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The Last Chopper Out Of Saigon

Martyn Pepperell talks to Bryce from Sandwiches about whats been, whats comming and their emminent 4th Birthday Celebrations!

9 Aug 2007

On the 18th of August Wellington institution Sandwiches Nightclub will celebrate four years of existence with a all star jam sandwich featuring musical entertainment from the likes of Mu (Fat Freddies Drop), Ladi 6 & Parks, Downtown Brown, Killa Puha aka KP and Sunshine Soundsystem and local stalwart dj's Jake and Takkaz.

Situated on the corner of Majoribanks Street, Kent Terrace and Courtney Place, Sandwiches was launched in 2003 as a restaurant, lounge bar, entertainment venue and nightclub rolled into one.

Selecting and showcasing cutting edge world-class music and live jams covering all music genres, week after week has won Sandwiches Best Music Offering, NZ Bartender Magazine Awards 2007 and Nightclub of the Year, NZ Bartender Magazine Awards 2006.

Along with international and local guests, Sandwiches hosts a regular live jazz session and serves up fresh funk & soul residencies on the rocks. Sandwiches smashing knees-up party atmosphere is a true reflection of the strength of Wellington’s live music and dj scenes.

Following the success of Sandwiches Summerset at the Basin Reserve earlier this year, which took its music and hospitality model outdoors to the cricket ground that doubles as the Southern hemisphere’s biggest roundabout, Sandwiches is proud to confirm a second day-nighter will be held at the Basin in 2008.

Of course this all sounds like standard publicity hype, so to ram these points home I have called on the soon to be immortal words of DJ Takkaz, a long standing Sandwiches resident.

“Anything goes and it usually does – I’m the one who’ll turn up at 4am and play till 7am - it’s like the last stop before Babylon, the last chopper out of Saigon”

I spoke with Sandwiches co-owner Bryce recently to get the low down on why the lads set the venue up, what the highlights of the last four years have been and where the brand is heading from here.

Why did you originally establish Sandwiches?

Well, that's actually a two part question and a two part answer. Sandwiches originally began as a brand and eventually became a nightclub and venue.

Most of us are dj's or have worked in nightclub environments for a large portion of our lives, so creating a fun party atmosphere was essential. That was why we did all those mad stunts in the early days like dressing up in animal costumes and decking out the lounge spaces as classic Kiwi living rooms.

I had just returned from a nine year OE in the UK, an experience which allowed me to see a lot of growth and development in the European dance music scene. I got a lot of inspiration from watching what Craig Richards did with Fabric and spent a lot of time at The End. As I said I got back around 1999-2000 and Wellington had some very cool things happening, the Bass Frontiers guys, the Fevah crew and the Old School House Mafia were all going from strength to strength.
The live music scene was really starting to pick up as well, and I could see so much potential everywhere.

There was a problem though; it was all really analytical and segregated. People were so focused on music and style that they were missing the point of Friday and Saturday night. It's the weekend, and you're meant to be partying, having fun, cutting loose.

We respected what everyone was doing individually, so when we started hosting the Sandwiches parties at venues like Studio9/Sub 9, we would invite all the different crews along. It went beyond dj culture though; we had a live act called Syrup playing in the nine bar at our first parties. Syrup went on to become the many headed beast called Rhombus, guys like Imon, Tiki and Mana jumped on and off and sometimes back on the bandwagon, the little yellow mini blew up like no one expected and they just ran with it.

We were running the Sandwiches events about 6 times a year, and when everything became solid, it was time to move on to the next step. It was the early 2000's, not the early 90's and Wellington deserved a world class nightclub with a great sound system, good bar staff, top decoration and entertainment.

Another very real problem at the time was a lack of venues for promoters to use, and even worse then that, a lack of accessibility to the venues that were available. Studio 9 was a classic example, if you were interested in booking the space for a show, you had to go and see Jammo on Wednesday afternoon between certain hours. If you missed that window of opportunity you had to wait until next week. Wellington needed a venue where the owners were available on a regular basis for discussion with promoters, performers and the public on a week day basis.

It was a lot of hard work, but we got it up and running and here we are now, four years later.

What have the highlights of the last four years at Sandwiches been for you?

Firstly I have to say the actual opening night of the venue, that was an amazing night.

Even before then we had the fit out of the space, which was just as special. There is a entrepreneurial term 'Skin of the trade', you have to really get in there and do as much as you can yourself to minimize costs. We had a very humble crew of good people working day and night to get that space ready. The good will and generosity was incredible and something I'll always remember.

One of the more special nights for us was hosting the after party for the third “Lord of the Rings” film premier. That was a crazy night, Marek and Charlie Diamonds were really cooking the vibe in there, and the place was full until well into daylight.

Another special moment, which is actually a few moments was anytime Fat Freddies Drop played, especially the shows before they released their album, at that point the hype was just growing and growing, and when you thought it couldn't get any bigger, it did!

Staying on the local front but touching on the international, being involved with the development of the Wellington drum and bass scene has been huge for us. Ddog deserves full credit for picking the ball up and pushing that sound to the extent he has. Paving the way for the Concord Dawn's, Upbeat's, Trei's, State of Minds, Shapeshifters, bringing so many fantastic international producer djs through and pushing attendance at shows up to such a large consistent volume.

What Bryce is trying to get across about the significance of the Wellington drum and bass scene can be best illustrated by a recent quote from Marcus Intalex.

" Hello...it’s crazy that we need to travel to the furthest point away from where we originated this music to find some of the best organization, crowds, clubs and sound systems.... till next time folks"

Back to Bryce.

Another big highlight of the Sandwiches experience for me, again several highlights, has been anytime we have hosted the one and only Jedi Knight Tom Middleton. In my opinion Tom is the best eclectic dj in the known universe. It's about more then just his musical knowledge or skill. Tom is an amazing chap with something very special going on. I learn so much every time I spend time with him, and to have him recently tell me that Sandwiches is one of his favorite venues in the world to play at was touching to say the least.

Just a couple more things to mention and I'll be done. Takkaz, yes Takkaz, having him and Jake play on a regular basis has been a treat. Takkaz has successfully created a consistent Wellington nightclub sound that works as a vibe and an atmosphere. He's a complete professional and a big part of the Sandwiches Whanau.

In fact the Whanau or family environment and aspect of Sandwiches has actually been the biggest highlight for me so far. Having all these amazing characters come together, from management to door staff, bar staff to cleaners, cleaners to djs, accounts, accounts to attendees and so on.

Sandwiches is an experience which we have all created through a long term commitment to a vibe. You as punters are just as important, all the times you come out on cold nights, those weekends where you've been out two nights straight. That commitment and enthusiasm has been a huge part of the equation that has taken Wellington nightlife culture to such internationally respected levels.

What's next for Sandwiches?

Sandwiches is going to remain consistent and on the ball. We'll always be looking to predict trends and stay several steps ahead of the game. Every week we will be providing you with good food, good alcohol and great entertainment, be it live music or dj culture.
Summerset is back on for next year, we're looking into running a Winterset as well.
2 years from now, 5 years from now, 12 years from now and beyond, we plan to be on top of our game and still providing the citizens of this fair city with the quality they most richly deserve, come down to the birthday party if you're in town on the 18th, it's going to be a blast!

And that was all he said, but even more then that, all I wrote.

By Martyn Pepperell