XOYO, the ultra-hip Shoreditch music venue and gallery space celebrated its first birthday two weeks ago. Cymon Eckel, one of the four founding members (the other three are John Burgess, Marcus Weedon and Tom Baker) took the time to talk to us about the past year, the next year and losing four fingers in a George Michael-related accident.
When did the four of you first conceive of XOYO?
‘The initial idea came about in 2008-2009. We were looking to try and unify music with the art and culture that gets thrown off of it. From that time I’d been looking for the right site and the right people to work with and that happened two years ago, just a year before we opened.’
Did you have a clear vision of what it was that you wanted to develop?
‘We wanted to create a space that totally elevated the level of going out to see bands and to a club. We wanted to have this loft environment that merged being a gallery of art with being a space for music. We wanted to profile the best of what we could at any point in time but didn’t want to set ourselves up as being the pacemakers.’
A year on, how does the reality compare to your vision?
‘The music content that flows through there has been great. The cultural and arts gallery side has been slower to develop and part of that has been due to things like the compression in the worldwide financial markets. A lot of the time we were working on shows that required a certain element of corporate sponsorship.
‘We’re working now on big gallery projects that take longer to develop and looking to expand our repertoire and create shows that may be more multimedia so you can go in, witness work, hear work and then take some work away with you – whether that be in the form of a print, some kind of book or a limited edition vinyl.’
So what have been the highlights of the last year?
‘I would say Frankie Knuckles at Boys Own, One Oh Trix Point Never, The Twilight Sad and our birthday weekend.’
And what has been the lowlight of the year?
‘Not opening on the opening night. We opened five days after we’d intended to. We actually trended on Twitter worldwide for about four hours. That was quite funny. I’ve actually got on my office wall a quote from Twitter: “XOYO is like the band that never was. They were so cool that they disbanded before they performed”. So that was the low point: everyone pushing creatively and professionally then not making it on what was basically a technicality. One can only apologise to all those who wanted to come that night and the bands that wanted to play.’
It doesn’t seem to have done you any harm in the long run
‘We paid the cost in negative comments here and there but in the end I think we delivered and hopefully you being interested in us at this point is a testament to all the work we put in to doing what we do.’
If you had to summarise the passion in your life in one word what would that be?
And how is your hand? I hear that you lost the fingers on your left hand while working on the set of a George Michael video.
‘The fingers were carted off in 1988. They’re long gone. They’ve been incinerated. I’ve had a number of difficult moments but my passion in life is ideas and another way to say that is creativity and out of that loss I had an idea for a new life and I think that’s the most important thing.’
Do you have artificial fingers?
‘I don’t. I actually had my biggest toe from my left foot transplanted to what was the stump of my thumb on my left hand which gave me what they call “opposition”, which means I can pick things up and grip them with my left hand which, again, is part of a wonderful creative process because you go in and see a surgeon and they can rebuild you.’
XOYO’s known for having a minimalist decor. Was that a deliberate thing to get everyone focused on the music or were you boys just on a budget?
‘That was all purposeful. It was a reflection of me being 17-18 in 1988 and being in places like The Hacienda that had that warehouse aesthetic.’
And finally did you know that there was another Cymon Eckel out there who specialises in vinyl flooring?
He actually offers a range of vinyl products
Spelt exactly the same. He has a website
‘That is staggering. Would you mind forwarding that to me?’
32-37 Cowper St
Tel: 020 7490 1198