VAN050: Josh Bayat

For our 50th instalment of the Vandelay Guest Mix Series, we knew we had to do something different. Rather than artist interview, we decided to more of an artist profile. We caught up with Josh Bayat at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds for a drink to chat about his new night, Small Talk, and his story as a DJ. In return he introduced me to greatest pub snack in the world, Snyder’s Pretzel Pieces.

Small Talk is described as a “club night focused on bringing lesser-known, deep diggers and producers to Leeds, alongside heavyweight headline acts”. It’s one of Leeds’ newest nights, and the question is why. The nightlife here is full of options, and not in a saturated kind of way. There’s so much going on every night, numerous options with stellar DJs being booked, you wonder if there’s even a point starting a night, going up against corporate backed heavyweights of the scene. So the question is why? And the answer is this - quality.

In a time where phones fill the dancefloor, ready to record that song that the booked act has played in his or her last three sets and continues to play it repeatedly because a video of them playing said song went viral, the DJ now is a celebrity. It’s more than just the music, and music that was seen as underground, a subculture, at one point even resisting the mainstream is now a big money bringer. Therefore, most promoters don’t care about the the music the act they’re booking is gonna play, but the amount of people they’re gonna bring.The classic quantity versus quality discussion. Small Talk is the opposite of this. The focus is on the art of selecting, nothing more. Exceptional music is the objective, exceptional music that is new, fresh and exciting. Josh holds quality over anything else, with the knowledge to recognise what is quality.

His musical journey began at Wire, one of the many clubs in Leeds, but perhaps one of the most intimate. He stated as a bottle picker, cleaning up at some pretty reputable nights, including Pearson Sound’s own night, Acetate. Being constantly surrounded by some of the best music the UK has to offer, Josh quickly picked up a deep and broad knowledge of music that many would be envious of. He took this knowledge to London, on a work placement and quickly picked up a shitty controller, and started to learn how to mix. He describes his first set as a trainwreck, as many DJs would, but looks back at it as a learning experience more than anything. A point he can always refer back to, to know where to draw the line, to know what his standards are. These days, Josh most plays vinyl, and prefers it. By sticking to vinyl, he can really delve into his music collection, and curate, and properly prep a set, as opposed to slamming a thousand songs on a memory stick and seeing what happens. He still feels the need to sharpen his skills on the decks, and is constantly practicing, and looks to producing  in the near future. The move to London also shaped his music taste, exposing him to the esteemed label, Whities. He describes Whities as almost his gateway label, as digging for different music around and related to Whities led him to discover some of his favourite labels now, such as Cosmic Rhythm, Dancemania and Idle Hands.

The name Small Talk comes from something Josh he feels he’s bad at, but the name comes from months of brainstorming. He runs it on his own, but does not forget to mention the constant support from Ollie and Dan, who work at Wire also. The Leeds scene is tight, so there are always clashes with other nights, but Josh is not bothered. The way he sees it, Leeds is such a dynamic city, that there is something for everyone, and all he hopes is that he can be one of those numerous options contributing the city’s vibrant nightlife. The first installment of Small Talk brought in Peach and rising star D.Tiffany, an all female bill with Josh, the only resident on support. Being the only resident comes with a lot of responsibility, but Josh is very careful to walk the line between individuality and compromise for the headliners. He uses his set to break the ice, and to set the mood for the night to come.

When I asked Josh about the decision on the lineup, he had a very interesting take. He’s a big fan of D.Tiffany, Pacific Rhythm, and dubby house in general, and a few friends recommended Peach to him, and he immediately became a fan. The fact that the bill is all female is a wonderful thing for the scene, but it was completely unintentional. It was an organic natural decision based on the merits of the acts, nothing else. Josh would never let diversity jeopardise the credibility of Small Talk, so when booking acts, he’s not trying to fill gaps, or meet equality targets. Its refreshing to see such genuine intention, especially when a lot of female acts are booked these days just as a token.

The future of Small Talk looks bright, with the next one bringing in Shanti Celeste and also giving Chris Farrell, head of Bristol’s own Idle Hands, his long-waited Leeds debut. Josh is aware that parties come and go, and that there’s a hard benchmark, especially when your intention is exposing people to new, fresh music. He looks at Butter Side Up, a fellow night also hosted at Wire as inspiration, whom are celebrating their 8th birthday with Craig Richards sharing the decks with Nicolas Lutz all night long. With hard work, and a lot of perseverance, he is certain that Small Talk will soon become one of the more credible nights that this great city has to offer, and we’re sure of it too.

Small Talk -

Vandelay Team