There aren’t many bars outside London that have DJs lining up from all over the world to play some records in their booth, but Outlaws Yacht Club has garnered an international reputation for a repping the weirder side of electronic music with a loyal core following and the best Bloody Marys in the North of England.
Their tag line – “playing the wrong records to the right people” – is less of a sentiment and more of a description for what happens in the bar, with renowned oddball DJs like Kris Baha and Mori Ra being some of the more recent guests who play for the family of borderline alcoholics that frequent Outlaws. A close relationship with the MAP charity and Cosmic Slop means the bar is covered with posters and prints that are as creepy as the music thanks to resident designer Jonny Cosmic. The man who is responsible for bringing all these artistic strands together is another self confessed weirdo – Joe Gill – who continues to push Outlaws forward creatively with talks, fundraisers, exhibitions and listening parties. Aside from a brilliant mix which you can find below, we catch up with Joe to pick his brains on Outlaws, the Leeds scene and his future plans.
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
It’s not my first, but one i remember was a late night drive where there was a back-to-back special with The Doors on the radio which turned me into a fan from an early age. I think Jim Morrison was a role model for me growing up too.
How did you get into buying and playing records?
I grew up in Whitley Bay, which wasn’t a hot bed of art and culture to be honest but it had a great second hand store called ‘Bay Books,’ I found some gems in there. Once me and some friends from school had started going to the clubs in Newcastle and my friend Blair bought some turntables – the addiction started there.
As I understand it you’ve been living in Leeds for around 17 years, how has your taste been shaped over that period of time? When did you fall into the musical niche that you currently occupy?
When I arrived in Leeds there was a great record shop called ‘Play Music’, I used to hang out there loads when I was a student and I helped out with their sunday party called ‘The Vibe’ which taught me lots about music and throwing parties. I’d been trying to dig for unheard records for a while and had some experience throwing my own parties in pub back rooms etc when i hooked up with Craig Christon, who’s got a wicked taste in music. I had recently opened a bakery & cafe bar so we started throwing parties in there called ‘Joe’s Bakery’ which eventually evolved into a blog and a label. Through this I met lots of inspiring collectors from the UK around the world who shared my tastes.
When did you found Outlaws and what was the motive behind it?
We’ve been running for over 5 years now. After years of searching the nooks and crannies of Leeds for spots to play records to our friends, we felt we needed a HQ where we could hang out and play weird records on a nice sound system with good food and drink. We were also interested in promoting art and community events so we wanted a space that could give us the creative freedom to run events like these as we pleased.
What plans do you have for Outlaws in the near future?
Other than the continued program of music and art events i’m thinking about building a system and taking it around Europe. Outlaws on tour – watch this space!!
Outlaws has become somewhat of an institution in Leeds, do you feel like it’s influenced creatives and DJs in the city over the last 5 years?
I think it’s important to help nurture the scene, Leeds has lots of potential and hopefully we can be an influence alongside platforms like KMAH Radio, Disque 72 and Tribe Records amongst others in promoting Leeds as a buzzing and creative city to live. It’s very refreshing to see the younger people embracing the positive aspects of the creative & music lifestyle and contributing to a vibrant scene in Leeds.
You recently held your 5th birthday at Hope House with Abel and Guillame Des Bois, can you tell us about the relationship you have with MAP and Cosmic Slop, and the dynamic between Outlaws and Hope House?
I’ve been a trustee at the MAP charity for 7 years, it’s an amazing place that offers hope to disenfranchised young people through creativity. Alongside friend and fellow trustee Chris Madden we host regular fundraising events called ‘Chinwag at Outlaws’ with acclaimed guests such as Anton Newcombe, Irvine Welsh & Viv Albertine (check www.chinwag.tv). Recently we also been running a very successful print sale selling Cosmic Slop screen prints designed by Johnny Cosmic who illustrates the distinctive Slop artwork and is also our resident poster creep. Founder and project director Tom Smith very kindly let us celebrate our 5th birthday on his soundsystem which was an amazing party. The charity and soundsystem are massive assets to the city and are now under threat from re-development in the area and we’re currently trying to fundraise the money to save the building and stop the charity having to relocate. Please check www.mapcharity.org for more info and help spread the word if possible!
The Disque 72 record store in Outlaws has been growing steadily under the watch of your colleague Andy Pye – how important is the shop for Outlaws musical identity?
For a long time there wasn’t anywhere to buy the records we wanted in Leeds, so when the opportunity arose to convert a section of the bar into a boutique record store it felt like the logical thing to do. It’s introduced us to some new faces with good taste in music and give them the chance to DJ at the bar. The store is run by Andy Pye and Ed Davies. They’re doing a great job, they stock the best new releases and you can also order pretty much any new release via them.
I understand you also have a record coming out soon on Macadam Mambo, do you have have many other productions in the pipeline?
Yep, I’m buzzing to have an EP coming out on Macadam Mambo, those guys are like family to me (not to mention them being some of my favourite DJs!), the output on that label has been amazing so looking forward to that. Thats under Zmatsusti which is Myself, Tim Hutton & Heidi Armitage on vocals. We’re also in the process of setting up a label to self release some of our material, and Mori Ra’s working on a remix so watch out for that. I’ve also remixed one of our tracks which is coming out soon on local label Space Ritual.
Now for some Leeds focused questions…where’s your favourite place to buy records in Leeds?
Apart from Disque 72 Social, Tribe Records on the next street Kirkgate is ace and The Doghouse has also recently opened – so we have a nice little scene bubbling in the area now. Second hand digging feels limited at times but check the fairs in the market, Queens Hotel and Corn Exchange for bargains. Vinyl Fix in Armley and Vinyl Tap in Huddersfield are definitely worth a visit too.
What are some of your favourite parties to go to?
Cosmic Slop and Love Muscle are reliably fun, Love Muscle is held at Wharf Chambers, which is my favorite spot after Outlaws. Inkfolk in Hebden Bridge is off the hook and Hyde Park Book Club in the student area runs lots of interesting events.
What new talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment?
Luce always impresses me with her approach to music and interesting selections – love her sets. Ship Scope’s Alex Grzybowski is one of my favorite local DJs along with Mike Greenwell, one of the Cosmic Slop residents. My favorite party DJs are Bob’s Inconvenience Store & Ritas Crackers and a couple guests who have recently visited from out of town that you should definitely keep an eye on are Ashton Holland and OKO DJ and of course Andi Hanley!
What are you looking forward to over the next year?
I’m doing a collaboration with On Rotation in May and bringing Vladimir Ivkovic over to Leeds which will involve a listening party in Outlaws followed by a club set at Wharf Chambers round the corner – that’s going to be pretty special. Then there’s a trip and party in Tokyo, a chinwag with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Camp Cosmic Festival.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
Witchcraft, Mexican drug chug, dub, new wave, house, yugo, krautrock, wrong speeders and the Russian Kraftwerk with added panpipes.