With an invite-only door policy and super secret location, Boiler Room just might be London's most exclusive music venue. But elitism isn't the premise for its clandestine nature—in fact, anyone with an Internet connection can easily join in the fun. Using a simple webcam, the crew behind Boiler Room livestreams each set for the world to see free of charge, and each month more than a million viewers tune in to see performances by artists like James Blake, The xx, Roots Manuva, Neon Indian, Juan Maclean and more.
We recently chilled out to the smooth sounds of Brooklyn's How To Dress Well before rocking out to revered musician Matthew Dear, who brought down the house with an intense 40-minute DJ set. Keep an eye out for our interview with Dear, but for now you can get a little more insight into the underground music scene's most talked about livestream show by checking out our interview with assistant musical programmer and Boiler Room host Nic Tasker.
How important is it for Boiler Room to remain secret, at least in its location?
That is quite an important aspect of it, purely because it means when you do shows you don't get a lot of groupies, pretty much everyone in the room is either a friend of ours or one of the artist's. It helps to create a more relaxed atmosphere for the artist and I think they feel less pressure. They're also just able to chill out and be themselves more rather than having people in their face with iPhones. It's about artists performing in a different environment to that of a commercial gig or anywhere else. If the artists are relaxed usually you get the best music.
It seems like there is more interaction among the crowd than at a typical venue, is that intentional?
It's definitely a social place. All the people that come down, most of them we know and they're all our friends. So they come down, hang, have a drink and just chill out, basically. From our very set-up, we do it with a webcam, we're not a high production filming operation but I think that's kind of the charm of it. The main thing is people come down with the right attitude.
How much of the show is prescribed?
I guess that depends on the artist. We never say anything. Literally, whatever they want to do—we're kind of the platform for them to do whatever they want, so if Matthew Dear wants to come and play an hour of noise with no beats, he can do that. That's fine with us, and I think that's why artists like coming to play for us. We're not like a club where you have to make people dance, we don't give a shit if people dance. It's nice if they do and it makes it more fun, but some nights you just get people appreciating the music, which is equally fun.
Is there a particular kind of artist you guys look for and ask to come perform?
No, not particularly, it's just whatever we're feeling. Thristian [Boiler Room's music director] has the main say on musical direction, but it's a massive team effort. In London there's six of us, New York there's two, LA there's one and Berlin there's two.
Tonight you had different set-ups for each artist, do you tailor their positioning in the room to their style?
It definitely depends on the act and what kind of music they do. With live bands we found what works nicely is having them opposite each other because it's like they're in rehearsal, like they're just jamming. Which is again trying to give them that chilled out feel that they're just at home jamming and there happens to be a camera there. For some of our shows we've had over 100,000 viewers. When you think of those numbers it's quite scary, but when you're in the room and it's all friends it creates that vibe that people don't mind. You can imagine if you had all those people in front of you it would be a very different situation.
Have you ever thought of Boiler Room as an East London version of Soul Train?
It's never crossed my mind like that, but I can see why you think that. I like to think of us as the new music broadcaster, kind of the new MTV, but obviously we operate in the underground scene mainly. But I like to think that what we do is as revolutionary as what they were doing. We're always growing into something new.
What's up next for Boiler Room?
We're looking forward to doing more with the visuals and we're starting to do breakfast shows with some high profile DJs, we're going to be doing that regularly. Each will have an individual format. The next step is progressing the US shows, we're alternating weekly between New York and LA, so the next step is to take Boiler Room to America.
Photos by BHP