Leeds' Josh Demello chats Ruckus24's Bank Holiday party w/Shonky & Arapu
Josh Demello is intimately familiar with the DJ life. Originally from Leeds, Yorkshire, he developed a passion for the music scene at a young age. He embarked on his journey in the late 90s, immersing himself in illegal warehouse raves centered around the distinctive Acid House sound. From the very beginning, he established a solid reputation for himself, whether it was organising events, championing his local scene as a dedicated clubgoer, or delivering impressive sets as a DJ.
Josh's career began with residencies at renowned venues like Mint Club, The Warehouse, and Club Mission in Leeds, and later extended to Ibiza's iconic Amnesia club. Josh’s latest endeavour is new Leeds-based clubnight Ruckus24, which has already hosted Voigtmann, Rossko, Christian AB and Priku among others. This Bank Holiday, they'll host Shonky & Arapu, so we figured it's a good time to check in with the man himself to learn more...
Tell us a bit about your history in electronic music and what guided you to running events specifically.
I was brought up from an early age around dance music. My dad was involved in illegal raves and warehouse parties in the 90s and hung out with djs and promoters. He would take me to raves, and they're my fondest memories as a kid. I was a bit of a festival kid too. I think my first Glastonbury was when I was 5 years old, haha.
I got into djing and collecting vinyl really early. I got my turntables when I was 8 and was fascinated by dance culture from a very young age, so everything has been a natural progression from djing and putting on parties.
Tell us a bit about Ruckus24. What's the thinking behind the name?
Ruckus24 is a party for the people, by the people. Created by seasoned veterans of the UK, Berlin, and Ibiza nightlife scenes, we've been inspired by decades of partying and the anarchist ways of the acid-house era. We felt at the time that Leeds needed a shake-up in the scene as we felt it was lacking a true independent party brand. We started off small, hosting parties in basements, kitchens, and even a 24-hour mansion party, and quickly went on to sell out Mint Warehouse, Distrikt, and Sheaf St. The name is because we're always causing a ruckus, and the parties always last for 24 hours, haha! Although it's been known to be called Ruckus72 on a few occasions.
You've been running events in Leeds for some time. What do you think it is about the city that means it embraces electronic music so much?
Leeds has always been firmly on the map for clubbing in the UK. We've got some of the best clubs around, and the talent is incredible. We've got a supportive infrastructure in place for electronic music, with some of the best record labels, great promoters, quality radio stations, and, of course, a thriving clubbing culture. We have a great selection of festivals too, such as Mint Festival and The Garden Party. We have a lot to offer for emerging artists. We also have a lot of students coming to Leeds, with several universities, and Leeds is a diverse city with a multicultural population. This diversity brings together various musical influences and tastes, contributing to the electronic music scene.
You've spent a considerable amount of time in Ibiza over the years. What are the main lessons you've learned from this experience?
I've been fortunate to spend a significant portion of my life in Ibiza, visiting every year for the past 20 years and enjoying seven seasons there. It truly feels like a second home to me, and I continue to learn valuable lessons from my time on the island.
Ibiza is where I honed my skills as a dj. As a resident on the sunset strip, I learned the art of playing to diverse atmospheres, not just dancefloors. Creating soundtracks for people's evenings and performing during sunsets became as fulfilling to me as playing in clubs. Initially, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, but mastering a wide range of music genres such as House, Funk, Soul, Balearic, and Chill Out in that ideal setting became a life skill. As a resident at Amnesia and a regular performer at Space, I primarily played warm-up or closing sets, allowing me to refine my craft. I love playing these sets as much as peak time performances. Therefore, the key lessons I learned came from the best DJ university in the world—Ibiza!
When it comes to booking artists, how do you strike a balance between inviting those you love and those you know will attract a large audience?
We've been fortunate to always book djs we genuinely love, and I don't believe that will ever change for us.
Could you share some details about your Bank Holiday party with Arapu and Shonky this Saturday? Is this the first "full-scale event" at TESTBED? What can attendees expect from the artists and the venue?
We're honoured to host our Ruckus24 party in a brand new warehouse space called TESTBED. It provides a blank canvas for us to plan the event's atmosphere and aesthetics. We aim to keep it raw and stripped back, with visual elements on the walls and minimal lighting to maintain a warehouse vibe. We're also installing a high-quality Funktion-One soundsystem to ensure perfect audio. We're thrilled to have Arapu perform for us again; he played a few years ago, and his dj skills are outstanding. It's a privilege to welcome Shonky for the first time; we've seen him perform all around the world, and he's been a significant influence on us. Musically, guests can expect a treat!
Although I wouldn't necessarily categorise either artist as "minimal," they definitely appeal to a specific audience, especially Arapu. How has Leeds embraced the "Romanian sound" in recent years?
There's a strong community here that appreciates the Romanian sound. We love it, and we've been fortunate to host recent performances by artists like Priku, Arapu, Lizz, and Cosmjn. Distrikt, a local venue, wholeheartedly supports this sound and has featured djs such as Charlie, Sepp b2b Nu Zau in the past few weeks.
You also have Simone Ellis and Eleanor supporting. Could you share a bit about your relationship with both artists and why having great residents is important at any party?
I'm incredibly proud of these artists. Simone Ellis caught my attention a few years ago with her amazing tracks. We had her perform for the first time at one of our afterparties, and she absolutely nailed it. It's fantastic to have her back. Eleanor has been part of our crew since day one, and I don't think she has ever missed a Ruckus24 event. Although she's relatively new to djng, she's fully immersed in the scene, and I can see her passion and dedication. She has learned from the best and is truly exceptional. Local talent and resident artists are the fundamental pillars of a successful party. Some of the best sets we've had at our events have come from our residents. Ruckus24 wouldn't be the same without the talent we are proud to showcase!
You also have a party at The Canvas Yard this Saturday, where you'll be playing alongside Dr Banana and Reeshy. Do you ever get a chance to relax when playing your own events? Does it affect your performance?
Before our event with Shonky & Arapu at TESTBED, we have a stage at Canvas Yard, the largest event space in Leeds. We are expecting 4000 people, and we are thrilled about our stage lineup, which includes our good friends Holly Why and Reeshy, who have been with Ruckus24 since the beginning. Dr Banana will be playing for us for the first time, and it promises to be a fun vibe, especially with the great weather in store. I will also be performing, and I'm excited about it. To be honest, in many of our previous events, I've taken a bit of a back seat and let the residents play while I handle the event operations. It can sometimes interfere with my own performance, but recently I've been happy to support and showcase the talents of our resident artists. Their passion truly inspires me.
You also organize numerous free parties and prioritize the community ethos behind them. Could you tell us more about this?
Absolutely! We believe it's important to host free parties, primarily at Distrikt, a club/bar with free entry. It's an amazing venue that allows us to book the artists we want, and it features a fantastic terrace and club room. As a party-driven brand, we love any excuse to celebrate and have a good time. With the current weather, we're even considering organising a free outdoor rave during the summer!
Leeds seems to constantly have new venues popping up. Are there any venues in particular that hold a special place in your heart? What makes them special?
Sheaf St is one venue that is particularly special to us. It's an excellent venue with a perfect terrace for the summer season. The first party I organised there was for my 30th birthday. It was a free, invite-only event featuring Clive Henry, Tristan Da Cunha, and Ray Mono as performers. That party was actually one of my inspirations to start Ruckus24 because it sold out, and people were encouraging me to start my own night. James and Laura, the owners of Sheaf St, also own TESTBED, which I believe will be the next big thing for Leeds.
Every promoter has their moments of adversity. What was yours? And how did you overcome it?
We’ve been lucky that every party has been a success in terms of numbers and how good the atmosphere is but there was one that didn’t go to plan. We had managed to rent out some railway arches in the centre of Leeds to do a 12 hour party.. We spent months making the space look incredible, We had Voigtmann, Tristan Da Cunha, Burnski and Kepler playing and tickets were flying out, then the day before National Rail got in touch and said we couldn't go ahead even though The Leeds City Council had approved it, it was extremely stressful but luckily our good friends Sheaf St saved the day as we were able to move the event there and it was a success.
On a similar note, is keeping strong mentally vitally important to your success as a promoter would you say?
Yeah absolutely, You can bump into all sorts of hurdles along the way. It can get stressful at times and sometimes you wonder is it worth it with the amount of work you put into it to sometimes lose money. This is a passion and a dedication for me, I can't imagine doing anything else, It’s a way of life.
With the summer here, it’s bound to get busy for you over the coming months. Can you tell us a bit more about what else you’ve got coming up that’s really exciting you over the next while?
Keep a lookout on our socials for the next events!
Keep up with Josh Demello on Instagram
Buy tickets for Ruckus24 with Shonky & Arapu at TESTBED on Saturday 27th May here