With Darius Syrossian, Huxley, Third Son and Paul Woodford all having visited Lancaster in the past few years, we think its fair to say that the LUEDMS boys are onto a winner here. This collective of students with an insatiable passion for house and techno are the primary offering of underground house music in the sleepy city, and since forming in 2011 have provided both students and locals alike with a string of exciting parties, featuring both A-list dance music heavyweights and well-researched rising stars.
Control of the events changes hands each year to a new set of students, who are let loose to delve into a range of sounds on the house and techno spectrum. The eager party-starters have had Demarzo, Finnebassen, and Latmun also grace their stage in recent times, and this rotational leadership of the events means offerings continue to be fresh and forward thinking.
However, these headliners and the LUEDMS that party-goers are now treated to is not the LUEDMS of old. Where there is now headline acts, there was once just careful selections of local DJs in intimate venues, and the hundreds of heads that they now get through the door were once a handful of friends. Their events have made the transformation that so many others struggle to pull off; from small-time sessions to sell-out ones, from minimal crowds to major. LUEDMS has become something of a force to be reckoned with, and its ferocious rise looks set to continue with their upcoming Friday 13th party with Rich Wakely. But what is it about the collective that has enabled it to create such a thriving underground house music scene in a quiet, northern city?
We’ve decided to go way back when and hit up one of LUEDMS founding fathers to scope out the society’s origins and inspirations, and whether these still stand strong in today’s reincarnation. We sat down with James Rushe, who served as the very first LUEDMS President back in 2011, to get his thoughts on the collective’s rise.
James, did you ever think that LUEDMS would get as big as it has?
I always maintained that LUEDMS would be a success. It needed time to embed itself within the Lancaster culture and the product we’re seeing now is the result of the continual efforts of the Exec committees year-on-year. I’m glad it’s now as big as it is as it makes all the effort we put into getting it started worthwhile.
Where did the inspiration to start LUEDMS come from?
The basis of LUEDMS started from a lack of underground dance music in Lancaster. I’d been DJing a few places around the town and had started to meet people with a similar interest in the scene. So a group of us got together to effectively make the equivalent of ‘RockSoc’ (Lancaster University Rock Society), calling it Lancaster University Electronic Dance Music Society (LUEDMS). The aim being to bring together people who were interested in the music, people who wanted to learn how to DJ, and aspiring DJs who wanted an opportunity to play out. Our first little gathering was at Grizedale bar on the university campus – which in typical LUEDMS fashion ended up back at a house party – but as the events continued, word started to get around and we began to develop a regular following and gradually increased the size of the events. At the same time, the Bass Race guys had started their own Drum and Bass events, which helped us in forming the basis of a proper underground scene in Lancaster.
It cant have been easy throwing parties in the early days, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Our events were much smaller-scale than what happens now. We had to rely on setting up the sound and light rigs ourselves on the morning of the events which took up a lot of time. Promoting was always difficult as we were advertising a relatively unknown brand to students – which wasn’t helped by Lancaster Uni Students Union staff ripping our posters down too. There was a real chance that the early events could have flopped so I’m glad we stuck with it and had the support of other students to give us the grounding we needed.
What do you think it is about LUEDMS that people love?
I think there are several factors. When I started at Lancaster there was no demand for DJs playing underground dance music, but as the years have passed this has changed dramatically. I’m glad that LUEDMS has maintained the objective of supporting young talent. It gives aspiring DJs the opportunities to play out to an appreciative crowd, hopefully enabling them to continue their own music careers in the future and inspire others to get into the scene.
The events feel different as they’re organised through a love of music rather than just being your typical club night with the sole intention of making money.
I know from when we first started the society there was a real community spirit amongst everyone attending the parties – you’d see the same faces every week so it becomes like an extended family. It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests in music which forms the basis of a quality atmosphere, as well as the beginning of long-lasting friendships. Whilst the group has expanded since its first years, I think it has maintained its character in this respect.
It’s been fantastic to see the society grow, and I hope it’s still giving people memories of uni they won’t forget.
Whats been your favourite LUEDMS memory?
There are so many moments that I enjoyed. The first Lock-In event at Mint was a standout (thanks to Ashley and Stu for letting us go ahead with it!). The Cityblock and Alex Hall parties were immense. Having our lads playing in Sugarhouse to support Bondax and Rudimental, and at multiple Extravs was great. Getting all of the society members together in the Pendle quad for an end-of-year photo was also a special moment.
Have you managed to get down to any LUEDMS events after your time on the exec had come to an end? How do you think the new guys are doing?
I came up to see Harvey McKay play at Elements. I’ve not been to any at Dalton Rooms since its refurb – looks incredible!
If you could book anyone who would it be?
Dax J, Nicole Moudaber or Carl Cox.
The community-over-cash approach to running events that James speaks of has certainly paid off, and its one that others should take heed of when trying to make an impact in the current scene. The chance that LUEDMS offers for inexperienced DJs to earn their stripes on the main stage is also key in building this community. Alongside each headliner features local student DJs (cue promoters everywhere shuddering), but this means friends come to see friends play sets that they will remember for years to come, making memories for both sides that become intrinsically linked to LUEDMS. Also, these DJs are provided with invaluable experience in the art of the warm up set, and are nurtured to mature as selectors. This commitment to investing in the next generation also compliments the rotational leadership of the society, as the new exec are picked from the supporting DJs that feature each year.
Such is the case for the new exec and its President Lewis Newsham, who we caught up with to chat about his plans for the coming year.
How does it feel to be in charge of an event with such a long history?
Daunting to say the least! LUEDMS has been very successful in establishing itself within Lancaster over the years, especially amongst the local student community. I cannot deny that there is a constant pressure to ensure LUEDMS continues to live up to its name but said pressure I believe will be the underlying motivator in both me and my team for us to collectively ensure that LUEDMS will only get bigger and better.
How did you come to be involved with LUEDMS?
It all began in early 2016, when I attended one of the social events (when LUEDMS was a society) whereby the current exec at the time invited people to come along and spin a few tunes on a cosy little set-up in Apothecary. It was a nice chance to get more familiar with using CDJs but more so to become acquainted with the team behind the running of it all. The idea of me becoming involved within LUEDMS only became apparent from that evening where the question was put forwards to me from the exec and it all followed from thereon!
Lets talk about that transition you mention from LUEDMS being a student society to a private events company, how have you found that so far?
Difficult at first, however the way in which we operate has remained pretty much the same, and we actually have more control in the way we manage our events and host them which is much more ideal for us.
Have you had any support/advice from previous exec members?
I’d say the best piece of advice given to me was to be realistic. Lancaster’s a small place and as such, the nights we hold and subsequent acts we put in place have to be viable and sensible for us to continue hosting events.
Can you tell us anything about your plans for this year, any hints on bookings?
At the time of writing this, we have just announced the headline act for our first event come Friday the 13th – Rich Wakley. We are keen on sticking to our roots and staying underground, however following the incredible reception received from a disco night we held in Easter – we are most definitely wanting to add more variety within our calendar! Provided the run-up to Christmas is a successful quarter for us, we have every intention of finishing with a big act for our End of Term event – an act we originally intended to host for our End of Year party.
With so many clubs in Lancaster having closed, some people may say the night life there is struggling. What do you think the secret to LUEDMS success is?
Unfortunately some of the major players (Elements & Mojo) were severely hit from that of the floods back in late 2015. I’ll admit, I genuinely feared at the time for the future of Lancaster’s nightlife and even our own because Elements was home to so many amazing nights for a variety of organisations. I believe Lancaster’s nightlife has always struggled somewhat regardless of these closures, however with the city being so ethnically diverse stemming from its students based at the local universities (Lancaster University, UCUM) there is a lot of interest from international students which is really nice to see. I’d argue the success of LUEDMS is due to our level of dedication and commitment towards it. If you truly believe in something, it will work. Even if we only satisfy a handful of individuals – we are more than content. Obviously our aim is to satisfy all that attend our events but we respect and understand it is not for everyone. LUEDMS is, and always has/will been/be, a NFP (not-for-profit) institution and every penny input into the machine is guaranteed to be output straight back to the community.
What’s been your favourite LUEDMS memory so far?
Tricky ha, there’s so many to choose from! I’d have to say it was having the opportunity to play alongside one of my all-time favourites: Kidnap Kid. Not only that, but being able to sit down with him following his set, having a lengthy chat about anything and everything whilst sipping on a Corona. There’s so many experiences involved within hosting events and they are most certainly not just confined to the dance-floor.
Do you think theres any drawbacks to the control of LUEDMS changing hands every year?
The biggest drawback and risk is the implementation of a new vision which doesn’t fit with the structure of our organisation. It’s essential for LUEDMS to change hands every year though, because the majority of those involved within it are students and it’s inevitable that they will leave and likely return home. LUEDMS requires its team to be based in Lancaster for them to have direct involvement in it.
Do you think its harder to throw underground events in a smaller city like Lancaster?
Without a doubt, there’s only so many people you can reach in such a small city compared to the likes of Manchester, Leeds etc. That being said, there’s very little competition in such a small city so there’s both pros and cons.
Do you think theres space for multiple underground events in a smaller city then; how do you deal with competition?
Yes, providing each event organisation offers something unique and different from that of others. LUEDMS works alongside the other major players such as Tabuki and Latin Party to ensure neither of our events clash and it’s always worked out for all parties involved!
What would your ideal booking be?
Denis Sulta, without a doubt!
Do you struggle at all with the stigma of drugs often attached to underground house events?
I’d say it’s inevitable for underground house events to have a stigma of drug use and unfortunately I believe they always will. We do not condone the use of illicit drugs and we ensure there is sufficient security at each and every one of our events to best ensure this is avoided.
We can’t wait to dance with these guys on the 13th Oct with Rich Wakley and residents.