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Bogged Out: James Holroyd talks residencies, Manchester and his music

James Holroyd caught up with Mark Dale to talk about his famous residencies at Bugged Out and Back To Basics, his own music and Manchester's clubbing scene.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 16th Jun 2015

Photo credit: Elizabeth Kurtis

The north of England is one of the UK's best regions in terms of dance music and clubbing. It's something that's taken seriously here and it's an all year round pursuit. And though this region is regularly visited by most of the best underground dance music DJs currently spinning, it's not these guests who keep the lifeblood flowing 12 months a year in the north's consistently inspiring club scene. At the best clubs, it's the resident DJs.

DJ James Holroyd, known to all as Boggy, is one of the north's best. He holds residencies at two of the north's most important club nights in Leeds' Back To Basics and Manchester and Liverpool's now sporadically occurring Bugged Out.

Originally from Wakefield, he started DJing an eclectic mix of music in 1991 and within a year had secured a residency at Basics, which is probably the UK's longest running weekly club night. After moving to Manchester, supposedly to study, he became a regular visitor to the city's underground record stores like Eastern Bloc, his social circle in those times including the duo who went onto become The Chemical Brothers and the team behind the Manchester-based music magazine Jockey Slut, with whom he started the club night Bugged Out. 

Manchester was still riding the wave of Madchester hype at that time although The Hacienda had lost much of its spark; the attention it had received had brought local gang elements and a sometimes intimidating air into the club, which could also be felt at other large city centre clubs.

Taking place on Friday nights at Sankeys Soap in the then almost forgotten area of Ancoats, just outside the city centre, Bugged Out became a much needed alternative and a relatively safe option. It specialised in American-inspired techno, the sounds of Detroit and Chicago particularly well represented, a fayre of much darker and more limited appeal to the sounds of The Hacienda. 

Performing the warm up set each week was James Holroyd, whose selections were of often much lighter mood than the main guests. He would play deep, underground house at the night's start, expertly warming up the crowd and leaving the night's main guests much room to manouvre and crescendo.

Such skilful, tempered programming is all too rare in clubs these days and it is a skill that saw Boggy warm up expertly for a wide variety guests including Daft Punk, Derrick Carter and Laurent Garnier. He followed the night to Nation in Liverpool, when it became a monthly, was asked by The Chemical Brothers to be their warm up DJ on several tours and gained a reputation that saw him asked to headline such famed local nights as Electric Chair.

James Holroyd has a distinct ear for records and an incredible collection at home. Perhaps it's not surprising then that, with so much finery to compare to, it's taken him the best part of a decade playing in the studio to be able to get to the stage where he's been ready to release some music. That music, issued as Begin, has begun to emerge over the last few years (listen below).

At the residencies you're most famous for, Bugged Out and Basics, you're known for playing earlier sets in the night. How different is the mindset, preparation and act of playing a warm up set compared to playing a headline set, like the one you'll do at El Diablo's soon?

I still much prefer the warm up as you have a broader palette of stuff to play. That's why I like resident jobs. Peak time house can be tedious and I have a short attention span with it, so there are some twists and turns when I do guest slots. 

Both those clubs have had extremely long lives. I guess the key to a clubnight surviving for so long is constantly redefining and updating their sound. Have you ever felt out of step with the way either of the clubs were progressing over their long journeys?

In some ways I think being out of step is good. There are many hours on a club night, there should be room for a bit of range in the energy spectrum. 

You don't sound like any of the other residents at Basics and you don't sound like any of the guests at Bugged Out. Have you ever thought you'd try and make your sound fit more into what's happening in either of those places?

No, that pressure is on the guests and hopefully the promoter is booking people who can cover it. 

When was the last time you saw The Chemical Brothers? Describe the conversations you had or the usual types of chats you would have with them? Is it just boring music stuff for boys and if so, don't your girlfriends get bored?

It's been a while since we had time to chat, but chat is always good and fun.

You've been making music for many years before you felt ready to release anything you were doing. Why's that?

I didn't have any pressure to do so really. And it's a constant learning and discovery thing. I have always been driven to make listening music rather than club things, an antidote to djing really and it has to be getting towards the stuff you buy and listen to on quality. I shelve things a lot and revisit them. And I bin a lot too. 

Is the kind of music you release as Begin the kind of music you expected to be releasing when you first started to think about making music?

It's an evolution of that. I suppose I used to like the sneaky B sides of singles and all Begin records are b sides. 

I've heard you play such a variety of musics and moods over the years. Some of the music I've heard you play can be kinda dark, kinda wonky. Begin stuff hasn't really got much of a dark edge. Is that something that just doesn't come out of you when you're producing?

Dark and moody is nighttime and weekend maybe and that's the djing world of the weekend. I also start most Begin ideas from a guitar too and I like the summery chords. 

I can hear some 1980s influence in some Begin stuff. Is that a fair assessment? Who are your favourite artists, producers or labels from that period, who are relevant as an influence on the sound of Begin?

Formative electronic pop music from Sheffield and Manchester. Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Factory Records are there for melody, the default tempo is pretty hip hop. I like the electronic crossover of the jazz funkers and I love the chords of 60s and 70s Brasilian music too.

Tony Wilson said "Manchester kids have the best record collections". Is that true? If it is, why do you think that's the case?

It won't be far wrong. It's a great form of escapism, music, records and it's pretty grim out there. The shops are still here and there's a wide range of knowledge that's rare to see as prominently elsewhere. Wilson was always promoting Manchester brilliantly too and always delivered the quotes on demand. 

The Eastern Bloc record shop in Manchester celebrates its 30th birthday this year. In what ways has the shop been important to the clubbing scene of Manchester and to yourself over the years?

A fantastic shop delivering the soundtrack to all the clubs, going right back. It supplied the second wave of techno that was strange enough to warrant a new club in Bugged Out. Its staff have always been of the crack and oddball variety, especially when Moonboots was there. Marcus Intalex, Mark Turner too and Justin Robertson. 

 

Universal Vibes presents James Holroyd by Universalvibes on Mixcloud

 

Manchester's had some really firing clubs over the years, The Hacienda and the Electric Chair nights come to mind. Similarly, the Bugged Out Friday nights at Sankeys were quite often crazy mental - baking hot, people absolutely screaming their heads off, losing it completely, incredibly hedonistic audiences, loads of lads with their tops off and generally a lot of people who couldn't care less how they looked, they only cared about the music and living it for those few hours.

Where has that kind of overwhelming, in your face, aggressively nuts kind of atmosphere these days?

Be honest. They'd have to be pretty amazing to be able to compare to any of those. Back to Basics is still that way. 

What does rave mean to you? Is raving different from clubbing?

Raving is about the adventure and travelling and risking your life for the party. Clubbing is different.

Do you think pictures of Manchester's rich raving past would look better if people weren't always dressed like sacks of shit? What items of embarrassing rave wear have you got lurking in the closet? If you've thrown any out, detail what they were. 

I've always been a practical jumper wearer. Things were baggier then. I did have an Om hoodie and curtains. 

Where are the top three places to get fast food from in Manchester?

Turkish Delight, Tony of Ancoats, Altrincham Market. 

Have you got any big plans or ambitions for the future or are you just not that kind of person?

To release some good music and get quicker at it and experiment with some live music. 

Without just bigging up a load of your mates, like you usually do in interviews, what DJs do you really rate and would venture out of the house to check out? Similarly, what current producers and labels are you excited by?

I still always prefer listening to my mates. Local man Metrodome has some freshness. In terms of new music I still go for the Detroit things and I like the experimental end of electronica. I've never been one for collecting labels or following producers. I like cassettes for the car - Keta Ra ,Delicate Features and A.R.T. Wilson. Bufiman, Nuclear Family, Kyle Hall, Andres, Garth BE, Rufdug, Lexx and Floating Points are all worth checking for adding some funk to the occasion. There's plenty of chill wave/vape to glean from the net, but can we please stop with so many edits? 

What are Yorkshire's best exports?

Synth pop, rhubarb, Wensleydale cheese and tea. 

These days we all have friends who have beards. Has that gone too far as a trend? Have you ever felt the urge to tell one of your friends honestly that their beard looks shit and they need to get rid of it? Have you followed through and told them? If no, why not?

I do bollock myself. I cut my hair and chin at the same time with clippers. It's unkempt and if it goes too far I go into Compo territory. That steampunk super beard thing is too common, but it's just a trend, like tattoos, that will look tired with time. The over manicured look is most likely to cause an intervention though. 

In the 1990s, popular club DJ and Radio 1 resident Judge Jules used to sometimes play the trumpet while he was DJing. If you could play an instrument while DJing, what instrument would you choose? Similarly, the first time I saw Sven Vath play at The Orbit in the early 1990s, he was accompanied on stage by two dolly birds who lead him to the decks. He looked a bit like Paul Daniels, but with two Debbie McGee's on either side of him. If you could have anyone accompany you on stage while you perform a DJ gig who would you chose?

The only instrument I can play is guitar and I do that badly. I certainly wouldn't be playing that while DJing. I don't known, shakers maybe, maracas, whatever you want. No, me car keys. I always like the sound of them. To come on stage with me? A magician would be fun. And probably a lot more exciting than watching me all night.

When are you going to get a proper job?

If anyone wants my services they can get in touch.

James Holroyd joins Dean Sunshine Smith, Phat Phil Cooper and Neil Diablo on Friday 19th June when El Diablo's Social Club and co-hosts NuNorthern Soul run things down at Soup Kitchen in Manchester.