Circuit Chat - Trade

laurence

An Interview with Laurence Malice, Trade owner and founder
by John McHugh-Dennis

There's a new club in town, and it's called Trade.

Hailed in London by many as the hippest gay night spot, Trade recently made its U.S. debut at The Palace.

Trade founder and creator Laurence Malice, and Trademark, Head of Production, spoke with us recently about what to expect at this new bi-weekly event.

To see photos taken at the premiere of Trade, click here.

John:

 

For those of us who are totally unfamiliar with Trade in London, could you give us a quick overview of what Trade is all about?

 

Laurence:

 

Trade started as an after-hours club 11 years ago in London. It's opening date was in October, 1990. It's sole purpose was at that time very similar to L.A. Then, clubs (in London) were actually closing at 2, 3 o'clock in the morning. At that time, a lot of the people were cruising the parks, and the AIDS epidemic was very prominent, and there was a lot of homophobic attitude, so it wasn't safe. The club was called Trade to encourage people to have a safe haven. What it also did was encourage gay men to bring their straight friends with them, which I think helped against the homophobia and hate against gay people at that time.

We wanted it to be a big experiment in music. The concept of the music at Trade has never changed since day one. It starts out with predominantly American House, and then goes into a tougher sound. We don't play Hard House anymore, even though Trade popularized it, and gave the name throughout the world as Hard House. Trade has always been about a journey through music, and I think it will work quite well in L.A., and that's why we're contemplating working with American DJs. We feel that American DJs are very vital to this journey in music.

Trademark:

Well, it's always been a pioneer. Trade's always been a club that does something new and different before anyone else does. Coming back to London again, I think it was the first legal after-hours club in the U.K., and it was one of the first clubs to integrate the audience. It was basically a gay club, but we always wanted a mix; we never wanted a 100% gay club, which is one thing that we'd like to try and do here. I don't know whether it will work or not, because what we have kind of seen is that it appears to be quite segregated. People seemed to be surprised at the notion of having a mixed club. We'd like an element of it to be a mixed sort of club... as long as they've got the right attitude, and they're party people, and they want to have a good time...

Laurence:

It's not a social study we're doing here, it's a nightclub. If we get an 80/20 Gay/Straight mix, it would be great, but if we don't get that mix, fine. We're introducing membership, and the only people who can actually apply for membership are gay men or lesbians. We're going to have a picker on the door. The only way that you can keep a club tight is by having a membership basis. We're going to introduce all of the measures that we do in England to keep it a safe club.

John:

So how is the membership thing going to work?

Laurence:

For the first 2 weeks you will have free membership. After that, people apply if they want to become a member. If you become a member, you get a lot of benefits: you'll get $5 off admission, and we would hope (depending on how chaotic it is outside) that you will get priority admission.

Trademark:

What happens in London is that members get birthday cards, and newsletters and things like that. So the members really do get treated really well, and feel a part of it. The members of Trade in London really do feel like they're part of a family.

John:

 

Sounds kind of like Probe (aka ICON) used to be here. It only had a capacity of 500 people, but many knew each other when they really had a restricted membership.

Laurence:

When I first started Trade, the capacity of the space was only about 400; it was very small. But the person who owns the building made the place bigger when he discovered that it was making money. Now it can hold 12, 1300 people, which is fine. Personally, I'd rather do small clubs, because I like to be able to go around and say hello to everyone and see if they're enjoying themselves. If there's any problems, I would much rather people approach me or (Trade)Mark.

Trademark:

They could insult me (they both laugh). Depending on the mood!

Laurence:

We're always very nice to our customers... we love em!

John:

 

So who's the picker at the door?

Laurence:

It's one of the local drag queens that's actually going to be at the door.

Trademark:

Someone that knows the people here. Because, obviously, we've just come in from London, and we don't actually know a lot of the people here, so we've recruited someone who does, and who hopefully will be doing a good job for us.

A club really stands or falls on the music and having the right people in there having a good time. What we really want to do is we want to get a really good mix of the right people. In London it works because we have the right mix of people. It's not 100% gay; the straight people that are in there, they're the right sort of people that can mix well in that environment. There's no reason why things should be segregated so rigidly, because it can work.

Laurence:

And one thing that I would like to reiterate here, because it's really important, is that I've had meetings with the Security, and we have told them that we are not going to tolerate any problems with the Security as far as a heavy door policy.

John:

 

How did you find The Palace as a space?

Laurence:

I actually think the space is fantastic as a club. The Lady who I deal with is a really nice person. I know there's been problems in the past, but I don't believe that it's their venue that is problematic. I think what is more important is that we go in there, and we try to work with these people and create a very secure and safe environment for the people who go there.

John:

 

I think the general consensus is that the space is great.

Trademark:

And Trade is also. It is about Theatre, and the customers are the audience; they're actually the performers. The whole thing about Trade is it's Living Theatre. It (The Palace) is the perfect environment for us. Space-wise it's great. We've just got to make sure that people are welcomed in properly, and that we don't have any problems on the door, because the first thing that people see are the door staff, and it can create a mood. We have to make sure that the mood is created right from the moment they arrive. Having someone there with a familiar face, a drag queen, whatever, to make them feel at ease and not be intimidated.

John:

 

What are your current DJ plans? Are you going to have the same DJs? Rotating DJs?

Laurence:

The DJs will be on rotation. We're going to try to get our basic fill for the night, and then we will slot the appropriate DJs in various time slots. The music will not change drastically. It will start light, and it will end up on a heavy sound. It's not going to be a thumping, hard-ass techno that it ends up on; it's going to be on a funky European-style, Dutch-style of Progressive House. But it will start out with a sound that's very familiar to an American audience. Upstairs on the terrace, we're going to have the beefer DJs, so that's going to be that element as well.

Trademark:

Hopefully it's just going to be a really good, fun party and everyone will really like the music. Some of it may be slightly different, but you've got to give people something different. We don't want people to have a judged attitude before they come in. Just go there, and I'm sure you'll end up having a really great time and really liking it.

John:

Why L.A. for Trade?

Laurence:

Rich Campbell approached me about 5 or 6 years ago and said I should come. I remember he told me that California had a policy where people couldn't smoke in clubs here, which I thought was quite funny; but now I see that it actually works. We discussed it, and nothing ever came of it. In the meantime, we were approached 6 weeks ago with a proposal from The Palace. We looked it over, and we thought that it was an interesting proposal, and it was a bit of a challenge, and it's nice to do something fresh. We want these bi-weekly parties to be a mini-circuit party, so we want to bring in all of the elements of the theatre of a circuit party, and if possible, do it on a bi-weekly basis.

John:

Did I hear you say that you are going to have themes?

Trademark:

We're not really going for any specific themes. What we want to do is just give the essence of what Trade is all about, which means bringing in influences from Art. We're not just flying over a DJ and getting exactly the same; we want to give them something the essence of what Trade London is, so we're bringing elements of that stuff in. We're not confining ourselves to any type or basic theme, we want to just sort of give the people a party to remember, where they'll hopefully think it looked amazing, and they'll have a good time.

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To read other Circuit Chat interviews, click here.