|Flavors: 808 State|
When 808 State played at New York's Sound Factory recently, the crowd slammed, heckled and grooved as if vibing with a traditional 4-piece band. It became clear that those who wrote off electro and techno dance music as being terminally impersonal were themselves suffering from a moribund lack of imagination. House music is learning to go live, and in that context, 808 State are state of the art.
"Every gig we play we're getting better," says Andy Barker. "When we started out we were concentrating on what we were doing, not on putting on a show. I use an Octopad on the live set - you play a drum machine like you play a live drum, so you're not sat there looking like you're cooking your dinner. Still, we're more of a production team than a band. It's important to show people what we look like and it's great to do a gig, although we'd rather be in a studio creating."
On that front, they have just finished an album package for MC Tunes, who provides a good focal point for the band and could well fill the gap left by the departure of a guy called Gerald. Andy describes the single as "future rap with a backwards 60s feel to it," Martin Price adding, "we enjoy working with him because he's really nutty. We luv 'im to bits."
As a remixer, Price shows how radical the evolution of 808 has been: "Technology is such now that you can really rip things to pieces, turn them inside out. Our remixes don't even sound like the track. We're not a band. We have to be to promote, but we're very picky about what we do. 808 can't follow formulas, it sticks in our craw. When 'Pacific State' hit the charts, the record company said 'When are you doing another one with a saxophone on it?' And we said, "We're not doing it, we're doing a hardcore one." "Graham and I were very 'arty', and people forget that. I used to be into DAF, Throbbing Gristle and White House records like 'Music for the Teargassed'. My Dad had loads of tape recorders and we learned to use loops. From that we are now able to take hardcore backing tracks and float things over it. That's what keeps it alive. Darren and Andy's DJing is a massively important factor. They're coming from a different generation and if we're being boring they give us a good slagging off."
Says Andy: "I really like the Euro and British stuff out now. I don't hear much American stuff coming out. I like Bones and Knuckles, but, for example Model 500 who influenced us a lot don't seem to be doing anything. When we were over there we got a vibe that we were taking over their thing. They seem to think that we're taking the fame but it shouldn't be like that. We have a lot of respect for those guys who influenced us."
With the full-length '90' LP and hard-hitting 'Cubic' 45 having built on the base built by 'Quadrastate'/'Pacific State', 808 are now hard at work on 'Olympic State', the tune they're offering for Manchester's 1996 Olympics bid, and the next LP.
"Ultimately we aim to be good producers like Arthur Baker," says Martin. "We see House and Hip Hop as a discipline: people shouldn't take it too seriously. People expect us to be dour - sucked-in cheeks and a bit Gary Numan. We're a fun band - pretty nutty, like a House version of Madness."
Say no more.