Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed And A Bag Of Glue: Dave Beer Talks
25 Years is a long time in anyone's book, most marriages don’t last that long, but in club culture it’s fuckin ages! This weekend sees Back to Basics celebrate that milestone at their new club ‘Church’ – a fitting name for a club that has seen hundreds of thousands of people worship at it’s altar over the last 3 decades. All presided over by the right Reverend Mr Dave Beer, a living legend in his own right, he’s probably the most rock and roll promoter I know, he lives and breathes this shit, always prepared to go ‘two steps further than any other fucker’ in every way. Dave has been an inspiration to me and many others who make our living promoting or playing the music we love.
I first stepped through the doors at Basics back in 1994 when they were residing at The Pleasure Rooms in Leeds. I already knew the name Dave Beer before we got there, his antics were regularly written about in Mixmag (we didn’t have the internet back then, so people use to read magazines – how quaint!). Pretty much every month there was a new tale of Dave Beer debauchery, just reading it made you wanna go to his party.
I met Dave a few times at various parties over the years, but didn’t properly hang out with him till Ibiza in around 2001, we’d been at Eric Morillo’s night Subliminal at Pacha and both ended up back at Eric's villa cracking on. As the morning turned into afternoon, the party started dying off and people needed to get home (if there’s one thing that you don’t want to happen in Ibiza, it’s getting Villa trapped). Dave, being his usual kind hearted self, took it upon himself to offer a few tired souls a lift back to Ibiza town. I stayed at the party with Vicky (his then wife) – an hour passed and Dave still hadn’t returned – his phone was off. Then it got to two, we started to worry, and just as we were about to send the search parties out he turned up. Apparently he couldn’t find the villa again, he must have been driving round for ages! Another few hours lost in the life of Dave Beer.
People often ask me if I would open a nightclub in London, but running a festival is risky enough for me. Two months after his new club opened, I was keen to speak to him and find out how it had come about and why he thought it would be a success…
How is it with licensing in Leeds, in London it’s tricky to say the least!
Licensing seems to be an issue in Leeds as it is across the country, the club has got a 3.30am license at the moment, but is running on TENS for the time being when we want to go late, but we should get a permanent 6am license in the New Year.
Clubs are closing up and down the country and you’re opening one…
As Gwen Mcrae said we’ve got to 'Keep the fires burning’. As fires are going out, we’ve got a big bag off firelighters, plenty of kindling and a barrel of petrol. Like Fabric, we don’t wanna go down without a fight, if everyone has apathy the scene will die, but there’s enough kids out there who wanna party and have a good time. What are we gonna do, let them go to the dogs? What we’re doing is much more than a nightclub, we’ve got live music, street food, a DJ academy – workshops, classes and a 3 year degree course. For the economy of a club, you need to have extra revenue streams coming in, you need to utilise the space that you have. We are a church and it does what it says on the tin, we want the door to be open at all times to all people. We’re right by the University, so the societies from the Uni are using the space, we’ve got street dancers. It’s a community space where people can come in and make use of it when the club isn’t open.
Obviously you’re notoriously known as a party animal, I know you had a scare a few years back when you had pneumonia, and then you went and drank ayahuasca. It seems like a lot of people are going down a path that connects them more to a spiritual side.
The pneumonia wasn’t down to my rock and roll lifestyle, me and my dad both got Pleurisy at the same time. My immune system was shot at the time, so there is relevance there! When acid house started, everyone went for it hell for leather, these new ecstacy tablets had turned up and nobody really thought about the consequences, they just knew how amazing they made you feel, and it was better than getting pissed! People on all levels think a bit more healthier, as for spiritualism that’s down to your personal preference, those that have seen the light choose that path. But, If you’ve ever sat at Es Vedra or on the leylines in Glastonbury and had a moment, then you’ll realise there’s a lot more to life than what we know.
It’s been 30 years since this music started and each generation seems to do it a bit smarter. But then again, we are still having ecstacy deaths.
As someone who runs a club, what do you do to combat the threat of drugs coming into the club?
Drugs are a part of society, they’re in prisons and playgrounds and available in every pub and every street corner. Why draw attention to it in a nightclub? We don’t have a drug problem, society has a drug problem.
How to you appeal to such a diverse age range?
By hanging out with young people, I go to a lot of parties, and a lot of events, I keep my finger on the pulse. People are coming to the club with their kids now, my kids come to the club. The age range is from 18 to 60, people come down to the club and they tell me 'oh, the young uns in tonight’.
I always say something old, something new, something borrowed and a bag of glue! I look to put something on that appeals to everyone, so on the birthday we’ve got Erick Morilo playing alongside Fur Coat.
I ask Dave about the current pricing structure at the club, tickets start at £10 or £12 and go up to £15, than it’s usually about £20 on the door (maybe slightly more for bigger nights). I remember paying about £10 when I first went to Basics over 20 years ago, back then a pack of fags was just over £2 and a pint was about the same. It seems like the cost of going to a club hasn’t gone up that much in 20 years, but the price to book a top drawer DJ definantly has.
I think that’s what’s killing the scene to be truthful, they say young kids don’t want to go out, but how can they afford to? They need to buy a ticket, a party pack, some drinks, it’s not a cheap night out any more. It’s like we’re creating a nation of bag lifters and drug dealers, a night out is supposed to be about having a good time, to worrying about how you’re gonna pay for it!
What’s the answer to that?
DJ’s need to get real – how much money do you need to get paid to play your favourite records. £1000 is all they should get.
I suggested to Dave that there should be some recognition on the part of DJ’s to the clubs that have been there from the start and helped to make them and other artists successful, especially if they don’t operate in clubs with huge capacities.
People like Weatherall have kept it real, when I lost the Garage overnight. Jamie Jones bless his cotton socks, gave me a call and asked me 'how you getting by’ so I said ‘i’m not really our kid’ and he gets paid 10+ to DJ all over the world. So he came up and did me a gig with Luca C for Beer rates, which was really nice! It comes down to the act at the end of the day, if I was doing a festival and you need big names to pull the people in, then fair enough they should get the money.
It’s probably the best club in the country right now, so it’s a pleasure to be up on that stage in the pulpit looking out at the stained glass windows, so if you wanna come and play, you’re welcome, but if you want stupid money, forget about it! Unfortunately we’re still playing through the nose for acts, which makes it really difficult and increases the door price for the punters.
How did the collaboration with Aaron (Tokyo Industries – who back the club) come about?
He actually used to sit in my amp room 20 years ago, recording the sets at Back to Basics for Global Underground, before they became big they used to do bootleg casettes. He’d be in this little cupboard sweating his bollocks off! That was his intro to the business! He’d actually bought the venue, and we were thinking of doing a night there, so we hooked up and I realised he was working with Peter Hook on Factory and he was doing some good stuff. He’s probably a bit more level headed than we are, which you sometimes need in this business!
What would you say to young kids who are thinking of entering the scene?
Come to Uncle Beero's academy, we will teach you how to do it and how not to do it. The academy is about bringing the youth through, the next generation. We want to share the experiences we have, we’re all responsible for this scene, so we all need to work together to keep it alive. But if you really love it, then do it, if you want to be a DJ or a club promoter to make money or meet girls, then take it from me, you don’t make money and the girls don’t always stay around!
How do you create that work / life balance doing what you do?
It’s a tricky one to balance, cause after a weekend, you’re tired, but you have to make time. Family is the most important thing, but I do see the club as my extended family as well. People do have a rose tinted view of what this jobs like, you have to put every single bit into it, if you want to be a success. There’s no shortcuts, if you do a shit party, it’s true what they say – you are only as god as your last party!
Ever since i’ve known Dave, there’s been talk of a book or a film coming out to chronicle the legendary parties and escapades that Dave’s been involved in, so I ask him when it’s coming out…
I’m getting Dragon for the iPad, cause they’ve finally mastered speech recognition – the extra, extra advanced version is the Beero edition (although i’m not convinced it can decipher his accent!). I’ve started putting stuff down and doing draughts, but because of my dyslexia, it’s tricky. I’ve got an agent and deals on the table, but it’s tricky finding the time, i’ve got my work cut out with the new club at the moment.
There’s 3 types of people – There’s people that made it happen, there’s people that watched it happen and there’s people that say what happened – at some point i’ve been in all 3 categories, but I much prefer the first one! I know there’s some amazing stories, and I know I was there, but quite often, I can’t remember any of it. Including meeting Lou Reed and calling him a paedo, I would love to meet Lou Reed – it’s shame, cause it's too late now to apologise!
Back To Basics 25th Birthday is at Church, Leeds on 26th November 2016. Tickets and info are HERE. Dave has been nominated for the Soldier Of The Scene award in DJ Mag's Best Of British poll and you can vote HERE.