4 Years Strong: Urban Nerds

Having owned London’s bass heavy party scene for the past 4 years, London’s Urban Nerds crew have been promoting quality underground parties for a minute now. Going from strength-to-strength with each event, their rammed-out raves have welcomed guests like Loefah, Redlight, Mala, MJ Cole and Newham Generals to blow the roof off venues throughout the UK and Europe.

With an army of support and a growing rep amongst the festival scene, the success story continues, as their 4th birthday party takes place on 28th May with Ms. Dynamite, DJ EZ, Roska, Mumdance, N-Type, Elijah & Skilliam and a whole host of residents taking on the cavernous rooms of the Scala in London’s King Cross.

The original Urban Nerd trio of James, Rompa and Mark took time out from their birthday preparations to chat over their humble beginnings, label plans and personal highlights with Hyponik.

Interview/ Josh Thomas

How did the three of you meet, and how did Urban Nerds start?
Mark and Rompa go back a few years and originally met in Bristol and Mark knew James in London through mutual friends and fam. At the time Rompa was editing the music pages for Hooker Magazine (RIP) and was searching for someone to cover the then relatively new grime scene in London, so Mark put Rompa and James in touch. To cut a long story short, when a London launch party for Hooker fell through, we realised we just wanted to have a rave-up anyway and Urban Nerds was born!

What was the original inspiration and concept behind the brand?
The three of us had varied music tastes and the idea was to amalgamate all the genres we loved under one roof. These days the mash-up of bass-led (now not so) underground genres can be seen left right and centre but when we put that first event together back in March 2007, we’d like to think we lead the way in terms of
unashamedly combining the likes of dubstep, garage, drum & bass, grime and even reggae, soul and electro under one roof. Many of the roots and elements of these key sounds are all linked so we didn’t see a reason why we couldn’t hear all the music we loved at one rave.
The Shoreditch scene was saturated with fashion led, trendy parties then too, the focus seemed to be on what everyone was wearing and not the tunes. Part of the thinking behind the first Nerds nights at 93 Feet East was to bring East London back to the music and showcase great DJs and MCs from representing the sounds we loved.

Where did the name come from?
Mark’s brother Luke had been mates with James for years. Before Nerds kicked off James used to seek out the best parties happening every weekend and a lot of avid planning would go into nights out to make sure we reached the best line-ups and DJs! Luke started calling James an ‘Urban Nerd’ and when a name for the first night was needed, it seemed to fit the bill!
Our mate and now Urban Nerds graphic designer Anthony Black was charged with designing the logo and when he showed us what he’d put together, we knew we were on to a winner.

Your 4th birthday is being celebrated this month, what have you got planned for your party?
Saturday 28th May at Scala is without doubt the biggest collective line-up we’ve ever put on at Nerds. There’s over 20 huge acts on the bill, many of whom have appeared once, twice or a number of times over the past 4 years – this is our dream team 4th Birthday party crew!
Ms. Dynamite’s shows are always supercharged with huge hype and energy – she’s also a real asset to London’s underground sounds as someone who shone in the original garage era but who’s versatility and range has seen her own the mainstream, as well as the new wave of bass heavy music.
The legendary DJ EZ returns after blowing the roof at our NYE warehouse a couple of years back and we’re joined by three long time Nerds favourites, Redlight, Doorly and MJ Cole. Also very hyped for Netsky’s debut, he’s taking the Hospital Records camp to whole new realms right about now and his sets never fail to hit the spot.

Urban Nerds returned as an official club partner to Snowbombing for the third time this year. What other festival action can we expect from you, and is this something you’d like to expand?
Yet again Snowbombing was an immense week of madness and we’re truly grateful for their ongoing belief in Nerds. We share their love of all-out party chaos and this year there was definitely plenty of that out in Mayhrofen. It’s taken the festivals a while to warm to us but actually this year we’re starting to make our mark for the first time…in July you can catch us at Hideout in Croatia and Lounge on The Farm in Canterbury, then in June it’s back to Croatia for the mighty Outlook. Very hyped for all of them!

Which other club brands are you fond of and why?
We’ve got a lot of respect for the new Black Atlantic collective, not only because James, Ben and Tom are all brilliant promoters and great guys but also in that they’ve found a brilliant niche and are bringing through some really inspiring music from the dub techno, Detroit house and more progressive elements of the sounds that we push.
We always got love for the likes of Vagabondz, Dirty Canvas and Chew The Fat, as these are our peers who’ve grown as Nerds has come up but outside of the bass scene there are also some fantastic promoters who we could all learn from, the likes of Bugged Out, Mulletover and Eastern Electrics who’s shows are consistently on point and full of jaw-dropping surprises.

What’s the plan with Urban Nerds over the next few years?
We’re always searching for ways to make the events bigger and better and offer the Nerds crew more exciting line-ups and experiences, so as we grow we hope to take the rave into new thrilling locations both in London and across the UK.
There are talks of a label in some form or other and when we’re ready to do it in a big way, you’ll hear about it! With so much focus on piecing together the best possible events, we want to get everything right and only turn to new avenues when we know they can get given the time and dedication we’ve pumped into the parties.

What can we expect from your clothing range in 2011?
2011 is a big year for Urban Nerds Clothing and it’s the first time you’ll be able to see a professional, thought-out approach from us. We’ve got a fresh summer t-shirt range dropping at the end of May on urban-nerds.com on an all new, updated web store which is having the finishing touches put to it as we speak.
As well as some great new men’s colour-ways, this is the first time we’ve offered a women’s range, with some colourful summer inspired vest tops hitting the store so that finally the girls can represent in Urban Nerds too. We’ve taken a lot of care to get every element of our t-shirts right, from the fit, to the quality of the cotton, the
labelling and packaging, so we can’t wait to get them out there.

Are you considering expanding Urban Nerds in any other areas of business?
We’ve done some consultation in the past on projects such as the Weekender film (due for release later this year) and a few panel talks informing younger people about our side of the music business and how to make the most of it. It’d certainly be great to eventually work with young people on a more long-term basis and pass on the knowledge we’ve picked up over the years so that hopefully they can continue to keep London at the top of it’s game musically and make positive choices in their own lives.

What are your most memorable highlights from your 4 years running Urban Nerds?
There’s a lot of strong memories from our first home, 93 Feet East. Having the likes of Congo Natty, Rusko, Jack Beats, Foreign Beggars, Skinnyman and Taskforce play such an intimate venue back then was sick. Will never forget the first time Shaun gave us the okay to host room 3 at Fabric, no denying it was a proud moment and seeing the first sold out warehouse party in full swing behind the decks whilst MJ Cole was tearing out crazy old skool garage anthems was very special.
A huge thanks is definitely due to everyone who’s helped us get this far…the ravers, DJs and our mighty team of mates and the never ending network of support from all those who help our promotion efforts.

Finally, could you name-drop some new dj/producers that are on your radar at the moment?
Rack N Ruin is set to blow, Scott Garcia is coming back has some crazy releases due that we’d consider to be the real future garage, Marco Del Horno continues to develop as a very versatile producer, Engine-EarZ Experiment are also becoming a force not to be reckoned with. Feeling the C.R.S.T. guys, Boddika and Warrior One too.

Urban Nerds takeover the Scale on the 28th May for their huge 4th birthday bash. You can find tickets and more info over at the official Urban Nerds website.