I only need to take you to Willow to prove York’s lack of a notable dance scene. Neighbour to the gritty, post-industrial Leeds and its gargantuan venues, the free prawn crackers and crappy music seem pretty lame if held up and compared. House is pretty hot right now but sometimes that £12 return ticket seems a necessary expenditure if you want to hear the real deal.
Meeting Freakin’s Rich Clark and Patrick Funk, I realise that my generation’s not the first to feel the geographical pull. From the age of 15, Rich had been going to Leeds regularly for gigs. “One night” he says, taking a drag of a rollup, “I fell into a party after not getting into a show. I ended up dancing like mad to house all night, sweaty and shirtless by the end”.
This was the pivotal moment. Hooked on house from thereon, Rich and Patrick would spend years travelling back and forth to Leeds. Eventually, the hassle motivated them to bring the party to York. In 1996 Freakin was born and on the 6th of October this year, they celebrated its fifteenth birthday at Stereo with guest appearances from Luke Solomon and Chris Duckenfield.
After years of swaggering from side to side for hours, it’s a relief that dubstep has simply “bled into the resurgence of house music”. We’re all familiar with those who conveniently dropped the electric guitar and skinny jean package just as turn-tables and Stussy clothing got ‘cool’ so I ask them what’s kept them at it for fifteen years.
“It’s always been a massive hobby for us” Patrick says, almost reassuring me. “We have lives outside from it. We love Dj’ing but we don’t get off on Dj’ing…It’s about the crowd and giving them small, intimate, back-room gigs”. Rich proudly interjects “We’ve never had more than 200-300 people at one of our nights. We largely attract an older crowd but we’re having more and more students finding us”.
I hadn’t heard about Freakin until stumbling across them at YO1 festival. After months of thinking York had no more to offer clubbers than repetitive playlists from the mainstream, I asked the obvious: why not push the Freakin name with a younger audience?
“The thing about hype and profile is it makes everything seem incredible” replies Patrick wearily. I’m guessing he’s had to say this before. “In my day students wouldn’t sit in Costa coffee. It’s just about the branding” he continues. They both modestly believe that “word of mouth is the best way of pushing it because you can actually trust it when friends tell you”.
University students are weak to well-worded slogans, lured repeatedly into the clubs that claim to be the hippest during freshers’ week despite never really enjoying it. Those who resist the mass-flow can end up feeling like ASBO street-preachers. Did they call it ‘Freakin’ to celebrate an alternative community of ‘freaks’?
They grin when I ask this. Patrick drives the idea of having a “small-knit community who can feel like they’re at home”. As he goes on to recall Whodini’s “Freaks Come Out at Night”, I feel in the presence of two DJs who really know their stuff. Stepping into their studio at the back of Rich’s garden, I’m stunned by an enviable vinyl collection.
But do they think house has really changed? Rich perks up: “no, I think it’s a circular thing on the whole. It seems to be taking more of a techno route which is more exciting than the garage route. Sometimes I feel like it’s losing its soul in becoming so polished though. I can feel it in the rhythms”.
As our conversation draws to a close, Rich gets up to dig out a quote he wants to show me by Nintendo’s ex-CEO Kristian Wilson. Handing me the laminated rectangle , I read “computer games don’t affect kids; I mean, if Pacman affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music”. Call of Duty anyone?By Jonjo Lowe