The Land That TIm Forgot Part 2
"You should try it. I mean the clue is the name too. 2 "E"s and an LSD."
This week we continue to further pull back Tim Sheridan's layers and go back to the time when raving turned sheep into unicorns, Leeds was at the forefront 24 hour cities and if you even looked a little like you were a solvent abusing, headbanging, jobless shirker you were fucked.
In part one you took us on a safari around pre-Acid House life in the North. Can you put your finger on what it was that really made that area around Yorkshire different from the rest of the North?
Pound to get in at most, that was the main thing. No. Someone much cleverer than me once described the period of northern life under the thumb of Thatcher as a second Ice Age. They were spot on. That period felt like the world's slowest mugging by a very angry glacier. To understand Leeds you must remember some of us came straight out of Northern Soul and by that I don't mean the music I mean the attitude. Northern Soul was the ultimate exclusive club, it was the gang that just didn't need you. In a way to be Northern is to be a product of hundreds of years of being excluded from the curtain calls at the grand theatre of British history. We were the grumpy backstage crew in cardboard overcoats doing all the work, we built the sets and swept the stage after the Queen had left one in her special shitter and the bar had long run dry. We'd spent so long being ignored we developed a permanent reverse siege mentality. So in case you didn't know Northern Soul was so much more about 'Northern' as an identity than it was about geography. We didn't read it as Northern (a point upwards) Soul (type of music) to us it was Northern (who we are) Soul (the thing inside us all). So in the same way we didn't need London during say ; the Industrial Revolution it stood the same for our dance scene which was always self contained and did not need any interference from the wider music biz ta thank you very much. It was all about a finite amount old records even, we didn't need anything new to be made or consumed. We had everything we needed cheers no you've got absolutely nothing we want ta love. Very self contained. So naturally ten years later we were a bit aloof from Acid House to begin with but only because we were a bit aloof or should we say 'distanced' from everything. We had no choice in being excluded for so long that in the end we wove it into our being and made a smashing virtue shirt out of it. I firmly believe our affinity with say Detroit or areas of Germany in our mutual love of futurism and machinery comes from our being historically steeped in manufacturing and more specifically being robbed of the ability to work at some point. We are left idle with only dreams of machines and the free time to look into fashion and culture and the shadow of a work ethic that means we go at it fucking hard.
As well as having one foot in the spirit of Northern Soul isolationism it wasn't weird at all to have mental hair, aviators and leathers and still really like say Earth, Wind and Fire cos I did. I mean look at Soft Cell, a couple of foppish Leeds Goths with a drum machine singing a Northern Soul standard like a torch song for Terminator. Look at Human League. We liked eyeliner, machines and soul and we didn't give a fuck if they had no place being together. Mixing it up was so natural because you just can't tell a northerner what to do. Christ no.
So there was a metamorphosis out of Punk and Goth waiting to happen?
There is only so much isolation you can take before the soul boy inside you just can't bear being stuck in the smelly leather and just bursts out. Ooh that sounds like a lovely butterfly. I'd say I'm more of a social moth. That opportunity for change was why our version of Raving was special. It was the opposite of uniformity to us. You could walk in as anyone and leave as someone else. Go in a sheep and leave as a unicorn. While the sparse media coverage we saw of southern orbital raves saw a sort of uniform emerging, the dungarees and bandana thing, up North it really was an almost comical mix of differences and very beautiful for it. It was where all the outcasts from various tribes went to demob. You went in a squaddie and came out a hippy if that is what you wanted. In went a Goth and out came a Jazz beard. We were like a squadron of Mr Bens emerging from behind ten thousand magic curtains. Testament to the power of Acid House was that it penetrated the hundreds of grey years of siege thinking in the North and made us join in with the rest of England for the first time. In as much as we are capable of joining in. Auditioning for Earth, Wind, Fire and Death.
And then Acid House arrived… welcome to the 90s.
Yeah. Although like many things long past it wasn't a convenient 'moment'. I mean by no means did we wake up and one day everything was different and the grey was gone and we'd all traded in glue and cheap whizz for pills and joy. No. It actually took years. By the time it 'arrived' I for one was a Punk through and through who loved Dub, Disco and especially Funk, I played Washington Go Go on the drums and yet looked like a Goth. If there was anything beautiful about the 80s up north it was this hands-across-diversity thing where there was a lot of tolerance. You were were either a lad i.e "a normal" or a "weirdo" but that could really be anything. Gay, Punk, Soldier, Muso, Anarchist the siege mentality of being so few in number in a small city meant there wasn't any factions in our tribalism. It was just us and them, weirdos versus normals. The funny thing was and you still see this, even the daintiest looking northern oddballs were quite hard cases. I knew the lads in The Mission quite well and they were quite a tough bunch and would fight anyone, dressed like a gang of tranny Munsters. You get Alpha Marys in Queens Court (Leeds Gay Quarter) with scarred faces and deep manly yorkshire voices, plumbers, chippies and brickies. Nothing camp about them at all. It's a mistake to judge too fast in Yorkshire.
People are Yorkshire first and what they look like second. From old ladies to hipsters; you just don't mess.
A big factor was the relationship between image and reality then. Still is I guess but today the kids are wise to it and use it well. Some of the biggest 'issues' dreamt up by the tabloids in the 80s were glue sniffing, "headbanging" being a killer and most importantly unemployment. Unemployment was huge. Most of all though the hysteria drummed up by the press about Punks (and to be fair we were going hell for leather to be 'oribble and hated) drove the post war nation into a state of quivering fear about youth. Again. So if you LOOKED like you were a solvent abusing headbanging jobless shirker you were fucked. So you did your best to oblige.
How would you describe the buzz/atmosphere/attitude in Leeds towards electronic music as it began to spread?
Leeds has always lived in a little micro climate of it's own. We looked at the rest of the country and later the world getting their pants wet about "Dance Music" but we just carried on as normal until our version of it met up with everyone else's. I think that is what longevity is all about. Never chase fads. The reason students still to this day flock to Leeds as a "party town" is because it is a party town. It has been for a long time cos it ignored the rest of the country politically as well as stylistically. It was a liberal atmosphere long before any media hype about scenes. Pioneering councillors like Mayor Bernard Atha were making Leeds a "24 hour city" in a european sense many, many years ago. Indeed in the late 80s. While venues in London were getting hammered by such unpleasant twats like Westminster and Southwark councils, Leeds was making moves to support the dance industry, not criminalise it. Progressive!
I am jumping the gun a bit. The initial atmosphere to Electronic music was like the initial reaction to all new things… pretty hostile. Everything shut down at 2am at the very latest… and the dinosaurs of rock hated anything electronic and many still do sadly. However as it began to become a sort of national hysteria it grew also in Leeds albeit in a more restrained way. The big affect that was a major change was when it kind of went overground in the mid 90s. It was very much the preserve of the aficionado until suddenly every tom-dick-harry-sharon-and-tracy was all over it like a cheap suit. It sort of ceased to be "yours" and became a national fad and suddenly you found it wasn't "yours" there were Mancs and Chelsea Boys and even Europeans who all claimed ownership. This was where it fell down for me for instead of becoming unified it became fractured. It divided into snobs who carved it into territories and "teds" who were considered part timers and johnny-come-latelys and were "ruining" it for the "chosen few". I find that aspect of it very depressing personally. It happened with Punk. I remember older Punk purists up North being very sarcastic about us younger lads coming along and 'ruining it'. I always thought music was for anyone who cared about it. Of course then the elitists say; "yeah but we care MORE" which is just ridiculous. Shame, shame shame…
I don't think we can talk about the buzz about new music in Leeds without mentioning The Fav. The Faversham was originally a small stately home of the Quilliam family. An ancient bunch of loveable toffs who are landed gentry in the area. In the 1950s they dealt with the whole aristocracy collapsing by selling all their land (mostly to The University where it now stands) and turning The Faversham into a hotel. By the late 70's the sons of the family had turned it into something new… not really a pub, although technically it was exactly that, a fucking massive pub… but it was a modular place that had bands on and a killer soundsystem and a dancefloor. Something we take for granted now but back then it was revolutionary. The Fav in the 80s was the only place to be. It was my local for example and if you left Leeds for a year and came back, The Fav and the proper people were always there. Basically anybody who was anybody was there, mainly 'cos there was nowhere else it must be said but also because The Fav was always dealing with the cutting edge of music. I mean Danny Tenaglia's first UK gig was at The Fav… yeah it's a fact! also lads like Carl Cox were being booked in like.. 1990 way WAY before they were big names. The only other clubs of note were The Phono, short for "Le Phonographique" pretentious Goth bollocks of the highest order. But we also had The Warehouse which was, as the name suggests, a proper club of the type we recognise today. But all roads lead back to The Faversham if you trace the scene in Leeds. Particularly to Guy Quilliam and His Lordship himself… the legendary Lord Roger Faversham. You might say that the Leeds Music scene was fathered by Roger Faversham and midwived by the Utah Saints. There would be no scene in Leeds without them. To this day Lord Roger Faversham is still a player, the last venue Back to Basics was in was down to him for example…
As an artist in the scene, what kind of receptions were you receiving from your music? Was it pure, unadulterated madness?
I wouldn't say I was "in the scene" as my own high points happened in London and were imported back into Leeds really. Generations in clubs can pass very quickly. When I came back to do Kiss FM in Leeds in the 90s a lot of the Basics DJs and punters didn't know I knew Beero (Dave Beer, Back to Basics Promoter) from before Basics even started, they saw me as someone from London. It doesn't matter what you sound or look like by the way… if you aren't Leeds 24/7 you aren't Leeds period. The fact I had spent ANY time in London meant to Loiners I was "From That London" and had "Fancy London Ways". Most of them have no idea I was there before they were. Like I said earlier there was a lot of money and coke around by the 90s and I wasn't feeling that aspect at all. It had changed for me. For me Leeds was a place of the 70s and 80s and I had an outsiders view from the 90s onwards, or rather I was assigned that role by younger people who didn't know my history. Which is natural.
In terms of reception… well. If anything Yorkshire people take the piss they don't praise you, God no! no chance. I remember once I was driving around the town in Lord Roger's BMW and someone waved me down and was like "Are you Tim?" and I was like ; "Yes mate" and he goes "YOU WANKER!" at the top of his lungs and runs off. That is what happens up North when you are "spotted". Although people in clubs just come up and talk to you very normally. I took on separate occasions recently both Mr.C and Jon Carter out in Leeds. Both are very "London". Both were a bit taken aback at what a unique place it is and how… well.. just how normally everyone treated them and what a laugh they both had. It's just common or garden friendliness mixed with the Northern thing of not being impressed at all by someone's reputation. Loiners (the term for Leeds Natives) prefer to judge somebody on what they experience with their own eyes and ears they don't give a tuppeny shit about fame. I personally feel I have to return to Leeds as often as possible merely to be reminded loudly what a wanker I have become while I was away. Free aversion therapy if you will.
Do you think the scene in Leeds has always benefited from having Manchester close by? (In terms of both inspiration and positive, creative rivalry?)
No. If you knew anything about Leeds you'd know we're supposed to hate Mancland. Historically I mean. Recently perhaps there is a wee connection but not always. In the past transport was very different. Cities were more isolated in the past. Manchester is a city that basically is in a state of rivalry with everywhere, it's that Manc swagger. My Manc mates will kill me but Manchester does think it is better than other places. So does Liverpool. Leeds knows it's not a major town but it has confidence in itself and that is why it is unique. It doesn't compare itself with other places it just gets on with it. The Leeds thing definitely had much more of a connection with Sheffield. The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire and Warp. Sheffield shares that thing where it doesn't feel the need to compete. It just does it's thing. If the question is Manchester then the answer is resolutely Sheffield. Today maybe Leeds is closer to Manchester but I wouldn't know really I have been out of the country for about 8 years lately. I hope so. Personally I love Manchestershire I really do. I was always buzzed up to cross the Pennines and go to Goth and New Romantic gigs and clubs and was a bit of a regular at the Ritz Indie night and spent a lot of time hanging in mid air on the upswing of the sprung floor. It's simply impossible to be moody to the Smiths or the Cure with your flappy Matrix overcoat piled up on top of your face and your ankles round your earoles going 'weeeee'. I'm really not qualified to speak of Liverpool and Manchester and I also think their stories are well told already by those who were there. Leeds less so. So here I am.
When you return home to play, does it feel at all the same?
Yes and No. When I play in Leeds, which lately is very rarely, you tend to get quite a few old monsters coming out for the first time in ages. The faces come out of the woodwork and mix with much MUCH younger clubbers who know me from Ibiza. It's funny but I get people coming up who think I am Spanish, cos I am a bit swarthy to be fair and they start talking to me like I am retarded or Manuel from Fawlty Towers or something. They get a bit of a shock when they find out I am from Leeds. Like I said before, in clubbing generations come and go very quickly. Some people can only hack it for a couple of years before they have to give everything up and get a real job/life. So I do get this mad mix of people when I play in Leeds. It was a bit of a shock last time I played Basics a couple of years ago 'cos they got the biggest crowd ever at that time and venue. It was really emotional! It was really funny seeing old ravers in their 40s who had got a yearly pass out from the wife and kids mixing with kids who had seen me at DC10 who looked about 12.
Seriously though… in some ways yeah Leeds has a timeless thing with aspects that never change… like the crowd on a good night is world beating. They don't have that London or New York affliction where they are too cool to let go and have a good time… the Loiners just go mental they don't give a fuck and that has always been the case. The faces change and get younger every year but the good bits are constant. Mind you I am a bit biased, it's no secret I love Leeds even though I am something of an expat.
I mean let me give you a good example in terms of generations. A chap called Steve Luigi was easily the biggest Leeds DJ in the early 90's and was worshipped and lauded with great praise. Ask any kid now they will have no idea… why should they? They were toddlers then if indeed they were born. But again like The Utahs, Lord Faversham and Co… Steve Luigi was a major part of forming the scene. But as generations fall by the wayside, either victims of drugs or pressure to conform… as each wave of rave passes it's heroes pass with them unless they graft to stay relevant.
I often tell people my job isn't making and playing records it's convincing each new clubbing generation that appears (what? every 2 or 3 years?) that I am not shit. Seriously. I mean as each generation comes along each thinks they own it, start calling everything 'deep house' and old fuckers are just getting in the way and if they didn't make your career they can't claim you as one of their own and therefore you are judged, boxed off and labelled as obsolete without any of them actually hearing what you do. It's natural you can only stick around for the smart ones to be open minded it's a waste of time being bitter and thinking the world owes you a living cos you were famous for 5 seconds in 1989 because of course it's the opposite. You need to work like a bastard on Father's Day and through effort make sure you are still ahead of the game. Ironically to be successful in the first place it is all about being ahead of everyone else. You don't suddenly stop thinking like that when you do well actually many people do exactly that! I take it all back. I guess what I mean is it's natural selection for kids to choose their own DJs every few years even if those "new" DJs are not doing anything new at all and just re-naming the past. They just want new faces and to take it and claim it. But I do think it's sad if you are an older DJ to get dismissed without trial. Which happens a lot. Cos older DJs are often really good at it. You can't survive in the biz being shit, it's just not possible. I do feel the gap widening now. The shocking thing is when a kid comes up and says that they thought you were really good, as if it's some sort of shock. Humility forbids but you feel like shaking them and shouting I SHOULD BE AFTER 30 FUCKING YEARS AT IT YOU JUNIOR CUNT.
Could you tell us about your relationship/history with Back2Basics?
Since day one really in the loose sense. Although Dave Beer was around The Utah Saints in the late 80s and that, I only really bonded properly with Basics much later in the day around 1995. "Late in the day"! There are people who think they are Basics regulars now who weren't even born in '95. I had crossed paths with people like Beero and Gez (Varley from LFO) and George (Evelyn from Nightmares on Wax) a million years back but they didn't really become mates until I was running Kiss FM up there.
So in the greater scheme of things while they are one of the longest running weekly clubs in the UK, in terms of my history they are fairly new and in terms of Leeds I see Basics as new really… but it has without question been the main influence to several generations while I have been away and I think, in fact I am fairly certain…that I am one of the most frequently booked guests if you go back all the way and am deeply honoured to be so but I have got to see it from both sides of the booth. Meaning if I ever had a free Saturday or even if I was DJing near Leeds… which for me "near" could be Birmingham… any free time at all in the UK, I would hotfoot it home to Leeds just to hang out with my mates at Basics. Kids would come up to me on the dancefloor and be like ; "What time are you on?" or "What are you doing here?" as if DJs were like Newsreaders… we don't exist from the waist down… my answer is always "Just doing what you are doing". I have spent so long on the Basics dancefloor I should get a gold watch or something. So yeah, the history is solid. Most frequent unwanted guest and biggest idiot on the dancefloor and proud of it yeah! It was totally accidental now I think about it. I was bang into "The Downbeat" which was a proto-Nightmares On Wax venture at what then was actually a Gay venue and I forget the politics involved but I rocked up to go to Downbeat one week and instead it was the first Basics. It was as random as that. Lest we forget, let us remember Vague which was really a work of art, a massive metrosexual experiment in a very dowdy time and place, Up Yer Ronson and Love to Be also and the mega raves Kaos and Ark. The Orbit. The ORBIT! Techno legend. Musically though and it is always where the buck stops, it's all about Basics and always has been. Huggy, Boggy (James Holroyd) and Ralph (Lawson). The new DJs there are brilliant but this piece is about the founders really. Without whom and all that.
What is it about Basics that you love so much?
It never, ever sold out. Everyone sells out once or twice in their lives but Basics never did. At one point Basics could have gone massive like Cream etc but if anything it survived cos it went smaller when it "should" have gone bigger. It is also truly something that was very much a confluence of factors. The crowd at Basics ARE Basics really. I mean some of them have been going almost weekly for well over ten years. A few have been going pretty regular for nearly 20, myself included. The residents are ten times better than 99% of the guests too. And Beero is a great personality. It is one of those rare places where as a guest DJ you play your socks off because it has a standard. It is not overt but it clearly exists. I've seen a few guests who I'd seen elsewhere and written off as well – frankly not very good sorry! – and they just completely shine when playing at Basics. Again it's a very encouraging crowd and atmosphere but while it is very jolly and friendly it has this history that says; "this is BASICS mate, you can't be playing any old shit 'ere!" know what I mean.
The victors write the histories and so often and totally understandably kids see Leeds as Basics. I hope some of this tale showed there was life before then. It's funny, I've just read a couple of 'clubbing' books and in particular Dom Phillips' one and in it both Dave Beer and Paul Fryer (Vague) talk about the genesis of their 'arrival' on the scene and neither mention the Utah Saints' place in setting up the scene for us all in Leeds. It's a shame how people can't seem to credit those who helped them. Don't get me wrong, all power to them both, they have both gone on to do really well but nothing just explodes out of nowhere. We all had to pay our dues and I hope some of the gaps in the tale have been filled here.
What do you think a club like Basics represents in today's electronic climate?
A dying breed. An unwavering standard.
Ultimately, what do you think it is about Leeds that, despite its size, makes it such a diverse, competitive (electronic) musical environment? (the people, the musical history, the northern attitude..)
I think I have covered everything but if I had to answer that very seriously I'm afraid it's rather boring geography, economics and statistics . Like I mentioned Leeds is actually one of Europe's biggest student populations and acts as a City Centre and Central Business District for a massive area of Yorkshire… England's largest county. So I think you used the phrase "despite it's size". That is it in a nutshell really. It is in fact a much bigger and more influential place than even Leeds itself is aware of. It has a weird combination of self-belief and bravado coupled with a genuine humility and integral "down-to-earthiness". I mean so many of the major players are not even Leeds. They are students who stayed or from Pontefract or Wakefield and migrated to "The Big City" which believe it or not, is Leeds. Like both London and Manchester it acts as a magnet for frustrated creative people from much smaller surrounding areas. It does also have an "X factor" that defies me. I mean… by the Millennium I had been all over the world but I swear I never knew a place with so many world-class and unbelievable nutters per-square-inch! And I don't mean rubbishy "wacky" types I mean proper characters. On the streets, busking very badly and selling the Yorkshire Post and begging beer money off you. Leeds always was and still is swarming with peculiar types with stories to tell and I cannot tell you why! I have to insert the caveat too that 100% of people I have introduced to Leeds, particularly from London, have immediately fallen for the place. You should try it. I mean the clue is the name too. 2 "E"s and an LSD. Enough said really.
Due to the kind reception to these words, much of this has founded the basis for a book that Tim hopes to finish this year; loosely describing 3 decades of frankly dreadful behaviour.
Tim returns to Ibiza this season to not be a Goth at all.
You can find his music here and if you missed out on part one you can find that here also.