The Symphonic Sounds of Back To Basics: A Preview and An Interview with Dave Beer

Founded back in 1991, Back To Basics currently stands as the longest running weekly house night in the UK. It’s become a cultural institution in its own right; passing on the bastion from one generation of alternative music enthusiasts to the next. Launching the careers of some of the most reputable names in dance music, including Daft Punk, Grove Armada and Basement Jaxx, Basics boasts a lengthy residency of big-name DJs such as Ralph Lawson, James Holroyd, Denney, Laura Jones, Frenchy, James Barnsley, Burnski and Tristan Da Cunha.

Their upcoming event on 28th July is a collaboration of a different calibre: Back To Basics, Leeds City Council and the fantastic Opera North have joined forces to recreate clubbing anthems with live vocalists and a 50-piece orchestra. This musical spectacular will be fronted by Steve Anderson who has been involved with Kylie Minogue and Paul McCartney for over 20 years. Taking place in an outdoor arena in Millennial Square, The Symphonic Sounds of Back To Basics is a homage to hedonistic, underground club culture and its role in putting Leeds on the musical map. Also on the line-up are Robert Owens, A man Called Adam, Adamski and The Beloved, Dave Beer’s very own group. It will be the biggest party that Basics have ever put on – up to 5,000 revellers are expected to attend.

The steadfast figure in 25 years of Basics’ history – nicknamed by Mixmag as the “King of Clubs” – is Dave Beer. Beer’s proved himself as an insightful and mouldable musician, practising both as a residential DJ and as a member of the punk, funk and electro band The Beloved. It’s his love of art, music and culture, as well as an ability to dabble in a versatile suave of occupations from curating and marketing to producing and record management, which makes Basics’ nights truly standout. The Gryphon caught up with the legendary, long-time raver himself.

What was your inspiration for this event?

Actually I was approached by the council and the city of Leeds in honour of Back To Basics’ 25 years of cultural and economic contributions. They had been talking with Opera North and after they had seen the classical events at The Albert Hall by Pete Tong and The Hacienda and thought it would be great honour the club in a similar way. This is a huge honour and I am accepting it on behalf of the citizens of Leeds and everyone involved in the cities nightlife.

As you mentioned in 2015 the BBC Proms for the first time in its 120 year history facilitated Radio 1 to perform orchestral interpretations of Ibiza classics in the Royal Albert Hall, could this be a feasible future for dance music?

To be totally truthful I’ve always seen Back To Basics as more class than classical, with it not being something I had considered until asked. I did go to The Albert Hall and was very impressed, when you see something of that magnitude you realise the expense and expertise it would take to put on such an event, so I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to do it with my own twist. I grew up around classical music with my grandparents who were both musicians and I often use classical references in the music I make as both are layered in a similar way and share a similar structure. I believe it does have a feasible future as I believe it will make young people appreciate classical music more and visa versa. Music is a powerful format and will be more powerful when these two genres are brought together. It’s going to be quite awe inspiring.

Considering that the usual demographic of dance music would perhaps not usually listen to classical music or pay to see a live orchestra, who are you expecting to attend this event and what do you think the response is likely to be?

As I just mentioned the combination of classical and dance will take it to a broader audience which I think is a marvellous thing. Not many young people take time to listen to classical music or often find it boring and don’t appreciate it for it’s beauty, so when a classical arrangement is applied to a familiar tune, they instantly relate. I think people who have not seen this before will be amazing. The sheer excitement of 50 musicians playing simultaneously is something to behold.

Back To Basics is a cornerstone of UK clubbing, it’s seen some of the biggest names in the DJ business perform. Which have been the most memorable Basics of days gone by and why?

I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer is still the same I’m afraid. It’s been one big roller coaster ride and it’s very hard to isolate individual events, but the ones that I have always cherished the most are my 30th birthday with Daft Punk, Norman Jay and Goldie, Basement Jaxx first live performance,  Andrew Weatherall Sabres Of Paradise. Another moment I felt very proud during was when Danny Ramping came during our 3rd month we had been open. I remember looking down from the balcony and I just thought ‘WOW’. All the hairs on my arms stood on end.

Last year you moved into the amazing venue Church, how are you finding this new home? Has the ethos of the night translated well into this space?

As a venue Church is everything that I have been looking for and more. Since The Garage closed, which was always really a temporary home, I had been looking for something really special to house Back To Basics, other club nights and the Back To Basics Music Academy. I had been searching for some time to find the right venue and was gazzumped on one we found. Finally after two years we moved to Church. It’s kind of strange as I would drive past Halo most days and thought what a great venue it would be in the right hands. Now it is… There is still a long way too and is by no means perfect yet but we are getting closer. Come September we will have ironed out a lot of the teething issue with there being a daytime restaurant and the music academy will also be starting.

What’s next on the cards for Back To Basics?

Over summer we always find ourselves on the road either on the festival circuit or in Ibiza etc. We have just come back from Sonar which was amazing and now onto Glastonbury. Roll on September when we open fully again, however before then we do have one event a month including an after party for the Symphonic event on the 28th as well as August Bank Holiday Sunday, which will be announced very soon…

What’s your personal favourite classic dance tune?

I’ve got a few favourites … Weatherall’s Smokebelch, Knights of the Jaguar, and the aptly named Unfinished Symphony by Massive Attack.

Hannah Pezzack

(Image supplied by Jukebox PR)