With the world’s greatest techno night House Of God returning to The Tunnel Club this friday, we thought it was only appropriate to publish this interview Johnny Kowalski did with Surgeon, the dj/producer who took Birmingham techno to the world and started his career at the early House Of God events over twenty two years ago.
I gather that you were part of the original crew that set up House Of God. Do you have any strong memories from the early events, and what sort of musical background did you come from that led you to be a part of it?
Yes, I was part of the original House Of God crew. I got to know them all through the sprawling social group in the Balsall Heath, Moseley area of Birmingham at that time. Everyone came from very different musical backgrounds which I think was a good thing. Neil (dj Sir Real) & I had played together in a prog / space rock band before HOG! An important feature of Birmingham for me was the fact that if something didn’t exist there, then we had to make it ourselves. There was no techno club, so we made our own. We’d heard about Lost in London, but didn’t have the money to come down to London for a night out so we just made it up as we went along, we had nothing to compare it to. I remember that DIY attitude being very strong in Birmingham at that time.
Eventually HOG started putting on events at the Que Club which pulled in a much bigger crowd. How did the change in scale affect the event and what did you think about it?
The Que Club was great for occasional bigger events. The energy there was amazing. It was great to see them sold out with local talent playing. The main difference at these was a much larger scale of visual production. I remember some bizarre and amazing things that a performance art group called Bliss Body did there involving cannons shooting burned teddy bears and giantheadless wedding dresses with fake blood spraying inside them.
What is your definition of techno?
Industrial music with a disco beat.
Techno is a very versatile form, it can be bent and stretched a great deal and still remain techno. It’s very effective functional music that people connect with in the club environment in a very deep way. Something that goes much much deeper than any fashion or even language.
Techno has been proclaimed ‘dead’ by the dance music media so many times during the time I’ve been involved with it I’ve lost count.Guess what *is* dead… the magazine that was written in.
You started your own label and eventually earned yourself an international reputation for your djing and producing. What part did HOG play in this?
Especially now, I realise what an important apprenticeship playing at HOG every time was. As a DJ you really have to put the time in playing to a crowd to learn the craft. HOG also taught me to be brave, stand by what I believe in musically and kept my feet on the ground in the crazy circus of techno.
How does HOG compare as an event to techno nights in other parts of the world?
As I have such a special and intimate relationship with HOG of course no other nights can compare to it.
It’s a one off. Like the weird cousin of techno clubs that doesn’t realise they’ve overstayed their welcome.
Where do you see the future going for HOG?
It will continue as long as Chris can put up with dealing with club managers and security firms.
As long as we still want to have a great stoopid party with our friends.
Find the event page for friday’s House Of God here –
Find more on the work of Surgeon here –
This interview was conducted as part of the preparation for a much longer piece on the long glorious history of House Of God. This piece will be featured in the LOST REVIEW 2015 anthology, coming out in December. For more information visit www.birminghamreview.net .