In the attic with Clandestino

BONBON caught up with Leeds house legends Clandestino. Production and DJ trio and legends of radio and thumping dance parties, Clandestino lord the virtual airwaves as staggeringly as they do the club scene. They talk us through the Leeds party scene over the last 2 decades, the virtual disappearance of sub cultures and unification of genre and we get an insider first into ‘Albanian nose flute techno’.

How did you guys meet and get involved with music?

We all have long histories with rave and acid house culture going back to where we respectively come from however we all met in Leeds in the early Noughties through a mutual love of clubbing and DJing. I think there was a call out on a forum (remember them?) for people to get involved in putting a night on; we answered the call and our nascent foray into events began from there

What was your first musical experience?

Joe: I can’t speak for everyone but I’ve always been exposed to music and I can’t recall a time without it. Both my parents love music and it was always on at home and in the car. Sometime during the mid to late Eighties I started to buy records and tapes; just pretty terrible chart stuff really!

Iain: My dad was a big music fan, the house was always full of records. As a kid I loved to while away hours going through the stacks and listening to them on the ever present turntable.

Nick: Like Joe and Iain, I was lucky enough to be brought up in a house full of music, mainly down to my dad and his passion for records.

He used to make tape cassette’s of his rock n roll 45’s for me and my sister...Rolling Stones, Manfred Man, Little Richard, Buddy Holly etc.

I can distinctly remember my first real music experience. I must have been around 4 or 5 and seeing Buggles - ‘Video killed the Radio Star’ on tv.I loved it.

Tell us about your podcast series, how do you get to be involved?

All: The idea is that it’s always been open to anyone to submit a mix to us rather than only showcasing established names, and there is absolutely no music policy. If we like what we hear chances are we’ll host it. We haven't kept as up to date with it in recent months but we do try to keep it ticking over.

Fave artist you've played with / supported?

All: Andrew Weatherall, without question. May he Rest In Peace

Do you prefer vinyl or CDJs when you play sets?

All: We all have big vinyl collections dating back to when that was the only format to DJ with, and we all still buy vinyl from time to time. However our gigs are more or less exclusively USB these days the practicalities of sticking a couple of usb sticks in your pockets versus hauling record bags around speak for themselves. Even if it can come with some pretty embarrassing downsides involving 3 DJs trying to decide which usb stick is safe to remove when it comes to switch overs.

In your social media posts you seem to be surrounded by records - how high could you build a tower with all the records you own? - are we talking burj khalifa or radio city tower liverpool?

All: Nah it’s probably more like the local lamp post! We probably do have a sizeable collection collectively speaking but I (Joe) ditched a load of records during my last house move as I just don’t have the space for them all. They have been whittled down to my most treasured copies. Let’s face it, a lot of shit was bought over the years.

You’re releasing your own personal Acid house essential starter guide - what’s in it ? (i.e whistle, stripey t-shirt and tiny beanie hat, inflatable rubber duck)

All: A warehouse or basement, a soundsystem, strobe light and smoke machine. That really is all you need

Is it hard the 3 of you working together all the time - do you all share jobs equally or is there a Destinys child element - is there a Beyonce?

All: There are three Beyonces. Yes, that does get a bit fraught at times.

Do you have any pre show rituals?

Iain: A couple of pints and the odd cigarette

Joe: Check the equipment is set up correctly and in good working order. Its depressing the amount of times we’ve turned up to a gig and even the basics haven’t been sorted out

Nick: Definitely check the system we’re playing on as Joe said, I can remember turning up to a gig and there wasn’t even any stylus, so that says everything really. And yes a pre gig drink and cigarette is always needed

How long would your perfect set be - seems as time goes on sets are getting shorter. Is a far cry from the all nighters played by Larry Levan and such in the 70s & 80s. Do you enjoy playing all nighters?

All: Since there are usually all three of us playing we tend to be given longer sets, and that’s absolutely how we’d prefer to play. We have done a nine hour set in Berlin a number of times that required some serious focus. I think something like five or six hours would be ideal for us; there are three people's tastes in play so a longer set means we can express those better.

How has house music and its culture developed and changed over the years you’ve been a part of it?

All: It's got more corporate, and sadly the smaller weekly club scene has faded away.  When we first started it was still a pretty rough and ready DIY culture; you could go to any town in the UK and there would be a decent club every Saturday night with great resident DJs where you could have the time of your life. Those days are long gone; nowadays a lot of kids' idea of a big night out is a festival or big all dayer with hundreds of DJs on the bill. 

Do you think there’s less of a divide within genres now - sub cultures are less rigid than they were. Have people transcended genre?

All: Definitely. It’s said the internet killed off sub genres and I think that’s true. Arguably the last subculture was Brit Pop but I think really it was Acid House, certainly with having that tribal element and look and style and secretive edge to it, especially in the early days. But yes I do think we have transcended genres now; people still get fixated on them but within electronic music there’s so much exciting genre-defying music around.

Is this freedom a good thing or are we lacking an iconic music movement?

All: I think both - it’s sad there isn't an iconic music movement for people to attach themselves to but that can come with its downsides in terms of being cliquey or non-inclusive. House and dance music are about openness and togetherness and freedom around creativity with no boundaries can only be a good thing.

Whats next for sub genres - create your own using any terms you want (eg tin whistle post punk)

All: Albanian nose flute techno. Gonna be huge this Summer, you heard it here first.

How would you say the way people throw parties in Leeds has changed since you began throwing parties, have you noticed a changeover over the last two decades?

All: Like I mentioned above the weekly parties have faded away and even the monthlies don't really occur anymore. What you have now is a cross between a few, really small interesting one off events and bigger, all day festival type events. For a few years now there’s been a gap for a small to medium sized regular club night. It’ll be interesting to see how the post Pandemic landscape will affect this; I’m hoping for a return to more inclusive and locally focused parties.

Fav party space in leeds?

All: I think it would be easier to list all the spaces that we loved that are now defunct, but let's not look back. Sheaf St is probably our fave spot to hang out and throw a party. Open St Arts/East St Arts are good spaces. I haven't been yet but The Imaginarium looks a cool spot too. Test Bed the new space the guys behind Sheaf St are currently developing looks like it could be really exciting.

You had a show on the iconic KMAH radio which has since closed, which really emphasises the importance of keeping the underground scene alive - how can we keep the spirit of electronic music alive when dancefloors have disintegrated during the course of the pandemic ?

All: It's tough; although there is a strong online electronic music community through social media and streams keeping things ticking over this scene is all about taking part collectively and being in the moment together. The real spirit of electronic music cannot return until we can have people together again.

It's a shame KMAH folded though; I think a city like Leeds deserves a strong electronic music radio station. It just needs someone with more time and youthful verve than us to pick up the baton.

Advice for aspiring DJS- how can you stand out as a dj with the increasing number of people doing it? Do you find internet radio is helping?

All: Yes I think radio helps as you should be showcasing a diverse mix of music if you're presenting a show and so that should always bring interest. Nobody wants to hear a one dimensional DJ.

But the best tip really is the age old one; stick to your guns, play what you believe in and don't follow trends. If you do it with heart and integrity you should get noticed

What's the legacy you want to leave?

All:Three nice boys

If you could go back to any dance scene in time where would you go? (including B.C)

Iain: A bit obvious? 1988 - 1992 was a very special time, it would be great to do that again.

Joe: Yes Ibiza mid-late 80s would be amazing. Also New York in the 70s to experience The Loft and Paradise Garage

Nick: Similar to Joe, New York late 70s early 80, David Mancuso’s Loft, Larry Levan Paradise Garage, The Mudd Club, Dancetaria.

The Wag Club early 80’s London.

Ibiza mid to late 80’s Ku, Amnesisa, Italy, Rimini.

I could go on.

Artists to watch from the North?

Iain: I don’t think I could pick out a single artist, there seems to be some exciting things set to happen in post pandemic Tyneside?

Joe: Adam Pits from here in Leeds is making some amazing music at the moment.

Nick: liking the output from Cheap Thrill from Leeds. CT are Joe G and friends who run Outlaws Yacht Club. Pretty much our local hangout when in the city.

Anything exciting coming up either live (if 21st of june happens) or online?

All: Yes we are hosting A Love From Outer Space at an as yet undisclosed location on June 26th. It's already sold out

What is your ‘attics’ physical form?

All: A thick, hulking oak set door with a giant, iron padlock and chain, protected by ancient Elvish. A bit like the door to the Mines of Moria that Gandalf has trouble opening in The Lord Of The Rings

What are the thoughts in your attic?

All: When can we next go for a pint?

How do your more abstract and masked/secret ideas influence your creative processes?

All: Subliminally I think, and not always in any conscious way. Or maybe they are just too abstract and weird to ever let out of the attic and so there they stay lying dormant to fester and linger.

What/who is hiding under your bed(s)?

All: The COVID monster

The year is 2050, authoritarian big brother reigns supreme. What are the thought police arresting you for thinking?

All: 2050? That shit seems to be happening now!