How do you define your sense of belonging to the electronic scene and clubbing?
It started quite early on, that I began to identify with electronic music as a way of expression.
It also helped me to feel different. As a teenager growing up in conservative small-town Britain,
to allow myself to be sucked into the vortex of electronic music felt slightly revolutionary, counter-active.
That kind of music wasn’t so popular amongst my school friends, so that made it even more alluring.
Once I was old enough to get into clubs and had started DJing, I already strongly had the feeling, “this is me!”
How did the scene develop in your country and which events were the trigger?
In the UK electronic music was very strong and present in the late 80s and 90s.
Mainstream radio played fairly decent club tracks on the weekends, and it was hugely popular.
I remember seeing TV adverts for “Trance Nation” mix CD and also the amazing “Garage Nation” series,
both of which me, my mate Chris and first girlfriend Emily loved. Her neighbour had a boyfriend
in London and she'd bring back Garage mixtapes and tell us stories about Clubs in the Capital.
My first small 'scene' revolved around 3-5 friends at school who also liked that kind of music.
In between all that you had ‘gateway acts’ like The Prodigy, Underworld, Chemical Brothers,
and to some extent later Radiohead (with ‘Kid A’), all informing and sparking off interest in young people.
In the early 90s the Acid House and Illegal Rave culture in the UK was huge. I missed that first wave as I was born in '85.
It got shut down by the war on drugs, but thankfully the culture of the DJ,
the rave and that whole world remained preserved underground via legal clubs and was also maintained
by key figures and like Andrew Weatherall, Craig Richards and Fabric, and various micro-scenes that popped-up all over
the country. In that time (the early 2000s) lots of other amazing UK acts blew up and were on the radio,
like Unkle and James Holden, and also new genres like dubstep and ‘minimal’ arrived, eventually leading
to the explosion or ‘second-wave’ of Dance Music as a popular and accepted scene for the last 10 years or so.
Which sounds and influences represent you?
I always identified with funky, musical (harmonic) yet tougher electronic sounds.
It's hard to pinpoint, but I’d put it down to plenty of exposure to 90s pop,
a multi-headed wonderful beast that spewed forth everything from George Michael to Whigfield,
to New Order and The Human League, the Vengaboys to Michael Jackson (Quincy Jones productions!).
That’s not to say I particularly liked all of that stuff, but it definitely sank in.
I watched every music video I could find. I loved guitar music and electronic music too! As a kid,
while loving stuff like NIN and Rage Against The Machine - typical teen angst stuff -
along with a lot of classic rock like Sabbath, Zeppelin and Hendrix,
I discovered deeper, darker, 'proggy' house and techno - like the stuff Sasha’s ‘Airdrawndagger’
(essentially produced by Junkie XL and Charlie May) or a bit later the druggy,
bouncing liquid techno sound of Pure Science (an early Fabric Mix CD with links to Jungle),
or Seb Fontaine’s trippy sound (Ministry Magazine cover CD for the club night ‘Type’),
and James Lavelle’s Global Underground Barcelona Mix.
It felt right. That was around 2002. It was hypnotic and modern and exciting!
Were there any record shops as you were growing up that offered a way into the scene?
There was one underground record shop in my home town of Salisbury, ‘Stand Out’ records.
That said it all really. Music that makes you stand out. Or, music to help you stand out.
For some reason, music became my way to help give me confidence, and that was empowering as a shy teenager.
At Stand Out, there were two zones: ‘Electronic’ and ‘Alternative’. ‘Electronic’ consisted of Hardcore rave tapes
- DJ tapes straight from the fields, along with branded bomber jackets for the Happy Hardcore and Jungle Parties
that were still running (legally), like Fantasia. There was also House and Techno and D’n’B vinyl.
New stuff and very very cheap second-hand stuff records, which were essentially the first wave of second-hand
club records, so there was loads of good stuff to be bought cheap. On the ‘Alternative’
side there were Punk and Ska, Metal, and some good Indie CDs. Also, there were Band T-Shirts and Merch.
It was an amazing shop and I saved up my part-time job wages and went there weekly.
You could also order hard to find records
that you’d heard on the radio - before it became so easy to order records on the internet!
What are the shape of things today? What strengths and problems do scenes face?
Today we are essentially living in the future.
The rate that technology develops is beginning to eclipse the rate that artists and creators can use those tools fully,
before jumping onto the next new thing. By the time a producer gets hold of a new synth and fully learns
all of its nuances and special characteristics, ten other new exciting pieces will have been released.
The market is the same for new music. There’s so much out there, that it’s impossible to hear it all! But that’s ok.
There’s plenty for everyone! Compared to 10 or 20 years ago, a record released today has to fight hard to have
its day in the sun (or the strobe light), before something new comes along.
Surely that makes sense as there are simply so many more people on the planet
involved in this movement now, compared to ‘back in the day’ - a good thing!
When I was studying Design, 15 years ago, a tutor taught us that if a website didn’t load within 30 seconds,
you could consider it useless, as people would get tired of waiting and click elsewhere.
These days it's maybe reduced to 5 seconds!? Young people are extremely tech-savvy and also know what they like.
They want it delivered fast, with suitable wit, irony and explicit nature.
Scenes like the hard dance / 140+ techno scene has exploded in recent years because of the internet,
Instagram DJs and resurgence of 90s fashion trends. It’s not really my sound,
but I think it’s cool as it stands out a very current and tangible contemporary online scene,
pushed by technology and the internet. Especially now, it exists without real clubs,
and it embodies a certain frustration and expression that’s needed in young people.
If you skim off all the crap, there are some really bad-ass, (indeed very fast) techno records caught up
in that scene. All these things are cyclical, and Minimal is already starting to come back.
Deep techno is not so fashionable right now, I sense.
But that’s all ok. We’re in this for life, let’s enjoy the ride! :)