Way before the days of frantic club promoters advertising their night on social media coupled with packed seven day nightclub schedules, somewhere on a farm in north Yorkshire Steve Raine was packing up his overalls and beginning his journey through house music. Add in a little bit of inspiration provided by the Hacienda and Hard Times was born, one of the seminal house music nights to grace the UK, let alone Yorkshire.
The night was one of the first of its kind to bring over the emerging producers from the Chicago and New York house scenes to play together on the same lineup. Over the years Hard Times has been lucky enough to have the likes of Kenny Dope, Kevin Saunderson, Louis Vega, Roger Sanchez and Todd Terry at the controls for their parties. Having welcomed some of the biggest names of the early house music movement, as well as releasing a number of records throughout the mid nineties, after many sucessful years throwing parties across the country, Hard Times came to a halt in 2003.
However this pioneering night was not lost forever, in 2012 Steve and Hard Times made their triumphant comeback welcoming David Morales to The Warehouse for a six hour set. Having left it's mark upon many of the Leeds' venues such as The Music Factory, Nato, The Warehouse and now Mint Warehouse where it will celebrate its 22nd Birthday, Hard Times continues to raise the bench mark for house music nights up and down the country. We Caught up with founder Steve Raine to try and get to grips with some of the sights and sounds he has experienced on his journey over the last 22 years.
Hi Steve, how are you doing?
I’m fine thank you.
Hard times turns 22 this coming December, has the night achieved everything you thought it would when starting in the 90s?
It has achieved far more than my wildest expectations, looking back to the very first night all those years ago, I had no idea the journeys Hard Times would take me on, both good and bad.
Different variations of electronic music and house music have experienced large amount of popularity and even chart success since the beginnings of Hard Times – is there a particular period of time you feel the best house music records were getting made?
Not really, over the 22 years we have seen house music or electronic music as it is now referred to, branch off to lots of different genres. However, it seems to have come full circle, the music that is now proving to be popular is. in a lot of instances. retakes of tracks from all those years ago. Big vocals backed by booming baselines which is our Hard Times trademark.
Are there any DJs or producers you wished had been able to appear over the years at Hard Times?
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to work with just about every DJ/producer, however, there are a lot of new and up and coming DJ/producers that I would love to work with in the future.
With almost 22 years experience of throwing parties, are there any particular occasions that stand out in memory as being particularly good or bad?
There have some brilliant parties, maybe the party that stands out above the rest was the Hard Times ‘down and out’ London party at Bagley’s film studio Kings Cross back in 1994. This was the first event of its kind and featured just about every American DJ/producer under one roof, and is still today acclaimed as a very special night in the whole history of dance music, not just Hard Times.
Having taken a break and returning in 2012, which era did you find it harder to establish yourselves in, the hedonistic early beginnings of the 90s or the more current club jostling scene where so many nights struggle to gain a following?
In the beginning. Although there weren’t as many nights to compete with, equally house music wasn’t as popular and didn’t appeal to as great a cross section of people as today, so it was tough to establish ourselves. What we did was stick to one type of music, US house and garage and build a loyal following. Yes, today there are lots of club nights all competing against each other, but again we are trying to stick to one particular style of music and hope to once again build a loyal following. It’s not going to happen overnight but it is something that I am really passionate and keen to do.
Did Hard Times differ in the 90s to the parties that it is throwing now? or has it always tried to give off the same vibe?
My vision for Hard Times today is to incorporate the best from our past together with the best of what is happening now and take that into the future. It has to be about who we were, where we are and where we are going. I’ve never been interested in doing an all our yesterday’s classics night, that is of no interest to me. I want to feel that we are doing something current and making a real contribution to the music industry as we have done before.
How would you describe your experience of taking Hard Times over to Ibiza for its first season last summer?
Frightening. Obviously, it was a major project and having no experience of Ibiza, I did not know what to expect. The opening night was one of the most nerve racking experiences I have ever had with Hard Times, but it proved to be a real success, which I have to be honest, felt pretty good. However, over the summer we experienced every type of night, some were good, some were bad and some were downright ugly, but we got through it. The closing party was absolutely brilliant. So looking back, when you take new ventures on you have to be prepared for the best and also the worst, and in true Hard Times form we had both. However, I am really glad we did it. Would I do it again? Let’s wait and see!
When Hard Times celebrates its 22nd birthday this December 5th at MiNT Warehouse, you welcome back the DJ that played at your 1st birthday event, Kenny Dope – what is it about the New York house pioneer that has drawn to book him again?
Kenny Dope alongside his partner Louie Vega (the Masters At Work), played on our 1st birthday and have played for us many times and totally understand the Hard Times sound. However, bringing Detroit Swindle to play alongside Kenny Dope is very exciting and shows how committed we are to our vision for Hard Times in the future.
Can we expect Hard Times to be putting on events for the next 22 years?...
I don’t know how long, but what I can say is I am fiercely passionate and committed about to try and take Hard Times back to the forefront of dance music. I know it’s going to be tough and I’m going to give it my best shot, however long that might take.
Interview by Elliot Ryder
Photos courtesy of Steve Raine