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A brief history of house music

A brief history of house music

Words by
Rob Chadwick

With warmer days ahead and the sounds of music festivals coming back, we are excited to announce that we will be collaborating with the City Varieties Music Hall to present ‘Let There Be House’ at the legendary venue. We asked Rob Chadwick to give us some background on the house music scene in Leeds.

Well, where do we start? House Music is one of the most influential genres of music…fact!   Spanning nearly 50 years and born in Chicago, it didn’t take long to spread across the world. Most folk have a story of their favourite club night or a house track which has stood the test of time; even laying the foundations for their own inspirations and career choices.

Today, House Music has numerous subgenres, all thriving within their own markets; nonetheless, it was originally influenced by disco…way back in the 70s!  Whilst navigating its way through the next four decades house music has influenced pop music, and hip hop, and has been heavily utilised within the film industry.  Not many movements have generated the publicity that house music has, which paved the way for founding figures & innovators Larry Levan, Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles.

For over 40 years Leeds itself has been a catalyst within the UK’s house scene, with the likes of Kaos (later known as Soak), Back to Basics and Hard Times spearheading the market in its prime. Kaos was the first of the three to draft in the likes of Frankie Knuckles and co., to their beloved brands.

Fast-tracking to the noughties, events such as Asylum and Technique, System, Butter Side Up and mono_cult offered a different take on proceedings, boasting artists from Germany, Romania and the UK to bolster their showcases.

The nucleus of the city’s clubs included The Warehouse, one of the oldest clubbing venues in the UK, also nurturing a rich pop history (even housing the likes of Oasis, Madonna and The Stone Roses in its day) and The Music Factory, both putting the city on the map. Other clubs included Ricky’s, & The Gallery which went on to become Europe’s second-best club behind The Hacienda, as voted by the faithful Mixmag clubbers. The Orbit, although more renowned as a techno venture, was also one the highlight clubs in Europe drawing in the likes of Sven Vath, Jeff Mills and UK’s very own Aphex Twin. To this day, local DJs Rob Tissera and Steve Luigi, have been house music stalwarts and still raise the dance floor pulses around Leeds.

Another brand to offer a three-pronged attack on the Leeds house culture, alongside Kaos, Basics and Hard Times (which later birthed an alter ego Soak) was Up Yer Ronson. Up Yer Ronson became a globally renowned brand, notably selling 500,000 compilation albums and singles on the mighty Polydor Records. Alongside The Orbit, Basics, Hard Times and Vague, Leeds boasts a wealthy legacy within the UK’s clubbing community.

Kaos was the first of the aforementioned parties to launch in the late 80s under Tony Hannan, who was a regular at The Hacienda. He drew his inspiration for Kaos from FAC51 and garnered a huge following in the 90s with Sasha, Mark & Farrar and more all ‘guesting’ on a regular basis. With a career spanning three decades, Tony has been a catalyst for the West Yorkshire scene bringing acts like K Klass, and M People to name but two.

Tony’s latest project ‘Let There Be House’ was one of the highlight shows at Belgrave Music Hall in 2022. The 10-piece band offers a nod back to the classic 90s house scene, transporting you to those heady days at The Warehouse and Ricky’s. With support from another legend, Brandon Block, the 3rd installment of the live show will come to City Varieties in June.

Ticket available here

Tony Hannan Tony Hannan


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