Around for little under two years, Backdrop are still fairly new to the party hosting game, that being said, in the short time they’ve been around they have well and truly cemented themselves firmly amongst the top players in Newcastle’s electronic music scene.
Having hosted an array of talent at the highest level, such as: Helena Hauff, Kobosil, Levon Vincent and Tama Sumo/Prosumer B2B, as well as putting on their eminent free parties at the unique Ouseburn hangout Ernest, Backdrop have gained a solid reputation for supplying inimitable music and a top notch, loving atmosphere.
Backdrop have just announced some of their latest line up of the upcoming season, so to gain a little more insight into their inner workings, to find out what it is that really makes them tick and to see what the future has in store, we got together with co-founder and resident DJ Simon for an in depth conversation. Simon has also done us the pleasure of recording a mix for the first in our ‘SlopShop Feature Series’ which you can find here.
SS. Hey Simon, thanks for talking to us, let’s start with how the event first come about?
BD: Backdrop was founded by myself (Simon Leeks), Joseph Clarke, Hester Cheuk and Fraser Pearston. Joe and Fraser are North-East born and bred, and Hester and I are both from Hong Kong, which creates an interesting blend of influences. We basically all just had such a big passion for electronic music and a lot of creativity, and needed an outlet. So backdrop was born in a bar called Canal125 in London, 3 weeks before our first Newcastle party at WHQ (which would become our home for the next year and a half) with Oceáan.
(Co founder and resident DJ alongside Simon, Joseph Clarke AKA DR.Joseph, recent mix for jaunt>)
SS. What was it that influenced and inspired you early on to make you want to begin creating Backdrop?
BD: We had some close friends who ran an amazing underground techno night called Ghetec – illegal raves, really nice vibe and you had to say a password to get in, it was class. They brought artists like Lo Shea, Sunil Sharpe and Regal, and I personally found it super inspiring. It was also at one of these hazy afters sessions that I got my first ever chance to mess around on a set of vinyl decks – I was terrible, don’t think I even knew was an EQ band was, but I do alright now.
Also watching a few of the summer of love docs we began to fall in love with that old school purity for the rave – no VIP areas, no bottle service, just a diverse crowd of people all wanting to get off their faces and dance. There’s something beautifully unifying in the simplicity of those aims.
SS.Apart from putting on parties what else was your aims for backdrop in the early stages?
We also worked very hard early on at developing our website, www.backdroplive.com, and we’re pretty proud of the achievement! Also it is currently undergoing a complete professional rehaul, thanks in no small part to Steven Morland, a (now) close friend. This constant adding of content, and development, to the website is also something that inspired us early on, and continues to.
SS. In our humble opinion, from the outside looking in, Backdrop truly encapsulate what the electronic underground music scene should be, but what do you think the definition of the underground is and do you feel that’s being represented as much as it should be within the scene nowadays?
BD: Thank you, that’s such huge compliment! Underground for us is subculture coming together to form a unified group of outsiders, unburdened by social hierarchies. These people can be anything they like, except being prejudiced and intolerant – these are not aspects of the true underground. I feel it’s not something represented as heavily as it should be. We’re seeing student housing flying up all over the city, replacing cultural hubs like the Tower Cafe, and attempting to plough further through Boyd St and the wonderful raving and socialising spaces that are Ernest and Cobalt Studios. These spaces should be lauded and have their jobs made easier by the council, not criticised for noise (in a STUDENT area – what’s happened to students that they suddenly complain about noise?!) and have stricter licensing put in place. A major worry for us is that there is an increasing divide in what is considered good business for an area, and what is not. Underground raves are seen as debaucherous and economically damaging, whereas the diamond strip is seen as a cash cow. This is something that has to change. We have to take the example set by cities like Amsterdam and Berlin and see that underground nightlife can thrive and invigorate areas if given the right terrain.
SS. With major line ups just announced you clearly have big plans for the future but what keeps you guys motivated to keep moving forward and keep putting on such prominent artists?
BD: So excited about this year’s acts – Jane Fitz is the first repeat booking we’ve had at Backdrop, and we can’t think of anyone better to do the job (though Objekt might challenge that thought…). What keeps us motivated is, to be clichéd, each other, and the love for what we do. We continue to strive to bring together those with a passion for the underground palette to our friendly rave, and the constantly diversifying and growing following is definitely something that motivates us.
We always wanted Backdrop to be more than just an underground music night. Now, on Friday 10th February, we have our chance. ‘Backdrop: Sounds Of Solidarity’, will pro-actively celebrate the power of underground dance music culture to connect communities, drive diversity and bring joy to many. A charity event in collaboration with SIREN (London), Room 4 Resistance (Berlin) & Saoirse (Resident Advisor), there will first be a social with live world music, and panel discussion and Q&A, at Cosmic Ballroom(1900-2200) that will then be followed by an extended session together. (2200-0400). Here the DJ’s from the panel will also form an entirely female/trans/non-binary lineup with exceptional techno/house musical pedigree. As mentioned before, we believe the dance floor, through a unification of people under one sound – one voice, so to speak – holds a unique power in uniting people of different backgrounds, beliefs, sexualities. We are also incredibly excited about our move to Cosmic Ballroom. An amazing space for the music we love – top notch visuals and sound (both of which we can’t wait to have a play with). It also gives us an excellent opportunity to give room 2 it’s own unique vibe by bringing other underground nights into the fold – Dig Deep and Joseph Q are up first (joined by Body resident Jack Stanley) and sure to bring the trippy minimalism to the upstairs room; Ctrl and Rob Moller (joined by Nicky Mann) head up Objekt room 2, and are sure to bring their classy style and experience to captain the Ctrl room.
SS. With all these amazing parties you’ve put on which one has been your favourite and for what reason?
BD: So tough to choose! Each party seems to have its own unique vibe that’s stuck with us. Personally, my two favourites were Jane Fitz in January and Helena Hauff in November. Jane’s set was super deep and trippy, and she’s just such a super-friendly legend in person (Joe and I were invited a couple weekends ago to go and play with her and Carl Hardy, who runs the label Animals on Psychedelics, in top UK raving destination Cleethorpes at /k:up/ club, and were treated fantastically). Helena’s set was just so much raucous fun, and her personality and energy both in and out of the booth is incredibly magnetic.
Our bi/tri-monthly residency in Ernest is also always enjoyable – the atmosphere in there is electric and it’s free so people are always in a Ravey mood.
Our collaborative ‘Love Goes On & On (& On)’ with UMOJA UMOJA, in aid of Wearside Women in Need and BOMA, was also a personal highlight. We raised a stack of money for great causes, and raving in what used to be a police house is hard to top.
SS. If you could go right back to beginning of Backdrop what piece of advice would you give yourselves to help you out?
Good question! Don’t expect to book big acts and make money in an underground electronic night immediately (it takes time to build the brand), get out promoting (as much as you can and more) and making friends, and always pay it forward (be willing to help anyone, and quite often you’ll find out they’re willing to help you).
SS. And lastly, what essential piece of music are you currently listening to that you would recommend that our readers need to hear?
For me personally I’m absolutely loving a few different labels and artists (too many to list but I’ll try:
Labels: Boe Recordings, Amotik, Lobster Theremin & Distribution
Artists: Inigo Kennedy, John Shima, Chunyin, Kris Baha, Jack Pattern (listen to Abstract Resistance (if possible pitch it up to +8 ha))
Mixes: Objekt Feeerotation sets, and I’m also constantly listening to all backdrop podcasts!
SS. Thanks a lot Simon, its been a pleasure chatting to you and we wish you all the best with the future of Backdrop.
So Backdrop have big plans in store for their upcoming season, welcoming Jane Fitz back on Friday 13th Jan and Objekt on Friday 10th march, and with the excitement of a new venue to host them in, these are two party’s that definitely not to be missed.
Tickets for all Backdrops upcoming events will be available through their website here –