|Rave On... acid house is back|
16th November 2007
By Richard Hector-Jones
AS Saturday's Warehouse Project acknowledges the 20th anniversary of acid house with a stellar line-up of young guns, City Life tracks down a few of the city's originators to recall the vitality of a musical revolution.
It was a revolution that, in the UK, grew very much from a post-industrial Manchester ravaged by decay and dereliction - way before the bomb, before regeneration and before the trappings of modernity we take for granted today.
Graham Massey, innovator, producer and musician, says: "As a musician back in the Eighties, I'd always been interested in music that was transcendent in some way. That might include psychedelic rock, some of the heavier jazz like Coltrane and Miles Davis, or even the weird easy listening records you could pick up cheap back then. So long as music transported you to another headspace it was doing its job for me.
"A lot of mid-Eighties music wasn't doing much. The indie scene and electro pop was too kitchen sink drama - The Smiths being a good example - but there was the beginnings of a more interesting 'off the wall' kinds of electronic music around. New Order post Blue Monday and the extremism of another ex-Manc, Genesis P Orridge, and Throbbing Gristle.
"I got more into music technology when I enrolled on a course at The School of Sound Recording on Tariff Street. All of a sudden I had access to computer music and samplers which were brand new at the time. At the same time, a local Sunday night radio show by Stu Allen was playing these imported American house records coming into the legendary Spin Inn records. Much of it I didn't care for but some was so alien and had that transcendent quality you get in heavy African music - primal yet futuristic.
"Once I started hearing it in clubs and parties it all made perfect sense as the soundtrack to a brand new scene - which is not to say that it didn't divide people at first.
"We formed 808 State from a group of house music enthusiasts at Eastern Bloc Records and it settled into a three piece of Gerald Simpson, Martin Price and myself. We were immediately in demand for warehouse parties and club nights. We found with enough drum machines and synthesizers we could improvise long organic non-stop sets and we began to find our own style of acid.
"One of the unique things about making acid house back then is that you knew who and where you were making this music for. There was almost a civic pride in the north west clubbing scene, especially when heading in convoy up the motorways, talking about what made a good track.
"There were occasions when we would make a track, jump in a cab and get that track played at the Hacienda that same evening. It was a DIY music industry with an exciting immediacy that fed back into the music. There were so many great records coming out every week that inspired you to want to make one better.
"To me, a very special relationship between the industrially decayed mid-west of America and the industrially decayed north of England developed as we lobbed tunes at each other on a weekly basis.
"If there's one memory that sticks in my mind from that period it was watching the Berlin Wall coming down on the news as they were all dancing to one of our tunes. We tried to create a futuristic optimism musically, so to me it was 'right time right place!'."
Graeme Park, legendary Hacienda and radio DJ, says: "I vividly recall the first house records appearing from Chicago, Detroit and New York as early as 1986. I was DJing at The Garage in Nottingham and people were quite hostile to this new sound that was essentially electronic disco influenced by European electronic bands such as Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Telex and others and played on cheap drum machines and synthesisers.
"Quite why people didn't warm to it straight away was beyond me at the time, but I persevered and little by little house took over my entire record box. Mike Pickering was similarly pioneering house in Manchester at the same time, which is how we became aware of each other. It was in 1988 that I joined Mike on the decks at The Hacienda to provide a DJ dream ticket and a platform for house music to spread like wildfire. Sure it's spawned a huge amount of crap, but it's still the only form of music that continues to evolve and surprise and, most importantly, survive trends which ultimately come and go in a whim.
"And I still love it now!"
Justin Robertson, DJ and producer, says: "Acid house changed my life in a real road to Damascus way! It took the energy of disco, the evolving groove of kraut rock and the spaciousness of dub and married it with a happily carefree attitude to using new technology that few knew how to work properly! Thus, a whole new musical revolution was created by chance.
"It can't be exaggerated how alien this music sounded then and indeed still sounds today. It changed the way people write songs, how they produce, and socially what constitutes a good night out! Before 1988, standing on a stage waving my arms about like a demented robot filled with experimental appetite suppressants wasn't even on my list of things to do!
"Crucially, I believe that acid house also empowered people by demystifying the music making process and making it available to everyone. This DIY ethic was the true fruition of the project punk could never finish. It was also big fun!"
The Warehouse Project takes place under Piccadilly train station on Saturday night featuring Vitalic (Live), Digitalism, The Whip (Live), Ivan Smagghe, Simian Mobile Disco DJ set, A-trak & DJ Medhi (Ed Banger), and Ting Tings (Live). For more info visit thewarehouseproject.com.