Artist Spotlight - Ryan Hamblett | Shapes
In this month's Artist Spotlight we welcome Stirling based DJ and Promoter Ryan Hamblett who heads up Shapes, a club and event series that has been on the go in Stirling for over five years now.
1. Hey Ryan! Always great to get a chat in about music and DJing! Let’s kick things off with a bit about yourself – tell us how you got into DJing, the style of music you play and what or who your biggest inspirations are.
Hey, so I got into DJing back in 2006. It was my first holiday to Ibiza and seeing all the DJs playing amazing music, giving off this amazing vibe just thought that’s what I want to do! I have a broad spectrum of music I love anything from Disco, House and Techno and even Trance. I prefer being able to play a variation of music. But right now loving a lot of the Nu-Disco / Dark Disco stuff. My inspirations have proper changed over the years. I loved the energy that Eddie Halliwell brought to his DJs sets however seeing the likes of Carl Cox, Sven Vath for the first time was amazing. Today though it’s the events/parties that inspire me, the likes of Cocoon, Soma, Circoloco and obviously closer to home Platform 18, Subculture, Nightvision / Terminal V. DJ wise you just can’t get better than Gerd Janson!
2. Tell us a little bit about the mix and how you approach doing them. Do you plan ahead for something like this, or just go in totally winging it?
Recording a mix for you guys I just bought tunes this morning then sort of had a flow I wanted to go with so hit record and away I went. Been thinking of creating an alias so I can concentrate on the dark disco vibe which I have done in this mix. I don’t have a name yet but, hopefully, I'll have that sorted soon as then I can mix and produce under that name and keep my own name for different things.
When I DJ out it’s totally different – I always wing it. I really should get my music more organised but such a hassle to go back 10 years and sort music out. There have been times I’ve had to get my laptop out to find a certain song because I’ve not got it on the USBs I am using at the time. I think it’s always best to wing it as you never know where you might wanna take the vibe.
3. We know each other through the Stirling scene, and Shapes. As the figurehead and resident DJ of the brand, tell us a little bit about how it all started, what Shapes ethos is, and the kind of events we can hope to see when lockdown is (eventually) lifted.
It all started back in 2015. I’ve been involved with a few different nights since 2012 but in 2015 I decided to go it alone and created ‘Shapes’. It was mainly so I had total control over every aspect from design to who was DJing. It’s been a great journey so far and we've had some amazing nights! I always wanted to see who was the biggest DJ I could get to come to play in Stirling; as we didn’t have much a ‘scene’ back then, there were a few nights, but no one was bringing big DJs in. So I wanted to bring bigger DJs here rather than having to travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh all the time. Always remember the first big event we had booking SLAM, I thought I'd be lucky to sell even 200 tickets but it ended up being one of the best events we have done and haven’t looked back since!
I always try and help push through local DJs as well. Been a few over the years that have started in the bedroom and have turned out really good DJs. That will always be the ethos behind Shapes I think!
4. Shapes at the Jail always proves to be a massive success and is without a doubt one of the highlights of the year for events in Stirling. Where did the idea come from, and what’s the secret to it always being such a success?
So back in 2012 an event started called ‘Jailyard’ which made use of the venue at the Old Town Jail in Stirling. This ran every year until 2015 where it then stopped. I attended every event apart from the very first one as I had my own event on at that time and being a DJ at the time I wanted to play the Jailyard event. So was gutted when it stopped, however, it wasn’t until around late 2016 I thought about the venue and how great it would be to run my own thing there. Then in 2018, we made that happen. The success of the event is down to the uniqueness of the venue. If you haven’t seen a picture of any the events at the Old Town Jail then have a look then you will see why!
5. Since it’s always a sell-out, you must get some crazy requests off people for tickets. Not just for the Jail, but probably all events I can imagine. What are some of the most ridiculous guestlist requests you’ve had as a promoter?
Where do I start with this one haha?! Had a guy once message to say he was a joiner and if I needed work done for a ticket! I actually don’t mind requests for guestlist as I normally message a few people I think deserve a free ticket if I've seen they have done some good karma in life. I just hate the people that are like "oh I forgot to buy my ticket now they are sold out can you help"... but tickets have been on sale for like 5 months..... ha.
6. How are you finding it during lockdown as a DJ and promoter? Have you ventured into the world of live streaming as a way of staying connected with the fanbase?
The lockdown could not have come at a worse time for us. We were supposed to have our Jail event in May there with Paul Woolford headlining but having to cancel and rearrange everything has been a nightmare. With people off and working from home, communication hasn’t been the best. We have done a few live streams but it just isn't the same. Just ends up me drunk on white Russians trying to mix haha!
7. There’s been a lot of talk online about predicted changes to the scene when life slowly returns to normality and we can get back into nightclubs. How do you see the scene changing as we adapt to life after lockdown?
I actually don’t have a clue, I'm more hoping a vaccine can be found ASAP. I can’t see the clubs being back to normal for some time as the social distancing aspect isn’t going to work and clubs can’t run on 10% capacity. The only way would be to irradiated the virus in the UK but that isn't going to happen with the current PM in charge... sigh!
8. Shapes has welcomed some incredible guests over the years: Slam, Alan Fitzpatrick, Darius Syrossian, Gary Beck, and our very good friend Rebecca Vasmant to name but a few. We also know that Paul Woolford is lined up for the rescheduled date at the Jail. Who are some of the other artists you’d love to have on a Shapes bill in the future?
Well, apart from the obvious Stephen Kirkwood and Steven Galloni (wink wink), I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I normally have a list of DJs I'd want to try and book but after having to reschedule the Jail event all my attention is on that. However, there are plenty Scottish DJ’s I'd love to book at some point from Jamie Roy, Ivan Kutz, Big Miz etc. and definitely want to get Rebecca Vasmant back through again!
9. Can you remember the track that got you into dance music and the first dance record you ever bought?
I can’t actually remember any of these however here are a few tracks that got me in to dance music:
Argy – Unreliable Virgin
Redcarpet – Alright (Brad Carter Remix)
Chris Lake – Release
Christian Smith – Transit Time
Bookashade – In The White Rooms
10. If you could only pick one favourite memory of DJing, what would it be?
Too many to choose but I think DJing before and after SLAM the first time they played Shapes. It was great to warm up for them; they then played three hours and myself and my mate went on to play from 3am - 4am. Either that or DJing after my mate one time, I took out the wrong USB the crowd was booing him haha! I then dropped a beat and looked like I saved the day!
11. And finally, do you have any tips for aspiring DJs and promoters?
It’s a very hard industry to be in even I am still trying to find my way what I would say though is always be humble and don’t be a cu*t. Never expect anything so you always need to put in the hard work, too many people think it will come easy, whether it's getting a DJ gig or selling out an event, but it's not! It's stress, more stress, and lots of effort, but once you achieve it that’s when you realise all that work was worth it!