White Mink – Interview with Nick Hollywood
What started out as a launch night for a compilation CD capturing the sounds of the 20’s and 30’s, White Mink soon became a big hit on the club
and festival scene gaining huge popularity with regular sell outs and recognition around the world as well as gaining the title “Number 2 best party in the UK” by Mixmag. We were lucky enough to speak to Nick Hollywood one of the founders abouthow things began and where they are headed next.
How did you come to start creating the compilation CD’s that kicked off the club night?
I run a record label ‘Freshly Squeezed Music’ and that’s the Mothership of the whole thing behind the scenes and part of the raison d’etre. I was aware of lot’s of individual tracks that had that swing influence but no one was bringing them all together and so I started making a list of tracks that had a similar kind of feel, it’s such a great genre and no one’s spotted it coming. We started working on the White Mink compilation and I was in touch with a guy called Nino who ran a club in London called Black Cotton, we talked doing a compilation series and then I heard his Black Cotton compilations and I thought that the two, White Mink and Black Cotton, worked so well together and that was the birth of the idea. Basically if that’s what you like [the music style] then the pieces come together like a jigsaw.
So how did you go from making compilation CD’s to becoming the incredibly successful club night White Mink?
I was talking to Chris Tofu who used to run Shangri La about 5 years ago and he said “yeah I love that music too I was thinking of starting a club like that” so we decided to do a launch party for the compilation album. We found a venue and we did the first club night for the launch party and it was absolutely rammed from the beginning and it has been absolutely rammed for the last 3 years! It’s been copied all around the world, I think there’s about 30 clubs now with the same format. Then Brighton Festival came up in May so we did a ‘White Mink Black Cotton’ in 2010 and it was totally amazing! It completely sold out with 700 tickets so there was obviously a demand for it. We then wanted to find a home in Brighton to do something more regular and leave it ticking over so we did monthly events at The Brighton Ballroom [now Proud Ballroom] which were again very successful and we started selling tickets in advance for that, a very unusual model for a club night, but it became clear that people were going to buy tickets in advance. Simultaneously as well we started programming festival stages through Chris [Tofu] and in 2010 we programmed about 4 or 5 festival stages and then every year since it’s continued to get bigger and bigger. This year we had a very good sized budget at Love Supreme Festival and then other festivals that we’ve done every year like Llama Tree, Bestival, this year we did our first year at Latitude and we do Glastonbury every year with new ones being added on all the time. So now we’ve moved to the Old Market through a long and winding road because the Brighton Ballroom got too small!
Why the 1920’s/30’s?
Well it’s not just the music, i’m an ex art student so I’ve got that visual thing and that was a massive appeal of the original White Mink with the black and white and keeping that really simple. I always really loved that whole Louise Brooks look with the bobbed hair it’s just totally timeless, it felt unexplored and there’s a wealth of amazing stuff! It’s such an incredible period and there’s alot that has been said about the parallels between the depression with the lack of money and now, it’s almost already a cliche to talk about that. They were very creative and turbulent times [At this point Nick reaches into his bag and pulls out a book ‘The Josephine Baker Story’] This is absolutely amazing, it’s a great story –
“The epitomy of all that was exciting for the 1930’s on, the toast of two continents she could be found at night dressed in her fabulously elaborate gowns or head dresses and her famous banana costume. Receiving standing ovations at the Folies Bergère by day all Paris greeted her as she strolled down the Champs Elysee in her Dior frock leading her pet leopard with it’s jewelled collar. Josephine Baker had come a long way from the black ghetto in St. Louis where she was born.”
An amazing woman, and these are the times we are talking about when it was possible to go from a ghetto in St. Louis to being a superstar in Paris .
Why do you think the White Mink concept has been so successful?
People like it! It’s very fashionable and that in a way is the least interesting thing about it actually, it can sometime spoil things when they become to popular though it gives rewards like success enabling you to do more exciting things which is great. I mean what’s not to like? It’s dressing up, the clothes are really cool, the music’s great. We try to keep what we do very fresh and interesting so we’re not repeating the same show although there’s always a band, there’s always swing dancers, there’s always DJ’s but we also have changing burlesque, cabaret, ariel, a casino or immersive theatre and other elements that you can play around with. I think the key of the White Mink in Brighton is actually that we provide an environment and the audience bring the stuff, they bring what really happens, they dance and absolutely everyone is dressed up, everybody’s bought a ticket in advance so everyone’s planned it, and that’s why it works, it works because the people make it work and that’s really exciting! That’s what’s best for me because I just provide the setting and say “now what are you going to do with that!”
How has the event grown since it’s first incarnation?
It’s just become bigger and bigger and there’s good parts to that and bad parts to that. I often feel these things start in Brighton very small and they are supported by Brighton and then they tend not to get recognized when they become big. This has been really successful on an international stage and we do White Mink shows all over the world and very big shows that are not related to Brighton at all but it’s about recognizing that this [Brighton] is our home, where we do our best shows and try new stuff out.
What are your plans for the future?
Well this continues to grow in the same way as well as splinter projects. Projects like a very small night that’s not really advertised, a word of mouth, purist, spin off 100 person speak easy somewhere in Brighton and an Electro Blues night, which is a slightly different flavor, taking over some of the smaller club spaces. Everything else will carry on in the same vein really, we’re staying at The Old Market and working with a drama company there from Brighton developing a little weird immersive event which will be happening maybe in the ladies toilets or at the front desk, there will be little odd things where you go ‘What’s that all about?!” . The biggest thing is we just got shortlisted onto a circus commission called Showzam where we would create the White Mink circus show, we’re working with amazing companies like No Fit State Circus and high end burlesque acts and creating a show which would be and hour and a half that you can then tour around large scale theatre spaces like The Dome and across Europe.
The next White Mink is at The Old Market on October 4th, tickets £14 from www.theoldmarket.com
Line up includes:
– Zoophonium (electro-swing trio ft. some of Swing Zazou’s finest players)
– The Hot Tin Roofs (ft. members of the legendary Dynamo’s Jive Aces)
– Miss Kitty Peels (trapeze artist extraordinaire)
– The Department of Brilliant (anachronistic visual projections)
– Betty Lou Hair & Beauty (FREE vintage styling with Brighton’s best beauty salon)
– The White Mink Lindy Hop Dancers (swinging out with moves from the 20s & 30s)