Continuing our series of features on the unsung heroes of Sub Club, we present: Sean Watson (or Shambles to those who know him when he’s in party mode). Sean has been an integral part of the Subbie family for 6 years as technical manager of the club. He ensures the best possible experience for the club residents and our long list of visiting DJs. With his extensive knowledge of decks, sound and soldering we leave the Sub Club sound system in his very trustworthy hands every night.
Jenny Johan Reid sat down and talked about where it all began for him and some stand out moments from working at the club; as well as some tips for any aspiring technicians, the secret to the Sub Club’s world famous sound and what was uncovered behind the roof during the refurb.
What was it that made you want to follow a career in sound engineering?
I have always been into the technical background of music. I played instruments when I was younger and stuff. And when I started going to gigs and clubs I was always interested in what happened behind the scenes. When I started going to college and going to clubs I realised that this is what i wanted to do. Basically I wanted to start out by working in a studio but the more I got into college the less I wanted to do that.
You studied sound engineering – what was the most beneficial thing you learnt?
Acoustics. You know the physical nature of sound.
Expand on that for those of us who don’t know what you’re on about.
Acoustics is like how sound exists within a space. Psychoacoustics is more how your brain interprets it. So very, very scientific. It was my most feared subject but I found it the most interesting. It kind of cleared everything right up.
Is that why you think you wanted to work in clubs? Because it’s about the space and the feeling?
Well yeah the lecturer that taught that class on the very first day of acoustics said “you guys are a dance orientated class and I know you all go to clubs and stuff but if you don’t go to see Stuart and Orde on a Friday or Harri and Dom on a Saturday you’re doing it wrong.” I was like: ‘I’m gonna like this guy!’
Ha! that’s actually class! Ok, how long have you worked at the club for?
6 years going on 7.
Was there a sense of excitement when you started at the club? Did you realise what you were getting yourself in for?
Eh yeah it was mental aye! When i first started there were lots of problems happening. I had to go in basically at the deep end. It was also during the last 6 or 7 Optimo’s as well so I had a crazy two months. And after Optimo I was like “yup, this is the one for me”.
Within those 6/7 years, what was your biggest stand out moment? Big question.
That’s a hard one. Probably the first Boiler Room we did. That was good fun. That was a stand out moment.
Was that the one with Harri, Dom and Optimo?
Yeah it was a massive gruel of a shift and when it got on it’s feet and started broadcasting it was a total sense of achievement. I was in there for 36 hours before hand fucking trying to get a 2.5 Mbps upload rate in the club. Fucking cabling all the way round to the back bar trying to work out the best way and when we finally got it it was like “yas that’s it”!
Who has been the best live act and why?
Maybe have to say Kink and Neville Watson. Just really fun to watch.
Did they play together or on separate occasions?
Na together. My favourite part is the setting up for them.
What have you learnt from working with DJs?
Just learning how to deal with problems. professionally, calmly and not freak out the DJ at all. Come across as really confident.
That’s something I’ve learnt within the technical world is looking as if you know what you’re talking about.
Basically if you’re flapping and the DJ starts flapping. And when I’ve worked with DJs in the past, the minute they come in “oh i know this guy”! It’s about knowing what you’re doing and knowing how to look like you know what you’re doing.
Biggest technical disaster at the club?
It was a quiet night and there was a link problem, and there was a problem between our sound processors and it was just constantly cracking through. These really loud cracks and bangs, and then at one point (whilst) trying to fix it the sound was off for maybe like 15 minutes. The promoters made the choice to close the club just as I’d fixed the problem. I was like “no no we have to stay open! Open it back up again!” Yeah that was a long 20 mins.
So what’s your process in terms of fixing technical disasters?
Start at the booth and work your way back. 99% of the problems are in the booth. Check that, make sure it’s all going fine. Then work your way back and that’s how you find the problem. Like that technical disaster that I thought originally was a power issue but it turned out to be a faulty cable in the line. It was a matter of just finding that, clearing it, reprogramming the sound system so it just took that link out of the equation.
You played an integral part in the Sub Club refurb – you were literally there day and night – are you happy with the outcome?
Yes. I can finally say yes. It was a brutal, brutal, brutal month.
I remember coming into the club at reopening weekend and being “SHAMBLES YOU DID IT”
The last bit of work was the LED lighting. It’s like strip lights but you’ve got to solder the wee things and it’s a fucking ball ache. My soldering game is strong now.
We heard there were a few interesting things in the ceiling – what was up there?
First off 60 kilos of unused cable. I just kept pulling it out and the sparky was like “should you be pulling it out?” I was like “mate, you see this connected? Naw. It’s coming down”.
Also found this lighting box easily late 80s on the side of it it had like ‘LED TECHNOLOGY’ with lighting bolts coming off the side. And I was just cutting cables and this thing just went like BOOOF on the floor followed by another box. and it was just basically cable tied in place
Held on by a thread? fuck.
Yeah basically. It wasn’t until we took the ceiling panels down and it came crashing down. I was like “fucking hell there’s some weight to this”.
How does the club continue to be the best sounding club in Glasgow?
It’s the room. The layout is near perfect. Only thing would just be it could be a bit bigger. But it’s because the way it’s laid out and the way it’s shaped.
What are some of the key features that make it the best?
The layout. Because the DJ and the crowd hear the same thing. So you’re not separate from the crowd and likewise you’re not separated from the DJ. It’s really fucking intimate.
Your work schedule at the club will make you extremely nocturnal. What’s it like to never to see the sun?
Summer is the worst thing in the fucking world. Winter is by far the best. See leaving work and it’s still dark at 4/5am it’s the best thing. See when you go home and it’s sunny. Your body is tired but your brains like “come on get up!” and then you’ve got to try and sleep.
People talk a lot about the infectious energy of the club – which is a lot to do with it’s staff – how do you feel you contribute to this?
I’m just part of a cog in the general madness of the machine.
OK, one last thing – what do you want to tell the world?
Oh fuck. No more tunes.