And the untouchable feeling of sitting in the passenger seat on the way to your night out
Gabe Gurnsey is a night time guy. He has been since before he formed Factory Floor in 2005 and started playing post-industrial techno at 3am.
He grew up in West Yorkshire and Wales, where his older brother introduced him not just to club music but – importantly – to driving to the club. Whether it’s going to Fabric to see Four Tet or driving to your local Liquid to hear chart hits on shuffle, the journey to a club is a unique and unmistakable part of a night out. Sometimes it’s the best part. It’s not just clubbing, of course – driving through dark, deserted streets with music on is a sensory experience whatever you’re listening to and wherever you’re going. It’s what made the Drive soundtrack such a hit, and how everything on Magic FM can suddenly seem so wise and beautiful. It’s probably something to do with the solitude and blackness and freedom of an empty street. We’d all like to live in a film sometimes, and listening to music as you drive around at night is a pretty good shortcut to that feeling. It sounds corny but it’s true.
For Gabe and his brother it was always a club, and when he talks about feeling “untouchable” in the passenger seat of a car on his way to a night out, it’s a feeling that many of us can relate to. When you’re driving to a club, it’s not solitary and contemplative – it’s communal and exciting and dangerous. It’s this feeling that Gabe explores on his debut solo album, ‘Physical’, released this month via Erol Alkan’s Phantasy Sound label.
‘Physical’ is decidedly warmer sounding than Factory Floor, exploring the celebratory corners of dance music, from Chicago house to Balearic pop. It’s fitting that parts of it sound like music from the Hacienda, considering Gabe now lives in Manchester following time spent in Los Angeles. He’s reluctant to call ‘Physical’ a concept record but in a way it is, sequenced to recreate a night out, from getting ready to arriving at the club, getting on it, finding your way home and navigating the early morning the following day. There’s even one track (‘Version’) that simulates the moment you pause for a fag on the smoker’s terrace.
Key to this “record about clubbing, even more than it is a record to be played in clubs,” is the driving. And so I thought it would make the most sense to talk to Gabe about ‘Physical’ as we drove around town at midnight. Serendipitously, our photoshoot took place next to where Factory Floor’s studio once was, before the building was marked for demolition in 2014. It was finally pulled down just a couple of weeks ago, and is where our drive began, in Seven Sisters, North London, heading south through the centre of town.