Jungle mixtape gives Old Red a shot in the arm
Leeds-based junglist LD50 has thrown his weight behind a campaign to save the city’s Old Red Bus Station with a new mixtape series that aims to capture the essence of the beloved venue.
The Bus Station is well-known for championing sounds from the weightier fringes of the dance music spectrum, with nights like License to Jungle and 23 Degrees showcasing the best home-grown talent.
With a top-drawer soundsystem and an open-minded approach to booking, the venue has helped many of Leeds’s finest DJs and promoters to take their first steps in music.
But as for many small venues around the country, the impact of the pandemic has been devastating.
With events cancelled since last March, the team behind the venue have launched a massive effort to keep one of the North’s last refuges for niche dance music afloat.
We caught up with LD50 as he prepared to launch Volume 2 in the series, to find out what the venue means to Leeds heads.
“The old red bus station is one of the few independent places in Leeds with an exceptionally open-minded approach to the music policy – pushing all the niche and chronically underrated music genres of our time,” he said.
“For me the best part of the place is that you can meet anyone down there and it always rolls into a pretty wild night!”
LD50, whose real name is Chris Hoyle, has been involved with the project since its launch, regularly gracing the decks as a resident and producing merchandise for the club.
The mixtape, which bears the name of the clubnight he helps run, is meant to recapture some of the venue’s atmosphere.
“I aimed to create a mixtape that accurately reflected the experience of the night,” he said. “We play oldskool as well as new jungle, so the cassette format is perfect for encapsulating the nostalgia and reflects the origins of the genre’s early mixtape offerings.
“Side A is the warm up – 140ish bpm breakbeats, oldksool and early jungle flavours. Side B is the peak of the night, intense, dark brooding drums and electronic soundscapes.
“Anyone that buys a copy also gets a download link – so even people who don’t yet own a decent tape deck can still buy to support the cause.”
Rik Andrin, the venue’s Managing Director, described the devastating impact that the UK’s first lockdown in March had: “Everything we worked so hard for was taken away from us in an instant. I think we were all in shock, and possibly in denial.
The outlook was very bleak, our overheads – which are extremely high – still needed to be paid and the debt was mounting very quickly. I knew there would be a point of no return in the very near future.”
Despite the challenge, the venue’s team was hopeful that they would receive the necessary support from the government. Rik said this hope was misplaced.
“It became clear very fast that the music and events industry was not a priority and was of no importance to governing bodies,” she said.
Rik criticised the government’s neglect for the live music industry in its response to the pandemic, warning that its approach could increase inequality.
“It feels like the whole world has gone mad. We have forgotten our true values. The music industry that I am so passionate about has been left behind and broken.”
“[UK Government] agencies are not recognising or understanding the importance of music and creative industries. They are creating a gap between venues like us and what they consider to be ‘high end’ popular culture. It is disgusting.”
Alongside the mixtapes, the venue team has launched a competition for artists and in the city to design slipmats and turntable skins, with finalists being chosen for an online exhibition and the winner being given the chance to headline the venue later in the year.
With the end of restrictions in the UK finally in sight, venues like the old red bus station could find themselves back in action again.
If fundraising is successful, the TORBS team and those supporting its campaign will have proven the resilience of independent music culture in truly unprecedented circumstances.