History of Back to Basics Leeds

Lots more about Basics here on our site, and make sure you check out Ralph Lawsons blog here

A Basic History
Here is the piece I knocked up for the Myhouse fanzine.
I first met Dave Beer at the Warehouse club in Leeds in 1990. Leeds had been much slower than its rival city Manchester to embrace the Acid House explosion and I had traveled up from my hometown of London at the height of the new movement. I was looking out for fellow “ravers” who I could meet and hang out with. They were normally easy to spot by their baggy clothes and happy faces and at that time were still a small group. The DJs at the Warehouse were DJ E.A.S.E (George Evelyn) and Boy Wonder from Nightmares On Wax. They had to do their best to keep the mixed crowd happy and alternated between House and Hip Hop with different crews taking it in turn to take the floor or stand on the sides and look moody. A few people stood out as just being different and Beer was definitely one! He was dressed in a Sex Pistols T shirt with a leather jacket, tight jeans and brothel creeper shoes. He had long hair tied up in a pony tail tucked under a Vivienne Westwood flatcap and shot out the greeting I came to know so well over the years, “Hello mate, Dave Beer”. I didn’t see him again for a while but he left an immediate impression.I took to DJ’ing after picking it up quickly thanks to drumming in different bands at school and managed to land an opening slot at Joy which was the first pure rave night in Leeds to successfully make it into the mainstream venues. But these were only monthly so I started my own night on a Wednesday called “Clear” after the Cybotron track that we loved. On our peak night we had Carl Cox come to play. I think we had 80 people in and we paid him £100! But he was still impressed with the small crowd’s energy and loved the night. Dave Beer showed up at Clear with his best mate Alistair Cooke and had a drink with me to discuss their plans to start a new Saturday night at a venue called Rockshots on Lower Briggate. I told them that, “of course I was in”, and on November 30th 1991 I arrived at the club armed with a box of 12″ inch import dance records mainly from America and Italy. I got to put the first record on as it was Ali’s night so he took the later slot along with a DJ called Martin Lever who was big on the Blackpool rave scene. I put on a Marshall Jefferson production called “Open Your Eyes” which was always a good opener at 9pm on the dot.

For the first flyer Dave used a black and white picture of a baby. It is still a very striking image and works in the same way as the cover of Nirvana’s-Nevermind which suited Basics perfectly as Ali would play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” next to the latest Belgian nu beat records years before our friends 2ManyDJs plied their trade. The club was dedicated to “Those in straight trousers and sensible shoes”. This was meant as a message to the rave scene which by that point had become commercialised and ravers themselves had become as uniform as civil servants. Beer stuck to his punk principles and continued to use shocking imagery on the flyers and promote shocking behaviour in the club. There was more pogo-ing on the dancefloor than fancy dancesteps and you could immediately walk in the doors and be yourself. The club struck a chord within the city that had so long been in Manchester’s shadow. By this time The Hacienda was over, as the Salford crews had managed to scare everyone away with their heavy presence, and many people from Leeds stopped driving over as they had done religiously. Basics timing was perfect and provided exactly the night everyone had been looking for, right on our doorstep. At first we had taken just the top floor of Rockshots. The place was a **** so we had gone to town on production and draped camouflage netting over the ceiling, white sheets on the walls and brought in our own lights to project onto. On the opening night we had about 75 people in. The next week 150 turned up and our numbers continued to double every week. The manager was a likable rogue called Peter Riley and was quick to see the potential and handed us the floor below to open up the capacity to 600 which enabled us to bring in two more residents in the shape of Huggy and James “Boggy” Holroyd. We filled it on the first week with a memorable night with Danny Rampling guesting and ended up taking Danny to spin at a disused Warehouse in Dewsbury for most of Sunday. It is worth noting that back then clubs had to close at 2am so the highlight of the night was often ending up at various random house parties with strangers, mainly in the Headingly area.

By early 1992 the word had spread and Basics hosted a night with Flying Records who were the most happening crew from London hosted by the infamous Charlie Chester. Peter Riley offered up the third and final floor to the venue and we did it up to the nines. The Music Factory was born. Just before 9pm Mickey Hirst, who worked on promotions, shouted for us to follow him quickly to the top floor. We all ran up the stairs to look out of the window overlooking Briggate and were totally stunned to see the entire street roadblocked with people. Traffic was at a standstill and people were queuing all the way up to McDonalds at the top of the street, all trying to get into OUR club! It is still the single best memory I have of Basics, all the original crew looking down on what we had created! I don’t think anyone even knew how many people came in that night as it was total chaos on the door, but it must have been pushing 2000. At this point we didn’t look back, we lived for Saturday and the week seemed like an annoying waiting room. The guest DJs started to ask us if they could play when before we would have to beg them and the people just kept coming. I think the club totally peaked the first time Andrew Weatherall played. He really was the main man for all of us. I remember him playing Papua New Guinea by Future Sound Of London and just looking at everyone losing it and thinking this was really special. For some reason chaos created more chaos and more than once the fire alarms would go off and everyone would be forced to leave the building, they would end up dancing around on Lower Briggate to the disbelief of passing motorists. Just after the first birthday party we received the news that we had been voted Best Club 1992 by readers of Mixmag magazine and we went on our way to the Albert Hall in London to pick up our award. We were on top of the world. But it wasn’t set to last.

The Basics story has always been as much about highs as it has been about lows and on March 12th 1993 our world changed forever when tragedy struck with a horrific accident that resulted in the deaths of Ali and my girlfriend Jos in a car traveling to a Basics gig in Glasgow. I know this is very personal and not something I would lightly share but it is crucial to understanding why back to basics is still providing you with your beats every weekend when so many others have fallen by the wayside. We didn’t know it at the time but this event created a bond between us that was often unbearable but also unbreakable. Anytime the chips are down and we feel like quitting this drives us to keep on keeping on. The Music Factory never seemed right without Ali and when I returned from driving around New Zealand the club was a very different place. Everyone rallied round and I will never forget my first night back and the response the people gave me, but it now became a mission rather than fun to get to work. We lasted a while longer there but we had to shake the past off and Dave responded in the only way possible – by creating The Pleasure Rooms.

The Pleasure Rooms was an amazing venue and we soon pulled back the numbers and budgets Basics needed to get the very biggest names to perform in Leeds. Some of the best Basics nights ever happened under its roof including the first performance from daft punk in Leeds just as they hit the big time. Danny Tenaglia also treated us to one of his trademark long sets culminating in the whole dancefloor making a giant circle and taking it in turns to vogue in honour of the New York tradition.

The Shaman, Goldie, Francois K, Derrick Carter, Derrick May and Stacey Pullen also played totally inspirational sets there. Two young regulars from Leeds also made an impression at The Pleasure Rooms. One constantly handed me mix tapes and the other had an uncanny knack of getting into the DJ booth and checking out all the action first hand, their names were Paul Woolford and Tristan Da Cunha. Again we got voted Best Club, this time by Muzik Magazine, and again London looked North for its clubbing inspiration. By this time we had developed a network with like minded crews around the country and abroad on trips to New York, Australia and Ibiza. This had further cemented our resolve to continue to produce the very best all night House music party in the world and for three years at The Pleasure Rooms we did just that. However, in-fighting between promoters at the venue caused the backers to panic and the plug was pulled by the money men. The Pleasure Rooms closed acrimoniously in 1997 and a wilderness

year saw Basics as close to finishing as it ever has been in its history. We were drifting apart until I went to a Subdub night with Ital Rockers at a (yet again) unfashionable venue called “Fiddlers” (believe it or not!) and saw the potential for a new home for basics. A deal was sorted when the new owner Val arrived there and the place was ripped apart and transformed into another great venue for

Basics – The Mint club.

At the Mint club both Paul and Tristan jumped on board and quickly established themselves as regular residents rather than just regular clubbers. Both had it and had it in abundance and if anything it proved to be a great push for myself and Boggy to keep trying our very best, as Huggy had by now departed to America. The Mint lasted longer than any Basics venue has done so far and proved to be intimate, easy to fill and always had an excellent atmosphere. Derrick Carter and DJ Sneak became the favourite guests but there were also memorable sets from Carl Cox on the 10th birthday and Louie Vega. On the whole though, it was a smaller club and we didn’t have the budget to attract the big names so many up and coming young DJs got a chance and that turned out to be more than a good thing. Clubbing had reached its saturation point and the Superclubs now looked as cheesy as The Ritzy chain had to us back at the start. It was commercial, complacent and crap! Basics survived oddly enough by never wanting to be a Superclub although we were always mentioned in the same breath as them. We always kept up our resistance to going down that “sell out” route as we saw it. As many other clubs began to fall we were down to London yet again to pick up the award for Best Small Club. But times do change and we all grew weary of the same space every week as had many of our regulars who had started to drift off. We felt it was time for another change after 5 years of good times and the opportunity came up to design an amazing space in the centre of town that had loads of potential. In life I have learnt that sometimes even when you do your best you end up with egg on your face and this time they were well scrambled!

Rehab should have been the perfect club. Not too big not too small, more central and very beautiful. We put in an amazing soundsystem, huge chandelier and lush purple curtains. The refurb even got Dave onto posh design programs on Channel 4 but for some reason people just didn’t really like it. When it was full it could be ace but running until 6am we found as soon as the drink ran out so did the people and the dancefloor was way too often a desolate place to be stranded! The sound was impossible to concentrate and clattered off the mirrors sounding quite painful at times and that end of town was never our end of town, give me the outskirts and the fringes any day. Somehow we managed to survive nearly three years and when it was good it was excellent-a young upstart named Mylo filled the place well before he hit the charts and a young chap called James Zabielia totally tore the roof off the place and left us all open mouthed with his skills. Longtime Leeds jock Buckley also started to make his name on the team there but it wasn’t until later that he came into his own. All in all we were lucky to get out alive. It was time to go Back to Basics.

Stinky’s Peep House had already built up a fiercely loyal following due to its seedy name and late hours. Established nights such as Madhatters already drew in a particularly enthusiastic crowd. Dave started to throw afterhours parties there and a family of diehards grew up around the club. The situation was getting more and more hazardous at Rehab and we decided to hold onto our balls and take the plunge again. As usual Dave managed to convince his partners, The Barnsley family and Jason Fenning, to go for it properly and they set to work totally knocking through the bottom floor so it extended right out to the garden terrace. The middle floor was separated to create a three room space and the first ever Funktion One soundsystem in Leeds arrived on the doorstep. The venue well and truly became My House. The reaction was immediate – people loved it and we felt at home again. Suddenly I saw faces I hadn’t seen in years looking at me sheepishly from the dancefloor, it was great to see some of those old familiar faces back again. As always a new venue breeds new faces, the ones that really matter, they become the life and soul of the party and I could see new friendships emerge all around the place as people found their spots. Andrew Weatherall, our original mentor, was offered our very first guest residency and it was time for the weekly residents to rise well above their usual station and become the main players. Wooly and Buckley became residents at Space in Ibiza which massively improved their profile and James Holroyd, after many years on the road with The Chemical Brothers really found his sound. Tristan Da Cunha gained new confidence from playing in Berlin and Ibiza and started to rock the main room as well as develop the excellent top floor and I kept on doing what I have always done-play House Music. Wooly then further increased the pressure by producing a record entitled, “Erotic Discourse”, which went on to be the biggest hit ever on my label 2020Vision and Basics had its very own home produced anthem. London called again and this year we walked away with our fourth Best Club award from DJ magazine. Basics was back.

My House has the very best of every Basics venue-it has the energy of the original

Music Factory, the intimate atmosphere of The Mint and the best music I have heard since The Pleasure Rooms. It also goes further with the best sound and acoustics we have ever had and an outdoor terrace that makes you feel like you are in Ibiza in the summer or away from it all under a heater in winter. I suppose you could say I would say that, well you may be right or you may know by now that I don’t bullshit My House has already started producing classic nights and as I write this the Layo and Bushwacka night in late September already reached that class. It has also already produced the next saga in the Basics story as sadly Wooly has moved on to pursue his solo career. But as I mentioned before it is important that opportunities arise for the next generation and it means that Basics can bring on board the most exciting new talent in the north, Burnski. If this was football Burnski would be Wayne Rooney (but a lot better looking!) He is one of those gems that comes along very occasionally with a very wise head on a young body and an overabundance of talent. After his mate Denney handed me some of his tracks at Rehab he has gone on to record for 2020Vision, Infant, Morris Audio & Trapez. Welcome on board son.

We felt it was important that a brief history of Basics was told so that it can continue to provide the best possible clubbing experience into the future. As we enter our 17th year I look around the world and see hardly any other clubs who can boast our dedication to Electronic Music and giving people a top night out. A good few chapters have been written but we are **** all without you to make it happen each and every week at 10pm on a Saturday night. See you on the dancefloor.

Ralph Lawson. September 2007

History of Back to Basics Leeds
Scroll to top