A Brief History of the Queer London Club Scene

Hannah Holland has been a key figure on London’s queer scene for over a decade, getting her first taste of the capital’s club culture at just 15 years old. Four years later, inspired by the eclectic and vibrant sounds she’d been exposed to at nights like Body Rockers and Popstars, she began DJing herself. In the mid noughties she launched her Batty Bass parties, with friend and singer MAMA, at The Star Of Bethnal Green; an energetic bi-monthly throw down that attracted a melting pot of people from all over London. Her label of the same name was a natural extension of the parties; a space for her tastes in techno, jungle, punk and bass to merge and produce something entirely fresh.

Ahead of her appearance this Friday at He.She.They. – an event and collective that aim to create a place without prejudice for people, regardless of their age, race, sex, gender, ability, religious background or sexual preference – she charts the tracks that played a pivotal role in her journey from clubber to DJ…

Where does your love for the queer London club scene stem from?

I stepped into alternative queer London club culture aged 15 in 1996. These records track my experience of a clubber turned DJ through a decade of seminal clubs and the sounds of the times.

What record from this time and place has left the biggest impression on you as a DJ, and why?

The first record that really set me off wanting to be a DJ was ‘The Teaches Of Peaches’ album in 2000. Seeing her live was an insane anarchic ball of energy, with the whole room moshing whilst she sprayed fake blood everywhere. Punk vocals over throbbing 808 dance beats and nasty bass; infectious, rebellious, brilliance. She is one of the queen’s of alternative queer culture.

Elastica – Line Up 

The mid nineties may have been the height of house pumping in all the different LGBT clubs as standard, but a real alternative was a place called Popstars run by the late promoter legend Simon Hobart. Home to London misfits dishing out indie classics, grunge and cross over dance records, it was a true musical soup and a proper mixed crowd. One of the seminal tracks was “Line Up” by androgynous heroes Elastica. The best years of Popstars were held in the depth of Clerkenwell’s Leisure Lounge, still one of my fav venues, that sits empty to this day.

Freeform Five – Perspex Sex Ewan’s Hi-NRG remix

This marks the start of a new dawn; under London Bridge lay Cynthia’s Robot Bar which held the mythical night Body Rockers, run by the seminal label City Rockers. Mixing techno, Detroit electro, new romantic 80s, industrial and punk. To the 18 year old me, this was heaven. Ewan Pearson made a lot of big tracks in that period and this still remains an embodiment of the sound; down right dirty. DJs Damian Lazarus, DJ Hell and Miss Kittin would be on the decks.

Vitalic – La Rock 01

By the time Body Rockers (mentioned above) had kicked off, I was a committed record hunter, desperately trying to find the tracks we heard at the club. Vitalic’s EP was a piece of fire on wax. Nag Nag Nag had started at The Ghetto in Soho. It was before it became really popular and there would be 100 people every Wednesday without fail to go nuts to the sound of Jo JO De Freq. “La Rock 01” would go off like a bomb….it still does. OFFFFFFFFF. The club was home to the most interesting set of people I’ve ever met and I still know many to this day, artists, designers, musicians and the best set of club kids looking like they’d just stepped out of Liquid Sky. We used to make our own clothes and head down there.

Detroit Grand Pubahs – Club Sandwiches (Marc Romboy’s Systematic Soul Mix)

This track embodied the mid 00s east end; road block weekly, Trailer Trash. Marc Romboy, Oliver Hunteman, Chloe, Alter Ego, Michael Mayer, Radioslave and Marc Houle were among producers making the sleazy records that would be soundtracking, the then barren, Shoreditch. Clubs held in disused railway arches and ex strip clubs with parties that would end on Monday lunch time but start on Friday night. Marc Romboy had some amazing records out around that time that bridged the gap into minimal scene.

Hannah Holland – Shake It Up ft. MAMA 

To me this defined our club Batty Bass and London; a punk techno bass bomb. Every month this would go off at The Star Of Bethnal Green in 2008ish. The night was like some sort of anarchic ritual, with MAMA on the mic whipping people into a frenzy, deep house and garage to techno, jungle and everything in between plus MCs; a concoction which made the roof come off. This was also the birth of Batty Bass Records.

Hannah Holland will be playing at He.She.They at fabric on 24th August. 

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