Cut The Midrange, Drop The Bass _ Tweekin / Sydney

On the eve of the second Tweekin reunion, I felt the need to get some words down about this seminal piece of Sydney club history, a night that holds a special place in many hearts, including mine. For those who weren’t there at the time, Tweekin was a club night that happened every Friday night at Club 77 on William Street in East Sydney, a place we affectionately called the dirty little disco basement. It ran for four years before closing up on a very high note on the night of Friday 27 April 2001.

Tweekin evolved out of a night called Jus Right that Sugar Ray and I had been doing at Club 77 for a couple of years already. In fact we’d done a bunch of stuff there when it was still known as the All Night Boogie Dance Café. I was spending a lot of time overseas at that time, so Ray took over the Friday nights on his own and rebranded it as Tweekin and I continued on as resident DJ whenever I was back in Australia, along with Ken Cloud and our unofficial fourth resident who always stepped in when Ray and/or I were travelling, the one and only Ajax (RIP).

While the times there all tend to blend into one, especially as we often did other parties there on Saturday nights as well, including Sabotage and another series of techno parties called Mantra. We also spent a lot of time there on Sunday nights for Klub Kooky, so it’s fair to say we spent a lot of time in the place.

What made it so special? Well, it was a lot of things. Firstly, it was truly about the music. We played a broad spectrum of music, a philosophy with its roots in the Balearic attitude of the early Sydney rave scene, and the Hordern parties before that, where an eclectic approach was welcomed and appreciated by the dancefloor. The music crossed a lot of genres, and we saw movements come and go, from Tech House (in the original sense, on labels like 20:20 Vision and The End) to Breaks (Marine Parade and TCR) to West Coast House (Siesta and Grayhound) to quite banging techno (Primate and Hybrid) to the European sound of Pssst records, the emergence of minimal from German label Perlon and the edgy Berlin sound of one of my favourite labels of all time, BPitch Control.

This was reflected in the range of guest DJs that graced the decks at the club too, a very long list that includes Adam Freeland, Rennie Pilgrem, Freq Nasty, Thomas Schumacher, Christian Smith, Mr C, John Tejada, Chris Duckenfield, Clive Henry and our other semi-resident Andy Morris, not to mention every local DJ worth his/her salt, a list too long to even attempt here. We also featured a lot live acts, including Infusion, Pocket and others on the Thunk roster.


Add to that the history of inclusion that Sydney had often fostered, again through the rave and mixed gay/straight scenes of the late 80s, and a conscious intention to make it a safe place for everyone, a place that so many of the girls commented along the way that it was one of the few places they could go to and just dance, without getting hit on all night. We took that as a badge of pride.

It also went against the exclusive aspect of some Sydney clubs with their style enforcers; at Tweekin it didn’t matter what you wore, and you would even see the odd fellow in a suit who stumbled in to the club somehow and blagged their way past the doorman.

It was dark, dirty and dingy. The sound system wasn’t great. Either were the lights, but we always had a lighting operator working the buttons and smoke machine. This was in the days when you could smoke in clubs too, so you always came home stinking of ciggies, and in contrast to the nanny state we live in today, you could walk down the street without the worry of the doggies and we managed to get away with smoking copious amounts of spliffs behind the DJ booth as well, where there was a conveniently situated couch. Pure dingy club bliss.

The club also received accolades and recognition from the wider dance music community. It won club night of the year at the inaugural national dance music awards in 2000, and was famously listed by DJ Mag in the UK as on the “very short list of proper clubs around the world”.

At the end of the day though, it really came down to the totally up for it and unpretentious crowd, hungry for new, genre bending music. The dancefloor made Tweekin, and quite honestly when people ask me what my favourite club I’ve ever played at in the world is, there is only ever one answer.


I thought it might also be fun to include the interviews conducted with the residents around the time of the first Tweekin Reunion in 2015.




What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now?

Then… Tweekin was a community, an amazing family of like minded party people and music freaks, rocking guest DJs and live acts, a truly special place and time in Sydney’s clubbing history .

Now… to be honest I was a little reluctant to do it as I had closed that chapter in my life and wasn’t sure about reopening it and letting the Sugarman out the box. But Philly has been chipping away and convinced me, and once I had committed and started listening to my records again I got super excited, the passions returned and I’m really looking forward to DJing again and catching up with the everyone.

Top Tweekin Memories

Playing the Man with the Red Face by Laurent Garnier for the first time, I managed to grab one of the first copies (it helped owing a record shop, RIP Reachin) and wow what a reaction on the dance floor!

People of Tweekin

Wow as a DJ you could not ask for a more open minded, forward thinking and enthusiastic group of people to play for, looking back it was a real honour and privilege.

Favourite guest DJs

We had many great guests… locally, Young Jase & Simon Caldwell were always great, and from overseas, DJ Dan & Adam Freeland stand out for me, but my favourites were the residents Ajax, Kenny & Philly, they were consistently awesome week in week out.

Tweekin Top 5

  1. Laurent Garnier – The Man with the Red Face
  2. Layo & Bushwacka – Deep South
  3. Freeform 5 – Perspex Sex
  4.  Metro Area – Miura
  5. Peace Division – Tuned


What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now

Tweekin is hands down the best club I’ve ever played. Being a weekly residency, it really let you develop trust with the dancefloor and get creative as a DJ. It also had a real community spirit to it. One of the main reasons I was up for doing a reunion is there were such great people there, with such positive vibes. To me, it was an important social and cultural thing.

Top Tweekin Memories

No proper conversation can be had about Tweekin without mentioning Ajax (RIP), the man who was essentially our fourth resident, and kept the vibe alive with Kenny when Ray and I were travelling overseas. One of my lasting memories is when he was going through a dress up phase and I can picture him in my mind completely rocking it to the sweaty rafters while wearing a dress. Legendary.

People of Tweekin

That was the best thing about it, everyone was chill, it was casual and people were really there for the music. I made a lot of great and long lasting friendships directly from the club and I know plenty of other people did the same. So many people I know met there, and some of them even went on to get married and have kids. Oh yeah, and then there’s the ever changing motley back row crew on the bench behind the DJ booth, that was always interesting!

Favourite guest DJs

There were so many great DJs that played, and to be honest, with all the years we spent throwing parties at 77, from Sabotage to Jus Right to Tweekin, I sometimes can’t remember who played what. One of the most memorable nights, and I’m not sure if it was Tweekin but it was definitely Club 77, was when Michael Mayer played. He was playing such amazing music and I was so excited to finally hear him play that I gave up my set to let him keep playing. Epic night.

Christian Smith played a few times, and he was always great. Lots of techno then. I’m pretty sure Adam Freeland played at least once as well. I’m sure the Tweekers will be able to fill me in on some more of their favourites, darn hazy memory!

Tweekin Top 5

  1. Halo – Future
  2. Air Frog – Bon Voyage
  3. Whiplash – Ghetto Tears
  4. Infusion – Spike
  5. Killerloop – Music Inside


What does Tweekin mean to you, then and now

Tweekin then was my Friday night, I was very lucky that Ray gave me the opportunity to be working at Reachin’ during the week and then play at Tweekin on the weekend, I was trying to find my way in Sydney as a DJ and luckily I was in the middle of it all, I was exactly where I wanted to be. At the time Friday night in Sydney was rocking with us and the Stateside crews leading the way. Looking back it was obviously a very special time, the club was always busy, people came to dance and the floor filled up quick, people would walk down the stairs and straight on the dance floor. I’ve got very found memories of both 77 and the Metro parties, the dance scene was more underground back then. I learnt a lot about DJing from Phil.

Top Tweekin Memories

Its been so long ago that I think my mind has dispelled any memories that were remotely negative so its just a great big blur of wonderful goodness, which I don’t think is too far from the truth. When you get the dance floor at 77 really going its a lot of fun – its one of those clubs where the whole place is just dancing.

People of Tweekin

This is an absolute impossible question to answer, I think almost everyone I know over a certain age spent a chunk of time down at 77. There are a lot of people too that I’ve become friends with since 77 that said they spent a lot of time down there but I didn’t know them at the time. For any successful weekly you do need a dedicated core crew, and we had loads of great people, there are too many to try and remember.

Favourite guest DJs

My favourite guest DJ was Joel Harrison, he wasn’t well known although he did have some records out, but we knew him as he is the brother of Tim Harrison who was involved with Thunk Records. He played a bunch of crazy old techno and house things in an early Environ, Morgan Geist vein (before he went Metro Area vibes) and the place just went crazy. I can remember Lorna rocking the place too.

Tweekin Top 5

This is pretty fuzzy but…

  1. Laurent Garnier – Crispy Bacon
  2. God Within – The Phoenix
  3. Grooveyard – Watch me Now
  4. Swag – Lapus Lazuli
  5. Pocket – Knife EP


Written by Phil Smart

November 2018

Join The Club_Part One: Finding the Beat

Sydney in the 80s was a melting pot of subcultures. Punks, skinheads, goths, mods, bombers, and skaters, each with their own distinct look, sound and places to hang out. It also had an incredible live music scene, with plenty of pubs to see bands play, and by the time I was 16 my friends and I were sneaking into venues like the Hopetoun, the Lansdowne and the Trade Union Club to see our favourite bands like the Celibate Rifles, the New Christs and the Died Pretty, many of them founded on the legacy of the legendary Radio Birdman.

This was a time when Sydney’s cultural ecosystem was humming. There were lots of record stores, indie labels, magazines and of course, 2JJJ.

Triple J at the time was Sydney’s own station, and its influence cannot be understated. It supported lots of local music, and was the foundation for the alternative musical education of the city’s youth. For context, it may help you to know what we are the generation that voted ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division as the greatest song of all time (up until that point of course;) in the inaugural Hottest 100.

When we lost the station to nationalization, and influential DJs like Tim Richie along with it, it was a big blow to Sydney’s cultural fabric. We lost our voice, as suddenly all of the airtime that was being devoted to Sydney bands and happenings had to be shared with the whole country. Add to this the crippling blow of a change in the pokie laws (another typical Sydney story) and the live band scene would never be the same again.

But slam dancing with a bunch of blokes was getting pretty boring pretty quickly for me anyways, and it wasn’t long til I discovered nightclubs. Proper ones. My friends and I had already been frequenting the local ‘discos’ in the southern suburbs of Sydney where I grew up, places like Carmen’s, the Seabreeze and Promises, which, true to their 80s sounding names, were bastions of big hair suburban 80s culture, and ultimately musically frustrating to a kid like me.

My first ‘cool’ inner city club was Spagos, an Italian restaurant in a converted terrace house on Crown St, Darlinghurst, which I’d heard turned into a nightclub after the kitchen closed. So I went there for dinner with a friend, no one asked us for ID, and we hung around til the DJ turned up, followed by an assortment of hip, inner city types that started filling up the dancefloor. That was 1986. I was 17. It was my first taste of proper clubbing.

The following year, I was attending university in Wollongong during the week, and plugging in to the local club scene, where the two most influential DJs in town were Danny Dun (now Lane) and Andy Morris. By 1988 I’d started DJing after throwing a party with a friend at a local pub where we used to see bands, and I began hassling Danny and Andy for gigs in the ‘Gong. Typical of smaller towns like that, many of the subcultures partied together, and in Wollongong, like many other places, it was the local gay club Kennedy’s, weirdly situated up on top of a highrise car park, that hosted nights where everyone was mixed in together… goth, punk, gay, straight, all the misfits and alternative kids who liked music and were looking for community, acceptance and a non-judgmental environment to have a good time. The music was also mixed, with not enough house music to play a whole night, so you had a very eclectic evening of styles and tempos.

Meanwhile, back in Sydney on the weekends, there was a whole world waiting to be discovered. At first, it was places like The Freezer and Site for crossover nights, which played all sorts of music as long as it was considered danceable. Sanctuary catered to more of the goth crowd, with lots of stuff like the Cure and the Cult, while Cabaret Futura tended towards the more electronic, with plenty of Depeche Mode and New Order.

It was at the Freezer where I first met DJ Sheen, who went on to become one of the influential ‘Cartel’ of rave DJs that ruled the warehouses in the early 90s (more on that later). He let me hang out in the DJ box, to pick up whatever knowledge I could glean from watching over his shoulder, and I recently spoke to him about his experience of those times.

Sheen shares a similar story to me, getting into the club scene while studying at uni in Cardiff, Wales around the same time, going to small venues with mixed crowds, where the DJ would play a few punk tunes and all the punks would dance, then some tunes for the goths etc, eventually the DJ finishing the night playing house music, which was the most edgy music at the time.

He landed one of his first major gigs playing Friday nights at the Freezer with another pioneer of the club scene in Sydney, Rob Milton, who’d been involved in the early rave scene in London. The night would start out with hip hop, then into a bit of funk, some Chicago house, acid house and even early techno records.

Sheen also reminded me of the quintessentially Sydney club nights Meltdown and Sensoria at Site, where DJs like Pee Wee Ferris and Ben Drayton presided, and where the music was amazing and cutting edge, with just the right combination of people. It was interesting, exciting, and edgy, and these clubs could be notoriously difficult to get in to. Each club had a style enforcer (aka door bitch) who would filter out the crowd, and running the gauntlet became a nightly ritual for us. To game the system, we’d often head into the clubs early, when it was easier to get in, and collect our stamp before going to dance somewhere else for a few hours, heading back later when we knew it would be getting going. Most often we’d head to one of the gay spots on Oxford St, like the Exchange or the Albury, and it was here that I really discovered house music, played by DJs like Stephen Allkins, Paul Goodyear and Paul Holden (RIP).

One of the great things about Sydney at the time was that the scene was really mixed, along with the music. You could also go out 7 nights a week, with something quality every single night, including Madd Club on a Monday, Lunacy on Tuesdays, Sensoria on Wednesdays, Meltdown on Thursdays, and an abundance of options over the weekend. Sheen quipped that no one he knew at the time had a regular job, and it was the same bunch of people out every night who kept the scene afloat.

This was also the time of the Hordern parties, which had become world renowned and had global cultural icons like The Face and ID magazines bringing the city’s dance music scene to the attention of the world. This was a pretty big deal in the days before the internet, when Australia’s cultural isolation was a big factor, where we had to rely on magazines, radio and import record stores like Disco City, Central Station and Floppy Disc to get a window into the outside world, and piece a culture together for ourselves.

The late 80s also heralded the arrival of a new drug called ecstasy, of course, and that changed things forever. Before that, the club scene was all about cocaine, the band scene was fuelled by speed, and the surfers and skaters smoked bongs.

Around the summer of 89/90 I’d landed my first residency at an inner city club, an infamous place called The Front, located near the corner of Pitt and Park streets in the city. The Front had a reputation as a recovery club, and on the big weekends it would stay open from Friday night all the way through to Monday morning. I would sometimes play on a Saturday night, go home for a sleep and some breakfast, and come back to play again on Sunday to the same people, in the same clothes, in the same corner of the dancefloor. It also had an extra turntable and mixer set up, and we’d spend hours and hours on the third deck, dropping acappellas and random bits of whatever else we could think of over the DJ who was playing.

In true Sydney form, it was eventually raided by the cops and shut down, but for a while there it was quite the crazy scene, and a real intersection of Sydney culture at the time, with DJs Lance Kenneth, Paul ‘Flex’ Taylor and Simon Grant at the helm.

I spoke to my old friend and DJ legend Paul ‘Flex’ Taylor about it to fill in some of the gaps. He’s spent a lot of time researching the history of dancing in Sydney, from the ballrooms of the late 1800s through to the emergence of the disco scene at places like Patchs and Stranded, and into the heady days of the Hordern parties. We talked about how dance culture really has no beginning and no end, that any point is just part of a cultural continuum that stretches back to the times of tribal drums and forward into a time beyond lockouts and the nanny state, when we will one day have our freedom again.

Paul arrived in the city to become a radio announcer and stumbled into the club scene, which ended up changing the direction of his life. He recalls one night when he was taken to Patchs (later to become DCM), to see the legendary and influential Sydney DJ Lee Reiger play. Watching him put records together was a magical experience, and one mix in particular inspired him to pursue an entirely different path in music. He saw the rise of the disco scene across Sydney in the late 70s, where more and more pubs replaced bands with DJs and put in a mirror ball to save money and ride the latest craze, into the rise and fall of the Hordern party scene and on to the beginnings of the rave scene.

It was towards the end of the Front days that I started hearing about these ‘English’ rave parties that were happening in the warehouses and film studios of industrial areas like Alexandria, fuelled by a seemingly endless stream of British backpackers arriving on our shores, bringing rave culture along with them, via the beaches of Goa and Ko Pha Ngan. It was obvious that a lot of the established crew felt a bit threatened, thinking ‘who are these Poms coming over here trying to take our scene?’ but to my ears it sounded really interesting, and the illegal nature of raves appealed to the young skate punk in me. So I sought them out, and I can honestly to say that my first rave changed the entire course of my life. But that’s another story for another time…

– Phil Smart
June 2018