Whether you've spent a hazy night at the iconic venue or had a party in your room to an Annual, everyone is familiar with the revolutionary Ministry of Sound brand. We chat to chairman Lohan Presencer and DJ Judge Jules about the history of the club and their new album, The Annual Classical
The Ministry of Sound club opened in South East London in the early Nineties and ever since, has been the at the epicentre of electronic dance music in the UK. Ravers and revellers travel from near and far to be a part of a habitat where the sound comes first and the trimmings come later. As chairman Lohan Presencer explained, “We were the first nightclub to open without a bar. Not great for our business model but it showed where our priorities are.”
RD: What was the motivation behind making The Annual classical and taking it on tour?
Presencer: It’s without doubt the most famous electronic music compilation brand in the history of the world. Between the early period of The Annual in its inception in 1995 and the millennium edition in 2005, those first five albums had such emotional powerful electronic dance music which we though created such rich pickings for an orchestral and classical interpretation—because of the huge soundscapes that those producers created originally.
It was a question of finding the right partners to help create the music sympathetically, and not just stick some violins over a back beat and call it classical. We actually rewrote, rearranged, recomposed and reproduced all of those original tracks with some of the best musicians in the UK.
Jules: In reality dance records lend themselves really well to orchestras, they’re quite instrumentally heavy, they’ve got big musical motifs and they’re frequently in a minor key. The process isn’t straightforward because you need someone to score those tracks for an orchestra, but it sounds incredible once it’s done.
Genre wise it’s very different but musically, when you look at it scored it’s not.
RD: What's makes the Ministry of Sound venue so great?
Lohan: We always try to be different and authentic and true. We were the first nightclub to open with an all night license and the first to open without a bar—not great for our business model but it showed where our priorities are. We also were the first nightclub that put the sound of the music and the DJs first.
It is absolutely the best venue to listen to house music anywhere in the world, it’s the most amazing experience and that’s why people are loyal. We care about the sound, we care passionately about electronic music and people know that.
Jules: It had an all-night licence when it opened in 1990 which seems like the norm now but at the time it was completely revolutionary, and they found a very clever licencing lawyer to procure them a licence which went on to be a standard bearer for late-night people everywhere. It was also the first club to model itself on the famous dance-clubs of New York city which had much better sound systems than anyone in this country had encountered.
For a DJ—and by definition that means a music and late night fanatic—you absolutely want to be associated with this place. They’ve tweaked it over the years and realised that you’ve got to make certain changes to keep it interesting so people keep coming back.
RD: What will The Annual Classical tour experience be like?
Lohan: I don’t think they’ll be sitting by the end, in fact I don’t think they’ll be sitting down five minutes into it. We’ve got a huge visual production that goes on in tandem with it, the whole show kicks off with an inspirational film about the history of Ministry of Sound. Then the cinema lights drop and the laser-lights come up and the music is just a continuous journey which takes you through these classic tracks with fantastic lighting and visual effects displays.