We caught up with On Rotation residents Chris I’Anson, Alex T and Marlon Morris ahead of their fourth birthday party with Katiusha and CCL at Open Source Arts…
DIY Leeds: So tell us about how you got started?
Chris: Well there’s only one original member left
Alex: Chris is the oldest member
Chris: That was four years ago now I guess. Me and Owen who I used to run it with, we used to run BPM [Leeds uni DJ society] and then we both graduated and we wanted to keep putting music parties on. We saw Jacob [owner of 212] was putting out feelers looking for nights, he’s just opened 212, so Owen went in with a CD full of tracks that were the sort of tracks that he’s want to play on the night, and he listened to it with Jacob and Jacob was like ‘Yeah sound’. We’ll have ya.
DIY Leeds: How did everyone else come on board?
Chris: Well, we wanted to do a free night, it was important that it was free, local, that sort of thing, cos at the time it was lots of big names everywhere, now it’s locals everywhere, but at the time there weren’t that many locals everywhere I guess, so we wanted to put smaller more local names on for free, and then we got Alex to play at – our third party I think?
Alex: The second one. Wait – I think.
Chris: Yeah, second or third, we got Alex to play, and then we got him back for the first birthday cos he did a good job.
Alex: No, it was for the loft party.
Chris: Was that not the first birthday?
Alex: No, the first birthday was Perseus Traxx at 212. So we’d done maybe a couple of months at the 212 and then there was the space above where Studio 24 is and it was called En Joi , which now is not used for anything any more, so there was En Joi Arts Studio, it was above Studio 24, and Chris or Owen were like ‘Yeah we’re going to throw a party in here’, so we got Jacob to play…
Chris: Owen used to be involved with Hush House, I think they might have done some parties up there.
Alex: Yeah, that was it. And then Jacob played and I warmed up and then Laurence who now does Love Muscle, he was resident as well, so he played the last set with Owen, then we carried on doing stuff at 212 all summer and then…
Chris: Laurine would be the next party
Alex: Yeah, we didn’t do another big party for another year after that, which was Laurine from Slow Life, which was downstairs at Studio 24, that was really good – and then yeah, so we kept it bi-annual, the big parties, and then apart from that it would just be 212, and then we got more guests involved, so we got Gwenan, we got the Dog Eat Dog boys, Luv Jam, Anouk, Bruce – yeah that was pretty crazy
Chris: The Bruce one was mad.
Alex: We kind of piggy backed off Wire, because Wire had him playing with Joy Orbison so we got him to come up a night early. We didn’t announce it until the day and then it got absolutely rammed out – one in one out – he was playing ambient to a full bar, and then there was this girl who’d just taken a gary and she was like ‘I wanted to hear techno, this is rubbish’ and she left and I was like ‘Great. See you later.’ So yeah, we had some pretty fun ones at 212.
Laurence used to be a resident. He then eventually left like probably a year and a bit ago. The last party that he was involved in was last year’s birthday and then he became a Love Muscle resident. Which is fair enough. And then we were looking for someone else – Chris at one point was like ‘we’re calling it a day, we’ve had a good run chaps’ and I was like ‘No, let’s not do that’, and then we found Marlon. He came down to the party that we did with Lena Willikens at Blueberry Hill Studios, and was supposed to be helping his housemate set up the visuals and just did no helping and was just like ‘Oh my God these speakers are so sick!’
Marlon: Yeah, I promised my mate I’d help him carry stuff up ladders and instead I’m just chatting to the sound guy like lifting the rig up the stairs, great times, so yeah that initial party was my first meeting with them, so from there it was kind of clear that it wasn’t like most of the other parties in Leeds. Which was what really interested me.
And I think there were probably two or three small ones after that that I went to and then at some point I kind of just organically got involved. I can’t actually remember the conversation or initiation or whatever, it just sort of happened.
Chris: And since then it’s just been getting better and better. We’ve been running parties in loads of locations. We did Eiger Studios with John Shima, we’ve done loads of Eastern Bloc ones in Manchester.
Alex: They’re always really good.
Chris: We’ve got some really good friends in Manchester, we’ve done some really good things there. It’s a good city to be linked with. And moving forward, we’re going up a little bit.
Alex: Yeah we’re kind of done with DIY [as in parties in venues where as promoters you have to provide all the equipment and sound system themselves, as opposed to in a club]. Maybe like the occasional one, but not all of them, cos we finished with 212 and we were like right we’re just going to do the occasional big party now. DIY is just really expensive. Unless you’ve got control over he bar and you can run everything yourself it’s basically like a massive cost.
Chris: So our mate Oli – who obviously you know from Wire – he knows what we do and he’s been there since the beginning, he came to the very first one.
Alex: Yeah he was like ‘You guys know what you’re doing’ so we’ve got three dates for Wire next year. And then maybe do some other stuff. Continue with Eastern Bloc, Eastern Bloc’s always good.
Marlon: I think the occasional DIY party will probably still happen.
Alex: Yeah, cos it is quite a fun thing to do. But the Wire parties will be a good staple. It means we won’t have to worry about the million things we normally have to worry about.
Marlon: We can’t tell you who it is yet, but we have nailed our first booking for Wire.
Chris: Yeah we still want to do the occasional DIY parties, just go into a new space, do the thing, it’s just well expensive. But with the safety net of regular Wire parties that is going to be a lot more possible. And we can definitely make them a lot better than the ones we’re dong now as well because we’ll have extra budget, extra time to think about it.
With Wire, it’s one fee and everything is included whereas we’re currently dealing with sound, we’re dealing with venue hire, we’re dealing with security, x amount of money on the bar, all these factors.
Good sound is something we’ve always prided ourselves on. All our big DIY parties always have great sound. Big up to Neuron in Manchester. Their sound’s great. And they have really great engineers.
Alex: They were just a little too expensive for Friday’s party so we’re getting a Void. But Neuron are great. Leeds is really crying out for a decent mid-priced sound system that’s not shit or too small.
Chris: Or too bass-oriented.
Alex: Yeah, all the cost-effective sound systems in Leeds are just really bass-heavy, and obviously we need a good balance across the whole spectrum.
Chris: We might do a collaboration with Outlaws again next year as the last one went so well.
Marlon: Have we got any Manchester dates coming up?
Alex: 28th December. Just before New Year.
Marlon: So yeah we’ve have the Eastern Bloc coming up then we have the first Wire party. It’s February, right?
Alex: Feb 22nd.
DIY Leeds: Well this is great, you’ve answered all of my questions without me having to ask them. So…
Tell us about your bookings for your birthday night…
Alex: So initially I think Marlon wanted to book Carl Hardy who plays a lot with Jane Fitz.
DIY Leeds: Yeah, I know Carl, he’s brilliant.
Alex: Yeah, and a combination of just like – me and Chris were both at Dimensions, and it’s like we kind of didn’t have a venue locked in so we went to Croatia and then we were away for two weeks and then we got back and we’d left ourselves like four weeks to find a venue, announce it, get our bookings sorted and it just was too soon after Croatia – the date we were looking at, so we had to push it back a little bit.
Marlon: We would have still got Carl but he wasn’t able to do this date so we looked elsewhere and it turns out that CCL from Seattle is a fucking great DJ – usually would be out of our price range just because of travel, but was actually just doing a UK tour so luckily we manged to get them down.
Alex: Yeah we’ve not had to pay for any flights or anything, just train up from London. And then Katiusha who’s also playing, we’ve had her play twice before, she played at the Faversham garden party with us and the last ever 212 party.
Marlon: Yes, I think the last 212 was the first On Rotation I went to. I thought ‘This is sweet. Shame this is ending.’ Luckily it wasn’t the end.
Alex: Yeah, I think we just wanted to book people who…
Chris: Our scope got too big for 212.
Alex: Yeah like we had really high aspirations for where we wanted to take the bookings, and Jacob obviously has his limitations with what we can afford to do there. We’d pretty much booked all our friends over the three years. I think we’d booked pretty much everyone there was to book in the north of England. We wanted to do a format where there was a guest and a local DJ as well, but there wasn’t the scope to do that so it got to the point where it came to an end.
Chris: We’ll still do stuff at the Doghouse. 212 is a great venue though. The problem with small events is that we just wanted to upscale it a little bit. And doing the DIY has been really good for that, but again we’re reaching a cut off point where there’s no venues that are quite the right size for us. This Open Source one is kind of the first one which I think we’re all really happy with. Every time there’s always been a compromise.
DIY Leeds: And what are your thoughts on the Leeds music scene generally?
Marlon: It’s very healthy. Having recently experienced how it works in other cities I think there’s more of a sense of community here. A sense of people working together and supporting each other. And a lot of local nights with a lot of local talent. Leeds has got some very good DJs. I think the level is high and the expectations are high and people are always trying to outdo each other, but in a good way. There’s no drama, none of that. And the standard of bookings is always very high in Leeds as well.
Chris: We just need more venues.
Marlon: That’s the thing.
Alex: Yeah Leeds needs another 250 cap venue. Another dedicated venue.
DIY Leeds: Another place like Wire.
Marlon: Yeah, all the places we’ve used so far are multi-disciplinary performance, arts spaces. All sorts of things. Just a lot of room which you can hire basically. If there was a purpose built 300 cap room that would be sweet.
DIY Leeds: Completely off the subject, but the artwork on your flyers is always top notch. Who’s responsible for that?
Chris: Yes big up to Patch Keys. He’s got a great style. And it’s really nice that we’ve been able to use him for all of them and have a uniform style across all of them.
Marlon: Yeah Chris has got them all on his wall and side by side they look great. They really fit together nicely.
Chris: Yeah we’re really lucky to have discovered him and have him do our artwork.
DIY Leeds: Well I think you’ve covered everything I was going to ask. I often close with plans for the future. Any beyond what you’ve spoken about?
Marlon: More mixes, we’ve got the mix series going.
Chris: I think we’ve done thirteen now.
Marlon: We have a lot of things like that lined up that we keep not quite getting around to because organising DIY events is a lot more important and takes a lot of time.
Alex: And then we all have our own solo projects as well which take up time.
Marlon: Plus we’re all working or at uni which takes up more time. So with all that the podcast falls quite low on the list of priorities but obviously once we get into a regular space where we don’t need to wory so much about every aspect of the night we can push stuff like that a lot more, and become more of a platform rather than just a night. Which I think is good, because that’s something which Leeds would really benefit from.
Interview: Roya Brehl