Meet Aaron Mellor, the DJ and architect designing our nights out across the world
From buying his first club in Oldham in 1997 to now owning 36 music venues across the UK, Aaron Mellor, CEO of nightclub patron Tokyo Industries, has been the brains behind some of our biggest nights out for the last twenty years. Boasting sites in Ibiza, Croatia and Los Angeles, as well as Manchester’s Impossible, it’s safe to say that Aaron lives and breathes nightlife.
Aaron has always had that very Northern drive to get out there and do. Growing up in Oldham at the peak of Manchester’s music scene, it wasn’t until he moved to Newcastle to attend university that he realised such a rich music scene isn’t something you find in many places. He says that at the time ‘Newcastle felt a little bit musically lost’, so he started up club nights there which were the early beginnings of Tokyo Industries.
Aaron describes his company as ‘one half property company, one half operator’. Part of Aaron’s job is to scour the world for inspiration for his venues. He says ‘I see a lot of trending activities first hand and I go out and hunt those things. If I hear of a new club that’s opening in Miami or Dubai, I’ll be the first to go and see it.’
Having a finger on the pulse of what people want from their nights out across the world is no easy task. Aaron explains that it’s not about facts and figures: ‘you can’t predict where nightlife is going in the next six months, let alone ten years,’ he says, ‘It’s a case of constant evolution and being two steps ahead of where everybody else is’. Tokyo Industries have stayed ahead of the curve thanks to Aaron’s background in architecture and as a DJ. He says ‘There are no other operators that I know that have got that full 360-vision of the industry that we have as a company.’ Armed with a deep understanding of spaces and still performing DJ sets around the around the world gives Aaron an ideal perspective from which to understand our nightlife needs and translate them into exciting venues.
Unlike the high street’s cookie cutter method where the same ideas are rolled out across the UK, Tokyo Industries always take a fresh approach for each venue. Aaron says ‘A concept may work in Shoreditch, but it’s not going to work in Rotherham or Bolton, and this is the problem the high-street has got now. You have to be unique and we have to understand each and every location that we go into.’ The building, the city, its music scene and global trends – all of this comes together to shape the character of Tokyo Industries’ venues.
When it comes to UK nightlife, Aaron knows that times are definitely changing. It’s not enough to put on a night and just expect it to take off – our appetites have shifted and in 2018, nightclub has become a dirty word. Today, we’re looking for ‘something more experiential and more immersive’ from our nights out Aaron says, and this is the very idea behind his Manchester venue, Impossible.
The seeds for Impossible’s concept were first sown when Aaron worked on Ibiza project ‘Heart’, a joint venture between one of the world’s best chefs Ferran Adrià and Cirque de Soleil. He wondered why no one was offering a similar concept in the UK and decided it was only right to bring the first taste of a night of this calibre to his hometown.
Not ones to shy away from a challenge, Tokyo Industries take on unloved, and often unusual spaces, and re-energise them. Aaron says ‘I’ve always purchased architecturally curious buildings…Because of my architectural background, I’m able to see sense in things that other people can’t’. With Impossible in particular, this couldn’t be more true. The Peter Street building is a glass triangle with half its space underground which Aaron has now transformed into three distinct floors: a gin nest, a ground-floor bar and dining space, and a subterranean club for up to 600 people.
Aaron is very aware that, especially in today’s financial climate, customer’s time is expensive. This is why he’s passionate about creating new concepts to excite them every day of the week. From ‘Mentalist Mondays’ where mind reader Luke Jermay tells of the audience’s past and predicts their future with astonishing accuracy, to Saturday’s ‘Casa Loca’ which sees dancers, contortionists, and opera singers grace the stage in the ‘Theatre of Impossible’, Aaron is always providing immersive experiences for us to get lost in.
This has even caught on with the corporate crowd looking for something different for their work celebrations. Aaron says ‘Corporate hospitality is getting bigger and is also moving away from the traditional spaces it once belonged to’. Tokyo Industries’ 360-vision means that they’re able to create and execute bespoke concepts for corporate clients ‘in a way that a hotel or a traditional hospitality space probably isn’t quite adapted to’. From speed-networking in the bar’s booths to private parties in the gin nest, or even going all out with club experiences downstairs, Impossible promises something to excite us whether it’s for work or play.
For Aaron, Impossible was his chance to give back to his hometown – the place that first inspired his love of music and nightlife. He says ‘Creating more high-end concepts in Manchester is my way of giving that back to the city’. Winng a host of awards for Impossible, including Best New Venue at the 2017 Late Night Awards, Aaron describes as ‘quite humbling, especially when you’re competing against ten million pound spends in London. You don’t realise how far you’ve come from that one club in Oldham twenty years ago’.