Waxin’ the Palace; Chatting to the Man Who Convinced Wiltshire Council to Have a Rave!

All the local mainstream are on it like a fly on a turd, and the negativity of keyboard warriors is flowing fast and furious. Who am I to steer off the bandwagon, yet you know we’ll handle the news Wax Palace obtained permission for a “rave festival” to happen near Erlestoke with a slightly different angle……

An angle much less based upon the fact your esteemed editor had a youth some indeterminable time yonder, where he gyrated in muddy fields with eyes like saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Doublemint, and more on the notion, I hope, that while we have a great music scene in these backwaters, there is little to tickle our younger resident’s tastebuds. This then, is great news, surely?

But is raving still a progressive thing, or does it dabble largely in retrospection? And what exactly will this Wax Palace provide in the way of entertainment? Harry, one of the organisers, a man who unbelievably convinced Wiltshire Council, conservative at the best of times, to grant them permission to hold what’s best described, to avoid media confusion, as a “rave festival;” can he sell ice to Eskimos, or what?! In a short chat with him, I suspected he could.

He giggled at the question, “we’d do our best, that’s for sure! It’s been a bit of a task, but we got it through, and they seemed very with it, during the hearing.” Throughout Harry projected himself as level-headed, reliably assured of the achievement of Kaleidoscope, the name of the event.

The first myth from the Gazette’s report to dispel is that these guys are bundling down from Yorkshire to ruin our peaceful community, when Harry explained the company is only registered there, and he lives close to Erlestoke himself. “The group who first run it were students in Leeds,” he explained, “but we’re very much Wiltshire born and bred.” Herewith the reason for bringing it to Devizes.

Promoting this today is neither here nor there, they’ve a solid base and early bird tickets have already sold out for the estimated 800 strong event. “This is our third edition of the festival,” he said with me interrupting about how to define it, “it is very much a festival, but we hope it has the apogee of a rave, though licenced, as the articles have focused on. It started as one night event, next time it was two, now we’ve got the full weekend, and our largest line-up yet.”

To spoil my queries of disambiguation, musically, Kaleidoscope will offer the whole range of rave subgenres, from house and disco to techno to drum & bass; “you name it will be there!” But this only got me pondering the setup, if it would, as legendary pay-raves like Universe’s Tribal Gatherings once attempted, to host each subgenre in a different tent. Because much as this appeased the then evolution of the diversity, it tended to clash into one immense noise when central! “We don’t have genre-split tents,” Harry clarified, “they’re split more-so by their set design. We’ve got three stages, one indoors, another outdoor, in which we’re shaping out an old school bus for the DJ’s, which should be really fun.”

Harry jested jealously at me rapping about raves of yore like Universe, “we missed that golden era, but we very much like to be inspired by the ethos.” This is great, though I’m trying to avoid an Uncle Albert moment where I preach on memory lane, but it does bring to question how niche is the market, does Harry think rave is either coming back, or it never really lost its appeal?

“I think it is coming back, commercially, perhaps it did lose a bit of what it was meant to be. In the last few years, I’ve heard people referring to their club nights as raves. I think the term rave now covers something broader and less political than it did, originally.” Harry hopes it does come back, encouraged to bring back those original values.

Though I’d suggest, rave was apolitical, it wasn’t until government interjected with the Justice Bill post-Castlemorton which both forced it underground and for ravers to think politically. Originally it was solely a celebration of life, and to party, and that really was our only objective. Which neatly covers another misconception; we raved everywhere and anywhere, if it meant standing in a muddy field, or if it meant going clubbing, location was irrelevant, so long as we could blow off steam and dance!

And herein lies my pitch at why I think this is a fantastic addition to our local events, because if you’re the first to complain about this, I sure hope you’re not the same one whinging about acts of anti-social behaviour in youth culture. If Wax Palace can provide a safe haven for young to go and enjoy themselves, it’s surely a positive.

Wiltshire Council were keen to label this a festival rather than a rave, as rave connotes to some to be an illegal, uncontrolled gathering. I say, this is the name of the genre, and doesn’t relate to illegal gatherings at all. After the Justice Bill the scene became anarchistic in frustration to the restrictions, but it never began like this. There was a sense of one big family, a tribal movement, and it was all about smiles. This, I feel is an important point to reduce this common misconception, and something Harry was also keen to express. “We’ve worked really hard to build a real sense of community,” he explained.

Today, of course, the original ravers have come of age, and organisations like Raver Tots have marketed retrospection in the form of taking your kids to a rave, but throughout our chat I got the feeling the ethos of Wax Palace was much more progressive, about introducing “rave; the next generation,” and that’s good to hear. “We like the idea through the way we organise events and our approach will introduce the idea of raving to a market who are only just coming to an age where they’re able to go to clubs. So, it’s nice to think we have the chance in shaping that impression they have. For a lot of people, this could be their first music festival, and for it to be local and described as a rave would be really exciting; exactly what I’d wish I’d have had in my village when I was 18.”

Tickets are here, Kaleidoscope takes place from 2nd-5th September.

Avoid negativity of misconceptions bought about by a bygone era, well organised and safe pay raves have happened since day dot, and providing youth with entertainment is paramount to building bridges; Wax Place, I salute you!


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Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


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Falling with Tone and Cutsmith

Since the jazz era, musical genres start covert and underground, and with popularity they’re refined to mainstream acceptability, packaged into a new pop wave, and eventually fall into a retrospective or cult hall of fame. I first stood aghast at the selling-off of our adolescent anthems when I heard Leftfield’s Release the Pressure in an advert for Cheese Strings. When this happens to you, you’re officially past your sell by date!

When my daughter is in the car it’s paramount, she controls the stereo, at least it is to her. I’m indifferent, the bulk of contemporary pop irritates my senior ears, but occasionally there’s a something interesting hidden. There was one, once, don’t expect me to root through her playlist to tell you what one, pop, but with the backbeat undeniably inspired from drum n bass.

My attention was drawn to a tune this week, Falling, from Devizes’ drum n bass outfit SubRat Records via Gail Foster, who shot the video for it. Listening took me to the aforementioned moment; how drum n bass was now part of the “norm” rather than primarily an underground genre. If it has come of age and entered the realm of acceptable pop, though, there’s still room for experimentation and the fusing of styles, which is no bad thing, and precisely what Falling is. Chris, hereafter known as Tone, has set up SubRat, and Pewsey’s Cutsmith is the vocalist on this particular track.

Cutsmith is current, using hip hop to inspire his acoustic compositions, so it melds effectively. In the way David Grey produced Babylon, Suzanne Vega did with Tom’s Diner or the entire catalogue of Portishead, fusing up-to-date dance styles with acoustically driven tunes is a winner, if done correctly. If not, it’s a howler, but I’m glad to say, this one really works wonders. Falling has a sublime ambient texture and glides causally through a mass-acceptable drum n bass riff. Cutsmith’s smooth vocals complements it perfectly, breathes mood into it and gifts it with meaning; the combination, a match made in heaven.

Though this may not be an entirely ground-breaking formula, I’d like to train spotter a nod towards a lesser-known tune on A Guy Called Gerald’s revolutionary album Black Secret Technology, where through splinters of drum n bass, an unknown Finely Quaye covers Marley’s Sun is Shining. But if you’d rather me example recognised tunes of singers who launched a career from featuring on a dance tune, from Seal to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and renowned artists who regenerated theirs, like the day William Orbit got a call from the queen of pop, here’s two local artists collaborating for each other’s good, rather than one tossed a rope to the other.

I wanted to probe the mind of producer Tone, about this concept, as what he’s got here is something very marketable, as opposed to something which would only appease the drum n bass fans. I asked him if this was the intention with this tune, yet I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea; I meant this in the best possible way. Even if, Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, is timeworn and cliché, it’s popular because it’s a bloody amazing song. Pop doesn’t necessarily have to be a sell-out, cast yourself away from Stock, Aitken Waterman.

“You’re definitely right about this particular track sounding more marketable and commercial than your everyday underground D&B piece,” he expressed. “I had no intention of making it sound acceptable to the masses but I’m glad it is like that. I think more people should be able to enjoy drum and bass for all different backgrounds. I’m not really trying to make what everyone wants; I just make what I like the sound of, and quite often or not it’s easy on the ear for everyone.”

I wanted gage the story behind this belter. “When we worked on this piece,” Tone replied, “I started out making the entire track without having any intention of putting vocals on to it. I sent it over to Josh (Cutsmith) and he said he’d love to do something over it, which is when we started recording. It turned out really well even though throughout the production I didn’t think I’d be making anything that sounds like this. My roots are actually firmly with the rave scene and I absolutely love sub-heavy underground vibes.”

Is this a debut single from Sub Rat, I asked him. “This is the first free release off of our label, SubRat Records, by myself, Tone. In a hope to bring people in and start a fan-base.” So, does Tone consider himself a DJ and producer? “I’m based in Devizes and solely a producer right now. I haven’t DJ’d for a long while. I produce a lot of drum and bass, but often step into other genres like Hip-hop, dubstep, grime, modern rap and more commercial stuff etc.”

If our local music scene is blossoming, it can be limiting regarding genres, so I welcome this with open arms. To assume such genres are generally confined to a municipal environment you’d be mistaken. Prior to our chat delving into rave memories, as the typecast urban raver always excluded the rural counterparts since day dot, I tried to keep current and ask Tone if future releases will follow a similar pattern, and where he saw SubRat heading.

“Aside from my solo journey I take pride being in the background for vocalists/rappers and providing the music/instrumentals for them,” he explained, “I want to see people succeed off of my tunes!” I hope so, this is promising and like to see other local singers benefit from an electronic dance music makeover, and if so, judging by this excellent tune, through SubRat, drum n bass is the key component.


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The Lamb gets Drum n Bass

I reminisced about Devotion at Golddiggers last week on our homage to Keith Flint, don’t intend to go there again. But, (it’s a dirty big fib, you know it is…) I’ve been contemplating once, in the early nineties, inactive in my car in the carpark, when, what can only be described as “a cheesy raver,” completely unbeknown to us, steadied himself on the rolled-down driver’s window and allowed their jaw to run a marathon. He jabberingly informed he had no intentions of going back into the club, in his own words, “it’s all that jungle music, know what I mean?”

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Pop Quiz: Who can tell me what this was, and what it was for? Showing your age now whistle posseeee!

To be honest, I didn’t, it was the first time I’d heard it called by this name. Although, breakbeat had taken over acid house and techno “bleep,” the “hardcore” label was preliminarily splitting. X-L Recordings, albums like The Rebel MC’s Black Meaning Good and Ragga Twins, Reggae Owes me Money, were providing the hardcore scene with reggae-inspired beats which would assist the divide. Generally, many white youths headed for crashing pianos, hi-hat loops and sped up eighties pop samples, defined as “happy hardcore,” while the urban minority bought us a shadier, serious arrangement of sparse beats and deeper basslines, we now know as drum n bass.

 

 
At the time we considered ourselves maturing ravers, (oh, the irony!) The upcoming generation separated the two, we buried into a new wave of plodding house. Yet with one eye on the divide I appreciated the lunacy of happy hardcore, enjoyed its merry ambience, but couldn’t help feeling drum n bass held the future. It was the more creative and experimental; proved right in the space of only a few years; A Guy Called Gerald, Goldie, and LTJ Bukem were pushing its boundaries into concept albums like it was 1975 space-rock. They prepared the stage for Roni Size, and mainstream acceptance of the genre.

 
So, I had to chuckle at the premise of the blurb on the Facebook event page, where Vinyl Realm stages a drum n bass night at The Lamb, Devizes on the 23rd March with DJ’s Retrospekt, Rappo and Harry B. “We at Vinyl Realm feel there is nothing in town for young adults to do. So, to fix that we have a night dedicated to the local producers creating heavy DnB, deep House and banging Jungle music.”

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Hey, what about us middle-aged old skool ravers? I can still shake a leg yer know, still got it mate! And when I say old skool, I don’t mean like on Kiss FM when they blast a club anthem from 2006 and think they’re retrospective; we were there, at the beginning pal, stomping in the mud! We fought an oppressive government so you kids can rave!!

 
But yeah, you’re probably right, I’d only be panting disproportionately and holding onto the wall for dear life, or else chewing some kid’s ear off about how we used to do it, like Uncle Albert on a love dove. Best leave it to the younger crew. All jokes aside, I know Devizes D&B DJ Harry B has posted to Facebook in the past, attempting to gage interest into such a night.

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I fully support the notion, good on the organisers of this, they’ve hit the hammer on the head; there’s nothing of this genre in Devizes, and not a lot for young adults; fair play, I hope it goes well and spurs others to provide entertainment for this age group. Seems like it will, limited to fifty tickets, with forty showing interest on the Facebook event page, this will be an exclusive return of D&B in Devizes which you better get in quick on, if you’re a playa. A snip at a fiver, tickets are on sale now at Vinyl Realm.

 
I just hope the old pub can hold up under the pressure of devastating basslines! I put my concern to Harry. “I’m going to have a test run up there this week with the speakers,” he confirmed; storming!

 

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