Club Filter: 11 years of history in Australian dance culture

Earlier this year a blank stare of disbelief swept over Melbourne’s dance community as news spread that after 11 years and nearly 600 consecutive Wednesday’s later, the most enduring club in worldwide electronic music – Club Filter – would be closing forever. ITM’s inside reporter DJ Ides got together with the man behind the magic, Hot Rod, for a look back at what has made Filter the world’s most unique and unrivalled clubbing institution.

The Filter name was born in 1992 as Rod threw a packet of cigarettes at his then housemate Jason Rudeboy and yelled “Filter!”. From this simple beginning, the name has since been shaped by Rod to stand for everything in electronic music which embraces cutting-edge music and a constantly evolving, vibrant and inspiring atmosphere for its promoters, DJs, musicians, artists and punters alike.

It’s been a rare, sometimes confronting, but uniquely disciplined approach which has seen Rod persist in giving us so many nights of fun and great music that have lasted since day-one in the history of modern electronic music. “I’ve always wanted to have a place where likeminded people can go and feel relaxed: adult orientated with interesting music that’s always changing. What we had to do was remove ourselves away from every other electronic, or techno, or house denomination. As it started to get more popular, we had to move away from that to keep ourselves underground.

“It’s the real stuff that I want to hear and I want to employ those people playing stuff that people are still making in their bedrooms and putting on vinyl – that’s really inspiring, instead of music or fashion or culture that’s made for money. If we’d decided to sell out we would’ve sold out a long time ago and wouldn’t have lasted. That’s why Filter’s lasted – it’s because it’s a place that caters to a lot of people, but not mass amounts of people. It’s always about the newest, most innovative music and innovative people that also don’t really go along with anything. The basic philosophy is that it’s a place that’s just a bit more unique.

“The spiritual aspect is on a décor level: trying to have it very ‘templey’ or very calming and very peaceful. On a DJ level and also of course on a patron level, it is trying to have an energy that people can be a bit more aware of what they’re doing and not so ego-centric and not so in-your-face… It’s just through my own experience, DJing and running clubs and working in night clubs for over 20 years, you get to see a lot of stuff and me trying my hardest to be as spiritually aware as possible, to give that to other people and that’s what Filter’s all about. The DJs are obviously going to have that type of education via us and so is the vibe of the club, the patrons, the staff, the décor, everything… and it’s all worked. I mean we’ve never pushed it down people’s throats it’s quite subtle.”

Even the change in the Filter title – now ‘Club Filter’ – stands as evidence to the diligent evolution of the essential ideas and philosophies Rod welcomes as part of the something very special that the club has offered our city. “I was looking around at all the techno happening and it was getting quite big at this stage (around ‘94), and everything reminded me of ravers, big pants and stuff that I was getting completely over, cause we’d already done that. So I said to Jason and thought ‘Let’s make it into a real club’, make it a bit more stylised and adult orientated… and it worked, it really worked. You know – ‘Club Filter’ – it just looked so much nicer too, even presented. We were still the same and our philosophy was the same. Filter has always been a place for everybody, but especially for a more mature crowd. If we always had kids keeping us going we wouldn’t be here anymore. Whereas an older crowd gets more established; they like to play pool, have a dance, see their friends, hang out. That’s what Filter’s all about, just hangin’ out and I think we actually created that for Melbourne. All promoters have come down every few months to see what was going on and then sort of take our ideas, which I thought was quite inspiring really. People still shake my hand and Jason’s hand in the street going ‘Thanks so much for the inspiration’. We were the guinea pigs that did everything and then people with more money and probably more commercial ideas also would put our more fundamental ideas to use.”

Now after 11 years, Melbourne is left with the prospect that all of these exceptional ideas and values presented to our underground culture by Rod, musically by Jason and through all the work of the tight-nit staff, will be no longer. Rod pragmatically offers us some words as time draws near for Filter to make its last stand as a weekly foundation and pennant for everything ‘electronic music’ in our city. “The secret of Filters success is us being there full-time for the last decade. I was trying my hardest to get overseas for 10 years: I got offered to DJ, to make music, to travel, to do all sorts of amazing things with all these amazing people, and I personally could never go because of Filter. Each time I thought ‘Yeah I’ll go now’, I had to be there cause every 3 months you have to reinvent the night and reinvent the whole thing. I think for probably ten months in the whole 11 years it did run quite freely, where we didn’t have to keep re-inventing it and it was all smooth. But the reason why it was smooth in that period was because I was there the whole fucking time! I just cant do that anymore… Basically, the universe is just saying it’s time to close.”

In the coming months, the good news for Melbourne’s Filter devotees is that Rod and Jason have now come clean about working under the trademark banner on a different scale. “Jason and I have had doing Filter parties on the agenda for the last ten years. And what we’re going to start doing in the next 6 months or so is just do a Filter Reunion party. If that’s successful and people are interested – which I hopefully presume they will be – we’ll continue that once every few months and just have fun.”

The Club Filter finale takes place on Wednesday 11 June 2003 at the Lounge Nightclub. The night will be hosted by Hot Rod, DJs include Rudeboy, Ransom, Luke McD, DJ Ides, Zanna, Dextrus, Dan Woodman and Dom Hogan, with performances by Feral Beral & Co. and décor provided by De Ja Voodoo and Sioux.

ITM would like to congratulate Club Filter on all it’s achievements’ and its tireless contributions to worldwide electronic music over the past 11 years. We wish both Hot Rod and Jason Rudeboy all the best in their future endeavours.