Ralph Lawson

Ralph Lawson



To celebrate 20 years of the Leeds club we caught up with Ralph to discuss after-parties at Hopefield Farm, how Back To Basics went from the top floor of a Leeds gay club to one of the best clubs in the world and the terrible car crash that altered the lives of everyone involved in the club. 



Tell me about where you were born and grew up.

I’m from north London originally. We’re a family of Arsenal fans. I went to Gospel Oak Primary. My musical start was probably watching Top Of The Pops. I do remember everyone was really into Gary Glitter and I think the first record I bought was ‘Do You Wanna Be In My Gang’.  


Did you listen to radio?

Definitely. I taped the top 40, as I think everyone did. It wasn’t just guys who turned into DJs, everyone did it. You’d be there with your pause button hitting it on and off for the stuff you liked.


Was there a turning point when it stopped being the Top 40 and started being more serious?

Well, the main thing that happened to me was I got into playing drums. I had a 1960s President psychedelic blue drum kit. It was later on I got a record player so I could play along to the records and practise the beats. I’d play for hours. I suppose I was 13 by then and playing along to New Order and The Clash. I started to have an inkling that a lot of bands I liked came from up north, so I kept on looking that way.  


Did you want to go up north because of the music you were into?

Yes, definitely. I went to have a look at Manchester but unfortunately I wasn’t clever enough to get in! I ended up at Leeds University. But in the 6th form I made friends with a black guy with funky dreads called Dennis. He was a lot cooler than me, lived in Vauxhall in south London and he said, “Listen I’ll show you what I’m into.” He took me to two venues that had an impact. Firstly we went to Soul II Soul at the Fridge in Brixton, which was cool. But the one that really made an impression on me was Dance Wicked, which was run by The Madhatters, Trevor and co, under The Arches in Vauxhall. The main room was hip hop and we wouldn’t even dance because you really had to bust moves. It was amazing. Big records at the time were Mantronix’s ‘King Of The Beats’, Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Wrath Of Kane’ and ‘The 900 Number’ by Mark The 45 King. While we were going to Dance Wicked, acid house was also happening so they introduced a house music room at the back and I really related to those records, stuff like  Kariya’s ‘Let Me Love You For Tonight’, Doug Lazy, Twin Hype.


I started to collect records seriously. I’d go to Black Market in Soho and Zoom in Camden near where I lived. Friends were bringing back DJ Red Alert mixtapes from Kiss FM in New York. I had a couple of those and we’d try and work out what the tunes were. I also met a very important person to me at Black Market: Zaki Dee. He was the coolest motherfucker in London. I used to go and see him DJ. He was playing house records but mixed up with hip hop and that was a big influence on me. He was even part of the reason I liked the name Zaki, which is what we called my second son.


Another really important outlet for me was Zoom in Camden, where  DJ Harvey worked. I was desperately searching for Hamilton Bohannon’s ‘Let’s Start The Dance’ and he hooked me up with a copy. I started to go to Tonka parties (he also eventually became a resident at Back To Basics.) He also gave me the best single line of advice I ever had as a DJ: “You don’t want to be flavour of the month”. He also suggested I should go to Dingwalls for High On Hope.


High On Hope was right on my doorstep. They played this track that kept going ‘It’s Alright’ and it turned out to be Sterling Void. It really stayed in my head. I wasn’t on drugs, so it was the tracks that stood out that would capture me, things like Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Ride On The Rhythm’ or Phase II’s ‘Reachin’.


When you went to Leeds were you going in the hope of finding a scene up there?

Absolutely. But that time I hadn’t really got settled into one style of music at all. I was just a kid soaking it all up. I really liked Sisters of Mercy, although I wasn’t a goth. They had a drum machine called Dr Avalanche which sounded awesome. There were other Leeds bands like Ghost Dance, Salvation and All About Eve on the same scene. They all used electronics so I suppose that grabbed my attention.


I’d also be going to Club Foot at Clarendon Ballroom in Hammersmith to see bands like The Cramps, The Meteors and The Stingrays. I saw Big Audio Dynamite who I got into through The Clash. Now I was finding a sound that really worked for me. They mixed breaks and beats from New York with rock. One of the styles The Clash introduced me to was reggae. My nearest tube was Tufnell Park and right next to it is the Boston Arms and Jah Shaka, Mad Professor and Lee Scratch Perry would play there.


There were a couple of people I met at Leeds who were important to me. The first guy was Drew Hemment. I’ve still got a clear memory of him walking into the uni building: his haircut was a bleached question mark. I went up to him and started talking. He told me he’d taken over a reggae blues club in Chapeltown and turned it into a house club called Twilight Zone. It started at 2am and finished about nine in the morning. I’d go to the Warehouse in town and then to Twilight Zone and listen to Drew playing tracks like Quartz’s ‘Meltdown’, Rhythmatic’s ‘Take Me Back’ or ‘The Theme’ by Unique 3.


Was seeing Drew DJ the thing that gave you the impulse to play?

Drew wasn’t a great DJ (I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying this), but he had a great record collection and a brilliant attitude. The one for me who was really cutting it was George, DJ EASE, who was resident at The Warehouse. He really knew how to DJ before other people in Leeds. He also had some weight behind him because he had a hit track ‘Dextrous’ out too.


We were also travelling over to the Haçienda in Manchester. The Warehouse was playing some house and Twilight Zone was playing it in a small environment, but The Haç was the real deal. Park and Pickering playing to 2,000 people, going nuts. But just as important to me was driving over to Manchester to buy records at Eastern Bloc.


Some of the Manchester DJs started to come over and play at The Warehouse, like Graeme Park and Mike Pickering, but the one that grabbed me was Steve Williams. He was a guest at the Warehouse one night and whereas all the other guys were doing cuts, stops and changing styles Steve came and just played house all night. I was like, “Wait a minute, he played all these different tunes but the beat stayed the same, how did he do it?” I wanted to know how he’d achieved that continuity. 


Who was the other person who made an impression on you?

Nick ran a fast food van just outside Leeds Union and he played house mixtapes. I got talking to him and it turned out this was just a sideline and he promoted an event called Joy with his friend Nigel. By this point, I had some records, and my knowledge was getting there. I started to put mixtapes together and I gave one to Nick and he started giving me warm-up slots alongside DJ Marshall.


Joy became really successful, didn’t it?

Joy did nights at the Warehouse on a Tuesday, with a thousand people in there. One gig I warmed up for was Nightmares On Wax playing live. They were huge as ‘Aftermath’ had gone top 40 and I was directly before them. That was a big gig for me.


Did you feel part of a scene?

I did but it was small and close-knit in Leeds. There were two camps: Joy and Kaos. Kaos had Laurent Garnier, who had really started to happen, and guys like Graeme Park, so they were tied in with the Haçienda. Joy went down the London route. We invited Zaki Dee and the Black Market guys to play at Joy. We had Noel Watson, Adamski and big acts more from the south. 


How long did Joy last for?

About two years. I’d certainly stopped by the end of 1991, because Basics started then. Before that though I’d started my own night with Giuseppe, which we named Clear after the Cybotron tune. He was an art student and made flyers from clear Perspex that looked amazing. We invited DJs like Justin Robertson, Greg Fenton and Carl Cox, who played for £80! He blew people away playing on three decks, which no one else had mastered at the time. It was in a place called Digbys which was near the local police station and there were off duty coppers turning up and showing their badge expecting to get in for free!


It was around this time that I met Ali Cooke. Ali was working in a shop called Kik Flip Records and I started to buy records from him and  invited him down to Clear. He really liked it and asked if he could play. When he next came down he brought his mate Dave Beer, who looked way different from the ravers. He had long hair tied back in a ponytail and a Kangol hat on, waistcoat, beetle crusher shoes and some mad punk T-shirt. We got chatting and they said, “We’re starting a Saturday night and we need another resident, would you like to come and do it?”.

“Of course I do.”

All the Basics crew were from Wakefield. I think that’s why they got people like [Kaos promoter] Tony Hannon’s back up because they weren’t Leeds lads.


Where did Back To Basics start?

At The Music Factory. We started on the top floor of a club that was previously called Rockshots on Lower Briggate. It was a gay venue, and it was still gay on the lower two floors. They gave us a chance on the top floor, which we decked out with camouflage netting, projectors and brought our own decks in. I played the first set. There was a guy called Martin Lever from Eureka from Blackpool who was the first guest and then Ali finished. I played the first ever record, which I often opened with: Marshall Jefferson presents Truth’s ‘Open Your Eyes’.


Was it an instant success?

Instant. We printed a flyer, which simply read: “Dedicated to those in tight trousers and sensible shoes”. By that point the scene had split between ravers and the Balearic clubbers. Dave wanted to differentiate our crowd away from rave. We got about 80 people in. It wasn’t packed but they were 80 great people, so it was a massive success for us. It was a word-of-mouth thing but it really grew quickly. It pretty much doubled each subsequent week. So we’d have 150 the next week and then 300 the week after that. Then it was packed. We were getting more people than we could let in, so the owner offered us the next floor. I remember Rocky and Diesel played the first night we went onto the second floor and we sold that out easily. There was a basement floor below and shortly after we’d taken over the whole building.


Obviously, the Haçienda was a major inspiration but there came a point when it wasn’t so good: the Salford gangs had arrived, there were metal detectors on the door and the ‘happy happy’ crowd had gone. Even though our night was innocently motivated, it was the perfect timing for a new northern acid house club. So people started travelling from Manchester instead of to Manchester. They came from all over.


The thing about running a weekly club in a place like Leeds is you also become part of the town. An institution. Basics fulfilled the same role as a working men’s club or a youth club. What you’re giving the city is a place for people to go. We had regulars that travelled religiously every week. We had a crew from Durham that came every week for years. You’d get this incredible dedication and loyalty.


So who played ?

Ali and myself were the residents. When we moved to different floors I took the middle floor and Ali took the basement. The DJ booth on the middle floor was the cab of a truck that they’d put side-on so the trailer became the stage. You’d DJ in the truck and there would be people on the stage to your right side and people on the dancefloor to your left. It was bizarre! We’d open at 9pm and I’d do the first two hours. Then the guest would do 11-1am and I’d do the last hour.


You had to be on form. People really reacted to every record and you’d know about it very soon if they thought you’d been off. I once had a bad week and received an anonymous answer phone message from ‘The Mixing Police’ telling me that I’d messed up a mix! The pressure to perform at Basics is one of the reasons I’ve been so consistent over  the years. I used to get so nervous. So you’d really prepare and maybe you’d try a record in the early slot and if it started getting big you’d move it to the last hour. So I’d play two different sets and that closing set had to be peak-time, the big tunes, and you’d have to really leave the night on a high and send everyone home happy. That’s why the guests didn’t finish, we started and we finished.


Did you and Ali build up a relationship as DJs together?

Unfortunately, what happened was a bit of competition. We got on great, we really did. But the club got big very quickly and we were on different floors and so a little competitive edge crept in. We were playing at the same time, which is good for the club because it means you’re trying to keep people on your floor, but it also fostered a bit of rivalry. It affected my relationship with Ali. And you’ve got to remember we were very different DJs. My top records and his top records would not be the same at all. There were some that crossed over into both our playlists such as Fluke’s ‘Philly’ or Leftfield’s ‘Not Forgotten’, but Ali wasn’t as into house. He’d drop things like Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Nitzer Ebb and the harder-edged Belgian new beat. He wasn’t the best technical DJ but he was great at selecting.


We’d never finish on a house record. The Weatherall mix of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Glider’ was a massive Basics record, for example. Or I’d finish on Voice Of Africa’s ‘Hoomba Hoomba’, Moodswings’ ‘Spiritual High’, or more Balearic moments like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Big Love’.


When we went onto three floors we needed more residents so we drafted in more DJs from Wakefield! DJ Huggy and James Holroyd started to play slow beats and funk on the top floor, and maybe throw in some disco. It was a great place to go as a punter. Every floor would be full and you’d get a different sound on each floor.


Can we talk about the car crash? What were you doing and how did it happen?

On Thursday March 11th, 1991, I did a gig in Whitley Bay. I’d gone up there first and I’d left my girlfriend Jocelyn Higgin to drive up with Dave Beer and his girlfriend Jill and Ali. We had a Back To Basics at Slam at the Arches on Friday 12th March so I drove across from Newcastle. They decided to go up the A1 and onto the A66, which is a dual carriageway in certain parts. In Penrith, just before Carlisle, there’s a section of dual carriageway that turns very quickly into single carriageway and I believe Ali carried on driving in the right hand lane believing it was dual carriageway. It was also raining and he was in a hire car. Round a fairly tricky bend, there was an articulated lorry coming the other way. Dave remembers Jos shouting, ‘Watch out!’ to Ali. He tried to steer left to avoid a head-on collision but it hit the right side of the car where Ali and Jos were. Both of them were killed in the crash. And the two on the left, Dave and Jill, survived with serious injuries.


The crash happened at 9 o’clock. I finished my set at 11pm and Dave Clark, the Slam manager, came up to me and said, “Can you come with me?” He took me to the back office and said, “I’m not quite sure what’s happened but there’s been a car crash involving the guys.” I just said, “Get me there”.


I drove down to the hospital in Carlisle with a friend of theirs called Adrian. We were so early getting there that we pre-empted the police announcing the deaths. Eventually a female PC turned up and said, “You’ve forced our hand but these are the people who have died.” One of them was my girlfriend.


We got a hotel in Carlisle and the next day I went over to Penrith police station to identify her body. Those are the hard facts but what it means to Back To Basics goes far, far beyond the crash. I’m sure it was absolutely life changing for everyone. Firstly, for the Higgins and Cookes, the families of Jos and Ali, I’m sure it was simply pure tragedy. For Dave and Jill it was many years of pain. For myself it was heartbreak and dealing with the death of a partner at a very young age.


As far as the club’s concerned I’m sure it’s the reason we’re here 20 years later. I’m absolutely sure of it. Every time we’ve had a bad time, as all clubs go through, the memory of those people has kept it alive. We would not be here now if it wasn’t for us trying to find ways of respecting the memories of Jos and Ali.


Fortunately, before the crash Ali and I had made our peace. A few weeks before, we’d been booked for a joint gig in Torquay. We had a really long train trip together and we really talked things through and realised that we were mates. He’d made a comment that has always really stuck with me. We’d won Best Club at the DMC awards 1991 and we were discussing this and Ali said, “Do you realise that the world’s at our feet now, what it could mean for us?” Then he said something really odd: “We can take over, or we can just die”. At the time I thought it was a really strange comment. The next night at Basics Ali came to the after-hours carrying his trumpet and played ‘The Last Post’. Everyone stopped talking and listened to him playing. At the time everyone just laughed but later all these things freaked me out. I’d done a Basics mix on 3rd March 1993 (03-03-93) called the Back To Basics Trucker Mix and nine days later there’s a head-on collision with a truck. I got really into numbers and remained superstitious about threes until my girlfriend (now wife) slowly pulled me out of it in 1994.


What happened to the club?

Obviously Ali wasn’t there but also I wasn’t there and Dave was in hospital. I was in a state. I went to New Zealand for three months, bombing around in cars driving too fast, doing bungee jumps, climbing mountains on my own, shark diving. Testing my life. I was trying to come to terms with it all. I’m not clear about what happened at the club, but it continued to trade. I clearly remember playing there for the first time after the crash and everyone came out to support me which was an incredible gig. I could’ve quit and gone back to London but I decided to stay.


Tell me about setting up the studio and 2020.

The studio was set up in Hopefield Farm in Rothwell, just south of Leeds. I moved there with Carl Finlow and Fraser Brydson. I’d just lost my girlfriend so I was at a loose end. I picked up a copy of the Yorkshire Post and the first thing I saw was, “Farmhouse for rent, £400 per month”. I thought - no neighbours, it’s going to be an ideal place for a studio. It was a great house in the middle of rhubarb fields and it was called Hopefield! The field of hope couldn’t have been a more perfect sign for what I needed. The downstairs became a studio and games room with bedrooms on the top floor and the decks were in my bedroom. So it doubled up as living space and party venue.


How did you meet Carl?

I met Carl through Fraser. It was an exciting time because Fraser was also into the internet at a time when no one knew about it. It was a really creative atmosphere. We were buzzing off new technology and Apple freaks long before the iPod. I was DJing at Basics and the club shut at 2am. Obviously no one wanted to go home so while I finished packing up my records and, without inviting anyone, by the time I arrived home there’d be 10-20 cars outside my house and 50 people inside. There’d be Huggy on my decks DJing and the house had turned into a club. We became the after hours.


When we’d finally kick all those people out, we’d go into the studio and try and make tracks for the next Saturday night. Due to our diverse musical influences the tracks were coming out a certain way, which wasn’t fitting in with anything else that was around at the time. We were sending them off to A&R departments and they were replying, “We’ve no idea what this is.” What we were doing I suppose was making some of the very first tech-house records, but back then there wasn’t even a word for it. 2020Vision emerged from rejections from other labels.


I was into music from Detroit, the more technological sounds coming from there, but I was also playing house, whereas Carl came from pure electronic music: Tomita, Kraftwerk, Yello. Plus, he really knew how to operate his keyboards. He was not a DJ. He was so far above anyone else around at the time for operating these machines, which were complicated, didn’t sync up together very easily and had no preset sounds. It wasn’t Ableton plug and play. He was pivotal in getting the records sounding really good, really early on. I was coming in with ideas and samples as a DJ, until I bought a Roland TR808 and 909 and learnt how to programme them.


Huggy needs to be included in the 2020Vision story, too. Although he wasn’t living on the farm with us, he lived nearby and was round all the time. He moved to Miami in 1998. Even though it seems a long time ago, the first four or five years of the label were incredibly important. Same with Ali Cooke, although he died in March ’93, his influence was enormous.


All of the early releases were just you lot, weren’t they?

Yeah, I was Wulf, Huggy was Bear. Carl had lots of pseudonyms: Random Factor, Silicon Scally, Voice Stealer. We started the label in 1994 and even though we didn’t have any joy from UK labels we certainly got some love overseas. The first ones we heard from were Stacey Pullen, Derrick Carter and Jörn Wuttke and Roman Flügel from Playhouse in Frankfurt. They sent us a fax saying they loved the label. We put it on the wall of the studio. We got back in touch with them and later asked them to do a mix of Random Factor’s ‘Broken Mirror’ (we remixed Blaze’s ‘Lovelee Dae’ in exchange). They invited us to play at Wild Pitch, which was their club before Robert Johnson. One night they dedicated the whole night to 2020Vision and played only our releases all night. Amazing really.


Was the initial ambition to just put out 12-inch singles from you and your mates?

Exactly. No gameplan, no business plan, no long-term aim. No desire to A&R. In fact I didn’t even known what A&R meant.


What have been your favourite periods and best memories playing at Basics?

I loved the Music Factory. I really did love that venue. It’s like your first girlfriend, there were just certain amazing nights together. One of my favourite ever memories is the first night we did a Flying Records party with Charlie Chester. They had Rocky and Diesel, Phil Perry, Ashley Beedle, Farley and Heller and Clive Henry. We’d been down to Flying a few times where it was really interactive, with people bringing drums and whistles and instruments. We didn’t realise that their fame had spread beyond London. By 8.30pm, there wasn’t a queue; the street was road-blocked about twenty deep. The police came to try and control the crowd. There was a guy called Mickey, a mate of Ali and Dave: the Bez of Back To Basics. He’d buzz everyone up. He came running up and took everyone up to the top floor. There was a window and we looked down on this melee in the street and thought, “Oh my god what have we created?” The penny dropped then that we were sitting on something big.


But the Pleasure Rooms were also amazing. We had a 6am license by then so it had turned into an all night party. The roof had skylights so in summer it would be light when we started at 9pm then get dark, then light again for around the last two hours. It turned into an Ibizan terrace with everyone dancing in daylight. When it got light Dave would give out free sunglasses. All the best DJs and acts on the planet were asking us to play there. My number one night of all time has to be when Daft Punk played on their first ever UK tour (on the same night we had Goldie in the basement!) I played one of the best sets I ever played that night before them. I had to! We recorded Daft Punk that night but the recording has got lost (in typical Basics fashion).


We also had great times at The Mint Club and My House/Stinkys. I remember great nights with DJs Sneak, MAW, Ivan Smagghe, Jamie Jones, and many others. It was only really Rehab that was a bad experience. That venue pretty much sucked most of the time.


What about the tracks you were making in the studio, was the aim simply to make stuff you could play at the club?

Yeah we were just trying to make tracks for Saturday night. By that time Farmhouse Studios was up and running. I met Chez Damier in New York in 1994 and invited him over to Leeds. We created Chuggles as our artist name. To this day people don’t realise that every single Chuggles record was recorded in the Farmhouse in Leeds. They were getting road tested at Basics on DAT. Junior Vasquez had started to play them at the Sound Factory.


For Chuggles, we had a loose agreement with Chez. It was all gentlemen’s agreement: you put those out and we’ll put these out. We were just so excited to be working with someone like him. Who wouldn’t want a record on Prescription Underground!? By the time we did those Chuggles records, Carl was very technically advanced and he was leading the production on those records. He was engineering and getting the sounds on the keyboards for Chez. That was very much down to Carl. But Chez certainly schooled us on how to make real house music. The thing I remember the most was his spirituality but also in the studio how he would leave things once he found the groove. We would try to put too many parts in the track but he would let it ride on the beats and bass with just a few hooks.


I know Carl was not a DJ but was he getting inspiration from hanging out at Basics?

Yes everyone was coming to Basics. We were all piling back to the Farmhouse after the club. But there was a bit of a split in the 90s, you were either techno or house, maybe that’s the reason we made early tech-house records. Carl was going to Orbit, which was definitely a techno club and Basics had become a house club by then. We were booking Tenaglia, Claudio Coccolutto, François K and so on. Orbit was booking Sven Vath, Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin. So sometimes they’d go to Orbit and we’d meet back at the Farmhouse and there’d be friendly banter about it. I know tech-house developed in London but our version of it, I still believe to this day, was a purer fusion of the two.


Who impressed you as a DJ?

Well, we’d started going to New York and we went to the Sound Factory to hear Junior Vasquez. I’d be there for 12 hours, just dancing. He blew my mind wide open to what a DJ can do. I really learned house New York-style on that floor. Then when Junior was dropping off we found Danny Tenaglia. I saw Danny in Miami at Groovejet and he was even better than Vasquez: deeper, darker, nastier and more soulful all at the same time. The technical skills of those guys were incredible, so far advanced of the English DJs, apart from perhaps Sasha. Most importantly they knew how to programme. It was unreal. They’d have a dub running and maybe an acappella over the top and rinse it out and people would be going crazy. They’d drop these little teasers and then come back to it later when you weren’t expecting it.


I had a mate who lived there called Steve and we’d go there from start to finish just to listen to Junior. I thought this is real DJing. There was drama, intrigue and most importantly – a show. I started to work out how they’d done it and bring my trips to NYC back into my sets in Leeds.


At the Pleasure Rooms when Tenaglia came to play I played the first four hours and handed it over. One of my favourite sets ever. I wasn’t going to make a mess of that, and he was really happy with how I’d left it. So much so that he offered me the warm-up slot for him in New York at Vinyl. I couldn’t believe that the man who had inspired me asked me to play with him in NYC. When he was playing at Basics, everyone started voguing in his honour.


When did you start travelling as a DJ?

I think we got invited to Ibiza in 1994. Unfortunately it was the wrong year to go to Ibiza. I’d heard so much about it and we got there and it was rubbish. We played at Privilege with Rocky and Diesel, Phil Perry and Cesar De Molero and it was dreadful. We played in this massive venue to no one. The same week we played at Amnesia and the resident DJs took the monitors away when we were on and returned them when they came on. I was so disappointed.


Later I started doing Sundays at Space and that was a totally different kettle of fish. It was the party to be at: packed, mixed, incredible people. Fantastic gig. The decks were on the bar and the sound was terrible but it was going off like you wouldn’t believe. But the main city for me has always been Barcelona. I got invited to play at the Moog club in 1996. I got a residency there and have held residencies in the city at The Row, City Hall and The Loft ever since. I guested all over the world but I was playing every Saturday night at Basics for at least the first 8-10 years. I like being a resident more than a guest.


What’s your favourite production?

My favourite record is our remix of ‘Lovelee Dae’ by Blaze, which was produced by Carl and myself. It was a peak moment in our relationship. I did the beats and the arrangement and he came with his engineering knowledge and keyboard magic. God knows how many it’s sold now, but ten years ago it had done 25,000. It’s in the Top 100 classic records on RA and Beatport. I also love ‘Raptures Of The Deep’. The music we made with Chez has very poignant memories. The highs of being in New York but also the tune called ‘Dedicated To Jos’. It was actually done in February 93. Then Jos died and I went off to New Zealand and Chez released it from the version he had on a cassette tape. It then had a life of its own because I’d play it in Jos’s memory.


What makes a good party?

When Basics kicked off the press focused on Dave Beer being a crazy party animal and yes it was hedonistic and everyone was going bonkers. But what I think they didn’t pick up on was that we always held the music down - high quality music. But then I’d go to other nights where it was all about the music and they’d be full of train-spotters and were no fun. Often loads of guys and no girls. Back To Basics has been a success because it’s as every party should be. It absolutely had the party craziness that makes something exciting and attracts a mixed crowd, but we never played cheesy music.


Is there a record that you always keep in your box that you can’t stop playing?

‘Tribute’ by Moodymann. It’s such an important record for Basics because of how we used it. We’ve always had brilliant warm-up DJs. We wouldn’t play house at the start at all, we’d keep it slow and build the tempo up to 110bpm to 118bpm and then we’d drop a four to the floor tune just as the club had filled. ‘Tribute’ was such a fantastic record for this as it has this long intro then kicks in with the full groove. I played it so often that people knew what was coming and they’d start clapping before the beat came in. Eventually people started demanding it. That is what you can do when you are a weekly resident. You can break records, give them a place and give them a long life.


What’s your favourite club you’ve played recently?

It’s always a pleasure to play at Space for We Love. It’s always special and I get really nervous before it. Harry Klein in Munich, and Panorama Bar and Watergate in Berlin are fantastic to play at in Germany. I’ve had some amazing times at Fabric. I have to say our recent 2020Vision Parties in London have also been superb. We’re taking those around the world now. I love Japan. I also love playing in Croatia and places were the scene is fresh and still has a certain innocence. You almost want to say, “Shhhhh,” so no one else finds out about them.


Interview conducted by Bill Brewster via Skype on 10/10/11 and 20/10/11


© DJhistory.com, 2011

Ralph has a new blog. Check it here >



Check Ralph Lawson music in our store >




The Music Factory Years 91-94 part one by ralphlawson

Your comments


Login or register to post a comment.