Sub Club sound technician Sean Watson: Q&A

Anybody who knows me, has ever seen me play or has ever spoken to me about playing in clubs has probably ended up having their ear chewed off by me waxing lyrical about the soundsystem in Sub Club.

As well as meeting DJs and finding incredible records, cutting my teeth as a selector in that space set the bar high and taught me a lot about how tunes should sound. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world doing what I love and play some of the biggest clubs on the planet, but I’ve rarely come across a system that packs the same punch as my dear Subby.

I got in touch with Sean Watson, Sub’s resident technician, to break down the rig and pick out some key players. He also took that snap for us during a midweek maintenance shift, what a legend.

Firstly, who are you and what exactly is it you do?

Sean Watson. I take care of all the technical aspects of Sub Club. Basically keeping the beast purring over the years!

For the geeks among us, can you break down the Subby system?

The sound system itself is a Martin Audio Blackline, driven by MA series power amplifiers and processed by BSS Soundweb processing. The bodysonic dance floor is comprised of 18 ButtKicker LFE transducers and driven by Exigy power amplifiers, also processed within the Soundweb. 

How long does it take to get the system set up and checked before a club night?

Not very long at all as it’s all installed. The most time is spent on setting up the booth and checking the system. I usually give myself about an hour before doors each night. I’m also in during the week on maintenance shifts.

Do you know who originally installed the soundsystem and why that choice of system picked?

It was the same team of people who installed the system at Fabric. Mike Grieve and Paul Crawford who co-owned the club at the time of the refurb after the closure in ’99, approached Richie Rowley (head of Martin Audio) and Dave Parry (head of tech at Fabric) to install a system that would be the best in Scotland. The new club was then built around the system. The floor was installed in ’06.

In terms of upkeep, how often does the system have to be checked and serviced?

The system is checked nightly throughout the course of the night, from checks at the start to various walk-arounds over the night. If I notice anything out of the ordinary then its back in asap to get it sorted. I do a general service once every 6 months which consists of cleaning and tightening drivers, also checking the overall condition of the boxes and amps.

Over the years, who are some of your favourite selectors you’ve heard on the system (other than me of course)?

Harri, Domenic and Telford are my favourite, hands down! Subculture all the way!

Any particular DJs that use the soundsystem better than others?

Again the 3 mentioned earlier, they just know the place inside and out so well. Kerri Chandler too, he always takes the time in making sure his sets sound great in there.

Any standout tracks?

For me it’s Reference – The Best Day in Detroit. It’s the reason I fell in love with the club and therefore the reason I work there!

How important is the system to the reputation and legacy of Sub Club as a venue?

Of upmost importance! It was a huge part of the refurb after the closure in ’99. The club, as I mentioned earlier, is built around it.

Acoustically, why do you think that system sounds so good in that space?

The room and the system just go great together. The location, the configuration of the speakers. It has a lot to do about the room really. Your system is only as good as the room that it’s in.

Which spaces do you think have a ‘better’ sound?

That’s a tough one! If it has to be anywhere then it’s Berghain. It’s really impressive how that space sounds the way it does.


Homework Mix 001: Harri (Sub Club)

Right then! I had to keep things in the family to kick off the Homework mix series. Homework Mix 001 comes courtesy of my auld da! The big man proves why he’s one of the world’s longest standing residents and why he’s such a massive inspiration to me and my peers with this effortless cocktail of colourful house and deep-dive disco. His crates are bottomless. I asked him some questions about the mix too and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the mickey. Enjoy!

What have you been up to recently?
Just back from my 6am hang gliding lesson on my way to extreme pilates

Did you record this mix at home?
Yes, recorded at the chateau after all the staff had left

What sort of vibe were you going for?
I was after a 5pm Wednesday late afternoon early evening vibe

Did you approach this differently to how you’d approach a club set?
I didn’t fancy doing a generic house mix, so I didn’t

Any particular tracks in here which you want to shout out?
My personal favourite is Joutro Mundo – Cauê. It’s in Portuguese I think… I’ve got absolutely no idea what it is about, sounds great to my ears though

Having been a resident for so long, how important is it to you to find new records? 
I love finding new records, and old records that are new to my ears… it’s my job, I love it and I take it seriously.

Is it true you did this in one take?
Is that unusual? Spontaneity is the spice of life