“On Guy Fawkes Night we built this massive, fake indoor bonfire with smoke machines and TVs, it was kind of a joke because we tried it outside and it was illegal,” recounts Tom Harrad, one fifth of the Off Modern collective, which is made up of Goldsmiths and Chelsea College graduates. Their office is located inside a former NHS building: the editorial space, where their infamous journal is fashioned, contrasts with Yuri’s hands-on studio next door. But when Felix talks about not “differentiating between the two” he’s actually referring to the crossover of their journal and their club night. “Buren Seneviratne not only DJ’d at Off Modem but also exhibited his work,” adds Tom. Still at university, the nineteen year olds became conscious that “there really wasn’t anything going on for the people who went to Chelsea, Goldsmiths or Camberwell based round here.” A few of the group had worked in Hannah Barry’s pop up café in Peckham, but they’re quick to point out that just because they may have spoken to the Cambridge-educated gallerist doesn’t mean they can be clubbed together in the same way.
Individually they’d all executed smaller projects; Off Modern was a way to start being serious. Together they were approached by Corsica Studios, based underneath an abandoned railway arch, to put on an event. “It’s a really good, dirty sound system. We had to make it look slightly more like a gallery though,” clarifies Tom, who also manages the band Fiction. “It was a mess,” remembers Will, “at first we had group shows with twenty artists and friends in one space.”
Now it’s become a place where bands like Hounds of Hate do one-off live installations but also a platform for a monthly crowd to take part in exhibitions. To Yuri, it’s “an ongoing look at how art and music intersect: how that process naturally comes about. Also, it’s about spotting the people who are already doing these things.” The night is unlike the !WOWOW!’s 1980s Warhol warehouse vibe, tinged with fashion and performance. In the place of fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s sweatshop you’ll find a curated gallery and a live event space; as with an exhibition opening, alcohol comes free for the first few hours.
This generation is firmly rooted in London’s local heritage. Off Modern writers are dedicated to grassroots culture, rejecting the cult of celebrity —smaller projects such as Nail the Cross saw Lewisham’s empty billboard spaces taken over in an advertising campaign long before Rankin and Sky Arts teamed up. Inevitably, success has seen interest flare up, with the Japanese requesting copies of the ‘zine to be sent over. Closer to home, Parisians were “blown away” by Off Modern’s club nights — so much so that they’re looking to set up Euro Star Records with the collective. Buzzing, the others start to chat about the launch of the new website, film projects and a TV programme. In the words of Johnny, “there are a lot of exciting things that we’ve got on our minds that will soon come to fruition.”