Freedom day 'going down in history' says Leeds DJ Josh Demello ready to get the party started
Josh Demello was just 10 years old when he performed his first set at the Leeds West Indian Centre.
From that nerve-wracking first night blasting out hard house and techno to a crowd of adults, the Leeds DJ's raw talent has taken him from warehouse raves in Yorkshire to headlining megaclubs in Ibiza.
He's played alongside superstar DJs, taken up a residency in Egypt and launched 24-hour parties across Leeds.
And then, silence.
Left with little work and the fear of his industry collapsing, Josh has had an excruciating 16 months awaiting the news that clubs can safely reopen.
Now he's got his green light, Josh is preparing to throw parties that the city will remember for a long time to come.
“It’s going to go down in history," Josh told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"I can imagine I’ll end up crying when I feel all that love and the energy. Everything over the last 16 months has built up to this moment."
Born in Hyde Park, Josh was surrounded by music growing up as his dad sneaked him into warehouse raves before he'd reached double figures.
He'd been to Glastonbury festival by the age of six, got his first set of decks at nine and was tearing up nightclubs in Leeds before his 18th birthday.
"I grew up as a bit of a hippie kid, going to festivals and these crazy raves in the middle of nowhere," the 32-year-old said.
“In primary school people used to bring in football magazines but I was hooked by MixMag and DJ Mag. My heroes were the big DJs - Sasha, Carl Cox and Laurent Garnier.”
Josh quickly made a name for himself playing at Leeds clubs in their 2000s heydays - including Mint Club, The Warehouse and the recently-closed Club Mission.
He added: “Back then, you couldn’t just go online and listen to mixes, you had to go to the club at the weekend to hear the music.
"The nightclub was your social scene, it was all about music and catching up with friends.
“Love Parade In 2000 was one of my best memories of Leeds, I’ve been to a lot of festivals and raves in my time but that was insane and I’ll never forget it.”
After celebrating his 18th birthday, Josh flew out to Egypt to start a three-month residency at Ministry of Sound. He impressed the promoters and the three months turned into a memorable year.
“I never went to uni and a lot of people find it daunting moving to a different city," Josh added.
"So going to Egypt, where I’d never been before and only knew one person out there, was very eye-opening and a massive culture shock.
“But it was the best year of my life, it was an amazing opportunity for Ministry of Sound to put that trust in me, considering how young I was.”
Josh's career then took him to Ibiza, where he scooped residencies at some of Europe's biggest dancefloors including Privilege, Amnesia and Space.
He's played alongside a diverse mix of DJs, from Francois K, Maya Jane Coles and Rossko to Calvin Harris, Erick Prydz and Pete Tong, before he launched his Leeds events company Ruckus24 - which throws legendary 24-hour parties across the city.
Then the lights went down in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation. Without nightclubs to dance in and raves to perform at, Josh found it difficult to keep going.
“It set me back in so many ways,” he said.
“I’ve found it hard to be productive because I’m motivated and inspired by socialising and being in clubs, the passion for music comes from DJing or being on the dancefloor. I’ve only ever worked in clubs, that’s all that’s on my CV.
“But I’ve kept listening to mixes and buying records and I started working for my friend Burnski's record label Constant Sound. I learnt lots about how the record label business works which has been great."
Josh is a bag of nerves ahead of 'freedom day', he admits, and his phone has been pinging since Boris Johnson confirmed nightclubs would reopen as planned on Monday.
It's going to be a hectic summer ahead, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
“People have massively missed out, but I think they’re going to party harder because of all the missed opportunities," Josh added.
"That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway."
What does it take to be a good DJ?
Josh is buzzing to perform to a full crowd again.
While he has cemented himself as one of the best house and techno DJs in Leeds, he brings an eclectic mix of genres into his sets and loves digging for new music at Tribe Records in the city centre.
Josh added: “You have to be able to read your crowd and know your records, but have the confidence to be versatile and throw a curveball track in there every now and then.
“If you’re the warm-up DJ, you have to build up the room. If you’re headlining, tear the roof off. If you’re closing the evening, send everyone off into euphoria - or the after hours.
“I never plan my sets, but I like to be prepared and have a few different options of where I can go musically and take the night.”
Gearing up for a busy week of opening parties
Josh is gearing up for a busy week of events as Leeds nightclubs celebrate 'freedom day' with a raft of opening parties.
He's performing at the Mint Warehouse opening event which kicks off at midnight on July 19, followed by Beaverworks on Monday and The Warehouse on Friday, where he will join techno legend Alan Fitzpatrick.
It's then back to Mint Warehouse on July 24 which will host the opening party for Josh's events company Ruckus24, where he'll play alongside Rossko, Rossi and Bobby O'Donnell.
"People can expect lots of love in the air, positive energy and incredible music," Josh said.
"And everyone is welcome."
Josh praised the resilience of the nightclub sector and said rivalries have been put aside as DJs, clubs and promoters work together to kick-start the industry's recovery.
He added: “I hope every club and DJ is a success and no one gets left behind, we’ve got to keep working together to push Leeds forward.
“We’ve missed out on so many clubbing opportunities and loads of major music has been released over the last few months.
"It’s going to be great to hear it on the big sound system and get back to hugging each other on the dancefloor and jumping around again."
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