19 May 2016

5 minutes with Alex O’Brien from Shinobi

We grab a few minutes with Alex O’Brien – the man behind Hull’s legendary DnB night Shinobi.

Shinobi is one of the North’s biggest and best drum and bass nights held over at Hull’s legendary alternative nightclub, Welly. With 3 rooms of straight-up bass-driven music, they hold their end of year season party this June and it’s guaranteed to be a wild night.

Alex O’Brien, the man behind all things Shinobi, tells us where it all started and what we can look forward to for the rest of this year and in 2017.

So who founded Shinobi? How long has it been running now?

There were originally four of us, me, Mikey J, Bungle and George. It’s been going for fourteen years. The other guys we set it up with disbanded and left to do ‘proper jobs’ around eleven or twelve years ago and I’ve carried it on on my own since then.

Why did you decide to set up Shinobi and why in Hull?

We are all from Hull originally and we found there was no other way of playing the music that we were into without doing it ourselves. There was somebody else doing a similar kind of thing but we weren’t getting a look in at the time, so we just went for it ourselves and it started to do really well!

Along with some massive names coming through in terms of headliners, do you have any regular Shinobi residents?

We have one main resident called Shimah aka Hamish Laing. He’s from Beverley and has been a resident with us for years. He’s had releases out on Playaz Recordings (DJ Hype’s label) and Radius Recordings (DJ Hazard’s label) and he’s just a wicked DJ. Our resident MC is called Rafta who’s one of the UK’s best upcoming MCs.

How does it feel to see Shinobi continue to grow over the years and do you feel your audience has changed since you first started?

From my point of view the audience has changed because the people who come to watch are like, 18 and I’m a lot older now. The drum and bass scene is much bigger and generally the bass music scene in general has just got massive. I’m 32 now and my group of friends that used to regularly come has got smaller and smaller as they’ve got older but it’s great to see new blood coming through the doors and see people who are still really into the music. It’s just bigger than ever.

Welly Hull

Obviously the DnB tag runs wide and deep – for people who haven’t been to a Shinobi event, what can they expect? Anything from Jungle to Liquid?

All types of drum and bass but also reggae and grime music in general. I think what they can expect from Shinobi is big loud and intense full of raves.

With the current resurgence of grime and techno in full flow – how is the DnB scene looking right now?

I think it’s looking better than ever. People like Andy C are playing all over the world to tens of thousands of people so you can definitely say it’s just massive all around the world. Particularly on an international level, some of the festivals in Belgium and the Czech Republic are filling 10-15,000 people – it’s pretty healthy.

Any fresh new Hull talent we should keep an eye out for?

I think the people who are already making waves are just going to get bigger and bigger through all genres, particularly WAFF – he’s absolutely killing it playing all over the world. I think the likes of DJ Shepdog and Shimah aka Hamish Laing are already doing well. I think there’s definitely up and coming club nights to look out for, Get Down and Crystal Clear… Get Down has just started, a reggae night. They’ve done Mungo’s HiFi and Shepdog, both are doing really well.

How does the DnB scene in Hull differ to other major cities such as Leeds and London?

I think comparatively for the amount of people, the drum and bass scene is really good. We’re often compared to Leeds and Leeds is a much bigger city. I think the club scene in Hull is generally really healthy for the size of the city. I like playing in Hull because you can’t recreate that community anywhere else and I think that’s why I keep coming back and doing events here. I think London is so big you just can’t recreate it in the same way.

Welly DJ decks

Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of this year? What can we look forward to?

I’ve got one more show before summer this year with Shy FX and Sam Binga, Serial Killaz, Skipadee, a really big line-up. Then through autumn and into next year we will continue doing events. We can’t announce the line ups of those shows yet but we’ve got some great names. We are at a point where it’s not just about getting more and more people, we just want to give people a good time.‘We’ve got this one year – let’s go for it.’

What do you think the City of Culture will mean for Hull and how do you think Shinobi will benefit from it?

The City of Culture will be good for Hull because it will put a spotlight on the people who are already and who have been for a number of years been doing great things. Whether they are artists, bands, photographers, promoters… anything like that, I just think it’s a brilliant opportunity to showcase those people and give them more recognition. Particularly the musicians and the artists – their work will get seen further afield. It’ll also be good for Shinobi and give us more opportunities to throw more parties.

Generally, it can only be a good thing, it will give people like me go for bigger events because it’s under that umbrella and they will have the confidence to really go for it and think ‘We’ve got this one year – let’s go for it’.

Grab your tickets for Shinobi’s end of year season party here.

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