Words: Niamh McNeela
#12 Rutland Place is a new venture gaining ground on Dublin’s north side, providing an open rehearsal and performance space for an eclectic mix of musicians. We talk to one of the six founders, musician Patrick Groenland, about the demand for such a space and the obstacles facing the improvised music genre.
So tell me a little bit about the space. There are six of you heading up the project, are you all musicians yourselves?
We’re all primarily improvising musicians and leaders of our own projects in our early twenties to late thirties, ranging from playing quite loud funky music, to experimental free improvised music, world music… these sorts of things. In previous years we would have put on small events, trying to make a wide variety of ‘non-commercial’ music happen. We had become a bit weary of trying to please barmen and coming up against brick walls with venues. For artistic reasons there are a lot of barriers when it comes to hosting events – what we wanted to do was play our own music, finding a way to cut out that extra middleman by pooling our collective resources and efforts. Our goal has always been to run a venue or a hub specifically for our music and our ‘people’. So far we’ve been open about six months and are expanding.
Can you give us an idea of what kinds of bands are involved?
Mixed Tapes from the Underground are a live hip-hop improv band with MC’s then there’s OKO, a groove-based synthy improv group Leafzang is my own group and I guess you’d call us alt-folk. My brother then is in a contemporary soul band called D Groenland and the Maj7ths and finally Phisqua are a Peruvian jazz group. The stylistic output varies but the process of experimentation and improvisation is present in all of the aforementioned. The space used to be known as ‘Hello Operator’ and it had already set a precedent for the kind of activities we want to continue doing here.
What would you say the goal is with this space? Are you basing it on anything you’ve seen before?
There are continental models we’d like to emulate. In quite a few other European cities there is at least one general space like this for improvised music – anything that’s a bit left-field. This is the gap we’ve identified and the space (literally) we’d like to fill. Thus far we’ve been focusing on the gig side of things and secondarily we’ve been using it as an area for rehearsals. The next thing we want to focus on is education; workshops, things like that. We have a few planned for late November and these will be free (donation based). One will be general guitar improvisation and the other will be an intro to stylistic-based improvisation with a group of musicians.
I can imagine the importance of such a space for up and coming musicians, does this offer a unique opportunity for collaboration and creativity?
Of course, it’s all about mixing things up and experimenting. It’s really an opportunity to bounce off one another and to have some ‘playtime’. We wanted a place where we could do that without the pressure of a gig coming up, a space where we can experiment and anything or nothing could come of it, but without that pressure. It’s so important to have a space and a time where that could happen without any onus, otherwise it becomes very goal-based as opposed to process-based. Of course a deadline always helps to get the final gloss on something, but we wanted to be able to present the more completed things to ourselves first, then to our friends and to the public.
Evidently the space is filling a gap for those musicians who can’t afford to rent out spaces to rehearse and who don’t have the industry insiders to navigate paying gigs. How exactly are you funding the whole project?
Six of us are paying rent at the moment and then we’re being supplemented by the Improvised Music Company (IMC). They’re working with us, trying to be imaginative in terms of programming and what we can do. We’ve all been on our own for quite a while doing our own thing, so it’s been quite a struggle trying to get everyone together to expand the definition of what the space does. The rehearsal space is available for a slightly reduced price; we’re not aiming to make a huge profit on it but not massively undercutting other studios at the same time. For us we hope that this is a space where people with a similar mindset in terms of experimentation can come and work.
And what kind of facilities have you got here for members?
We have a back line of a few amps, a drum kit, a PA, a mic and a stand and some leads. Having a silent space is quite important; here you’re not competing or fighting to be heard. With a lot of other places you’re competing with the rock band next door. That’s exactly what we didn’t want with the space.
So what’s coming up over the next few months? You guys have weekly gigs at the moment, would you consider expanding on these?
Up until now, gigs have been on Saturdays at 8/8.30, at which we run a BYOB policy. We will host some events on Fridays nights too and are planning some movie nights with improvised scores. We’re talking to a small orchestra who’ll be using the space on Sundays and we have a free improvised group that meet early on Fridays and will shortly be open to the public. We’d love to get more disciplines involved, so get in touch with whatever ideas you have!
#12 Rutland Place, Dublin 1. For more see www.facebook.com/12Rutland