Following our recent poll of readers you revealed that Stiff Kitten was the club you missed most in Belfast.
What better way to reminisce than to get in touch with one of the guys who was responsible for making Stiff Kitten one of the most essential venues in the city.
Here’s our chat with DJ and all-round top media personality David ‘Rigsy’ O’Reilly who reminded us why we loved Stiff Kitten so much…
How did you end up involved with Stiff Kitten?
I was already a resident at Shine – and knew Alan and Phil – the guys who ran that club – pretty well. When they decided to get their own venue – which would be the Stiff Kitten, myself and my DJ partner Paul McClean agreed to run the Thursday night. The whole idea of the venue was really exciting from the start – knowing as we did just how clued in they were when it came to electronic music. The first DJ to play the venue was drum n’ bass legend High Contrast – so the bar was set pretty high from the start.
What do you remember of your first night on the decks there?
Our night at The Stiff Kitten was called Sketchy – and the opening night (in 2005) featured Colin Murray – then a Radio 1 DJ. My memories are pretty hazy – it was that kind of night – but there was a LOT of crowd surfing. I also have it in my head Colin mixed the theme to Grandstand into the theme from Match of the Day. Maybe that’s when he realised he wanted to stop DJing and be a sports presenter. It was the first of many, many crazy nights in there.
Care to name drop a few of the other luminaries of the NI DJ scene who played there?
Shine resident Alan Simms ruled the roost for a couple of years – before hanging up the headphones and concentrating on running the likes of Belsonic and – these days – The Limelight. Paul Hamill (Psycatron), Jack Hamill (Space Dimension Controller) and Phil Kieran were amongst the locals who hosted and DJ’d at many of the bigger nights.
What about some of the big names you brought over to play?
At Sketchy, we had the likes of Calvin Harris and Mark Ronson DJing – both were just £5 on the door, which is absolutely crazy. And it’s not like this was before they were famous – both were very well established at the time, we just wanted to keep the door price the same. The night Mark Ronson played was particularly crazy – he ended up going to the Emerald for a chippy, then to the Holylands for a party! He told Q Magazine it was the best night he’d ever had DJing, which was pretty cool. Other nights I remember fondly featured the likes of Skrillex, 2manyDJs, Richie Hawtin and Disclosure.
Do you recall any of the former incarnations of Stiff Kitten, eg Chicago Pizza Pie Factory?
I remember Chicago Pizza Factory having pretty horrible, but very cheap cocktails, I think? I also have a vague recollection of it being something in between Chicago Pizza Pie and The Stiff Kitten – where they had this weird eyeball ID thing on the door. Again, I may have remembered that wrong…
How would you sum up a night in Stiff Kitten?
It was always loud and sweaty. And the antithesis of the majority of clubs in Belfast, in that there was a really mixed crowd, no daft dress codes and very little posing. I used to describe how everyone ended up as a ‘hot mess’.
What we’re the staple tunes?
At Sketchy, we operated a pretty lose, anything goes approach to DJing. So there was always plenty of curveballs and – depending in how much I’d have to drink – I’d play everything from Toto to Hall & Oates, Darude to Biggie Smalls – mixed in amongst a load of house and hip hop. But the staples were always the type of rock / rave crossover stuff – so back in the day that would have been called ‘electro’ or – and I’m shuddering here – ‘Nu Rave’. But the music was all over the place. Either ‘eclectic’ or ‘a shambles’ depending on how you look at it.
Any bizarre music requests?
At Sketchy – no. It’d be pretty rich us calling any request bizarre given some of the stuff we played. Someone did ask me for a fish supper once though.
What’s your lasting memory of your time at Stiff Kitten?
The last night of Sketchy at Stiff Kitten was pretty perfect. I played Fleetwood Mac – which we always ended the night with – and literally crowd surfed out the door. I had to get someone to go back in and get my stuff. If I had to pick one moment though – 2manydjs borrowing my headphones – and then asking me the name of a song I played in a warm up set – that was a nice moment, especially given I’d made a living out of kinda ripping them off.
For people looking to recapture the vibe of Stiff Kitten, where should they check out in Belfast?
The spirit of Stiff Kitten lives on with Shine – which is enjoying something of a purple patch these days, a total renaissance. Shine run huge events both up at QUBSU and at The Limelight. Pretty much the same booking policy as Stiff Kitten – so recently Shine has welcomed the likes of Green Velvet, Ben Klock, Jackaster and local heroes Bicep. Meanwhile Sketchy still runs every Thursday night at The Limelight – and is bigger than ever! Friday mornings remain a struggle…