written by: Oct 26 2014
Meat market. That’s probably the single most scathing phrase you can use to deride any nightclub, instantly summoning images of freshman college students’ Jägerbomb disasters, overly handsy door staff, and the projectile vomit splash zones you have to avoid as the lights come up and you’re herded out the door.
So it’s a weird irony that London’s best club is a building originally constructed as an actual meat market.
Anyone vaguely plugged into the UK’s club scene—or just dance music in general—will know Fabric, the labyrinthine meat-and-poultry-storage-facility-turned-dance-mecca at Smithfield Market in London. It’s the clubber’s club—a place for dance music fans to lose their minds over dubplates and drops, rather than a glorified speed dating venue with bottle service and a bag search policy.
The venue celebrates its 15th anniversary this week, but I’d doubt that many of the drum ‘n’ bass pilgrims or 8 AM teeth-grinders realize how much of its sustained success is bound up in the story, ethos, and character of the man I’m interviewing today, co-founder Keith Reilly.
The story begins in the name. The Reillys are one of Britain’s most notorious organized crime families, second only to north London’s infamous Adams Family—with whom they held regular battles up-and-down Caledonian Road for much of the 80s and 90s. When Keith’s Uncle John was arrested at the age of 65, he was holding 12 pounds of cocaine and, in the words of the arresting officer, “enough automatic weapons to take on the Taliban.”
But Keith insists that none of his immediate family were ever involved in that kind of business. His father was one of 15 brothers, and there was only so much armed robbery and racketeering to go around, so Keith grew up in the (mostly) legitimate world of trucking and distribution. “This is significant,” he says, “as it meant that I had access to a lot of empty warehouses.”
So Keith did what any Bowie and Velvets-obsessed young man would do given the chance: He started putting on warehouse parties.