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Ministry of Sound – Circa 91

The London superclub is recreating itself as it was in 1991. We answer some key questions as they go for the ultimate rewind

‘(I Wanna Give You) Devotion’ (Nomad)
1/5
NomadThere have been many dodgy collisions between deep house and hip hop over the years. This sax-riffing classic still shines today, though.
‘Finally’ (CeCe Peniston)
2/5
CeCe PenistonThose first thrilling moments of love, wrapped up in piano stabs and house beats. Larry Levan once played this at MoS for 45 minutes straight. Fact.
‘Outlander’ (Vamp)
3/5
VampA seminal Belgian techno record that still lights up sets from DJs like Jackmaster and Gesaffelstein.
‘Gypsy Woman’ (Crystal Waters)
4/5
Crystal WatersNot only has that organ riff been copied to death, clubs from Dalston to Dagenham still ring out with a little ‘la da dee, la da da’ on a Saturday night.
‘A Deeper Love’ (Clivillés & Cole)
5/5
Clivillés & ColeA turbo-powered female vocal is the driving force behind this jacktastic track, underscored by beats from the pair who were also responsible for C+C Music Factory.
By Oliver Keens |
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What’s ­changed at Ministry of Sound since 1991?
Pretty much everything. When founder Justin Berkmann (pictured above) discovered the site, a derelict car park in Elephant & Castle, there were ‘about 100 pigeons crapping all over the floor’. Time Out didn’t even list it, to preserve its word-of-mouth aura. Nowadays, more than 300,000 clubbers pass through every year.

What was so special about Ministry?

Well, just the notion of indoor raving was novel – all the action was still happening in fields around the M25. The template for this style of ‘warehouse’ club came from NYC’s Paradise Garage – playground of legendary DJ Larry Levan. Following the Garage, Ministry didn’t even have an alcohol licence, just a juice bar.

No alcohol... How did ravers last all night?

No comment. What it lacked in spirits it made up for in sonics. It boasted one of the finest soundsystems in the world, something the club still prides itself on – though it’s considerably louder today.

How loud?
Around 156 decibels – more powerful than Concorde taking off. In the wrong hands, it can kill. Luckily, it’s only run at about 40 percent of its total power, to prevent distortion.

Phew. how are the old days being recreated?
The club is remaining largely the same, but the 300-capacity Baby Box room will be rechristened ‘Circa 91’ for its ten-week ‘pop-up’ run. Outside, bouncers dressed in ’90s gear and the club’s distinctive embroidered bomber jackets will be working the door.

What will it be like inside?
The walls will be stripped of their soundproofing drapes to expose the original walls. The modern lighting rig will be replaced with psychedelic oil lights, and, controversially, the vinyl decks are coming out of retirement.

Who’s on the decks?
As well as exciting (but secret) sets from some of the club’s headliners, figures from dance music’s old guard will be returning for Circa 91. Between them, they’ve seen more clubs than Tiger Woods. Tech-house glamour puss Lisa Loud, garage lord DJ Spoony and cheeky chappy Brandon Block are just some of the spinners.

Didn’t he once wander onstage during the Brits and call Ronnie Wood an ‘old bastard’?
He did indeed. Block was a larger-than-life character back when DJs actually looked like they were having fun (take note, pale nodding guys cowering behind laptops). He’s off the booze now though.

Speaking of drinks, is the juice bar returning?
Sadly not. The only fruity thing will be the dancing.

Circa 91 opens at Ministry of Sound on Sep 6.
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