Leeds is an established draw for those who value quality nightlife. It has become a regular on the tour circuit for a lot of the industry giants, as cemented by the success of the day festival Inner City Electronic, but what sets the city apart is local promoters’ commitment to booking homegrown talent to play alongside them. There is a thriving DIY and house party culture in Leeds, which has been instrumental in cultivating a new generation of red-hot selectors that can compete with the best of them.
An oft-heard criticism of DJing from outside the dance music sphere is that it’s “just pushing buttons”. The vibes conjured at residents-only nights at local parties like Brudenell Groove and Equaliser, which focuses on giving femme-identifying and non-binary people the opportunity to get into DJing, render this criticism redundant. It is often on the airwaves of Leeds-based radio station KMAH that you can hear the fresh, exciting and excited selectors earning their DJ chops. It feels a bit disingenuous to pick just 10, as the city is ripe with stellar talents, but here are some of our favourite Leeds-based selectors below.
Andrew Devine is one of the city’s most celebrated selectors. He curates and runs the Natural Selection nights at Headrow House and can often be seen tearing up the dancefloor at venues around the city. If you’re lucky enough to catch him on the decks at an afterparty, cancel that Uber you’ve just ordered: You’re not going home any time soon.
Not one for the fainthearted, Plugkeisha’s sets are daring and tricksy. For her regular KMAH show, which airs from 4-6pm on the first Thursday of the month, she focuses on platforming POC DJs from Leeds, and isn’t afraid of spinning pop tracks from the likes of The Weeknd and Lady Gaga alongside darker techno cuts. As a member of Equaliser, Plugkeisha is making waves in the local scene.
The devil works hard, but Alex T works harder. By day, he works at Tribe Records, Leeds’ leading record store for electronic music. By night, he zips up and down the country playing gigs. With his own regular slot on Rinse FM, and with upcoming sets at Dimensions and The White Hotel, Alex T is a regular face at many of the city’s best-loved nights, both as part of the crowd and the line-up.
Both live and in her recorded mixes, Zoe Pea is like the captain of a ship, guiding her crew through uncertain waters, ending with fair weather every time. Zoe is a selector in the truest sense: she takes her audience on a journey, and you have to put all your trust in her that she is going to take you on a good one. The Zoe Pea guarantee is that it always is.
Whilst still studying at uni, Zoya started doing shows on Leeds Student Radio called Bath Time Sessions, a soothing hour-long mix of ambient and experimental tracks. Now coming to the end of her year abroad in Leipzig, Zoya has made a name for herself in Germany as well, playing semi-regular live slots at local Leipzig venues. Don’t be fooled by her demure ambient radio presence – she’s a demon behind the decks.
Dubrunner, aka Charlie Tilley, co-runs the wild Stretchy Dance Supply night. Following the motto ‘808s, Breaks and Footache’, SDS boasts a healthy musical menu of footwork, jungle and bassline. It’s an understatement to say that Stretchy has absolutely popped off over the past year, with tickets in constant short supply and recent headliners including Fauzia and Sherelle. Catch Dubrunner wherever you can find him.
As a key figure of both Equaliser and local legendary queer party Love Muscle, Leeds’ most prominent queer night, Lucy Locket can often be found teaching Equaliser DJing workshops, or opening for Jeffrey Sfire at Wharf Chambers’ sweaty event space for Love Muscle. Her sets are often an education in disco and old-school soul, and are as joyful as they are skilful.
Known first for heading up Love Muscle, Michael Upson has become renowned outside of Leeds for his wickedly groovy sets and feel-good selections. He's a fixture of the Dimensions line-up, played Glastonbury earlier this summer, and appears regularly at other queer parties in the North. Seeing one of Upson’s sets is not an experience to be forgotten in a hurry.
If Leeds could be said to have a mascot, it would be Dman: he is always energetic, welcoming and willing to have a chat. He got into DJing when he did his first charity event Dman and Friends, raising money for local charity Sunshine & Smiles which provides a support network for children and young people with Down syndrome. King of pull-ups, his sets are always an event. Not all heroes wear capes.
As one of the founding members of Equaliser, and as a resident of Beijing’s underground ZhaoDai club, Slowcook has been working diligently to bring the ethos of Equaliser overseas. Small and slight, she cuts quite a figure in the booth, never faltering in her energy or her enthusiasm. Don’t underestimate her.
Jemima Skala is a freelance journalist, follow her on Twitter
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