Words: Samantha Howard
If Melbourne Techno was the name of a family, then the term ‘Bunker’ would be a regular topic of conversation at the family’s dinner table.
The collective, consisting of techno disciples, Adrian Bell, Andy Muscat (ACM) and Jake McDonald are the city’s leading techno promoters and events and touring company.
When they’re not bringing big-named internationals to the dance floors of Melbourne’s obsolete power stations and most favourited clubs, they’re making a name for themselves abroad, networking and working on labels in Berlin.
Between his busy schedule, New Rhythms spoke with Adrian Bell about where it all started, and some his favourite moments on the journey so far.
NR: So how did it all start and what brought you together as Bunker?
AB: Bunker started as a small blog in May 2013 as an outlet for me to push techno that I enjoyed through interviews, podcasts, release reviews, etc. Around the same time, an opportunity came up for me to start managing the bookings in the back room of the Liberty Social (RIP) on Thursday nights and thus the brand transformed into a weekly club night. We ran Bunker in the back room of the Liberty Social from May – December 2013.
After The Liberty Social, we ran a couple of small open-air parties throughout the Summer of 2013/14 before moving back into a club for our first big event at Boney for our 1st Birthday. We ran a number of local parties at Boney before branching out to tour international artists, the first of which was Mary Velo in October 2014. Since then we have toured 23 techno acts, most of which have been Australian debuts, and now run around 10 parties per year.
NR: Is Melbourne growing into becoming an international techno hub like Berlin?
AB: It’s definitely becoming (or already is) an international hub for techno like London, Berlin, etc. There is a huge pool of punters who are into quality techno and house so the demand is there.
NR: What do you think has been a large impact on that?
AB: We are lucky that our state government supports the growth of live and electronic music, that Melbourne is a relatively liberal and metropolitan its which is always up for a party and of course, the number of hardworking and dedicated promoters who continue to facilitate great events & tours tirelessly all year round. A lot of people think that running events is all glitz and glamour but it’s really not!
NR: Speaking of dedication, you’re known in Melbourne as one of the most dedicated individuals to techno and the scene. Is it true that you lined up around 15 times to get into Berghain?
AB: Haha no, not 15 times. The first time I went back in 2012 I was knocked back 5 times over a 7 or 8 hour period before eventually getting in. These days things are a bit different!
NR: That’s dedication. What are some of the biggest highlights on your event portfolio so far and why?
AB: Each party has been special but if I had to pick a couple I would say… each of our parties at ‘The Substation’, which is a defunct power station in Newport. We first hosted the Melbourne leg of the official ‘Tresor 25 Years’ there back in June 2016 and have been lucky enough to return every year since for our birthday. The sheer size of the venue is so impressive and is as close as you’ll get to a European club in Melbourne.
Norman Nodge in October 2015 which is to date our most wild party. We had both CDJ’s have their power disconnected, people bumping into turntables and the most mental crowd I’ve experienced for a long time.
Dax J in February 2017 was also a memorable party as we toured him right on the cusp of him blowing up in Europe so there was just a really special vibe in the room.
SNTS in July 2017. Again, just a mental crowd and some of the hardest techno I’ve heard.
NR: How did you manage to find and secure the Substation in Newport?
The Substation actually reached out to me back in 2016. I had previously seen the venue but didn’t realise it was actively being used so I was pretty happy when the opportunity came up.
NR: Who have been some of your favourite artists to work with and represent?
AB: They have all been great but special mention has to go to Norman Nodge, SNTS, Headless Horseman, Giorgio Gigli, Ansome, Mary Velo, Subjected, etc. In fact, as I type this I feel bad for singling some out so again, they’ve all been amazing to work with.
NB: What have been some of the challenges in running your events or trying to land desired artists at your gigs?
AB: It’s mostly financial- it can be hard to convince someone to fly 24 hours around the world for 2 days. Sydney is in a difficult position at the moment due to their lockout laws, so their budget is limited, which can make it hard to get tours across the line.
You learn a whole range of things along the way, mainly how to problem solve, overcome unforeseen challenges and not to take things personally! You definitely have to have a thick skin to work in this industry.
NB: Can you tell us a story of your favourite moment of this whole journey so far?
AB: Geez, there are too many to list but I think the Top two would have to be drinking cocktails & dancing topless in the middle of the Panorama Bar dancefloor with an act I previously toured (who will remain unnamed) and taking another act to my local gym to train legs – plenty of squats were had.
NB: You’ve got some epic stuff coming up, including Boston 168 and Norman Nodge who we’re particularly looking forward to. What else is in store and what can we expect from Bunker this year?
AB: Lots of new tours and some returning past guests! None of which I can speak about right now