Photo credit: Ex Luisa
We are Europe: Who is behind Macadam and what is the history of your club?
Alexis Tenaud & Maxime Durand: Macadam operates through two organisations that have been in partnership since it opened in September 2017: Androgyne is the global art director running the music programme, event production, communication, PR and interior design; the Macadam staff (managed by Laurent Myszka and Marie Nebah) take care of the bar, the cloakroom and security.
Androgyne was created in June 2017 by three childhood friends – Maxime Durand (Youl), Alexis Tenaud and Romain Galiby – to bring to life a precise vision for electronic music events. The three of us had travelled around Europe, Japan, Australia and South America over the previous twelve years looking for the most inspiring parties, clubs and festivals. This allowed us to develop a serious perspective on “the art of letting go”, which is the DNA of the Androgyne project. This is culture that can cross borders between the arts (music, visual arts, scenography, costumes), to tell a story through the party experience, to involve the crowd as its main protagonists, to identify DJs as artists yet not as gods, to offer a safe place where photography is forbidden in order to enhance personal memories.
When the possibility of creating the club first emerged, it was a spontaneous act to pool all those experiences in order to create a very personal project in our hometown of Nantes: first building Androgyne, and then Macadam.
Since November 2020, Romain has left the project and now Alexis and Maxime run Androgyne with two members of staff who are also heavily involved: Anaëlle Saas and Mado Prévitali-Miranda.
Where is your club located? Do you know anything about the history of the building?
Macadam is located on the west side of Nantes, in the West of France. It’s in an industrial area of a district called Chantenay. The warehouse was originally a shipyard in the 1980s and became a venue for punk gatherings and rock concerts during the 1990s. Then it became a dance club dedicated to reggaeton, dancehall and chart hits during the 2000s and 2010s, when it was known as Feeling Tropical, Why Not, Ice Club and Club 25. The current outdoor space of the club is above a former underground bunker from the Second World War, made of indestructible concrete. We’ve heard rumours about some underground tunnels in this area… which no one has ever found and probably never existed.
To build Macadam, we dug all the way down to the source of the basement, revealing the concrete floor and raw materials that were part of the original shipyard.
How would you describe your club’s scene, musically & aesthetically speaking?
Androgyne runs a collaborative music programme at Macadam. This means that Androgyne produces around 40% of the parties and then books crews and organisations – mainly from Nantes but also from France and abroad – to organise the other 60% of the club’s calendar. Meanwhile, the artistic line of the club is dedicated to alternative electronic music, mostly dance-oriented. Macadam is definitely a place for dancers: there is almost no seating inside the club, the main space is focused on dancing, while outdoors is the only space for chilling. Downtempo, Techno, Electro, Breakbeat, Fast Techno, Trance Goa, Tribe, Minimal, Deep Techno, Proto House, House, Disco are the music styles you’ll hear most at Macadam.
In addition, we’re really involved in the idea of club residencies. At Macadam, it’s done in two ways: having regular parties each month or every two months, and having resident DJs for those parties.
We have a day party at Macadam called “Gloria” (7AM to 11PM), which has been organised by Androgyne on one Sunday a month since 2017. The Gloria party is a very particular and emotional event; it has its own codes and atmosphere, because the crowd are invited to dress up and there’s a “positive rave” approach to the music. This musical line is led by Androgyne’s four resident DJs: GTI, Combe, Moksha and Youl. They’re absolute masters of the party vibe, driving a powerful spirit that guests can completely lose themselves in. We book two residents and two guest DJs for every edition of Gloria, who play for 4 hours each. The length of the set is also crucial to getting really inside the crowd and creating a special energy.
Since 2019, Androgyne has also been working on introducing concerts at Macadam, with experimental electronic music on Thursday evenings focused on live acts. So far, Andy Stott, Vatican Shadow, DMX Krew and Shackleton – to name the most famous – have all come for these evening shows.
Also, we try not to repeat invitations too soon with guests we’ve already booked. We believe in emerging scenes and in first time invitations for international guests in Nantes. Mixing both, our artistic line runs from masters like John Talabot, Andrew Weatherall, DJ Stingray, Silent Servant and Lena Willikens to local artists like Moody, Leo Man, Abstrack crew and European newcomers like SPFDJ and KIKI.
Is there one specific mix that represents your club?
There was a 4h set by Youl on November 2019 that was particularly representative of our Gloria party. As art director of Macadam, as well as co-founder and resident DJ of Androgyne, Youl has completely embraced the purpose of the club: the utopia of creating a global connection between everyone on the dancefloor. It was a very special edition of Gloria that day, a 24h party from 7AM on Sunday to 7AM on Monday. We had the biggest turnout ever seen at Macadam, with a queuing time of over 4 hours to get into the event all day long. We had some problems at the door because of the huge number of people, to prevent it from becoming an issue with people jumping over the barriers… But inside the club, it was the most intense party we’d ever hosted; the afternoon was so intense that we can still feel the emotion one year on. KIKI satellited the party with one of the grooviest techno sets ever, handing over a crowd on fire to Youl at 7PM. The club was packed, people were half-naked and sweaty, it was 30°C inside, there were smiles all over people’s faces, everyone becoming positive party animals. Just telling you that now, in the middle of the Covid crisis, it makes you really feel that absence deep inside…
What makes partying in your nightclub special?
Macadam is about intensity and immersion. It’s a 400-capacity club, in semi-darkness, with an intense sound produced using a quadraphonic Funktion-One System by our partner Combeuil Audio. The 180° DJ booth is at the same height as the crowd, surrounded by people who are very close to the artist. The different levels of the floor create various mini-dancefloors in the same space, stimulating several feelings at the same time. And we’re totally committed to our no photo policy, which is definitely crucial for letting go. No screens in the air, no flashes aimed at the artists, no chance of grabbing any faces or bodies, everything is geared towards the experience, the connection and the personal memories. We really do believe in that. All these elements go towards making Macadam what it is. Then the organisers bring their personal vibes and identities, sometimes using scenography, lights… the possibilities are endless. But the real identity of the place comes from the points stated above.
Please describe one specific night during your club’s life that illustrates its DNA?
Actually, we’ve got particularly powerful memories of two psychedelic nights: the first one with Andrew Weatherall, who played an all-nighter hosted by Androgyne, and the other during Alexis Le Tan & Vladimir Ivkovic’s 4h B2B hosted by ArteFaact. Both nights became spiritual, driven by DJs akin to shamans. It was as if the crowd had mutated into one unique form circling over the club, like a huge spiral. So much emotion was felt on those nights, the feeling that comes from having shared a special moment with not just the artists but all the other people too (Weatherall had some fans who had come from the UK especially to see him play all night long), a kind of unforgettable memory of something rare and precious.
How does your club interact with its political local context?
Since the beginning, we’ve imposed an artistic line at Macadam and an official communication. Nantes is a pretty open-minded city, with an audience willing to discover new things. The different organisers know each other and are used to interacting with each other, and City Hall supports places that create new opportunities for the cultural scene.
The direct exchanges that we have with City Hall and the Regional Department for Music are very positive. Since Covid happened, we’ve opened the club for artists in the middle of the creative process thanks to a City Hall subsidy, in partnership with Le Ferrailleur, a club dedicated to rock and metal in Nantes. The electronic music scene used to be very nomadic in Nantes, with crews running parties in several bars, concert halls and discotheques. Since Macadam opened its doors 3 years ago, the venue has brought together a significant group of actors, offering new possibilities and bringing stability and quality to the Nantes nightlife scene. We feel supported by the institutions and our local environment. It’s very positive and motivating to be here. Our model is independent and private, but we also like to get involved in our local system and encourage musical creation.
Would you say running your nightclub also means being engaged politically?
Yes, in the sense that you’re part of the global cultural system in your city, you’re an official actor in your country, you’re a representative of the electronic music community. We think that our role as party organisers is a way to break down social divides between people. We’re not taking direct political action by running this club, but we know that doing it contributes to individual and collective expressions, and freedom. The dancefloor gets political when the club’s position – or that of its crowd – gets subversive to authority. Sometimes we feel like our position can be political, other times things are simple and we enjoy the lightness of hosting parties.
What is the social and political role of the “night” sector?
“Night” is an immense world if we think about it in the sense of “when it is not daytime”, when it’s dark. “Night” is not the opposite of day but is, in fact, its continuity: the other half of the same circle. It’s poetic because of the rhythm of seasons, climate, geography. “Night” is not the same in different cities, countries, continents…
In Nantes, as in Amsterdam for example, there’s an elected representative for the Night and also a Night Council that brings together stakeholders from hostels, bars, nightclubs, association representatives committed to drug and alcohol addiction issues, other associations committed to prostitution on the street, public lighting, noise pollution, City Hall security, city centre residents… When you take this higher point of view about the night, we feel small but at least we’re on the map. Our role is for people to take notice of us and to be aware of the position of the night more generally, and how it participates in our city’s evolution and development. We much prefer to share our point of view about the night at an official level, to be able to discuss it and to know where conflict areas may arise, rather than doing things unilaterally. Nightclub representatives like it when we fight against prejudices and stereotypes about nightlife, when we share real experiences, professional and positive approaches.
At Macadam, we feel that we’re a safe space for everyone to be themselves. It seems like some people have to wait for night to come around before they can be themselves. And when you think about it, we all do. We wait for the night to explore the deepest part of ourselves, sometimes getting extreme, sometimes falling in love, sometimes discovering new realities. Dancing is a great way to feel free and to let go, connecting or disconnecting bodies and minds, creating movements, surprising ourselves… To dance is also to break free from your “daytime attitude”, seated at your desk, trying to say the right things… It’s a vector of equality between people, when you’re dancing you have no boss; the music is your leader. When you dance in a dark place, no one can judge you. You don’t care about anything but your emotions and feelings. We think that Macadam is an introspective and collective place at the same time. When you party you’re alone in the dark, but simultaneously you’re also connected to the crowd and the atmosphere. Our role is to protect and enhance those opportunities at Macadam, and even more so after this huge global crisis.
Would you say that the current “nightlife” shutdown is a democratic issue?
We think that it’s an attack on democratic spaces and environments. The night and nightlife venues are powerful settings for ideas and for sharing, almost secretly and outside of the control of authority. So yes, this is a very tough period for everyone, for us as organisers, for the audience, for the artists, for all our technical partners, for the media. Because as we said before, we cannot explore the night anymore right now. And it’s not only about being able to party, it’s about being able to go wherever you like, whenever you like, to do whatever you want, with whoever you want. And the night is definitely the best moment to do all of this.
Also, this lockdown attacks the artistic line, which is part of the democratic dialogue. Of course, many of the artists live on tour fees, and many artists do not have any income with this crisis, even more so in an electronic music sector that is still building its legitimacy with every passing year, but remains a long way behind jazz or rock from an institutional standpoint. We hope that the artists can still find the hope and energy to create music. On our small scale, we try to encourage creation with a residency program and by sharing music through radio platforms. It’s not easy to answer now, but one question might be: how will electronic music be transformed by this crisis?
How do you see the future?
We want to stay positive because we absolutely believe in the night and the party scene. But also we don’t want to see this crisis as a parenthesis. We’re living this right now, and learning lessons as we go. For example, we’ve had plenty of time to study statistics about our activities since 2017. We know more than ever that we have to be committed to getting closer to gender parity in our programming. Also, our ecological impact can be improved by initiating collective action with other local and national organisers, and by reflecting on how we might be encouraging environmentally irresponsible behaviour regarding transport. We want to improve what we were doing before considering ecological and social environments, and to be close to the people who come to our events. What we propose is simple and sincere: we are a place for equality and sharing.
New movements are giving hope for the future too. The “Appel des Indépendants” was an important step to highlight the weight of the private and independent cultural actors in France and Europe. Also, with other clubs in France and the federation Culture Bars-Bars, we are trying to create a new status for nightclubs, which activity looks like that of concert halls in their artistic proposal, but still not part of the cultural ground, as is Macadam and as are at least 30 other places in France. This would open the new Club Culture status to our places and legitimate our cultural commitment to institutions.
Party and nightlife will remain a laboratory for the future. We can see that electronic music is growing everywhere. There are more and more spaces to share: in festivals, clubs, in the street. This is a big opportunity to share music; to avoid the commercial option by choosing the alternative one, focused on emergence and driven by curiosity.
Partying is organic, it’s inside people, more for some, less for others. But human beings have been partying ever since they first existed. We will be partying long into the future, this is our profound belief.