Matt, thanks for talking ten minutes to chat to us, you must be rushing around like a lunatic after the last minute venue change!
First off, tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to follow a path in music?
Hi Leah. Well it was a fascination with electronic music that led me down my chosen path. I grew up with classical and progressed through different styles of rock, disco and hip hop. Electronic music then really sparked my journey, inspired by artists like Jean Michel Jarre, New Order, Human League and Kraftwork. My fascination increased as newbeat, electro, house and rave started to be produced towards the end of the 80’s and early 90’s. This then followed on through to early hardcore, techno, trance, industrial, breaks, trip hop, ambient and more. I became influenced by a wide variety of different sounds and genres. I collected records, began to DJ and share the music to a wider audience by making cassette tapes, which led onto playing / helping promote parties and then opening a record shop in 1995 ‘ Hands On Records’ which is still going today.
For anyone that's been living under a bush, could you tell us how it started and a bit of the history with Contact?
It was mainly due to the fact there wasn’t much going on for the music my friends liked to listen to. A lot of likeminded people who all enjoyed underground music. The only music you’d get in clubs in this area then was commercial, so we all used to convoy out into the woods and anywhere else we could find. I decided to start it as a regular event in 1998 and then carry on the tradition of free parties but in a club environment. I tried to feature artists I liked, those that were supplying the best music at the time.
Contact moved to the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth, and then needed a bigger venue, so went to South Parade Pier which has been our main home for the last 12 years. We have done over 150 events, and some of these have included tours and collaborations with Bionic, Frantic, Antiworld, Mixmag, Upfront Mag and Audio Surgery plus other venues such as the Seone, The Fridge, Ministry Of Sound, Brixton Academy, Lakota, The Custard Factory. For 4 years we also ran Overload @ The Fort, a completely unique event on 200 year old fort, a mile out to sea in the Solent.
What's the secret to Contact's longevity?
Having a passion for the music I’d say is the main factor, combined with working hard, also keeping up with the changing scene. It’s not been easy. Adapting as well is another factor I think. It was mainly a techno, trance and hard house night to start with if you want to categorise, we just played what sounded good at the time. Some of the first DJ’s and acts that played were BK, Justin Bourne, Karim, OD404, Chris Liberator, Organ Donors, Acid Ted and The Pranksters plus Nick Sentience and his early band Sentience. They weren’t as well known as they are today, but their sounds were really fresh and exciting. I’ve tried to always keep an open mind to music and move with the times. A lot of great european stuff started to come into the record shop, and we featured more hard trance and hardstyle in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Techno changed, electro got fashionable then disappeared again. Hardcore made a resurgence, so we began to feature that a bit as well. Now gabba has got more popular again, which was massive in the mid 90’s. It all seems to go in cycles with music, genres constantly evolve. We have just tried to stay as current as possible and not get pigeon holed into one music style. I’d find that boring.
It's clear that you've always been progressive and forward thinking as an event - tell us more…
Well, some of the things I’ve already mentioned, plus taking on board what people are thinking and getting feedback is good, whether it be positive or negative. I enjoy listening to new music and artists, so try to keep my finger on the pulse there. We also try to showcase new talent as well and feature some top artists that rarely or never play in the area. Trying new ideas and putting a few unexpected things in the mix may help. Hopefully people come to the events and hear stuff they wouldn’t normally listen to and grow to like it.
You have some serious support from big name DJ's (including Core's Mark E G)…why do they love you so much?
Mark has been a resident for almost 10 years. Both Mark and his partner Chrissi are lovely people to deal with, as are many other DJ's we have had. Everyone seems to really enjoy playing at Contact, and we have had some really great feedback from lots of artists around the World over the years.
" For some reason, every time I come to Contact it leaves the word 'carnage' firmly implanted in my brain. The atmosphere inside the place is second to none - you're not going to find a better place to go out and party! " – Mark EG
" Contact is one of the South Coast’s best regular events, without question! Wicked venues, an always friendly & up-for-it crowd, top guest & resident DJs every time ... if you haven’t checked it out yet you’re obviously a couple of bricks short of a wall :D ” – DJ Sy
" Massive respect must go out to Contact for continuing to put on some of the best events the Uk has to offer. Lab4 has been playing for Contact for over a decade now. First of all at the Pier and then Dj'ing at the amazing Fort parties. If you've never been to a Contact event then you are seriously missing out on some of the most unique and original events the Uk dance scene has to offer. Unbeatable locations, great music and a party atmosphere all go to make a truly un-miss able event! Can't wait for the next one... ;) " - LAB 4
" Contact and Overload are definitely up there with some of the UK’s best clubbing events. The atmosphere is about as good as you’ll find anywhere and you can always tell a big effort is made with the production and sound. Definitely an event we like to stick around at after our set! " – Cally & Juice
" I always remember every gig I've played for Contact , some special times and hold amazing memories from the events . Some wicked parties and venues I’ve played at for Contact , complete lunacy and one of the best parties in the world, a credit to the dance scene! " – Alex Kidd
" Contact is by far the best night I have experienced in the UK or the World for that matter! Wicked music, wicked crowd, and amazing decor and lighting topped off with some of the world’s best dance music artists! There is nothing better than a rocking night with an up for it crowd all in a great venue that is literally over the ocean! Mind-blowing night sums it up!' " - Hellraiser
" Contact 12th birthday was an amazing night! The atmosphere was great, people danced all the time and I've met some really nice and friendly party people! I cannot wait to get back at a Contact party! See you next time! Olaf a.k.a. Dutch Master "
For someone who has never been to Contact. How would you describe the events?
The atmosphere is the main thing, it really does go off, and everyone is always totally up for it, thanks to the great crowd that have supported us over the years. For the size of night it is, a lot gets put into the production as well, to try and give people the best experience possible. Whether it’s the sound systems or lighting, we would always rather have as much as possible. We aren’t allowed to use pyrotechnics anymore at The Pier, so at the next event we have CO2 cannons going in instead for the first time, which should add a bit of extra excitement.
What's your next event and what can we expect?
The next event is the 14th Birthday on Friday 2nd November @ The Pyramids in Portsmouth. It’s a fancy dress themed Halloween Spooktacular and A Masked Ball, partly due to the fact we have ‘Angerfist’ coming over to play, everyone is pretty excited about it. Also on the bill is Mark EG vs Chris Liberator, which is the first time they have been back together on the Contact stage in 8 years, so really looking forward to hearing them as well. Alongside will be Darren Styles, Organ Donors, Andy Whitby, DJ Sy & Mc Storm, Mc Whizzkid, Myself, Generator, Scottish, Nathan D & Lanslide, DJ Davies, Mc Mayhem, Deverstate, Ren Dola and more. There really is something for everyone who’s into the harder edged sides of 4x4 dance music, whether it be more trance or electro right through to Gabba. The night will generally get progressively darker musically as it goes on. It has also been recommended as one of the top ten Halloween nights in the UK this year by Trackitdown, which we were quite pleased about.
Do you have any web links where people can find out more and get free downloads and the like. Would you care to mention some of these?
Catch a sneaky preview of the insanity you can expect here!