Following the grand reopening of KOKO in London, officials at the iconic center spoke to NME about the improvements made and what it means for the city’s musicians, artists and cultures.
Prior to its relaunch as “a state-of-the-art 50,000 square foot live music venue and broadcast house”, the venue (located at 1A Camden High Street) was initially closed in 2019 for a year-long planned refurbishment. These plans were scrapped following a fire at the center in January 2020, and progress was further delayed by the coronary virus pandemic and “massive water damage”.
This week (Friday 29 April), Arcade Fire performed for the first time at Camden’s newly refurbished venue to launch their upcoming album “WE”, before Luciano presided over the first night of “KOKO Electronic” the following night to celebrate the huge £ 70m. refurbishment of the premises.
KOKO was founded by Olly Bengough in 2004 after she replaced Camden Palace. Speaking to NME, he said that this latest version brings together “222 years of London history together”, and also “looks to the future” by building the former Hope & Anchor pub to the rear (built in 1860) to become in its KOKO Café and old piano factory from the 1800s to become a new five-story club for members of House Of KOKO.
“In the 60’s The Stones played, in the 70s the Clash and Sex Pistols, AC / DC and Iggy Pop, in the 80s at the Madonna concert in London, Prince, the new romances Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Boy George. In the ’80s , Madonna debut in London, Prince, performed the new romances like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Boy George, and in the ’90s, Blur. “
“When I set up the theater in 2003, Amy Winehouse had just arrived, we were lucky enough to release the Coldplay album ‘X&Y’ and Madonna returned to her album ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’. No matter who it is, the theater has always been a host of incredible artists and represented the best of London’s world and culture. It has never been corporate and always owned by independents and entrepreneurs. We always take that into account. “
As for the main venue, Bengough said many improvements had been made to accommodate concerts and audiophiles.
“The theater has been restored to its original state, which took us three years as it has not been refurbished like this since 1900,” he said, “all the bars are very well designed and prudent. we have D&B. 3D sound. This is the first time in the world that it has been replaced, so I think that everyone will be amazed at the level of sound and sound. “
He continued, “During the construction, we found space for the flying tower. Each theater has one, and it’s where the hands of the stage draw the scenery between scenes. It’s very high, but does not see the audience ever. Now we have built one. “a gallery around it that allows us, with the stage curtain, to function as a room with a capacity of 150. The funny thing now is that the artists can play in KOKO, they can play in the flying tower, or some artists are talking to us to play both venues. It’s great for us – we now have three different performance devices. “
By bringing KOKO Cafe and The House Of KOKO into the main venue area, Bengough said they could host about 1,000 artists a year “in different spaces that everyone can be a part of” through live performances and broadcasts.
“It’s great for us, but it’s also great for London and culture,” he said, “KOKO is always there and people can always buy a ticket to a show. KOKO House gives our community the opportunity to be a member. ” if you want to experience backstage and get a little more luxury. That means there are five floors where you can entertain your friends and guests, we have built a 40 – seat speakeasy jazz club with Nick Lewis from Ronnie Scott programs to.
“We have this wonderful town house where you can go to shows in the theater, or you can go to our new Ellen concert space and see a show, you can go to the studio where there will be parties and events, facilities we. from the radio station to showcasing emerging talent, and we have vinyl listening booths for anyone who enjoys and loves music.
“Lots of musicians, artists and actors joined, so it’s great to have the support of that art community.”
Music fans around the world can now also enjoy KOKO with 4K building streaming enabled throughout the building.
“Now an artist can put on an analogue show where they do not have to broadcast, or if they want to broadcast and distribute their shows or backstage features to their audiences around the world, now they can do it at the push of a button, “said Bengough.
“They don’t have to introduce any production companies. We have increased the creative perimeter of artists so they can come in and do big shows, small shows, they can stream and create limited edition content. We’re here to support them and make them look good. ” at every level. ”
In the coming months, KOKO will feature the likes of Pete Doherty, Jorja Smith and 2ManyDJs, and the venue is expected to welcome about 45,000 fans in May alone. The venue’s musical director Nick Lewis explained NME KOKO’s mission to continue its role as “a cultural institution that supports all new music movements, including genres that other venues may reject.”
“KOKO has seen many musical movements throughout its history, which is very special: from new wave and punk, to groundbreaking concerts with The Clash, The Jam and The Cure, to the new romantic era with Iggy Pop, Duran Duran, Ultravox and Boy. George, and was at the heart of the rave and acid-house scene of the late 80s and ’90s.
“Over time, KOKO has hosted some of the most iconic artists, from Madonna and Amy Winehouse to Kanye, Stormzy and Dua Lipa, to name a few. When the theater first opened in 1901, Charlie Chaplin was staged, and later Monty Python and The Goon Show were broadcast from the building when it was owned by the BBC between 1945 and 1975. The Rolling Stones made their first live broadcast from the stage in 1964.
“It’s such a special and majestic theater in which unforgettable memories of musicians are created.”
Speaking of the “three-year, three-year refurbishment process,” Lewis said music fans would notice the years of love and effort that have transformed the venue.
“Fans attending a show at KOKO have always felt the grandeur of the theater, but when we reopen I think it will be an even richer experience,” he said, “The sound and lighting have greatly improved, the viewing screens with. upstairs, we have planted more bars to get a (good) drink, and with integrated live streaming throughout the venue, we are going to produce hybrid events for those who are unable to attend the concert in person. , I am proud of our eclectic open music program and I hope that NME readers will approve of it as well. ”
Regarding KOKO House and KOKO Café, Lewis said they will try to pay homage to “Camden’s rich local history, which is synonymous with independent music.”
“We will do this by supporting the most exciting and innovative local talent throughout the building, including at the KOKO Café on the ground floor, as well as our new stages in the partner areas,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. working with the local community and doing justice to the center’s history. Music fans should look forward to the best local and live music throughout the building. “
He added, “Artists will have the choice to make their visit truly special in a variety of ways. They may want to take over our new KOKO store for a day as part of their release album, or stream their performance live for their friends. ” fans from all over the world, or maybe create a VIP show for some fans in our new “flying tower” inside the theater Our new studio “KOKO Studios” will broadcast live radio to support new talent and add film facilities and recording available to artists. , so there is also the option for artists to be creative with us. ”
Acknowledging that Nick Cave would have set up solo piano as well as a performance at the D’Angelo Quartet with Pino Palladino, Anderson as part of his dream night at KOKO. Paak, Kate Bush and FKA Twigs, followed by Branch Feeder Club Night, Lewis said the mission of the show’s reservation was to “pay homage to the rich history of theater while innovating across genres.”
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the artists, agents, promoters and managers we worked with who booked one of the first shows back with us,” he said. “All of this wouldn’t work without them – and not just Arcade Fire for being the first to come back!”
Visit here for details on upcoming KOKO events.