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Chinese Laundry - Cleaning Up The Scene

Author: Jane Stabler
Monday, 16 June 2008
With Chinese Laundry’s 11th birthday this weekend, 3D’s Jane Stabler caught up with resident DJ Jeff Drake, who’s history with the club is a long and illustrious one.

For clubbers, the word ‘laundry’ takes on a very different meaning to those not in the scene. Images of lumping your weekly bag of smalls to the shop down the road and nodding off while your spin cycle kicks in are about as far from Laundry revellers’ thoughts as attending another club night on a Saturday. Having reached the era of double digits, no mean feat in the club world, Chinese Laundry is now crossing the line into 11 years strong.

Laundry has managed the difficult task of staying popular and relevant to clubbers and DJs alike throughout the last decade. Resident Jeff Drake remembers a time when, as an interstate clubber and a DJ, the Laundry was his favourite place to be, and now the only thing that has changed is he sits on the other side of the business permanently, along with one of his best mates.

“I started DJing there probably about 2005,” Drake recalls. “That’s when I didn’t live in Sydney and did interstate gigs, and I did that once every three months and that turned into a monthly gig and then the residency. Paul [Azzopardi], who runs Laundry and who’s the heart and soul of the club, we worked together in Canberra [and] it’s funny – before Paul or I lived in Sydney, Laundry was our favourite club. All the DJs we really liked played at Laundry and we loved what the club was about, so when Paul moved to Sydney and started working at Laundry it was like a dream come true, he couldn’t [have been] happier. The DJs we’ve seen go through the Laundry, it’s insane, and if I was looking at it from a punters point of view it would be like, ‘Wow this club has the best DJs coming through ever’, but on the other side you realise how much work goes into it. The club’s had such longevity [because] primarily it’s a good music policy, it’s smart. When you maintain that kind of approach that’s when something can have the longevity that Laundry has.”

The length of time the club has been pulling the party people means that many a crowd has been seen by Drake, who’s association with the Laundry extends far beyond some of those who have passed through its doors and graced its dancefloors. The DJ admits that he’s seen the crowds change a lot, more so recently.

“I think the crowd’s become, it might be dangerous to say this, but it’s [currently] probably the most fashiony crowd that’s been there ever,” he says. “I see a lot of young kids who are wearing the fashion of the week and that’s not what the club’s been about in the past, but then the Laundry is one of the safest places you can go to know it’s going to be a good night. There are also the people who are there for the music – at the Cave you gotta know what you’re listing to understand it but, then when you step into the Laundry it’s like a party. So Laundry has got those kids that aren’t there for music and those who are.”

Part and parcel with any ongoing clubbing gig are the memorable crowd members, and the memorable club moments. Drake reveals that it’s not just the GP who get up to crazy antics at the Laundry. In fact, his partner in crime gets to lay claim to one of the more bizarre incidents at the club.

“I’ll embarrass Paul, how does that sound-” Drake laughs of his craziest Laundry recollections. “Basically it was the night Lee Burridge was playing and Paul had been partying earlier and…have you seen Hot Rods- [Paul] was doing a scene where he’s taking the piss out of Footloose and he’s doing this little punch dance thing and it ends with him finding this old surfboard in the backroom near the cave and he basically tries to crowd surf – on the crowd – with the surfboard, while Lee Burridge was playing. It took crowd surfing to a whole new level.”

One person Drake surely wishes the surfboard had landed on that night is a perpetual track requester whose ongoing presence at DJ booths around town has made him somewhat of an infamous character amongst the DJs of the city. And as most serious clubbers know, requests during a DJ set are usually a no-go zone, but something Drake handles good-naturedly, even from Mr Infamous.

“Funnily enough [the Laundry is] the best place for requests – people don’t tend to ask,” he admits. “If I get asked for stuff that’s cool, I don’t mind; I figure it’s a part of it. They’re not asking because they think you’re shit, most of the time peoples’ intentions are really good and they just like a certain style of music. There’s one guy who comes to the club a lot who is really fucking annoying, he comes and asks for stuff not because he wants it but because he wants to prove he knows a track that’s cool. It’s funny, a lot of my friends who are DJs know him, he does it to all of them too, he’s infamous, and he probably has no idea how infamous he is.”

But it’s the oddballs alongside the normal clubbers amongst us that keep the Laundry pumping. After the success of the last 11 years and now that the Chinese Laundry is on the way to hitting its teen years, speculation is highly likely to start on what will happen next, although unlike most teens it’s unlikely that the Laundry become a sulky temper tantrum-prone place to be renamed Spoilt Brat. One thing Drake does know is that he can’t see the club’s pace letting up any time soon, and when it comes to the Laundry’s future, he wants to be involved.

“I hope it doesn’t grow up!” Drake laughs of the club’s future. “The whole 100 top club thing is pretty special. That says something about it and how the club’s perceived internationally. I know Micky Slim is going to be playing there soon and when [he] found out from his agent he was playing Laundry he was ecstatic. [The formula for a club] always needs tweaking, like the Cave is a bit more melodic than it was 12 months ago, the Laundry room is maybe a bit housier. The key is not to stand still but also have a level of consistency. I definitely see myself at the club in the future. I don’t like to play interstate gigs on Saturdays because I miss Laundry. I look forward to every Saturday, you can’t ask for a more up-for-it crowd.”

WHAT: Chinese Laundry’s 11th Birthday
WHEN: Saturday 21 June