Refocus Priorities: Yant talks sweat, strobes and his new party

A master of hypnotic freight train techno, and one of Manchester's best DJs and producers, tells Finest about the aims of his new event series, which emphasises intimacy, musical freedom and generous set times.

By Martin Guttridge Hewitt | 25 October 2022

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Patience is a virtue Andrew Tomlinson seems to have in spades. And not just because we’re running late for our meeting, which begins when we find this rising star of Manchester’s thriving club scene outside Eastern Bloc records on an overcast but thankfully dry afternoon. Nobody wants to wait around in the rain.

Better known to those who know as Yant, this Clitheroe, Lancashire expat has serious momentum behind him as DJ and producer. Which is fitting, considering the artist is synonymous with a deeply immersive, detailed, hypnotic techno that nonetheless runs like a freight train at uncompromising speed, as exemplified on releases for imprints including Jay Clarke’s Blackaxon, German institution SK_Eleven, and Hardgroove, headed up by the legendary Ben Sims.

Just desserts for relentlessly putting work in since first buying CDJs during teenage-hood, his parents making it clear there was no space for turntables in his room, this mild-mannered, ego-free guy also refuses to force opportunity, instead believing things come at the right time. A new mix for cult Georgian club Bassiani is one case in point — born from a well-earned reputation for quality music, not social status. Refocus, a party he launches this Friday at The Loft featuring Berghain resident and HAMAM Nights host Sedef Adasi, and Aletha, is another.

Yant is launching his first regular club night, Refocus, at The Loft with Sedef Adasi (C) Abbie Fowler

“I did do something a few years ago at Stage & Radio, with a couple of friends from back home in Clitheroe,” Yant replies when asked if this is his first time stepping out as promoter into Manchester’s hectic nightlife calendar. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but have had the mindset that if I’m going to do it it’s going to be done properly. I never wanted to rush into it.

“I’m keen for the focus to be on longer sets. They’re the ones I always remember myself, and it really takes me back to the first parties I was going to in Manchester,” he continues, citing one session at Soup with Hessle Audio co-founder Pearson Sound in charge of music from open to close, as particularly inspiring. “I want to build respect for the night around a level of trust, so people know even if they don’t recognise the guest it’s going to be good. It will be worth attending.”

An achievement to say the least, Yant’s goal is reliant on adding genuine value to Manchester’s nighttime culture, and forming a loyal community of regular attendees. To do that, Refocus needs to create a tangible sense of identity, and help provide a fresh platform from which others can springboard.

Refocus aims to encourage musical exploration and celebrate pared back parties (C) Jake Davis

“There are so many things we can be doing,” says Yant. “One is bringing more diversity through, and I mean in terms of music and identity. So giving people a space where they can be experimental in terms of tunes. And also finding people coming through and really getting behind and investing support into them. Building them up outside the party, whether through guidance, contacts, or involvement in production sessions, DJ sessions, talks, stuff like that.

“For me, the early parties I attended back in Clitheroe are still a big inspiration. They made a massive impression. Maybe not in terms of set times, or lengths, but the intensity of the place,” he continues, recalling the now-defunct Apoco Sessions. “This small, very sweaty room with a big rig. There was one or two people building their own, so a bit of a soundsystem culture around there. That heaviness, rawness, maybe just a strobe light, or very minimal lighting and production — nothing fancy, a room full of music heads and mates, those nights are special.”

Refocus’ format, the idea of giving people more hours to play, is about encouraging more daring, less obvious track selections and musical direction. Despite current associations with a clear sound, Yant’s formative years were defined by drum & bass, not techno, while his brother introduced donk, bassline and niche house to that personal history, betraying broad tastes.

Yant first regular foray into promoting parties has been some time coming (C) Abbie Fowler

“Curation of a night is the most important thing to me,” Yant says. “I’m very open-minded musically and it’s really about the flow of the event, rather than genre. That means it’s important to bring artists who understand that… I’m probably going to be pushing into some more experimental bookings.

“The Loft is an ideal spot for this. The venue has a lot of potential. And going with a club that wants you involved to grow with it is a great thing,” he continues. “There are other venues in Manchester I like, but at different life stages, if you know what I mean? This place also has a really good soundsystem, which is obviously so important, and the crowd can get right to and around the booth… so there’s that intimate, fun feeling in there I think will encourage people to play what they want, have a good time, and not feel boxed in.”

Refocus launches at The Loft MCR, M40 8AW, on Friday 27th October with Sedef Adasi, Yant and Aletha. Advanced tickets are available.