Tag Archives: house music

Mark & Farrar

“WE STARTED DJing about a year and a half ago at this really dodgy nightclub in Keighley called Vicky’s .. We didn’t really know what we were doing but, you know, it didn’t seem to matter. There were loads of people trekking over from Leeds and everyone got right into it and had a good time. We were playing the right tunes”.

Mark Alexander and Steve Farrar are still playing the right tunes in a DJing career that has seen them leave the grim, rural wilds of West Yorkshire to return to their home town, the bright and bustling metropolis that is Leeds.

“We were playing the same stuff as we do now,” says Mark. “Garage, techno, Belgian stuff, mostly techno from America. The charts are for popular music, which is fair enough, but we’re not into playing that kind of thing. We want to keep it underground, keep it hardcore”.

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Five x Ministry of Shite dancefloor classics

A LOAD of us went down to the Ministry at some point in the mid 90s and, despite hearing some great music, we were not particularly impressed by the distinct lack of atmosphere compared to clubs such as Kaos, Basics and Hard Times in Leeds. There just wasn’t the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.

A few weeks later, me and Earnshaw DJed at a party at a mate’s house and someone did some jokey flyers saying we were residents at the Ministry of Shite. We ended up keeping the name when we started putting on parties ourselves.

It was all a bit rough and ready, but we had a run of great parties over three or four years at an old mansion house at the Weetwood end of Headingley in Leeds, with perhaps two or three hundred people coming through the door during the night, generally ending around 6am with no bother from the cops.

We played a lot of new US garage and vocal house but we also threw in old acid, techno, hardcore and hip house at key moments to ensure everything remained suitably blurry and twisted out of shape.

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Róisín Murphy

“MY WHOLE career has been a happy accident,” says Róisín Murphy. “Even the fact that I’m a singer at all is a total accident. I walked into a party, fancied a fella and just walked up to him and said, do you like my tight sweater? He took me to his studio in the middle of the night and recorded me saying it, and it was the start of a relationship, not the start of a career.”

The Irish-born singer’s drunken chat up line became the title of the album she went onto record with the man she met that night in Sheffield, Mark Brydon. And an obligatory element of every interview Murphy has done since then.

Moloko made quirky, avant-garde electronic funk experimentalism topped by the sound of Murphy’s beautiful, jazz-influenced vocals being chopped up, mangled and stretched beyond all recognition. Their music ended up being remixed into the kind of enormous house anthems that soundtrack the never-ending summers of Ibiza. But there was nothing accidental about their success.

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Alex Gopher

SUCCEEDING where Napoleon failed, those dastardly French have at last managed to invade this sceptered isle.

But rather than manning the barricades and ridding our supermarket shelves of brie and Golden Delicious, as a nation we seem to be welcoming this particular Gallic menace with open arms and dancing feet.

Whatever happened to the Dunquerque spirit?

In reality, it’s not like we have much choice. With music of the quality produced by the likes of Daft Punk, Air, Mr Oizo and Etienne de Crecy, we can do little but capitulate.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the dancefloor, Parisian funk merchant Alex Gopher turns up to deliver the coup de grace with his debut British album, You, My Baby & I.

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Preston Bob, High on Hope cinematographer

HIGH ON HOPE, Piers Sanderson’s documentary about the Hardcore Uproar parties in Blackburn in the late Eighties and early Nineties has already won acclaim at film festivals in Barcelona and Leeds, and with a bit of luck it will be touring around the UK next year. Keep an eye on the High on Hope off-yer-Facebook for more details.

In the meantime, here’s an exclusive interview with the film’s wobbly cinematographer, the visionary social historian and painfully shy local raver known at the time as Preston Bob – his real name is actually David Rostron –  without whom High on Hope would simply not have been possible.

Nice one, David.

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Crazy Penis

CALLING your band Crazy Penis is neither big nor clever. The group’s new album, however, is both.

Crazy Penis is such a fantastic name for a band. Like many people, I was sold by the time I’d seen the cover of their debut album, which featured a poorly photocopied photograph of the group in yellow bear costumes. Even before I’d heard the music.

Of course, after just one listen to 1998’s A Nice Hot Bath With Crazy Penis, it immediately became clear that their name and comedy outfits were the least of their attributes.

Packed full of big, bottom-heavy funky house numbers, there was also a strong element of live instrumentation – Chris Todd is an accomplished guitarist, while Jim Baron has been playing the trombone since childhood – to complement the usual sequenced rhythms. They made waves.

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Overpaid, oversexed and over here

THE first time Charles Gettis came to the UK was as a private in the 91st Airborne Division of the US Army. His first sight of the country came through the early morning November mists covering the vast open spaces of the Greenham Common airbase near Newbury, Berkshire as he stepped out of the belly of a huge USAAF cargo plane onto the tarmac below.

Now long discharged from the army, the 26-year-old Gettis has returned to the UK in an altogether different role, in the guise of his turntablist alter-ego, Deejay Punk-Roc. He’s one of a small group of American DJs who have set up home here to take advantage of the burgeoning club scene which grew up in the wake of the acid house explosion of 1988.

Gettis, working in a series of dead-end jobs after he left the military, found his options severely limited in his home town of Brooklyn. The story goes that Andrew Erskine, the head of Merseyside independent label Airdog, somehow heard Punk-Roc’s self-produced My Beatbox, visited him in Brooklyn and persuaded him that he could make a splash in the UK by promoting his music on the back of his not-inconsiderable DJing skills. He didn’t have to ask twice.

Based in Toxteth, Liverpool since January, Gettis’s gamble has paid off in a big way. He’s been pleasantly surprised by the speed and scale of his success. His debut album Chickeneye was released to almost unanimously positive reviews last month, while he returned to the States to support the Prodigy on a two-week tour.

On his return to the UK, he played a couple of gigs, including one at NY Sushi in Sheffield, before jetting off the a festival in Holland. Next week he releases Far Out, another single from the album. A trip to Japan is scheduled for the autumn. It’s non-stop.

“For some people, what’s happening to me now might be a dream come true, but not for me – cause I never even dreamed it in the first place,” says Gettis as he relaxes in his hotel room after the Sheffield date. “I’ve been making music for as long time, but it was never made to be pressed up and sold to the public. I thought that music was something that other people made and I bought.”

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Neon Leon

MORE tales of house music madness.

I was editing a short-lived Leeds listings magazine by the name of Brag and went down to Nottingham with Earnshaw to interview Neon Leon, a San Francisco DJ who was on tour in the UK at the time, ahead of a couple of dates in Yorkshire. Those naughty House of Maya boys in Bradford had played me a tape and I was very impressed. I think they’d got it from the DIY lot, some of whom had recently relocated to California.

He was playing at that place on the Lacemarket – at various times it was called the Ad-Lib and the Garage, and maybe also the Zig Zag. Paul had taken me down to an alternative disco there a couple of times in the early Eighties (Graeme Park was playing upstairs but it didn’t seem all that so we went back down to the basement to dance to the Birthday Party and X-Ray Spex instead), a couple of years later we went to see the Subhumans there, and here I was, a decade later, getting down to some seriously groovy house and garage in the same venue.

It was a good night. Me and Earnshaw got pilled up and danced our socks off but had been a bit too messy to really make any impression on the lovely ladies of Nottingham – needless to say, I was inexplicably single again at this point. Neon Leon did a great set and afterwards we went to some late-night café and I did this interview with him. We may have done another pill at this point ..

* * *
“HOUSE music saved my life! I’m not kidding. It saved my life. It gave me a focus when I was doing a lot of bad things and a lot of cocaine. If I wasn’t doing this I don’t what I’d be doing – probably gang-banging somewhere.

“House music is my life. It’s expression. House music has all the elements of gospel, soul, R&B, rap and disco but – I can’t describe it,” says reformed character and fierce San Francisco house music legend Neon Leon.

House is a feeling?

“Yeah! House is a feeling! That’s exactly what it is,” he replies with a gap-toothed grin.

I first heard Neon Leon doing his thing in a house of ill-repute in Bradford. Our hosts fussed around trying to find this amazing tape someone in the States had sent them over. They finally find it, after a long and slightly frantic search. Gradually, all the idle drug chit-chat and post-club bullshit diminish to nothing as everyone tunes into the gorgeous sounds slinking out of the speakers – a live recording of one of Neon Leon’s riotous hometown gigs.

Neon Leon plays dance music for grown ups. He specialises in layering sparse, booming, bass-heavy rhythms in a smooth, seamless mix, slipping in assorted vocal tracks and acapellas on top to create completely new music which sounds like it wasn’t meant to be played any other way.

But what really separates Leon from the rest of the pack is what he does with the microphone.

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Never Gonna Let You Go by Tina Moore (RCA)

I’D BEEN down to the Ministry of Sound a couple of times previously, when it was still a booze-free zone, but in 1994 a big bunch of us from Leeds, Manchester and Burnley went down for a party in London one weekend and ended up in Elephant & Castle on Saturday night.

None of us were particularly impressed with the place – there was a long queue, it was expensive to get in, the music wasn’t great, it seemed to be full of twats and Australians – so the next time someone had a house party back up north, they printed up some invites with the name Ministry of Shite on them.

See what they did there?

Me and Earnshaw liked the name so much we used it when we started putting on all-nighters at an old mansion house in north Leeds a year or so later. The place was owned by a friend of the guy who ran Dream FM – in fact we had the studio there for a while – and I’d been to a few parties there already. Martin lived on the top floor, rented out the middle floor and kept the ground floor as a two-room party venue, complete with a pretty tidy custom-made soundsystem.

Since the mansion wasn’t strictly – or indeed, remotely – licensed, Martin was a bit nervous about money changing hands on the door, so we ripped off the Ministry of Sound portcullis logo, replaced the word ‘sound’ with ‘shite’ in punk rock blackmail lettering, and flogged the invites for a fiver, upfront. We had to hire a bouncer as well, just in case.

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Ten years on from Love Decade

IT WASN’T so unusual that someone threw a party in Gildersome, just south of Leeds, 10 years ago. What was unusual was the fact that 836 people were arrested for attending it.

The party wasn’t for anyone’s birthday. According to flyers which had been circulating throughout the north over the previous month, it was called Love Decade. It took place in an empty warehouse on the Treefield Industrial Estate, just off Gelderd Road.

The party’s organisers didn’t actually own the warehouse – they’d had to snip through a padlock with a pair of bolt cutters before getting in. Some started to rig up a basic soundsystem while others headed for Harsthead services, just up the M62, to collect their guests.

Just after 2am they headed back at the head of a convoy of hundreds of cars and vans. The police, including the West Yorkshire force’s helicopter, followed at a discrete distance.

Hundreds of people got into the warehouse before the organisers closed the doors. Hundreds more gathered outside. Sue Hollingsworth had travelled over from Blackburn earlier in the evening.

“There were police all over the place,” she remembers. “We abandoned the car and legged it towards the party but you couldn’t get anywhere near it. All the roads around had roadblocks on them, they had dogs, searchlights, the lot.”
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