The head honcho behind one of the most important clubs EVER!
Congratulations Dave on a wonderful achievement reaching the club’s 21st anniversary. For the benefit of the new kids on the block, let’s go back to when Basics began. You had spent your early career in music lugging speakers and amps around for rock bands then Acid House exploded. What was the main reason you wanted to start your own club night?
“Leeds was a very different place back then and there were no clubs or good places to go in our area. We’d been travelling to the Hacienda for a few years and venturing down to parties in London like Charlie Chester’s Flying and James Bailey’s Venus in Nottingham. The rave scene had become a little jaded for us and all the parties were getting closed down by the police, so we decided to just throw a party for our friends and the more discerning clubber to avoid the white glove, whistle blowing, covered in Vicks contingence. We had no idea it was going to explode into what it soon became, it was never meant to be a career move and here we are amazingly 21 years later still doing it.”
You are now into your 21st year on the dancefloor, what gives you the energy and ethos to keep going?
“Back to Basics has a life of it’s own and an energy that is unsurpassable, that’s the main driving force – the fact that people still want to come and still love the club even after two generations of clubbers. It’s quite easy really ’cause Back to Basics has an energy of it’s own that keeps pushing it forward no matter what, it’s unstoppable.”
You have just enjoyed a huge anniversary show with Basement Jaxx and co. – what was behind your idea of not one but two parties and also the DJ bookings – you could have put anyone on…everyone loves the Basics vibe…
“Well, as it’s the 21st and it was in the year 2012, it seems like the 1’s and 2’s keep coming up and since we’ve been playing on the 1’s and 2’s for 21 years it just felt right to do 2 parties, not least of all because we’ve also been throwing parties in 2 different venues this year – The Warehouse and The Garage. It also gives us a chance to showcase the 2 sides of Basics and although we’ve always remained in the underground, some of the acts have now become household names such as Daft Punk, Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx. So we thought it would be good to bring one of them back for this special occasion. In Part 2 we kept an underground edge and chose DJs that have also been a part of Back to Basics history – although it is a smaller venue and an electrifying evening of pure quality house music with Chez Damier, Luke Soloman, Laura Jones, Maurice Fulton, the Basics residents as well as new talent such as Jasmin.”
“Although it’s been many years since I had the honor to play at B2B, I vividly recall a very tight connection with everyone in the room. The DJ booth was quite high up, yet it felt as if I was right there on the floor with everyone. I recall when daylight started peek in through the roof it had started to feel like another party was about to start but sadly we had to stop and no one in that room (especially me) wanted to stop! Back to Basics is a very special and highly respected party even to many of us here in the USA and my biggest honor was being asked to do their 10 year anniversary double CD compilation. In all honesty, it’s a personal favourite! Back to Basics also felt like a sister party to what we were doing here weekly with Be Yourself Friday’s @ Vinyl. Special thanks and respect to Dave Beer, Ralph Lawson and to the entire B2B family. Happy 21st.”
The birthdays always have a different fancy dress theme – this year you went for Back to the Future. Other than giving people an opportunity to freak people out who going to work at 7am on a Sunday morning, the title obviously has some form of message to us all concerning Basics?
“Yeah well done on picking up on that Dan! I was thinking long and hard on what the theme should be. Even if it is 2012 and the prediction of the end of the world by the Mayan calendar, I’m not feeling like it’s the end of Back to Basics. Basics will still be going well into the future and continuing to push the boundaries as we always have done in the past. Also, as you say, it’s a great way to freak people out and for people to express themselves in how we are going to look in the future.”
What are some of the records that will always remind you of Basics?
“Wow this is a hard one cause there are so many. But to list a few – New Jersey Deep – Black Science Orchestra, Phantom – Renegade Soundwave, Music Is The Answer – Danny Tenaglia, Burnin’ – MK, Fly Life – Basement Jaxx, Primal Scream – Don’t Fight Feel It, Alarm Clock – Westbam, Smokebelch – Sabres of Paradise, Dee Pattern – Who’s The Bad Man? If I sat here reminiscing long enough the list would be ridiculous – there are so many tunes that have touched the souls of many over the years, made people dance and be happy…which is what it’s all about.”
Can you tell us about your new film you have coming out in January, ‘Tales of Glamour and Excess?’
“It’s funny because when we first started out, I would of never thought that somebody would be making a film about it. Like I said earlier, it was just meant to be a small club for a handful of people which I had no idea would last 6 months never mind 21 years…so it’s a real privilege. Klaudia Staniek has been a regular at Basics since she came to do a degree at the University of Leeds in Film Production and when she came across the club she wanted to capture the excitement of the club, document the story of Back to Basics and share it with the rest of the world. So she decided to make a feature film documentary about the club and along with her colleague Thomas Pitt, has been interviewing all the people involved with the club, from the club’s residents to loyal fans and famous guest DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Claude Von Stroke, Lil Louis, DJ Harvey, Andrew Weatherall, Lisa Loud, Jamie Jones, Basement Jaxx and many more. They are now working on editing the film and getting it finished. The film also includes a narration by Howard Marks, A.K.A. Mr Nice who has been a regular at the club and a good friend of mine for many years so it’s an honour to have him in the film.”
It must be quite hard fitting a whole 21 years into a film?
“Yes it has been and that is why it has taken almost three years to make the film. I don’t think she had any idea when starting it the magnitude of the task she had taken on, as the club has involved so many people and DJs around the world that the film wouldn’t be complete without. She’s been digging through tonnes of archive footage and old photographs trying to make sense of all the chaos that has taken place over the years, I think a lot of the interviews have been difficult as it has been a blur for most involved, thus she’s had a real job on her hand jogging everyones memories and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
“Even though I have played back 2 basics many times in all their venues and had incredible gigs, I feel rather than talk about one favourite moment, I would like to say something about one of my biggest inspirations of my musical life. Ali Cooke – he was the true sound, identity and aesthetics of what back to basics stood for…a special memory for me was experiencing one of his legendary sets in the basement at the original basics, it changed my life…”
This summer you decided to sort your life and more importantly your health out. Can you tell us how your trip to Peru saved your life?
“I wouldn’t say it has saved my life but it has certainly been a life changing experience. The club has been all consuming and I never really have any ‘me time’. I’ve not even been on a holiday in years which didn’t involve the club, DJing or partying. I’ve always had a fascination with the indigenous tribes, especially the Shaman of Peru and the natural medicines that they use and I didn’t just want to go on an indulgent holiday – I felt the need for a total clear out both physically and mentally. I’ve always been a very spiritual person and just felt I needed to get away, so Peru seemed to be calling. When you’re running a club every week for 20 years everything starts to become a little like groundhog day, you tend to lose yourself and thus I felt it was time to break the cycle. I only intended to be there for two weeks but I was seeing real miracles happening before my eyes, it’s amazing to see the healing powers that these people have. They call for the assistance of the plant spirits to guide them, it’s almost as if you’re at one with nature and the universe. The rainforest is such a beautiful place like no other, I felt like I was in Pandora from the film Avatar. It’s an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life, a journey that has helped me find myself again and put me back on track and I will be forever grateful to the Shaman and the people from the Humming Bird Retreat who helped me find myself.”
Did you ever lose the faith?
“No, that’s one thing I never lost. You have to always believe in yourself and what you do and that everything happens for a reason. If you believe in the power of the universe it will deliver – and I’m very conscious that thoughts become things, what you think about becomes reality so one needs to be very careful to what one manifests. If you always stay true to you, that’s the best you can do.”
“I have many great memories of this fine club. It was my favourite place to play for many years and wouldn’t ever contemplate leaving Leeds until the Monday. Planning to leave on a Sunday was futile. I’d race up the motorway desperate to see everyone there and know that I could play whatever I wanted and they all would get it, and love it. It’s a DJ’s heaven to play places like that. If I have to choose one moment it would be when I did a live essential mix from Basics with Yousef on the 26th of January 2003. I did the first hour and Yos did the second. I was playing all vinyl then and my first track was Ewan Pearsons remix of ‘Manila’ by Seelenluft which still always reminds me of that night. The atmosphere was ridiculous and while most of my nights there have blurred into one excellent memory this one is etched as one of my favourite nights ever.”
How does it feel to be the last great rock n’ roll talisman standing in clubland?
“I didn’t realise I was, I know of several others that could quite happily hold that title. It’s true I have always held onto my rock n’ roll identity but that is something that has always come natural to me. I enjoy what I do, enjoy life and try to enjoy myself as much as possible…after all this is not a dress rehearsal and you only live once. But I would like to be remembered for more than just a party animal or a rock n’ roll talisman.”
You obviously have a loyal following, not just in Leeds but around the world – what makes Basics different to every other night?
“I think the plain and simple reason that makes Basics unique is the fact that we live, breathe and eat the club. It sounds corny, but the truth of it is that it’s not a job for us – it’s a way of life and I think that translates to the audience. After all, it’s the clubbers and the people who come to the nights that make the club as special as it is. We also pride ourselves on remaining two steps further than any other fucker, looking for new talent and bringing it to the club. We’ve never been one to follow the crowd or the latest trend, we’ve always remained true to our original ethos of delivering the finest quality, cutting-edge dance music and as you mentioned before with a rock n’ roll ethos and a punk rock attitude that still remains a big part of us today. I am always filled with gratitude and thankful to the support and the love from the basics regulars. Thats what keeps us going.”
Tales of excess. What is the most outrageous/tv out of the hotel window tale you have ever been involved with?
“Like most spontaneous, crazy moments, one tends to forget whilst other people remember. I am sure there are many crazy rock n’ roll moments that other people would be able to fill in my lost memory. Like I said before, I always live for the moment and enjoy life as much as possible and want other people to enjoy it too. One of my party tricks in the early days (which started when I was a roadie) was to wrap myself in toilet tissue, then set myself on fire and jump off balconies into swimming pools. It sounds quite dangerous but I never suffered an injury, not something I would recommend! It once did backfire though and I’m sure Erick Morillo tells the tale till this day too. One time in Ibiza I popped into a party only to get some cigarettes, the party had been going on for some time and throughout the course of the day Erick Morillo had been wrapping himself in the afore mentioned toilet paper, he was dancing around on the dancefloor resembling a mummy. I had a flashback to my roadie days and asked a Spanish on looker for a lighter and without thinking of the consequences and not a swimming pool in site, I set fire to the tissue paper engulfing poor old Erick in flames as he ran through the club with people throwing drinks at him to put the fire out. Luckily for Erick and for me he wasn’t injured but I don’t think he ever forgave me for that and luckily we are still friends. As for televisions it wasn’t my forte, I did once throw one at John Kelly in a hotel room but forgot to unplug it so it just stopped mid-air and smashed on the floor instead. In the early days there did seem to be a trail of distraction which always turned out to be very expensive pass time when you got the bill the next day, I’m glad this is something that was out of my system early.”
“The first time I went to Back to Basics I remember being blown away. The energy coming from that room was something I’d never experienced before. It was incredible…out of this world and Dave Beer was an awesome host – crazy but truly awesome! I always looked forward to going back there and have massively fond memories from my nights there!”
I spoke to Audiofly a little while who aptly titled Leeds as the ‘Berlin of The UK’ – would that be a fair judgement?
“Yeah I can see the resemblance, Leeds has definitely become the clubbing capital over the years. Considering that there were only a few parties when we first started, the scene soon grew and before we knew it there were club nights popping up all over. It just got healthier and healthier for clubbing (if I can use that term) and has produced some of the best club nights in the UK over the years as Berlin does for Germany.”
In terms of Basics, It must be a huge honour also to have such amazing residents such as Buckley, Tristan Da Cunha, Frenchy, Ralph Lawson, Burnski and James Holroyd. Why are these dudes so important to your club?
“Basics has always been one big family and I cherish my residents more than anything, they are the one thing that holds the club together and are by far the most important part of the club. Like some clubs often change their residents, we have always stuck together – after all they are the people that can translate my thoughts into music and they are my favourite DJs. Since Basics has its own sound they are the ones responsible for creating the musical backdrop that the clubbers love so much. I have always been proud to have the best resident DJs in the country, if not the world!”
“So many memories over the last 10 years of being a resident for Basics but I would have to say the 20th birthday on so many levels…we took it back and had a fancy dress and the theme was old skool Acid House…everybody made the effort, bandanas, dungarees, smiley faces, Travel Fox trainers and Todd Terry as our guest playing an Acid House set to boot…the tunes from the night stretched right back to day dot but without being a cheesy retro thing, more underground biggies that had been forgotten and the energy from the crowd in there was contagious. Everybody felt it and took a little piece of it away with them…after 20 years of DJing and playing pretty much every club I’ve wanted to at least once, nothing comes close to Basics….when it’s lit you can’t touch it with an ugly stick…in the words of McFadden & Whitehead – Aint No Stopping Us Now! ”
As you mentioned earlier, your motto is – ‘two steps further than any other fucker’ – where did that originate from?
“I think the slogan says it all, like I said before, we’ve always prided ourselves on being at the cutting edge of the scene and are always striving to find something new, nurture new talent and keeping it fresh and exciting. It’s been a bold statement to live up to but I think we’ve done it proud considering we’ve lasted 21 years.”
Who are the greatest DJs to ever spin a record at Basics?
“MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is nearly impossible, how long is a piece of string? Virtually every good DJ worth his salt has graced the decks at one time over the years, the list is endless from the likes of Danny Tenaglia, Frankie Knuckles, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Andrew Weatherall, Derrick Carter, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Groove Armada and Fatboy Slim – all who played at the beginning of their careers before they became world famous DJs. I would like to say thank you to all of them and sorry the list would be too long to name check everyone!”
Outside of Basics, what legendary clubs over the years would you look back and applaud…
“There are many clubs I have found inspirational over the years. I was lucky enough to spend time in the early 90’s in New York, especially The Sound Factory which was a big inspiration to me listening to Jr Vasquez play for 18 hours. I also used to enjoy notorious clubs such as Jackie 60 – a gay club in the meat market in New York. It was very extreme. Also I spent a lot of time with the club kids of New York at the legendary Limelight which has been immortalised probably not in the best light in the film ‘Party Monster’. Also in England, Charlie Chester’s Flying parties, the Boys own parties…I loved Love Ranch too in London. Earlier than that I used to enjoy going to The Trip at the Astoria, I never went to Shoom but it’s a club that I have the ultimate respect for. I used to also enjoy going to Danny Rampling’s nights’ at the Milk Bar. They are just a few to mention, there are many more that I can’t remember. As a young boy I always remember hearing tales of the Wigan Casino, the legendary Northern Soul club. Clubs that have also been a big part of my life are the likes of Amnesia, Pacha, Space and later DC10 in Ibiza.”
“I do know one thing about back 2 basics. And that’s when I go back to that club I better bring the real house sound. Those parties are the best.”
What are the albums and artists you are listening to at home right now?
“I listen to many different styles of music from classical to Punk when I’m not listening to dance music and new mixes I have been sent. Whenever I am feeling down I love to listening to The Clash…Joe Strummer was a massive inspiration to me and The Clash were one of the greatest bands that ever existed.”
You are throwing the dinner party to end all dinner parties. Who are the five celebrities dead or alive you invite and why – and who is playing at the after party?
“Right, firstly at the top of my guest list would be The King. No dinner party would be complete without Elvis Presley and his eating habits – although I think I’d pass on the squirrel. The second dead celebrity as I just mentioned would be Joe Strummer, my all time hero and someone who has had a massive influence on me and someone who I was lucky enough to get to know. Thirdly on the list would have to be Bruce Lee in case there was any trouble. So it’s not just a cock fest it would be nice to have Marilyn Monroe…but not for the purpose of conversation. Lastly and although she was not a celebrity in her own right, I would love to invite my mum. As for the after party, the music would be provided by the best of the best Alistair Cooke and Larry Levan. Definitely NOT Jimmy Saville!”
What would be your idea of a perfect Sunday in 2002 and your perfect Sunday in 2012?
“Silly question as there has not been such a thing as a Sunday for me as Saturday nights generally run through to Monday morning (or even Wednesdays in 2002). But the perfect Sunday in 2012 would be on a sunny beach with my children and my loved ones.”
And finally, as you blow your candles out on the 21st birthday, what do you think your great pal Ali Cooke is thinking looking down at you in 2012…?
“I know what Ali is thinking as he often comes to me. I miss him so much. I know he is really proud and he’s told me that he has never left and he’s always with us in spirit. I’ve never changed anything what we intended to do in the first place. If I could have a birthday wish it would be for Ali to be here with us to celebrate this special occasion with his cheeky smile, unpredictable music selection and his lust for life…”
Back To Basics 21st Birthday Part 2
The Garage – Saturday 24th November
Chez Damier, Laura Jones, Luke Soloman, Maurice Fulton, Jasmin feat. Sarah Story
plus residents Ralph Lawson, Burnski, Buckley, James Holroyd, Tristan Da Cunha, Frenchy and Dave Beer