In January 2016, two St Andrews students and friends visited Germany. The duo were longtime fans of the fine German techno scene: the dark, underground grit and sweat, nights dancing until 4 am, and best of all, the unconditional, immersive joy and vibrancy fostered by the beats. The duo joked about starting a techno society in St Andrews, and soon messaged their other friend about it. Not long after, the joke turned into a bona fide idea, and The Wax Collective (formerly known as Stechno) was established.
With a tomato juice and two beers, Bastian Geiger, Ollie McKenzie, and Max Moorhouse filed into the Russell Hotel with me. We were meeting to discuss the Wax Collective, its beginnings, and its ultimate transformation into one of St Andrew’s most talked about and anticipated set of events. The trio were bubbling with enthusiasm, eagerly chatting away with me even before entering the hotel; it was clear how much the Wax Collective project meant to them, and how much more is in store for them to produce.
The Wax Collective is a student movement founded on friendship and an honest, open, and carefree passion for music and human connection. Just last semester, the student group became an independent organisation, and while the idea was formulated by these three students, the Wax Collective is equally worked on and continued today with the help of fellow students Joel Andersson, Marcus Cork-Keeling, and Harry Woolley.
“It’s not like St Andrews was bleak,” says Mr McKenzie. “It was just that we liked techno music and it wasn’t really represented.”
The friends, tired of the Vic and 601, found themselves increasingly escaping the town, hitting up Edinburgh and Glasgow for nights out and relishing the techno scene where they could. For them, the creation of the Wax Collective was not due to a lack in St Andrews, but the result of a yearning for something they all mutually enjoyed.
With queues down Bell Street and participating headliners such as Edinburgh based DJ Gav Miller, it is hard to believe that the Wax Collective had such humble beginnings. The first ever Wax Collective “Wax Rooms” event, which was hosted in October 2016, featured a Spotify playlist, a dingy cellar, and a dozen or so friends.
“Our first round at Aikmans didn’t have much of an outreach,” Mr McKenzie admits. “It didn’t tick off at all.”
But this initial image was quickly replaced with live music sets, professional monitors and equipment, and most importantly, sweaty, smiling, dancing crowds.
“The success we’ve had this past month or so has really given us a confidence boost and idea of what is achievable,” Mr McKenzie continues.
Currently, the Collective hosts three stages of events: Wax Rooms, Big Rooms, and most recently, Flash Rooms. The series of events reflects the constant flow of ideas, and the steady transition from thought to manifestation so characteristic of the Wax Collective.
The first event hosted was a Wax Room, now regularly hosted at Aikman’s on the last Sunday of every month. This series of events is reminiscent of the underground, gritty, grimy aspect of the techno world, and regularly feature both local student DJs as well as upcoming DJs from around the UK. Just last month, DJ Wreckless Kettle of Glasgow headlined the first Wax Rooms of 2017, while student DJ Marcus Cork-Keeling played his first live set at a session of Wax Rooms. Big Rooms, meanwhile, is representative of the larger, and as Mr Moorhouse said, more “institutionalised” techno scene, as it is hosted in 601 and aimed to showcase a few local St Andrews DJs, leading up to a headliner.
“People are paying for this sort of event, so we want to give them something that is worth their money,” says Mr Geiger.
Nonetheless, these more “commercialised” techno nights continue to include student DJs, with student Tom Hurst performing his first set at Queer Collective, the collaboration between Big Rooms and the St Andrews LGBT+ society, Saints LGBT+, that occurred on 9th February.
Flash Rooms incorporates the trio’s latest idea and is a perfect example of the students’ energy and commitment to convert actions into words. A night of techno just like Wax Rooms and Big Rooms, Flash Rooms introduces a new level of mystery and excitement, as guests are told about the event, but not the location of it until a couple hours before it is to start. The idea was in part, a product of their circumstances. After the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show was abruptly cancelled this month, the techno enthusiasts struck again.
“A St Andrews based DJ messaged us after FS was cancelled, saying ‘why don’t we do something?’” Moorhouse recalls.
Using speakers and the necessary equipment provided by a student DJ, the Collective went in search for a venue, asking the Vic, Union, and Rule if they could host an event that evening. The spontaneity was exciting, and the idea even more thrilling, egging the boys on. Eventually, they found a house to hold the venue at, and within an hour of receiving that text, the Wax Collective had a yet another type of techno event to share with the town.
“With Flash Rooms,” says Mr McKenzie, we had the theme of a house party, but without the bouncers.” Having all three of these aspects, the Wax Collective reflects a real electronic music culture one might find in cities. “You now have house, underground, and club nights all for your choosing,” explains Mr Geiger.
Additionally, the variation in size of events allows student DJs more freedom to create and explore their own work. “Joel, one of our DJs, used to DJ at the union and main bar, but they have restrictions,” Mr Geiger continues. “Through the Wax Collective, he can really play what he wants to.”
The trio discussed the importance of the reception at such events. How the crowds interact with the music and space they are in, as well as how they engage with one another fosters the community that they have unknowingly cultivate.
“From Stechno to the Wax Collective, our idea stopped being about just techno, and more about how electronic music might bring people together,” says Mr McKenzie.
As Wax Rooms are on Sunday nights, attendees drawn to the events would surely include those keen on experimenting. “A Sunday night at Aikman’s, you’re only going to get people that are really, really into it,” Mr McKenzie continues.
The boys also admitted how important the venue is to their events. “The basement has the best atmosphere for an underground rave,” Geiger notes. “You’ve got a place called the Cellar, and so of course it’s got this underground cellar vibe. I work at Aikman’s, and I’ve worked lots of the Wax Rooms, and I can say that I absolutely love it. You can really lose yourself there.”
“Ultimately, in the history of techno, it has been about giving people a space where they can be completely free,” Mr McKenzie adds. Mr Moorhouse cites this as their biggest goal that they hope to continue, while Mr Geiger admitted their constant hopes that they might bring people a ‘first opportunity’, the chance to try and experience some-thing new. With techno, people can interpret the music however they please, and dance however they feel. The founders noted the importance of keeping their events free of judgement and open to everyone.
“We have meetings frequently,” says Mr Geiger, “And there’s a lot of communication and dedication. From the beginning, we’ve stayed true to what we want to be and never deviate from it. We don’t let our egos get involved.”
Mr Moorhouse proudly mentions the best compliment the group have received: “After Queer Collective (the first Wax Collective Big Rooms), members of the LGBT+ society said it was the first time they felt properly safe on a night out because of the crowd, and what it was about. To us, that is the best thing that we could possibly hear from our audience.”
The Wax Collective is just getting started, and Geiger, McKenzie, Moorhouse and the rest of the Wax Collective have nothing but enthusiasm and energy for what they are doing. “We have a lot of ambition, certain goals and one dream,” Mr Geiger explains. “We set goals for ourselves.”
The product of such steadfast friendship and genuine love for techno amongst the six committee members is the continued growth and increasing longevity of the Wax Collective. These students are sharing something special to them with the rest of the St Andrews community, and are only building on from what they have begun.
The Wax Collective’s have two Wax Rooms in store, both on the 26th of February and March. To stay updated on their events and more, like their page on Facebook at “The Wax Collective.”