Moist was DJ Harvey’s colourful alternative to corporate clubbing
Over the last 30 years DJ Harvey has played an astounding number of residencies in an almost uncountable number of clubs
After a few years of throwing parties as part of the South East based Tonka Soundsystem, Harvey Bassett – as he is known to his friends and family – began putting on a weekly club night, Moist, at London’s The Gardening Club. Through Moist Harvey was able to indulge his notoriously diverse musical fantasies and curate a party that has become legendary.
25 years later and DJ Harvey’s time at the club is noted as a key moment in the iconic DJ’s musical development, and as a pivotal moment in dance music history. He struck out against the rise of early 90s corporate clubbing with a focus on inclusiveness, eclecticism and the underground. Speaking to Crack, DJ Harvey casts his mind back to those hazy, halcyon days as he prepares to mount his first London residency since Moist ended at XOYO this August.
Moist was held at The Gardening Club in Covent Garden, which is now, I believe, the Apple store. It was connected to The Rock Garden. The space was a basement club, consisting of catacomb-like arches. There were four arches: two dedicated to a bar and two dedicated to dance floor.
The first time I went to The Gardening Club was when I went to a Queer Nation night there. Some kind of acid-jazz event would have possibly taken me down there also. It was very close to the Africa Centre, where Soul II Soul was happening. In fact, that little corner of Covent Garden at that time was very central to the scene. With The Three A’s, The Africa Centre, The Rock Garden and The Gardening Centre, there was a lot of stuff going on. Covent Garden was a centre; the graffiti writer’s bench there, the b-boys would gather on a regular basis, the dancers and the writers. Covent Garden was a focus for all things happening at that period.
The basic idea was that it was somewhere I could indulge my musical passion without having to bow to anyone’s idea of what was putting bums on seats at the time. In the early 90s there was definitely a move towards corporate clubbing. There was certainly an industry building up around acid house and Moist was an alternative to that; somewhere where we could be independent without having to adhere to the investors. I was, and still am, passionate about good music, so by promoting my own night I could call the shots as far as the music policy was concerned.
It was me and Heidi Lawden in charge, and Heidi is still, to this day, my manager. She was the business end of it, and I was the ‘artist in agony’ end of it. There was a loose group of friends, too. Rolf and Micky of Encore Sound provided the soundsystem, but that was it really.
"The basic idea was that it was somewhere I could indulge my musical passion, if you like, without having to bow to anyone’s idea of what was putting bums on seats at the time."
It was quite a mixed crowd. There were definitely old school Harvey followers from the Freedom days and the Tonka days, and from the TDK (Tone Deaf Krew) days. It was actually very mixed: gay, straight, black, white. People were aged all the way from 18 to 60. It was quite colourful. People were definitely there for the music; they weren’t there to be looked at, or to dress in a particular way. It was somewhere you went to lose yourself in the music.
We would have guests probably once a month, I would say. We had a resident DJ called Terry Bristol, who would regularly warm up for me. He educated us all about some English pop records that we had no idea about, some Paradise Garage classics also. We had the best of techno, too. Someone like Mike Banks, from Underground Resistance would come and play, then we’d have Larry Levan play. So we were just as cutting edge on the latest Detroit techno as we would have been on bringing Larry Levan over, or Robert Owens, or Larry Heard or Todd Terry or Darryl Pandy. We had many, many guests.
The music was policy was really wide-ranging. It would be impossible to pigeonhole it. Loosely, it would probably, in the modern age, be described as ‘cosmic disco’, but at that time it would have probably fallen into the garage category, sort of Balearic garage. I think what would define it was that it was indefinable in many respects. It was dance music in the purest respect, in the purest form. Whatever DJ was playing at the time, what they thought was right to play was what would be played.
I wandered through there the other day and it was all very nice. I don’t really moan about progress. I think the only thing that bothers me is licensing laws and stuff like that, but you know… Place and areas change and morph by their nature, so it definitely isn’t like it used to be, but whether it is better or worse – I couldn’t really tell you.
DJ Harvey plays at XOYO every Saturday in August from 9pm – 4am