Bradford, Bass & The Boiler House: The Story Of Bassline
Bassline was a type of electronic dance music that started in Yorkshire in the early noughties, but why was it only really a Northern thing?
If you grew up in the North of England during the early noughties Bassline was probably part and parcel of your youth growing up. Kind of like the Northern Soul scene of the 1960s, it was a predominantly Northern thing in the UK. Consisting of speeded up almost ‘pinky and perky’ sounding lyrics (which were usually sampled from cheesy R’n’B songs of the era) on top of the heaviest warping bassline you have ever heard, mixed together with a late 90s London Garage style beat. For some reason it worked, and from the early noughties onward places like Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford couldn’t get enough of it. What is interesting is that around the same era we also saw the rise of Hard House throughout the North West with clubs like Wigan Pier and Maximes also in Wigan. Like Bassline, or some of it, it was harder than traditional Garage and had a certain bad boy vibe to it. Clubs like the Boiler House in Bradford were notorious with trouble, packed full of Bassline revellers, local scumbags, wannabe gangsters and the local drug dealers. But when ‘4’o clock In The Morning’ dropped on the 1210’s, beefs and backgrounds were forgotten about and everyone would rave their tits off pumped full of the pills of the era, which were generally 50% speed unlike the MDMA purity nowadays.
An all time Bassline classic, ‘Gotta Have It’ by Mass Medium talking about ‘coming up’.
By the time T2 had released ‘Heartbroken’ in 2007, Bassline for many had been and gone, and the thought of it anywhere near the commercial spotlight would surely ruin their sought after ‘Hard To Find’ and Phat Fingerz CD collections. It also was about as cheesy as bassline got, although there had certainly been a fine line in Bassline cheese previously, this changed the lines forever. Bassline lost its white label underground, ‘off my head in some dingy nightclub probably going to get stabbed tonight’ feel, if that ever was a good thing? But surely those who experienced the original scene will know exactly what we’re talking about. And as far as the Northern thing goes, as London was giving birth to Grime, Bassline was hitting its peak. Do the two scenes really interlink? Yes and no, Grime clearly had Bassline influences, but the end product is very different. Bassline had more of a House influence whereas Grime took more of a Hip Hop and Jungle direction
It really is grim up North, the skyline of Bradford City in West Yorkshire.
Forget the stereotypical Ibiza revellers of today for a second with their fist pumping dancing, if you did that in a Bassline club back in the day you would have probably got your head kicked in by the locals. Bassline was nowhere near pretentious, it was rough around the edges, working class and a way of forgetting about your problems. What was also interesting about the scene, is it also brought together predominantly Asian and white working classes, something that was very difficult at the time following the Bradford race riots of 2001. Obviously there was Niche in Sheffield and Casa Locos in Leeds but the Boiler House in Bradford was really where you had to go to experience Bassline in the early noughties. The club was closed down in 2004 after a police raid found large quantities of pills, phet, coke and cannabis after an early morning raid. What did they expect Rennies and Fishermans Friend? However, the dealing in the club had become out of control with numerous stabbings, and Chinese whispers going around the local towns that someone even stole the PlayStation from the nightclub. Only in Bradford.
Phat Fingerz was one of the most influential and respected Bassline DJ’s of the early noughties.
Bassline was arguably a subculture in itself, it also carried a certain type of look to it. Sportswear in clubs became popular, Nike Air Max on foot if the juiced up bouncers would let you in wearing them. Designer brands like Paul & Shark, Fred Perry, Henri Lloyd and Lacoste were massive in any Bassline club of the era, for both male and female, with the scene also embracing the ‘Ladette’ culture of the early noughties.
Even though the Bassline sound may have made a comeback in recent years, the underground scene really died around 2008. Times change, people grow up, have children, stop taking drugs at the weekend for recreational use, but for those who were involved the memories will never be forgotten. Unlike Grime, Bassline just doesn’t have the celebrity status to be a globally recognised genre, its sound (well the original one anyway) was only really appreciated up North, in satellite mill towns that hadn’t been exposed to the fast paced life of the likes of London. It was niche, hence the name of the Sheffield nightclub, but will always be remembered as a sub genre of its own with its own unique following and sound.