Ankali. Credit: Alexandro Anafas

We are the Night XXIII: Ian Young, Staff Member at Ankali

Our series, “We are the night” presents artists, promoters, production managers, label owners and others who are bringing the music world of the Czech Republic forward, from the past to the present and the present to the future. This week we spoke to Ian Young, a member of the staff at Prague’s legendary Ankali club.

Music is not only about the musicians and promoters, it involves a whole crowd of skilled individuals with diverse areas of responsibilities. The audience is the final receiver of that organic world moving backstage.

I wanted to illustrate that by talking with someone not necessarily in the spotlight, but who sees a lot about the Prague music scene, mainly due to his work with Ankali.

Ian is an artist, a writer, a multi-skilled worker, a barman, a doorman, and ultimately what every music community really needs: an activist for the music scene.

BD: Where are you from originally?

I come from Scotland.

BD:What is your earliest memory related to music?

Maybe hearing The Carpenters in a car? I think so. An experience that has been of surprising significance. The Carpenters – a band that represents a deeply conservative reaction to the contemporary music counter culture music of the time. Perhaps all that could have been said of its progressive character was Karen Carpenter fronting the band – which is a radically second-wave feminist gesture for a white Christian band, singing songs that desperately tried to the capture the minds of the more anxious, pious suburban kids who were perhaps not going to have the courage or luxury to rebel as in the following years. The middle class kids who were too traumatised to indulge in the decadent acid trips that the youth of white America were about to embark on. Also its appeal to the older generation, the first formation of the band’s sex appeal was subtle enough for a puritanical religious right to enjoy. Then comes Karen, Originally the drummer of the band, turned singer. Could you imagine a better analogy for the second wave. The band started as the Richard Carpenter Trio… it’s perfect.

Indexically I would put The Carpenters as the US equivalent of Joy Division in the UK. Karen Carpenter’s voice embodies the post-69 failure of the 60s Counter Culture. Psychedelic Melancholic. A middle class movement that failed – due to a controlled diverse application of political violence and commercialisation and its ability to transcend its bounds and properly interact with the other progressive forces in the busier Urban trauma zones where psychedelic drugs were less of an option, so never could have been the solution – consciousness was expanded in those zones in the more traditional, biblical way – violently. A premonition for Reaganite America that can only be countered by the clairvoyant depression of the voice of Ian Curtis in Unknown Pleasures before the 1979 General Election. Unwitting messengers shot down, too soon. Rainy days and Mondays really do get us down.

Ian Young. Credit: Ian Young.

BD: Did you have any musical education or any musical projects?

Not in terms of classical training or ability in production. I am writing a lot about music and sonic culture from a theoretical, political framework – about popular music and the material and cultural structures in which they emerge.

BD: How would you define the music styles you listen to?

A wide variety. Right now I am really interested in Dub music from Brighton in the 70s and 80s and how it intersected with these transatlantic and continental threads to form diverse sonic continuums of dance music in the 1990s. But in terms of music and how ‘Genre’ forms, this can not only simply explain the formal elements of a new ‘music’ (once codified as such – as any emergence of these un and non are often by some encountered, disregarded, or violently denied – interestingly usually these tensions do not follow the lines of mere cultural taste, but these splits will follow economic, racial, gender lines (structural). It can incidentally highlight, for better or worse effect under the surface, complex structural problems that are hard to identify individually, or too powerful to face alone – but if emerging out of a space of cultural exchange, a space in which collectivity is fundamental, not just branded on to a small cabal – then it can be in this sense political.

Music then that truly becomes political, is not music that thematises politics within its internal content. But, a music that emerges out of sonic events in which people(s) conceptual apparatus for understanding what music is is shifted progressing into the necessary invention of a new category to fill up the negative void of the new*. The most famous and funniest example of this is the UK’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which restricted music which “includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

BD: What brought you to Prague?

I came here to study my MA in Fine Art.

BD: What was the first music place you visited here?

It was Ankali. I think some disco night. Some proper vinyl stuff, it was good.

BD: How did you integrate into the team of Ankali?

Very well! All the staff there are great.

BD:How would you define the range of music that Ankali is hosting?

I guess if you look at the past few programmes you will see. It can be great, but I try not to focus on it too much since I’m there no matter what I think. When it strays from the neutered “4 on the 4” techno, I’ll probably enjoy it.

BD: As you are sometimes the doorman, applying the door policy, could you tell me what is your profiling experience, how you manage it, and what messages you wish to transmit to people?

I have done it a few times for a few events but never for Ankali. I am not the biggest fan of it, I prefer bar work. But the night shift dynamic is a brutal one – it’s usually a temporary gig for people in certain environments but for some it is normal life. Especially night shifts in the service sector, it’s not a sustainable practice. There has to be new ways of imagining this kind of work, and there is the most potential in the counter environments of queer clubs. This could be the place in which labour has the audience to be reimagined. The workers require the mechanisms for organisation.

I enjoy the job itself, especially when it is not too cold outside. But I really try to be a person who welcomes people into the event, if they are regulars or first timers – maybe its good to have someone to explain certain things and make new people feel welcome. Of course you have to reject some obvious people, but I try not to base it on anything superficial.

There is a desire at some events to simulate a Berlin style entry system – one that is shrouded in artificial mystery and semiotic class games – and it’s just not really fitting into the dynamics in Prague, in my opinion. It’s a toxic desire that comes not from a place of security and safety for people who are protecting a community, but from some bullshit desire to be exclusive. I mean, it’s rare to experience this, most people don’t think this way, but if you get hired for this job it can be pointless so I avoid it. I guess I try to espouse the exact opposite energy of a typical nightclub bouncer. Security are hired for that ‘hard man’ stuff. Also, some organisers will not pay you enough for this job. Again there is space for this role to be reimagined, and I think clubs and events that exist on the periphery of a cultural and geographical mainstream have a responsibility to lead the way.

Credit: Ian Young

BD: In the last four years we have had a pandemic, and we currently have one major conflict in continental Europe and one in the Middle East which are both having wide repercussions. Can you tell me what Ankali is trying to do in terms of debate and support for these difficult contexts?

If you look at the programme for the club for the past few months you can see a whole range of events that are supporting these causes. They are very vocal in their support and they make an effort to support these causes through the programme and which events they host. We have to remember where the music comes from. Advocacy and the political must be a constant.

BD: How do you perceive the coming years for the clubbing industry in Prague? What are the main challenges?

Post-covid, there’s a new eagerness, new ethic, new excitement, better appreciation for what these spaces offer and a wider awareness of the struggle required to keep these places alive and their cultural value. People are not only hungry to get back out again, but there is a new-found respect for the privilege of such opportunities and a fresh new attitude of tenderness and eagerness. The comedown recovery, and enough fresh bodies to revitalise the often jaded veterans.

Disappearing is the old protestant work ethic of capital and individual labour, and a return of catholic decadence. It is these alter spaces in which the paganistic revival of the archaic can emerge, if the right tracks are playing. A rave revival. A revival of rave, not as form but as ethic.

We can see it in the boredom with the dominant techno™ that has been removed of its original threat, neutralised, commodified and coded into a corporate mainstream.

You can hear this with shifts, not on tracklists, but in a general attitude to the role of DJ. This no doubt comes as a response to all the naive new kids on the block, the diversification of artists and new ways in which music is consumed, curated and consumed.

BD: Name 3 tracks you want to share with the readers

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