|808 808 State|
Interview by Dorian Silver
Manchester outfit 808 State, dubbed the British Rhythm is Rhythm are currently riding high with their ambient mix of techno and mellow saxaphone Pacific State. The inclusion of diverse samples on the group's album Quadrastate, ranging from Boney M to Barry White, has made 808 State the favourite flavour amongst Kicker clad ravers at this summers warehouse parties.
The band started eighteen months ago when Martin Price, the director of Eastern Bloc records met the troop's now resident computer boffin Graham Massey. They were soon joined by two young scallies, Andrew Barker and Darren Partington, who have been mixing as The Spinmasters for eight years. At stunning live shows and weekly at 'The Thunderdome' the ensemble test their demos by "slipping new stuff into the set and gauging the crowd's reaction". When I met 808 State and their manager Ron at Eastern Bloc, Martin the entrepeneurial motor-mouthed band leader described the venue as "an old bingo hall with a dance floor that John Travolta pranced on during 'Saturday Night Fever'." This establishment, respendently furnished with flashing lights and flying saucers has rapidly become Manchester's main alternative to Nude, held at the Hacienda on friday nights.
Mike Pickering, the creator of Nude is also a former member of T-Coy, whose seminal release Cairo was one of the first Northern house records to achieve hit status in the South. Following T-Coy's success Bolton born weirdo Baby Ford reached the national charts with his cover version of Marc Bolan's Children of the Revolution. This year similar acclaim was granted to A Guy Called Gerald's haunting Voodoo Ray and most recently 808 State have emerged as the top British house hustlers, with demand for their new long player currently outstanding supply.
808 State have a great deal of respect for their erstwhile partner Gerald and Martin acknowledges that "friday nights at the Hacienda are kicking, thanks to the musical direction of Mike Pickering". Conversely, fellow Mancunian Baby Ford is humorously dismissed by Martin as "a fucking dickhead, a raving dick-head, a middle–class lad whose dad owned a car showroom and bought him a computer." Martin, warming to his subject elaborates: "When I was dancing to Africa Bambaata at the Dance Factory in Bolton he was trying to act and look like Ziggy Stardust, after that he mutated through the Bowie/Roxy mode and he's basically still a futurist dick-head. I liked Children of the Revolution, it was a good tune and it showed Ford in his true colours as a futurist pillock." Unlike Ford, Martin grew up cruising round the North from Wigan to Stoke enjoying the delights of the firmly established Northern soul scene. Like Mike Pickering he believes "that house is Northern soul, but just a different version of it." During the mid-eighties, whilst Londoners were captivated by rap and good groove Northerners were developing their own house movement, engendered by the enthusiastic appreciation of music found in Northern soul clubs and through out the area. With the help of the aforementioned artists and the added exposure provided by 808 State's recent success more of these records are now filtering down to the capital.
Martin, however, feels that London D.J.'s still belittle the Northern scene and are also inferior to his local colleagues: "The worst thing about Londoners coming up here for a rave is that they don't acknowledge how brilliant the Northern D.J.'s are, they stick all our boys in the little tents whilst all the berks from down there, who don't know how to mix, play the big ones. Some of the names can do it but I've not once felt threatened by any talent from London, when I do I'll sit up and notice. In Manchester music is less segregated by fashion than in London and consequently only the best records, regardless of who they are by, are played in Manchester. You have stuff in London like Izit's Stories which is a 99.b.p.m. plodder with a little swing beat backing track, but they won't fucking have that here, it's shite, we won't touch it because all that gear is piss poor."
Similarly, large record companies are also slated by Martin for being slow to pick up on new trends: "Three years ago, when I started Eastern Bloc none of the major distributors provided me with the tunes I wanted, so I set up my own importation network in conjunction with Ron's shop Music Mania in Altrincham. I gave away copies of Black Box, Airport 89 and Numero Uno to record companies in London months ago. They've just realized that all these records were first imported by myself and Ron and the whole overground scene utilised the records we first introduced here." When the band are established Martin would like to "do our own label with all the New Beat and ltalo-House promos I supplied to other companies." The group also intend to produce other artist in the future and are already remixing records for Rhythm King. 808 State's confidence as producers stems from their semi-religious love of equipment which Martin describes as "being akin to train spotting; we named the group after a drum machine and Graham's got a twelve foot picture of a 909 that we painted on his wall and my room is covered with posters of 303s. We're all devotees of 'Music Technology', a magazine specialising in articles and interview about equipment." With the successful harnessing of technology Martin is confident that "the next album will show people that 808 State can do something from the head of every youth dance culture, no matter where it's from."
808 State's eclectic tastes, ranging from Electro to Northern Soul have enabled them to plunder any musical style to find the perfect beat. The most original track on their next album, reminiscent of Crazy Horses, utilises a "cracking break from a Hindi version of Samantha Fox's Touch Me which Martin heard in his local Indian restaurant. The forthcoming disc is set for release later this year and with the prospect of 808 State being signed to Factory national chart success appears imminent for the troop who instructed Londoners "to stop looking at the Balearic Islands and America for inspiration and get their own house in order by realising the wealth of talent that is here in England."
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1. How many pine needles are there on the average Christmas tree?