808 State have been around since the early days of house music. They were born from the dance generation and got together, not because they were mates and had to find something to do in their spare time, but because they were crazy about dance music. Starting off as a hip-hop band, the lads had a posse called 'The Hit Squad' with MC Tunes, A Guy Called Gerald and The Ruthless Rap Assassins. But after the initial buzz of hip-hop music, they decided it was time for a change. This is when they found themselves being drawn into a style called 'New Beat'.
"We heard hip hop but it just got boring and we needed something else. We couldn't get into hi-energy, which was gay disco music music from the States, because it was too thin and didn't have enough energy. So we got into New Beat and then progressed into weird and crazy Detroit stuff. Before we knew it we were hooked".
They put an album out in 1988 called 'Newbuild', a pure acid L.P. The reason they did this was because there was not enough acid music about in their home town of Manchester at the time. Eastern Bloc would get about fifteen records a week, and apart from that there was nothing at all. So Graham Massey, Martin Price, Darren Partington, Andrew Barker and a Guy Called Gerald formed 808 State, releasing 'Newbuild' as their first album.
Since then there have been plenty of changes in the scene, resulting in many of the early bands losing both their touch and popularity. But not 808 State, they've changed with the scene and nearly eight years on they are still as successful as they ever were, with Graham, Darren and Andrew still with 808.
For the past year though, 808 have not exactly been releasing a single every month. In fact, the release rate has been slower than ever.
But don't for one minute think that they have just been laying in the middle of a Caribbean island with the hot sun beating down on their freshly made cocktail drinks. No sir, because you would be wrong and never more so.
808 State have been on two stadium tours supporting New Order in America with Sunscreem and before this they toured with Meat Beat Manifesto for three months, going to and from different parts of America, including a visit to Hawaii which is the 808th state of America. Basically there are too many to mention, but from speaking to the lads it is obvious that they had an excellent time and they plan to do many more tours in the future, or maybe even a tour of Australia next year.
In America were not seen as just your average rave band, were classed as 'alternative' because the whole rave thing has died down over there. You go to LA. and its all the Hispanics that are having the raves, its their thing'.
The band always seem to go down well in America, but then again the same thing can be said for over here. At Mickey Lynas' Amnesia House wedding they dressed up as the K.L.F. and started to do their P.A. to the sound of 'What Time Is Love'. Then, without any warning, they ripped off their masks and belted out their awesome masterpiece 'Cubik'. The crowd went through the roof.
Full of surprises, 808 have just co-hosted the Party Zone on M.T.V. scheduled for showing on 4th August at 11 pm. It was done to promote their new single 'Bombadin', which like most of their tracks is both unpredictable and in 808's unique style. It was written in the last year, influenced by going out to clubs and hearing a track called 'The Goodmen'. They knew that they wanted to do something along those lines and through hours of patience and persistence came up with the single by using a 'K7' sample.
"We're constantly looking for samples regardless. When we go on tour to America you'll find us in second hand record shops. When we go to Japan, were hanging round different places to find samples. Its what feeds our music".
So now you know about the single, let me mention the album that the single is taken from. It's presently untitled but they've just completed it. Due out shortly, it brings together many different styles of dance music.
We pride ourselves on doing an album, not twelve singles and calling it an album. People would get bored if we just put out singles. Yeah, fine if you want to play them in a club, but at home you listen to different things and that's why we work hard on our albums. Take any band in history, like Adam And The Ants, for example. You'd hear their first single and you'd go back and buy the album to see what else they were all about. The same thing goes for dance bands, and the way we've kept an underground and sort of mainstream following is because we produce albums".
When working on an album 808 State aim to bridge that gap between the underground and the mainstream, appealing to a wide range of people. They've just started up a fan club, a thing usually associated with mainstream artists. But 808 see this as a way of becoming closer to the people who actually go out and buy their music. In this way, they can improve what music they make.
Another idea they've expanded on is 808 States' own information service called 'State To State'. It will be available on something called Internet, a bulletin board via computer. There are 34 million users in the world and if you've got a modem on your computer, you can use this service. State To State will allow all the information 808 State want to be put out to be brought upon a screen and users can also ask questions to the band direct.
"Rather than having to consult loads of magazines to find out what were doing, it will now be much easier by just using this service. There's a rave organisation in Manhattan called Nasa and they put all the information about their raves up on Internet. This means that people always know what's going on and it really does work, saving all the trouble and expense of putting out flyers. Its a global communication network and this scene is all about communication. You've just got to look at the different categories of music now. Germany's got its own flavour and style and the same with Japan. If you can communicate direct with these people then I think that this is the future for dance music. Alright, a lot of people haven't got the system yet, but its in its early stages".
If people don't think about the future for our music, then there's fear of the Rolling Stones putting out another album in five years time because the dance scene has not pulled together and record companies have not realised its potential".
This is why 808 State intend to bring the Internet system out into the open, so that everyone who is a member of their fan club will have the opportunity to use it.
"There will be loads of other benefits of joining our fan club as well. Well be giving away loads of stuff for the fans, because we produce loads of tracks that never see the light of day. So were giving away a free CD album with every album we produce, because on average we do 40-50 tracks. The contract we have with Warner Brothers means we can only put fifteen out.
The lads have been offered a lot of fan clubs along the way. Record companies have always wanted them to have a fan club, but up to now they have always declined any offers due to the fact that this is not what 808 State are about. They are not into glossy merchandise and big colour pictures of themselves, instead there is the wish to concentrate on improving themselves musically. So when the idea of State To State came about as well as giving people something back, 808 State thought that this was just right for them.
The word 'fan club' alienates a lot of people in this sense. If you mention that you're starting up a fan club, then they think you're not underground enough, when in fact its totally the opposite for us. It is underground in the scene that you can whip up stuff on a computer screen to find out what's going on throughout the world. To me, that's not selling out is it?".
So, if you found 808 State interesting and want to find out more about them or the fan club, please contact:
State To State
If you wish to join the fan club straight away then please send a cheque or postal order payable to 'State to State' and enclose £13 (UK) or £15 (Overseas).
808 State wish to give loads of thanx and respect to everyone who buys and plays their records.
Turn to page 9 to see how you can win an exclusive record bag with the 808 & Eternity logo on, filled with signed vinyl.
Interview written and conducted by Mark E G.