Four Years: On Rotation.

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DIY party crew On Rotation have been killing it on the Leeds scene for just over four years. They celebrated this milestone back in November at the cosy Open Source Arts, and are now gearing up to start their residency at Wire at the end of the month. Just after the On Rotation birthday event, I caught up with crew members Alex T, Chris I’Anson and Marlon Morris to discuss some of their highlights from the past four years, their plans for the future and favourite nights in Leeds…

So, four years of On Rotation…tell us about some of the highlights? 

Alex: Well I guess the bonus of jumping around venues quite a lot is that you get some very particular highlights; we did Lena Willikens at Blueberry Hill Studios which sold out and that was really good, then we did Vladimir Ivkovic at Wharf Chambers earlier this year and that was also unreal…

Marlon: That was definitely the best party Wharf has seen, I think. 

Alex: Well, the best party that’s not Love Muscle. We can’t pretend to be on that level but for a party that wasn’t Love Muscle…

Marlon: He (Vladimir Ivkovic) actually said it was his favourite party that he’s played in ages.

Chris: There were some stand-out nights at 212 as well – Bruce was a crazy big one. 

Alex: Yeah we announced it (Bruce at 212 Bar) on the day and then it packed out – he was just playing ambient to a full bar for 45 minutes. Kerrie from Eastern Bloc (Manchester) smashed it at 212 as well – she always brings a massive crew from Manchester so you end up with like 20 people absolutely having it anytime she plays. 

The party at Open Source Arts was a special one, where does it rank in terms of your favourites? 

Alex: That was probably like a solid 8.

Chris: We haven’t done that many big, big nights outside of the 212 residency. The Yarden Party (at Sheaf Street) we did was really fun – doing parties outside is always really different. 

Marlon: The way that space was set up as well makes it kind of strange but kind of cool at the same time – for once we didn’t have to set much up so it definitely ranks quite high from that perspective. 

Alex: On that note I guess the reason we’ve not used a lot of these spaces more than once is because, aesthetically, I’m a big believer in the space matching the music that you’re playing – so like with Lena Willikens at Blueberry Hill Studios, whilst it was a really sick night, the space didn’t always work with the stuff she was playing. 

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming residency at Wire? 

Alex: Basically, we’re kind of done with DIY parties, at least for the time being, and with events that are very hard to make your money back on. 

Marlon: On Rotation’s 4th Birthday was a perfect example. Moving into Wire we don’t have to be running around all night, worrying about setting up and all that kind of stuff.

Chris: We’re still gonna do DIY but after four years of losing money… 

Marlon: Moving into Wire also means we have a much larger pool of people we can book. 

Alex: Wire have been great. They obviously have their own constraints but they’ve pretty much handed us a blank slate – they said we can come in and do our thing but essentially we have to make it big.

Marlon: To be fair we’ve gone in hard. Obviously we can’t say who they all are but the ideas for the forthcoming parties are several levels above what we’ve been doing up until now. For most parties it’s either a Leeds or UK exclusive for the DJs, otherwise we’re not moving the scene forward at all. We just want to open people’s minds and show them where the good shit is. 

What about your nights at Manchester’s Eastern Bloc?

Alex: Since booking Kerrie all the time we’ve developed a pretty sweet relationship with them; they’ll give us a Saturday every couple of months where we’ll come in, bring a guest and just play some tracks and get really drunk. Some of our most popping parties have been at Eastern Bloc – that space is absolute vibes. 

Marlon: It’s tiny, and it’s fucking heated, mate. It really is, it’s great. 

How did On Rotation actually start out? I’m aware that only one of you is an original member…

Chris: Yeah, that’s me. I was at Leeds College of Art but went to BPM (Leeds Uni DJ society) a lot in my first year to meet people. Back then it was only 5 or 6 people but a friend and I managed to get it going again. The next year I ran it with Owen (former On Rotation member), and from there we started the On Rotation residency at 212 bar. 

Marlon: That was the very start of On Ro – the beginning of the story. 

Chris: At the time in Leeds it was a lot of big DJs and not many locals – it seemed to be the same big names over and over again. We wanted to try and get more locals in, make it more of an evening rather than a night. Everyone would come down, hear some really good stuff and it’d be free. There’d be room for a dance but mainly I wanted people to relax and have a chat…

So how did you two get involved?

Alex: I did the first or second ever guest-slot at 212 and then the loft party, which was the first ever big party we did. After that I played another couple of parties and then they were just like ‘do you want to be a resident?’

Marlon: For me, when On Rotation did the Lena Willikens night I came along with my housemate to help set up. I went to one or two On Ro’s after that and… I can’t really remember how but I just remember getting involved soon after. Ever since then it’s been going really well. I think we’ve got a very good balance now of people who like different things and who follow different spheres of artists. 

Alex: Yeah there was actually a point where Chris was gonna call time on the party… Owen got really sick and had to drop out and then really soon after that Laurence (another former member) left for Love Muscle, so it was just me and Chris. We ended up having a four-or-five-month period of just like ‘is this gonna carry on?’  

Marlon: I came along at just the right time…(laughs)

Alex: It was very much dependent on who joined and what their pedigree was. Owen was very much involved in the networking aspect of the night whilst Laurence was more about the tunes and the curation but never the promotion. When they both left we had two gaping holes and Marlon has luckily filled both of those for us.  

Marlon: It’s a lot of work but when it comes down to it on the night its always worth it for a good party. Because it’s always a good party. 

Finally, what other parties in Leeds are you guys into? 

Alex: Love Muscle, hands down. For me there’s not another party like it in the UK.

Chris: I love Sub:Terranea… They’re always smashing it.

Alex: I actually played at this night, Depth, last week and the residents were sick. They were playing like Terry Francis, Craig Richards style 90s tech-house – sometimes you go to these student run parties and they’re literally just slamming it out at like 11pm.

Marlon: No, those guys (Depth) were playing really good tunes and they’re all really nice. Keep an eye out for them!

On Rotation start their residency at Wire on February 22nd. 

James Dewar

(Main image: On Rotation)