A figure appears through the labyrinth of florescent drapes, strobing with ultra-violet lights. She’s void of expression, hypnotised in her individual realm she perpetually gyrates, wearing a black figure-hugging bodysuit, highly decorated in costume jewellery constructed from glowsticks. It’s not the image families would conceive of when thinking of Longleat, rather a cheeky posse of rhesus macaque monkeys ripping the rubber insulation off their Volvo.
Yet the Wiltshire raver of yore will note, and reminisce, to trek to Swindon’s Brunel Rooms would be to face happy hardcore, jungle or house, whereas there was a tribal movement of tranced techno-heads, a conglomerate of Wilts and Somerset rural ravers in the basement of the Warminster manor, and it took on a wildlife of its own; the UFO Club at the Berkley Suite. Memories of it flood what’s left of my neurons, I’m halfway into Trowbridge DJ and Producer, Neonian’s debut EP Vaxxor, released this coming Friday (5th March.)
Not before the opening title track, that is, which detonates a more breakbeat house prose at you, something for the peaky middle of a set by Plump DJs in a glasshouse club off Brighton beach in the latter nineties. There’s a lot going on here, for a four track EP, and it’s having all subgenres large.
Released through Weatnu Records, there’s parts of Vaxxor where I thought a more conventional and contemporary danceable beat might rear its head, but it doesn’t, it solidly rides a wave of classic electronic dance music with a penchant for the techno-trance feel, hence my memories of the UFO Club. That said, Vaxxor, as a tune contains definite traces of punky chemical beats, akin the Prodigy or Chemical Brothers, yet rather than a gimmicky vocal or sample element for possible mass-appeal, Neonian seems aware pop has detracted from this trend of recent, ergo its concentration is on perusing a consistent beat and sonic hi-hats.
This leaves you semi-prepared for the more trance-techno sound of the following tune, Glow. For this it is thumbs up as the most poignantly danceable, in the four-by-four psytrance fashion akin to Goa trance. Hypnotic Jerk takes elements of this, and slides into a downbeat “hypnotic cocoon teetering on the edge of normality.” Imagine Nightmares on Wax if triphop hadn’t been invented. We’re in the chillout tent, Eat Static are playing a Sunday morning set, that’s where it is; yeah, I’m with you, mate, got a flyer I can roach?!
All these four tracks were recorded during the lockdowns, and together are a glorious testament to the psych-subgenres of the UK underground dance scene. But if you’ve any misgivings to the variety of the melting pot, I’ll confirm Neonian blends and crafts it with distinct precision. To affirm he’s clearly nodding to his influences, the testament comes to a finale like a returning migratory bird to its nest. Proof to the Tower finishes this short journey off with something, though layered with aforementioned influences, strips the sound back the subgenres’ combined roots.
Proof to the Tower drips with elegant attributes of post-punk electronica, aligning New Order, Depeche Mode and even the stiffer originators, Kraftwerk and The Art of Noise. The EP is getting radio plays from BBC Radio Wiltshire, Kinetic7Radio (Bleeps & Beats show), Radio TFSC and Radio Wigwam, and I’m far from surprised.
Neonian is the work of Ian Sawyer, who has previously released a few singles, a mini LP ‘Treasure’ and provided remixes for Frannie B, NNYz?, Sergeant Thunderhoof and James Harriman. “I make music, for myself,” Ian explains, “I can’t really describe it but it’s mainly made with synthesisers, loops and samples. Influences include New Order, Boards Of Canada, Coil, Pye Corner Audio, Factory Floor, and Russ Abbot.” Unsure about citing that last one, though Vaxxor certainly has an atmosphere!
Nonetheless these tributes to the pioneers of electronica and nineties trance, techno and breakbeats are often viewed as rather soulless, this does what it says on the tin while retaining something fresh to boot. Clearly, four tracks with Neonian aren’t enough, I’d like to hear a fully-mixed electronic concept album, perhaps, to be fully sucked into its deep and hypnotic grooves.
Excuse me for being so fussy, but some uplifting sections, with gimmicky elements such as female vocals would be advantageous. Not solely for my own palate, rather in hope it’ll attract the attention of a wider audience. As, like William Orbit did when he got the phone call from Madonna, I think while Vaxxor is damn cool with florescent socks on, Neonian, I feel has yet to achieve his magnum opus, but when he does, judging by this EP, you’ll want to standing in the middle of it, making boxes and reaching for the stars.
Available on all Digital Platforms March 5th 2021; ‘Vaxxor’ is now available to Pre-Order on Bandcamp via the following link. You get to download the track ‘Glow’ now and the rest of the EP when it is released on March 5th.
In view of recent illegal raves in Wigan and Bristol, I’ve a theoretical question which is twisting my melon, making me contemplate my past, my attitude at the time weighed against my moral judgement of adulthood.
My art college gave me an ultimatum, return at the end of the summer break having redone three pieces, and on their merit my application for the second year of the course will be based. My young life hinged on this challenge. But what was on my mind as I walked out of the meeting? I’ll tell you, it was, where this weekend’s party would be.
It was the summer of 1991, the peak(y blinder) of my rave honeymoon, partying was not a treat, it was a necessity, a way of life. If we had this pandemic, and consequent lockdown restrictions, would it have stopped me from going raving? That’s the conundrum sliding a wedge between the hypocrisy of my matured moral standards if I fancied following sheep and bleating on social media about youth attending recent events, and my own prerogative and carefree attitude during that era. I quiver at deciding if I should therefore blame today’s youth for their ignorance toward these modern boundaries, be they for safety or a judicious excuse for control.
And if I did throw caution to the wind, as I suspect the most likely, would it be possible to adhere to social distancing measures, given our brand of intoxication caused the type of enhanced euphoria one simply had to share? Effusive embraces were routine, sharing of accessories from hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth commonly accepted, hugging random strangers all part of the joyous moment.
Of course, it’s hindsight, and our generation should thank our lucky stars we didn’t have something along these lines to prevent us. Still, unresolved, I called to help opinions of members of a Facebook group, “DOCU: FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE?” Taking as red by its very title, affiliates were indeed there, when rave culture was at its peak in the UK, and by their want to join the group, might just be capable of recalling at least fragments of it!
In contradiction to my rampant hugging observation, one member figured social distancing was possible at a rave, provided there were no marquees. “Because free festivals and outdoor free raves never had singular big stages,” they pointed out, “there was always plenty of space.”
The overall consensus was, 79% said yes, they do think they would have still attended raves in spite of the pandemic, against 14% saying no, and 7% unsure. I requested thoughts rather than stats, and thus where grey areas and interesting points occur. I stated shouting “fuck yeah!” wasn’t really supplying constructive assessment, but many, I guess, are still partying too hard! Palpable comments flooded in, such as “I’d have given no fucks and partied on regardless,” “I’d have dropped everything an jumped in a motor if was going to Bristol party on Saturday but I’m sitting here feeling gutted, reading reports on news of what I’ve missed; I’m 56 by the way!” and “I wouldn’t of given a flying fuck,” which balanced against frankness I secretly wanted to hear, like, “to be honest, in 1991 I don’t think anything would have stopped me going out.”
Some thoughtful estimations came with a twist or satirical stab, like “but hey, send ya kids to school, that’s fine!” and “I’ve seen three covid deaths; all had underline health issues. With that in mind I would’ve stayed at home until it was safe, however, it seems there are a few laws that pushed through that are total designed to stop the dance. If these total draconian laws aren’t removed after covid then I will be at the base of Nelson’s Column with 40k ready to fucking roll and dance, as this total gets my wick!” And therein lies a common accord, bringing the restrictions, or punishments into question, rather than prevention of spreading a virus. “Do I blame the kids? No. Do I think less of them for raving? No. Do I worry about them spreading covid? Yes. Do I think covid is a real issue? Yes. Do I think that the Tories are using it to their full advantage? Yes.”
By the early nineties’ businesses sought profit from legal raves, be clubs or outdoor events, but rave rose from the ashes of the free festival scene, its fundamental roots was illegal, many faced persecution from the law and anger towards authorities are imbedded eternally. It’s fathomable to question the motives of lockdowns. “As it was right in the middle of the Criminal justice act and freedom to party marches,” one said, “I’d likely have been full blown cospirytard and thought it all to be another way for the cops and government to stop us having a good time, would have gone anyway, stuck my fingers up and hoped it was fake, or that the amount of chemicals in my system killed Covid before it killed me!”
“They are not anti-rave laws,” one protested, “they are anti-people rules, temporary measures, as none of them have passed through a white paper in parliament so cannot be ratified by the Lords, ergo, NOT A LAW!”
Others calmly suggested similar, without the need of caps-lock. “Seems to me they were brought in to stop raves, but had the benefit of also stopping other social gatherings with >6 people. Nothing the Tories do is ‘the will of the people’ – they just get on with shafting us whether we like it or not.” Adding, “my comment was only trying to express what a minefield this topic is, and that it is okay to have what might appear to be contradictory views because the whole thing is a mess.” I know, that’s why I’m raising it; always spoiling for a rumble! But let’s not forget here, no one is condoning the actions of the modern kids raving through a pandemic, merely pondering what they themselves might have done under the circumstances.
And there were moments of conformed clarity, “lives are at risk here – the kids going to lockdown raves might not get any symptoms, but they could easily pass it on to somebody else who dies or suffers long-term damage. Kids will be kids and their thoughts are probably not with the greater good. I even understand that they just want to hang out with their mates and have a good time… but I still worry about what will come of their actions, and part of me thinks they could just hold off having 700-strong raves in warehouses for a little while.”
And others in denial, “I would’ve carried on going to free parties regardless of some non-existent virus!” Or completely oblivious, “I was tripping so much I doubt I’d have noticed, just presumed it was Sunday or bank holiday for 3 months!”
Some brilliantly imbalanced professionally considered thoughts with fond reminiscences, “we were the lucky generation. Would I have partied back then with Covid? Most certainly. I feel sorry for my teenage daughter and generation who aren’t able to know what freedom to party was all about. Hell, they can’t even have normal rights if passage anymore. We need to be careful, as there will be a generation growing up scared to go out into the world. It’s happening already. Working in mental health, I’m seeing already what could happen to a whole generation if this carries on for too long. My fear is, it will.”
And “after being locked indoors for months, young people are going stir crazy and I don’t blame them. At 22 I didn’t need to shield anyone and really only thought of my needs. My 50-year-old self however is sensible and won’t even go to the pub.”
So, the general mood was either, “I would like to think my younger self would be wise enough to not do raves in a pandemic, but I doubt I would have been. So, can neither applaud them or condemn them,” or “I would go, but I have never been very responsible.” With the added notion, “it’s very difficult for me to say whether that might have changed if someone I knew or loved died of the virus.”
Yet punters aside, there’s no party if there’s no one to organise it. Perhaps irresponsibly, the ten grand fine dissuaded organisers, rather than spreading a virus. “Fines might have made me think twice about trying to put anything on,” one suggested. Back then, least post-Criminal Justice Act, police had powers to confiscate the PA, hence their point. “Losing your rig is one thing, getting stung for ten grand, is quite another.” Though another pointed out inflation, “a 10k fine in 2020 would’ve probably been about 2k in 1990 so the risk would’ve been different.”
Specifically, a shareware notion was given, “at RTS, Stop the City, CJB, police asked ‘who owns the rig?” The crowd reply they all do. A ten grand fine could be met if everyone put a percentage in. “Fight them at their own game…. with smarty pants on.”
Whereas an owner of a sound system professed more consideration, “as to whether I would have run a rave this year – no. I’ve chosen not to go to any events this year, although I think Bath and Branwen were ‘acceptable’ – they were outside of the main lockdown periods, they were outside, so ventilated, and people were able to social distance. I don’t think that Halloween or NYE indoor parties are a good idea, and in fact are pretty irresponsible in the current times and situation. But as was said, to lambast them could be hypocritical. We were all young once, and our irresponsibility levels probably exceeded what we like to think they would be looking back with our rose tints on.”
Another who begun their party outside Perth in the mid-seventies, proudly still going, “basically if there’s a party going on, we’re in the van, rig loaded,” still offered caution. “Now we’re in a whole different kettle of sardines. I know of too many deaths of this pandemic, so I ain’t partying anywhere indoors and, deffo keeping my distance if I do go anywhere, and wearing a mask. So those that went to the party at Yate, it’s only your loved ones you’re gonna hurt.”
In conclusion, maturity develops responsibly, we didn’t allow time for it in youth. Yet, there’s a notion these regulations are implemented deceitfully and with a tyrannical agenda. The point of suspending events and pubs who’ve gone to great lengths to ensure safety, when schools and universities remain open, despite the improved technology of providing online tuition, feels draconian to many, and consequently a backlash is a nature course.
There’s two ways of reacting to a pandemic. The archetypal social order of medieval Europe completely disintegrated during the Black Death. People felt death was inevitable, but had a unique way of handling it. Some desperately sought refuge, others braved the disease, laughed in its face, and partied. They cossetted themselves in the finer aspects of life, alcohol, music and, of course, disorderly parties, causing a flourishing new era of music and art, like the virelai, ballade, and rondeau.
One member of the group pointed out, “no one stopped partying during the 2000/2001 flu epidemic in the UK. The virus was ‘only’ killing old people and the medically vulnerable. Most people didn’t know it was happening. 22,000 people died in a very short period in the UK.” They also believed there was a pandemic going on during Woodstock Festival. Though this proved to be a slightly ambiguous urban myth by Reuters factchecker, who states, “Woodstock took place months after the first season of the Hong Kong flu had ended in the United States. Although there was to be a second wave in the U.S. the following winter, it is misleading to say it happened in the middle of a pandemic.”
What is clear though, no generation can be blamed for irresponsibly in youth, and the need to party is naturally paramount. Whether or not it is correct to do so under these conditions is debatable, but while you are, for many, the show must go on. Question is, can you blame them, if you once liked to blow your whistle and wave your hands in the air, like, I dunno, you just didn’t care?
Intoxication levelling nicely, some friends and I trekked up the hillside and looked down at the sight below. Well aware it had become fairly large, as was the illegal rave scene in the summer of 1992, we hadn’t fathomed just how large. Overwhelmed by the unexpected magnitude, I sighed, doubting this would ever be allowed again. Still, we had no idea then, we were part of an historic moment; didn’t really care or wish to be.
Ravers were apolitical, we only wanted to celebrate life, dance harder than any generation prior, and masticate lots on chewing gum. Yeah, it was anarchy, but it was a passive anarchy, there was order and morals amidst the chaos. It was more movement than youth culture, as we only did what ancients have always done, but embracing technology to do it, and while previous youth cultures had a set uniform and rules, rave was a melting pot of expression which anyone and everyone would succumb to, regardless of their previous cultures, age, gender, race or religion. It was, basically, too radical for the conventional government.
When I eventually made it home after the festival of Castlemorton Common in the Malvern Hills, the first thing I did was check my parent’s newspaper, and smiled to myself at a job well done; then I slept for three days. Lechlade on the Beltane weekend may have made the front page of the broadsheets, now this had similar clout with the tabloids; still didn’t fear it would be the final nail in the coffin. An estimated forty-thousand revellers flocked here; government were eager to act. A change in the law was conceived the following week, and would take a couple of short years to implement; a final stand from a crumbling, desperate Conservative substitute of Thatcherism. Many of the sound systems jumped ship and took off to Europe, and although this spread the culture worldwide, those left in Blighty were forced into smaller, localised events, large scale paid raves and the clubs.
Nowadays I sigh, all I have is diminishing memories and fantastical fables like a quibbling old wino. Unbelievable to youth today, we took no photographs at the time; to bring out a camera at an illegal rave in the early nineties would’ve been frowned upon. But, I’m okay with that, never the diehard, content that it is now just a treasured part of my youth. As with every trend, they usually return, two decades normally, when the influence of parent’s stories inspires their youth. When 2010 hit, then, I was prepared to venture to the loft in search of my white gloves and whistle, just, you know, for nostalgic reasons and to hark to youngers about how we used to do it, Uncle Albert style. I don’t think I could stomach a full-on sess, the convoys, dancing all night to banging techno, probably just give me a banging headache.
The thing is, I doubt the rave scene ever completely ended, that intransigents still party and press rarely jump on it. I attended one over a decade ago in Savernake Forest, but it didn’t have the same vibe. Pushed further underground, the gabba-techno, the attitude of ravers reflected a much harsher vibe, of punk, of pure anarchy. Regrettably, the happy vibe which once reigned had passed, due to the outlawing of the culture and the spread of harder drugs. I winced at a report in the Independent which spoke of “a rave just like the old days,” when it continued to suggest ravers heard of the event via Twitter.
It was always just tremoring in the mountain. For rave is akin to the monkey-god, Sun Wukong, trapped under the mountain, awaiting release. How do I feel about three thousand youths gathering at a disused RAF airfield on Charmy Down near Bath? I feel the nature of Monkey is irrepressible! It is inevitable, if, for whatever reasons, even a worldwide pandemic, if you curb freedom you will get a backlash. Yes, it’s horribly ignoring social distancing, but so are the idiots fighting outside every Spoons in the country, and even if I’ve not attended for the longest, even if the original ethos is waning, I believe the media desire to exemplify an illegal rave without revenue for big business, negatively. I’m firmly convinced, from experience, that in the eye of the storm, any modern equivalent of what we once did would never be as vehement or disparaging as a brawl in a Wetherspoons.
So are the shoppers, the traditionalists protesting against the wearing of masks, so are the pensioners in care homes, the children in the parks, so is everyone heading for the beach every weekend. Let’s not fool ourselves, millions of us are now ignoring, rebelling from the lockdown restrictions, we only need to stop to contemplate it all, and give self-policing on social media a break. Our once happy lockdown bought about peace and tranquillity, now is causing frustration and a rebellious nature, a bit like the downfall of raves. What then, could be more apt? Instead of scorning at them, attempting to stop them, perhaps the government and police forces should suck it up, accept its inevitably and work on methods to stage relative social distancing measures for them.
What do I think of the media exposing the return of rave? You know, when the Ibiza die-hards recreated acid house in UK cities I was just a delinquent, with an appetite for exploration and in need of escapism. We were looking for something, we didn’t know what. The original acid house crew was little over a thousand, recruitment was by introduction, and some doughnut invited a tabloid journalist. “Look at what your teenagers are doing!” it over-exaggerated. If it wasn’t for the media hype we’d have never known. So, you go on, reporters, and what you think is a scare story will backfire into intrigue before your very Facebook site, and youth will look to attending, and the scene will flourish again like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Then, as a mass, they will look rewards, to how it once was, and how as a group consciousness and rising movement, it had morals and it had principles. We cleared up after ourselves, you may be surprised to note, we looked after each other. You will free a new love generation, and in an era such as this, god knows we need it.
Watch violent crime diminish, watch teenage depression wane, watch a generation free from the restraints of its former oppression, as it once did. See a rising generation thinking for itself, throwing away this baby-boomer selfishness and regain a likeminded consciousness. Wrigleys will be back in business too!
One of the scene’s most best-known names for more than three decades, Judge Jules has never shied away from pushing the boundaries in dance music. And this year, for the first time ever, audiences will be able to experience the iconic tracks that have defined his career through a ten-piece live band with Judge Jules himself at the helm.
‘Judge Jules: Live’… will be coming to Swindon’s MECA venue on 25th Jan 2020.
Jules’s in-depth involvement in many of the recent wave of “classical” dance events, including Gatecrasher, Colours, Club Class and 2019’s Ministry of Sound tour, inspired the decision to take the impact and emotion of the classical shows, but refine the feeling with a wholly new take on live dance music.
With complete creative free rein, Jules curated every element of the performance. Each track has been bespoke reinvented and reworked in a style unique to this live show, featuring a full ten-piece band, with brass, percussion, drums, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboard, singers, and of course Judge Jules himself. A 90-minute show from start to finish, the music has been selected to represent the breadth and scale of his career.
“There is something about music being played live that never fails to send shivers down your spine – it doesn’t matter what the genre is, hearing a track performed by live musicians on stage is something you cannot replicate in the studio, or even on the best nightclub environment. So, I decided to create my own bespoke versions of my all-time favourite records with a specially selected band. It’s taken a long time to put together, but finally we look forward to taking the “Judge Jules Live” tour on the road. This truly is a new take on the ‘live dance music’ phenomenon and the tour bus starts rolling shortly.” – Judge Jules
This is not a show to sit down for – combining the energy of specially-chosen outstanding musicians with his own inimitable presence behind the decks, Jules will take the audience on a tailor-made journey through dance music with vocals, hands-in-the-air moments and plenty of basslines that’ll take you right back to your very first rave.
With audiences demanding more from dance music and newfound focus on a visual as well as a sonic spectacle, Judge Jules Live is a chance for dance fans to lose themselves in the moment with the kind of experience that you just can’t replicate with a solitary DJ.
The Judge still won’t budge.
Judge Jules will play Swindon MECA – 25th January 2020
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?”
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.”
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.
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!
It was a long time coming but we finally made it. It was dawn now, a fog fell upon the disused airfield at Enstone, Oxfordshire. My best friend skipped out of the car milliseconds after it parked in the thick, dew-filled meadow. I looked over to him. “This is the one I was on about!” he yelped, and wasted no time waiting for me to react, but dived straight into the eye of the sound system, where, due to the fog, an incalculable number of ravers were dancing like madmen on a day out of the funny farm.
Throughout the journey he had been consistently bashing on about this track which sampled the early eighties public information cartoon, Charley Says. And it had been a long journey, from the Green Dragon in Marlborough, blagging a lift from a random old school friend, who was adamant he’d not succumb to the trend, to the tip-off point, Enborne near Newbury. Only to find other cars of confused ravers, some conjecturing we needed to head up the A34 to Oxfordshire. Our driver, now aggravated by us, stamped his foot and announced it was the end of road for him.
The second section of the journey then, saw us thrown out on the M4 junction, and thumbs prepared, three of us danced a pledge for a lift from the multitude of beaten up cars and vans beeping horns and waving from windows over-enthusiastically.
Eventually picked up, we now found ourselves at Pear Tree services, where police closed us in, threating to search every vehicle attempting to leave. But with the garage under siege and cars queuing up as far as the eye could see, from every junction, the police knew they were outnumbered, and eventually gave up, allowing passage down the A44 to Enstone. Until we were left to go about our business, a temporary mock-up rave had developed at the service station, as crowds gathered on the embankment, dancing and blowing horns to a fusion of a thousand plus naff car stereos; it was 3am, eternal.
If it all sounds implausible by today’s standard weekend, note that this was spring 1991, and we had become fully-fledged illegal ravers, living for the weekend. A time when the breakbeat sound was in its infancy, when corny rave tunes were welcomed; the hardcore posse blew whistles at taking themselves seriously. I nodded my approval, recalling the Charley Says cartoons, and smirking at its humorously converted connotation, if only for a brief second, before headlonging feet, and maybe juddering jawbone first, into the party.
Forward wind like an Easygroove spin a year, we’re attired in blankets in the carpark of Golddiggers in Chippenham, the band who’d created the Charley Says tune fully known to us now. They’d just played a blinding set of bonkers breakbeat and cheesy rave, full of reggae breaks and nonsensical samples. At a time when the burgeoning youth culture was vacant of a sovereign, as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Bob Marely, it was a question of how much an artist was willing to sell-out to claim the crown. Perhaps egotistically, The Shamen were among the nominated, targeting shamelessly at the pop charts. But the raver knew this was futile, rave was a faceless folk music, an epoch of anonymity, and if there had to be a king of rave, it would be the ones constantly pushing new boundaries. If there was ever a need to debate this, while it did, the Prodigy remained quiet and reserved.
A Glastonbury Festival, don’t ask me what year, time just an illusion now, but I remember after this quiet period, the Prodigy burst on stage at a time when dance culture was incarcerated to a blanket stall or concealed hippy sub-festival the raver took all weekend to locate. Expecting to dance to cheesy rave, a blessing being the hardcore had split into happy hardcore and drum n bass, and we’d retired to the somewhat mature house/garage scene, I stood aghast at what I heard.
Promoting “The Music for the Jilted Generation,” The Prodigy took, not only the festival to new limits, but what dance music could be. I recall scratching my head, trying to decide if I liked it. Keith Flint bounded around the stage with a duo of green spikey Mohicans on either side of his head, a kind of Johnny Rotten of our era. The once dancer of the group, now bellowed out grinding vocals. It was punk-rock, not post-punk, but raw, energetic viciousness, yet retained rave, in some small way.
Many cite the following album, The Fat of the Land as their magnum opus, yet it only progressed the ethos of The Jilted Generation to the next stage, and gave the sound prestige in NME followers and the mass media. In a world aware of the Jilted Generation’s influence, which bought us outfits who fused indie back into rave; The Chemical Brothers, Monkey Mafia and Fatboy Slim, it became acceptable to both sides of the indie/rave divide, a non-man’s land not intruded since the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses.
If Liam Howlett was the brains behind the group, Keith Flint was the showman, and for the reasons stated above, I’ve felt the sad news of his suicide today harder than that of the passing of Bowie, of Michael Jackson or James Brown, because though it may’ve been one foggy morning on Enstone Airfield in 1991, the memory is crisp in my mind, the first time we heard the kings of rave.
Devizes set to party like it’s 1999; zipping up my boots with Funky Sensation.
Normally, if there’s a funky sensation in Devizes it means it’s been foggy post-harvest and the aroma of manure has filtered into town. In a similar light, I confess, I’ve been critical in the past about our only nightclub, events hosted tend to mimic what’s on elsewhere, and I really feel tribute acts have a home in hire venues and pubs, but not necessarily in a night club. It’s an age thing perhaps, usual nights too commercialised for me, recalling the clubbing scene of the eighties, how it assisted in spawning a decade of raves. To me, a night in a nightclub should be concentrated on DJ culture, be dissident dance music, and most importantly, should be banging, mate.
Here then is something that lacks in Devizes, flourishing with original music a trend I adore, though surely there’s a place for dance music too? A glitch set to change; with the potential to be a grand night at the Funky Sensation launch in the Exchange on the 5th April, I caught up with the hosting DJ, George Penny, to find out more about this Funky Sensation event doing the rounds on Facebook.
“Basically, I used to DJ about twenty years ago, free parties, private parties and a club residency,” explains George, who goes by the DJ tag George G-Force. “But then work, life, mortgage, wife, child came along.” It’s not so uncommon, for many the desire to create, artistically or musically though will return to bite them, and George started mixing again about four years ago. “I’ve been trying to get back out on the circuit, but it’s a lot harder now, a lot more competition.”
He’s been DJing in Frome and Bristol, with appearances for the ‘House of Disco’ collective and Input2 Promotions, but explains, “I always wanted to try and put on my own party a bit closer to home (Melksham) but had really been struggling trying to find a venue. I only heard about The Exchange three weeks ago and I think it’s perfect in terms of location; hoping to pull people from Melksham, Trowbridge, Calne and Chippenham.”
So, busting out of retirement, and ready to bring the heat with his unique blend of nu-disco and classic-vocal-funky house vibes, G-Force is set to take Devizes back to an era when clubbing meant clubbing. “We want to bring the fun back, with good old uplifting, hands in the air, sing-a-long music. That could be a classic disco track/re-edit, house anthem or a modern-day club banger!”
He brings along special guest DJ, Nina LoVe and DJ Stach. Akin to George, Nina took a decade away from the scene to concentrate on family and studies. But with a childhood filled with classical music and musical theatre, and discovering dance music and raving in the nineties, she couldn’t hold the bug in much longer than 2012, as with the discovery of Disclosure and Gorgon City, that led to a new energy for House music, vinyl junkie Nina started learning to mix.
Bath-based Stach has been playing to enthralled crowds since 1990, kicking off his career within the techno scene on the Isle of Wight. Since those halcyon days, DJ Stach has played many genres and has a wide repertoire; pleasing audiences with epic sets featuring nu-disco, classic and tech-house.
He can be found on the set lists of some of the UK’s best boutique festivals and coolest club nights, as well as elite private parties. Previous sets include: Shindig Weekender, Grinagog Festival, Love Summer Festival, The Backroom, and The Nest in Bath.
I gulp when my chat with George raises Shindig, as organiser Slim Goodgroove and I go back to art college days, the dawning of the breakbeat rave explosion and through to the fluffy house days of his Stardust Collective. Time to get all fuzzy and waffle off a parable or three, Uncle Albert style. Think I’m boring George now, I’ve a tendency to do that, but in hindsight, I really think a decent dance night is missing from the variety of things to do in Devizes, and welcome this prospect.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” George tells, “but thought I’d give it a shot. Obviously, if we get enough people the aim would be to do it, maybe, three times a year.”
So, from old raver to young house music aficionado, take note; it may be time to dust off your old white gloves and relight the glowsticks. I never thought I’d see the day! Tickets for this launch party, at a fiver, are available from today.
When I was sauntering through early morning mist, wearing the half-demented-smirk-half-gurn of a madman on a day out of the funny farm, a dreadlocked ragamuffin lounging at the wheel-arch of his van, perpetually waving one hand from fist to flat palm, appeared like magic through the haze. He greeted me with a wide smile, asked me how it was going. Between concentrating on my breathing, I told him it was going very well, save I’d mislaid my “posse.”
I complemented him for his wheels, a high-sided second-hand post office van, as I circled it for further investigation. I found at the rear a ladder and asked if I may climb it, in order to get my bearings. He nodded his approval and so I scaled.
On top of the van I could see above the low lying mist to the beautiful sunrise, below it the hats and scraggly ponytails of ravers bobbing like buoys on a temperate ocean. Overcome with the desire to dance, I shouted down, “can I have a little dance up here?!” and again the crusty was only too kind to permit my request.
I was at a disused airfield near Enstone in Oxfordshire, dancing adolescent cares away on top of a total stranger’s van. Other grounded ravers, pointed and joined the dance, until one of the congregation visible attempted to climb the ladder. The owner stood and I suspected he wouldn’t wish for this to become a trend, so I took the opportunity to decend before the girl could reach the top, stating we shouldn’t all clamber on the guy’s home. She agreed and we gathered in a circle, dancing, smiling and trading chewing gum for water.
In today’s age you’d be forgiven for suggesting I made this up, but really, this is just another insignificant happening from 1991, when rave was in its infancy and everyone partied together in peace, illegally. I guess you’d have to have been there to understand, but we danced, we danced harder, faster and a heck of a lot longer than any previous generation.
We danced in fields, in warehouses, on boats, beaches, service station carparks, and even the occasional nightclub. So much so, if you had to label the decade under one united musical genre, “dance” would be most apt. Dancing wasn’t compulsory, more essential; you’d only chew your bottom lip off if you didn’t boogie.
Musically it was pioneering, the first not to lend itself to individual artists and bands, rather a DJ culture where a mesh of tastes merged into melting pot. An era when a child could gather a TV cartoon sample, slam a breakbeat loop over it and make a record twenty-thousand tranced nutters would dance all night to. Almost punk in nature, skill caved into creative urge, like rock it experimented until it developed into a million branches, but like folk music, it was the united music of a people, an epoch.
Despite not having a “king,” as reggae had Marley and rock had Elvis, though many tried, the concentration of record sales, and creating albums thwarted; a “white label” more sought than a picture disc.
The hit factories exhausted albums in the previous decade, now compilations of hits, rather than the “concept album” of the seventies. As the underground surged into mainstream, and everyman and his dog took up white gloves, plastic horns and whistles to join a burgeoning revolution, albums battled “rave tapes,” to find a home again.
Despite this, albums did quite rightly resurface, many influencing the next decade. This then is my definitive top thirty dance albums of the nineties, let the arguments commence. I complied this list from fond but fragile memories, rather than online researched, so it was personal. Feel free to comment with ones I missed, which in your judgement needed to appear.
But why, I hear you cry, why now; you crazy old sausage?
I theorise trends return in blocks of twenty years, whence the youth inspire their offspring. Think about it, since pop music begun, in the 1950s, when it was supposed to be wild, rock n roll, there was more jazz than the 1930s. The 1960s we accept as the time of mods, merging into flower power, great experiments in music abound, but listen to the charts back then, full of crooners akin to the 1940s.
Ah, but when rock came of age in the 1970s, it stretched to new avenues, glam and punk. Yeah but no but, the 1970s was also jammed with teddy boys; caricatured rock n rollers from the 1950’s with bands like Matchbox, Darts and Showaddywaddy for crying out loud!
The 1980s, again a golden age of musical experimentation, with electronics. But hear the charts, note classic soul from the sixties blessed by adverts for jeans, and rock n roll merged into one excruciating “megamix” by a cartoon rabbit who should’ve been shot at birth and boiled in a stew.
So through all eras we seem to hark back twenty years, the nineties may have been my age of dance, but as the hardcore chilled into clubs, house and garage tunes lent themselves to the disco of the seventies, and indie kids revitalised seventies rock, well, they were just indie kids and ravers were having too much fun to pick them up on their radar. The noughties, if they were naughty at all, rather a cultureless of bombardment of naff, so-called R&B; cliché musical technology found solace in the sounds of electronic eighties, and the fashion matched too.
So, by my reckoning, before this decade is through we’re due a flashback to the rave scene, and with the Tory government treating working class like vermin, it’s not so hard to foresee something major slapping them in the face with a Vic’s Vapour-rub smeared dust-mask and blowing a whistle in their ears; least I cross my fingers and hope.
30- Monkey Mafia – Shoot the Boss (Heavenly Records 1998)
If you thought Damon Albarn was pushing limits with The Gorillaz at the turn of the millennium, or if you thought Death in Vegas made blended cutthroat techno, Jon Carter’s Monkey Mafia outdated and outstripped them both. This is funk, punk-reggae, ragga and sparse beats fused into a frenzy of techno. It’s a dark, nasty and rambunctious clatter which wobbles the mind. It now lives on my CD rack dusty, too scared to dip into again.
29- Black Star Liner – Bengali Bantam Youth Experience! (Warner Music – 1999)
If you missed this one, it’s never too late; it’s timeless. Imagine Massive Attack making an album for Indian restaurants, fuse it with haunting epic movie themes and you’re partly the way to the dub/Bhaṅgṛā sublime crossover experience of the Black Star Liner. This is so gorgeous I couldn’t swallow it, not even with mango chutney. Savour tracks like Swimmer on the tip of your tongue, as the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
28- Moby – Play (Mute – 1999)
Play signifies an end to the most mental decade ever, the fact advertisers, TV producers and filmmakers flocked to acquire every track meant the masses were taking heed of what we knew ten years previous, electronic was music’s destiny. Moby, mild-mannered for an American (he didn’t write a book about his dick,) and modest of his creative output, had been known to us since the word, or track “Go,” something we never thought he’d surpass; if I only could’ve heard “Porcelain,” in 1991.
27- Morcheeba – Who Can You Trust? (Indochina 1996)
A hefty night’s clubbing saw us washed up on Brighton beach. My mate hopped over to the little chill-out café to ask what the tune was that they were playing; been a Morcheeba fan since. Breezy trip-hop, sublime vocals, it mellows the soul. There seemed to be a plethora of similar styled artists arise to chart after Big Calm, their second album; Dido for instance, M People et-al, while Morcheeba remained in the underground, like an old raver’s secret.
26- Jamiroquai – Emergency on Planet Earth (Columbia 1993)
With the Criminal Justice Act taking hold, the free rave scene lay wounded, and I was open to new avenues. Imagine today, recording stuff off the radio to cassette! I was recording the SoundCity on Radio 1 in 1993 when I heard something awesome, something which bent my conceptions of dance and blistered it with unadulterated retrospective funk. I imagined the vocals were supplied via a large afro-Caribbean lady, visualise my surprise when I saw a skinny honky smaller than his hat, the super-cool Jay K. By the following year I’d seen him perform at Glastonbury, bought a gaudy cap and submerged myself in acid jazz. My peers didn’t favour this move as much as I; popularity of the genre remained exclusive. While Jamiroquai made it through to mainstream, groups like Corduroy, JTQ and Children of Judah went on to produce a few too many albums of similar formula and the movement was short lived. Still, this debut album was earthy-jazz with a conscious and a didgeridoo, and never surpassed by Jay-K.
25 – Photex – Modus Operandi – (EMI 1997)
Well-worn by 97, drum n bass for me had seen better days. But where Goldie and LTJ Bukem’s pioneering albums wasn’t without their flaws, Modus, with peerless Photek drums colluded with the superior jazzy atmospherics of a thriller movie, and melded dystopian synth arrangements, to make it quite simply, perfection. It was a drum n bass awakening for rural techno-heads too, who so far had considered the genre too urban for their tastes. I recall listening to it on the way our first rain-drenched Glastonbury, prior years being clement; it felt apt as we took shelter wherever we could, and wrapped our feet in plastic bags before our putting boots back on.
24 – The Orb – UF Orb – (Mercury Records 1992)
Glastonbury, 1992, maybe, scampering like crafty felons through a maze of tents in the dark, deciphering guide-ropes from hallucinogenic wavy lines and somehow magically avoiding tripping, over the guide ropes I mean. There was a noise, it was not music, it was waves, a soundscape dangling in the air; The Orb were on stage some distance away. Ambient house has no place today, face it, but at the time it wowed. It broke all the rules, hardly strokes of melody, more drifts of resonances and echoes of bass. It was the sort of music to either be awake or asleep to, or drift between them blissfully. While the KLF pioneered this from an ice cream van, the mysterious Orb championed it and their second album UF-Orb was the masterpiece of its genre. There were tracks forty minutes long, which would take twenty five of those minutes before a beat came in. Imagine having to cut Blue Room to three minutes for Top of the Pops!
23 – Deee-Lite World Clique – (Elektra Records 1990)
I bought this on cassette, why you cry, when you had vinyl? Convenience is the simple answer. Witness the confused expression on a millennium kid’s face when you show him a “tape,” but it was the digital download of the era, you could share easier than vinyl. Plus, the American funky sounds of Deee-Lite, which would accompany me on bus journeys to art college, would’ve been viewed as second place during the early “hardcore,” section of the dance revolution. Who’d have imagined in only a few years, DJs like Sasha would take the helm and garage and funky house would be at the forefront. But as we matured it did, for us; the hardcore split into “jungle” and “happy hardcore,” as younger, fresher faces adopted it.
So back in 1990, Deee-Lite was a refreshing break, it was psychedelic enough to satisfy, and Lady Miss Kier had legs which went on forever, should you be lucky enough to climb those platform shoes to the beanstalks of tie-dye leggings. I think, however, the timing wasn’t quite there, and in the UK they never made it far past “Groove is in the Heart.” That said, it’s still a floor-filler today.
22 – Daft Punk – Homework – (Parlophone 1997)
Unsure why on earth anyone would call an album this, the last thing you want to be thinking about when partying full force, but that’s the French for you. Also unusual for a video to attract me to a song, but when I saw that guy with the dog’s head, wandering the streets considered obnoxious for not turning down the volume on his beatbox, well, I rode right into that enormous plodding bassline and figured here was something solid and timeless. I was right, for though my journey into French house was short-lived, Étienne de Crécy’s Super Discount and Air’s Moon Safari coming close to inclusion on this list, Daft Punk are still strong today and still pushing the boundaries of the genre.
21- Rebel MC – Black Meaning Good (Desire 1991)
Over the oceans, and apparently, over the seas, you know when we come it’s just reality. This “jungle” antecedent wasn’t originally on my list, but when it suddenly sprang to mind I wondered how I could’ve missed it out. I replaced The Ragga Twins’ Reggae Owes Me Money album for it, because in reality, it surely worked the other way around for both the Ragga Twins and Rebel MC; they owed reggae money.
Rebel MC though gave credit, even cameos to his reggae influences, and while he may have been aiming for commercial success in the 1980s, when he fired back with Black Meaning Good, he had a powerful message of which hadn’t been tackled from this angle in hip hop previously.
“No,’ some say, ‘that’s not the way, Chat like that, your tracks won’t get played, Stick to the formula ya had before, Fame and money and a whole lot more’, Cha! Wheel out ah dat, seh dat can’t be, I gotta true-speak intelligently, Maybe for that I might sacrifice sales, but I’ll put more weight on the justice scales.”
Plus he done it in a breakbeat style which whipped ravers into a frenzy; sounds a bit dated now, but a pioneering album the drum n bass scene wouldn’t be the same without; nuff said.
20 – Eat Static – Implant (Planet Dog 1995)
Frome’s space-rock the Ozric Tentacles were always a popular band, but once the crusty techno scene took hold, their new outfit was sublime trance, and was the West Country answer to Orbital and Underworld. Oh, attire me with glowsticks and take me back to The Berkely Suite of Longleat, when the whole Universe was compressed into a much smaller Tribal Gathering and despite stern thumps protruding, the crowd were amalgamated, approachable, and hardcore.
This third album from Eat Static was, for me, their pinnacle, but although times were a changin’ in 1995, clubland getting wise, it couldn’t replace getting down and dirty in a forest where police helicopter search lights scanning through trees were treated as visual effects far beyond a nightclub’s glitter ball!
Oh, I’m going to have to leave it there for now, and return next week with 19-11; anyone got any Veras?
Halfway up a mountain in Andalusia, early noughties; I spot admist the crowd of mad ravers in a tranced frenzy, a distressed toddler crying, and perpetually calling out “mama!”
Rave culture was never just about popping out to a club to wave your arms in the air, and hug complete strangers on a Friday night, it was a way of life. A way of life which had engulfed me at this point, with a good fifteen years under my belt.
I’d done that, got the T-shirt and worn it out. So-much-so, no matter what my state of mind, I was capable of finding moral standing. I jumped to my feet from where we were “chilling” to assist in a way I wasn’t quite sure of, I just knew I couldn’t sit there and watch the child in meltdown.
A hand on my shoulder stopped me, a trusty friend advised me not to get involved. She was right, the mum could be anywhere in this humongous techno fiesta, probably didn’t speak English and, what is more, would be too “off her face” to be concerned.
Heartbroken I tore myself away from the sight, consoled myself there was little I could’ve done.
As much as I loved free party raving, I have to admit it’s probably not the best environment for a toddler. It’d take a strong mentality to withhold parental responsibility when all about you is hedonism and mayhem.
There then is the plight of the last great youth culture, like all previous trends, we grew up, we had kids and now the fragments of that once proud scene consist of the odd occasion where you perchance to hire a babysitter but spend most of your time reminiscing about your car breaking down at Castlemorton with some delinquent dribbling clubber, or such like fable, Uncle Albert style.
However, the times are a changin’ you soppy old ruffneck ting, and there’s a growing fad sweeping the nation which allows the hardcore massive turned mom or dad to shove their, let’s face it, mostly harmless ways of misspent youth down the throat of their impressionable nipper; and why not?!
Raver Tots host “family raves” where kids and grownups can hit the dance floor together.
The kids, and I’m gathering parents too, are supplied with endless entertainment; face painting, UV lights, bubbles, balloons, confetti and giant parachutes, all in a rave style atmosphere.
They book some of the UK’s top DJ’s of yore including residents Artful Dodger, Brandon Block, Slipmatt & Nicky Blackmarket, attracting up to 1,500 people.
Rave Tots events have proved successful, selling out up to 3 months in advance.
Closest to here is one on the 4th February at the Bath Pavilion with Nicky Blackmarket playing classic drum ‘n’ bass with MC Chalky. And 8th April at Swindon’s Mecca with DJ Slipmatt.
Founded by Mike Pickets in 2017, Raver Tots has an ongoing charitable interest and supports an array of charities that help children with Autism and ADHD.
They advise ear defenders can be worn although the music is kept to safe levels and club lights are in “rave style” but no strobe lights are used. A maximum of three adults are permitted per child but you can’t get in without a child, insuring this is a totally family atmosphere.
What a brilliant idea, I salute the organisers of Raver Tots and I’m pleased to see just because rave has come of age, there’s acceptable outlets keeping the vibe alive in their own, individual way, keen to note though, this isn’t completely unique, Bestival innovating family festival vibes since 2004.
Bestival increased this ethos by hosting spin-off club events of a similar nature called “big fish, little fish family raves,” and they’re at the Neeld Community Centre in Chippenham on the 10th March.
They describe the events as being, “designed as much for grown ups as for children; daft, social, anarchic and a whole load of fun for everyone together.” Which is, in a nutshell, what rave was all about to begin with!