcoming Festival, we sat down with Robin and Aidan to ask them some questions whose answers only serve to detail the scale of talented entertainment you’d be passing up should you choose to sit this party out.
What is the story behind Database and how did it come to be?
We’re Robin Hall and Aidan de Nobrega. We’ve been friends since high school and we’ve been on the same musical journey since the beginning. We’re both ultra-nerds, being software engineers professionally, so we’ve always borrowed terms from the IT domain for our monikers (Abstract Method, Database). A database essentially just being a collection of data, we kind of thought this was nicely fitting for an event which would we hoped would turn into a collection of artists, music, and great memories.
After a few great events at Vice, Database went on a bit of a hiatus because we didn’t think there was a space available that really reflected the direction we wanted to go in, and we used that time to focus on our other brands, like Sanctum. Eventually, Patrick and Costa opened Mødular. We had been working closely with Pat since Vice and through the Club 89 phase, so we were asked to join as one of the original promoter events, and Database took over the First Thursday slot there for a few years.
“ We’ve been friends since high school and we’ve been on the same musical journey since the beginning.”
What is Database?
Database is a hedonistic rave that pushes the envelope while also keeping things somewhat accessible. There has always been a gap between Cape Town’s idea of techno and the kind of techno we love so we’ve tried to find a balance between those as we’ve developed the sound and tried to close the gap. If you came to every single Database, you might not have noticed a change, but the sound of Database today is chalk-and-cheese when compared to what it was a few years ago.
What are your roles as promoters?
We share pretty equal roles, but we’ve also had some temporary partners along the way, most notably Luke Hunter who was influential in shaping Database’s most recent First Thursday iteration. We also had a long-running partnership with TOYTOY that was great for both our brands.
What are your goals and what motivates you?
We’ve always been motivated by just enjoying ourselves as much as possible. At the end of the day, everything we’ve done has been part of a passion project to put out the music we like and develop the segment of the SA techno scene that we are a part of.
As promoters, what are your focus points regarding what you deliver in terms of music and the party-goer experience?
We want every Database to be a sweaty, heaving mess. We want people to leave feeling like they’ve run a marathon. We focus on inclusivity, tolerance, and safe raving. We’re really happy with the First Thursday atmosphere we’ve helped to cultivate at Mødular and are more than happy to hand over the reins to our friends in the Xylem crew who are doing a fantastic job. We are running on weekends now on more of an ad-hoc basis which gives us a little bit more flexibility to grow and do weird things.
I’ve been to enough of your First Thursday raves to know they deliver nothing short of the most intense and enjoyable experiences with no Database event ever being the same. You guys are always mixing it up and keeping things interesting. What else would you say are the key ingredients to throwing consistently good raves?
Thank you for the praise – we’re really happy to hear that that’s being noticed outside our little circles. To us, focusing on fun and investing in the relationships we build is why we think we’ve been able to do this consistently. The breadth and versatility we’ve had in the internationals over the years have let us explore the space between what we enjoy and what we think the people will enjoy, each time trying to do something unique.
‘The sound the average partygoer expects these days in Mødular is radically different from what we were doing a few years ago, and we’ve seen that propagate outwards to the rest of the scene.’
How would you describe Database’s role in the Cape Town techno scene?
Along with a few other collectives, we think we’ve definitely played a part in shaping the sound of Cape Town’s techno, in terms of quality and style. The sound the average partygoer expects these days in Mødular is radically different from what we were doing a few years ago, and we’ve seen that propagate outwards to the rest of the scene.
What would you attribute to the popularity and success of Database?
Other than what we’ve already mentioned, the quality of the space we’ve been allowed to run Database in is a key factor. Huge props go to Patrick and Costa for giving us the autonomy to do new things and for consistently striving to improve the club. The other big factor would have to be the open-mindedness of the Cape Town party people who are so receptive to our experimentation.
What sets your events apart from others?
We’re all about building relationships and keeping the loyalty of our supporters. We don’t compromise on our expectations, but we also aren’t regimental.
How would you describe your crowd?
The energy at Mødular is unmatched. We take a hard line on people who don’t bring the right energy. Otherwise, no holds barred on people just trying to have a good time.
You guys make a point of mixing up genres and encouraging artists to colour outside the lines they typically paint between. What would you say are the benefits of this?
Again – it’s awesome that you’re picking up on this. We hold our artists to a high bar. We book people who are familiar with our mission and we trust them to bring the right sound across a wide range of genres. We encourage them to take risks and we think that’s how we get the most out of people. Not every event is going to be something everyone absolutely loves, but that’s also how we can grow and keep people on their toes.
Booking someone is always done with the intention of building a relationship and having them back to build on past performances, which honestly is always a pleasure. We also make a point of trying to give artists their first big break at Mødular, so it’s important to us to make a good first impression, help them create a great memory, and set a high bar for other promoters.
We keep our brief loose and we encourage risk-taking. We put a lot of thought into the bookings, and then we let the artists do their thing once they start playing. It’s important to give artists the creative space to express themselves authentically and build their own relationship with the dancefloor.
Do you have any good stories of past experiences with any artists in particular?
I think we would do well here to keep our mouths shut haha!
In all honestly, there are too many to recount. What’s always a stand-out experience though is being able to show Cape Town to artists we bring down from overseas. They tend to be pleasantly surprised at the quality of our scene and local artists.
What have your past experiences of Smalltown Beat been like and what were your favourite sets?
Hands down our favourite festival in terms of music. They take proper care to provide a full sensory experience and a variety of quality music. After only 2 years, there are already too many to choose from but at the top of the list are Rene Wise in the Warehouse and Palms Trax’s Teepee set.
What can we expect from Database at this year’s Smalltown Beat?
The fun thing about Database is no one knows what to expect, not even us! What we can guarantee for sure is techno – techno for grown-ups.
Do you have any advice or recommendations for party-goers preparing themselves for this year’s festival?
Remember to hydrate.
Can you give us a list of artists that people should listen to in preparation for Smalltown Beat?
The best part of Smalltown Beat is the calibre of the collectives that will be showcased. The best preparation would be to listen to the already well-curated and quality music they’ve got out on their respective channels.
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There you have it: another crackerjack collective you wouldn’t dare miss at Smalltown Beat this November. We’d love to extend a warm thanks to both Robin and Aidan for setting apart some time for us to get to know them better. Following this Q&A and with the Festival edging ever closer, our hype is at an all-time high. We can only hope the same goes for you, dear reader.
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