|Personality Clash: The Whip vs 808 State|
|Clash Magazine, Issue 29
One of the most distinctive acts hurled up by the explosion of influences through the 1980s were 808 STATE. Formed in 1998 by Martin Price, GRAHAM MASSEY and A Guy Called Gerald they epitomised the fusion of DIY attitude, the burgeoning new technology and Manchester's ability to match any international dance dons at their own game. On their own patch.
Twenty years on Clash dispatched new indie/dance heroes (and local northern young team) THE WHIP (frontman BRUCE CARTER and bassist NATHAN SUDDERS) to quiz Graham Massey over what the fuck was happening two decades ago - and what relevance it has to today's music culture where rolling your own sleeves up and plugging into new technology can create your own revolution in sound.
Bruce: All the time people ask us about acid house. Doing interviews in Europe or whatever they always bring it back to that point when you were making music, back in the day. I think that's the most respected of all periods of music in Manchester, especially with dance music.
Graham: It's weird the Madchester thing. A lot of that music from that time was pretty hybrid really. It's not pure dance music. For us we don't know where we stand in that Madchester thing because obviously we're associated with that period. But we always saw ourselves as connected to a much larger worldwide dance thing. We didn't really trade a lot on the Madchester thing, not consciously anyway.
Bruce: Would you get kids that were into Indie and dance at that time?
Graham: Yeah. For instance, if we went and did, say, gigs abroad, loads of kids turned up in Inspiral Carpets T-shirts and big flares. They really bought the culture wholesale, the Madchester thing. The fashion thing, we really didn't like that return to the Sixties kind of vibe about it. We like the futurism of it all, you know.
Bruce: That all sounds a lot more groundbreaking.
Graham: Yeah we didn't really see it as a 'Summer of Love' thing. We didn't really buy into that. And if you read interviews with us from that period they were really vitriolic about a lot of the culture, particularly Martin [Price] who was in the band and ran [record shop] Eastern Bloc. He was devastated when it came to Indie bands. In fact any hybrid form of dance music. What do you call that area of music that you're slotted into? Neo Rave?
Nathan: I don't personally like the Nu Rave title. When I think of Nu Rave I think of kids with glowsticks in wacky hats and Shoreditch and all that lot. I'm from Burnley. I probably get looked at going out like this with long hair and that.
Bruce: When you were making music that was really forward looking, aside from that Madchester connection that people tried to give you, where were you getting your influences from?
Graham: Mostly it was because of the equipment. It was technology-led in a way. All of a sudden you had access to cheap synths and things because the midi thing came in.
Nathan: What were you listening to in, '88 was it, when you formed?
Graham: I guess it was through clubbing at that point in time. You started having some great clubs in Manchester. Before then it was mostly going to see bands. There wasn't a clubbing culture as such. Not in a recognisable way. A lot of the early gigs with 808 State were in the suburbs of Manchester, like Altrincham. We used to go off doing Wrexham Football Social Club. Odd places like Burnley, Blackburn and Bolton. It took root really not in the centre of Manchester but in the periphery of Manchester. Because there was a scene that, I guess, had grown out of the Northern Soul type-scene. So there were a lot of dance-orientated clubs. Mr. Smith's in Warrington. That's where we could get a gig. We couldn't get a gig in Manchester unless we put it on ourselves.
Nathan: Crazy innit? Where would you put stuff on?
Graham: Eastern Bloc's basement. Eric Andrews' brother organised some of the early raves in Manchester in, like, Store Street and places like that.
Nathan: Do you remember there was that place on, not Rochdale, Oldham Road? There's this old club that's shut down now. Did you do stuff there?
Graham: Thunderdome. Yeah that was a really important club and very unsung in a way. There was the Hacienda and all the younger crowd and the north Manchester crowd went to the Thunderdome. It was a bit more aggressive music there. Darren and Andrew from 808 did Saturday night there. It was real sweaty. It wasn't remotely anything to do with iD and The Face. Whereas the Hacienda, for those kids it was considered a bit too kind of up it. In an iD kind of way. You couldn't get in if you looked a certain way. There was quite a door policy. If you were eighteen from north Manchester you weren't encouraged to get in.
Clash: Wasn't it all southerners in there eventually anyway coming up on the weekend?
Graham: Not really. You had people from all over the world at its height. The Thunderdome's a really important place. We tested all our early stuff there. You know, white labels. We found it quite hard to get played in the Hacienda apart from the big tunes. Thunderdome would play everything. We had that radio show at the time on a community radio station called Somerset FM, a Tuesday night programme on there, where the Eastern Bloc lot used to give us all the latest dance imports. That was really connected to Thunderdome, it was the same crowd.
Nathan: From what we've noticed in the last couple of years, from the mid-Nineties, in our eyes that was that traditional, 'you are either into Indie bands or you are into dance music' thing, and recently we've noticed the blend of it and the change. The crowds wanting to dance. Was there anything like that for you? Did you see any change in the crowds?
Graham: I think it was because a lot of bands adapted into the dance culture that was already established. Take a band like Primal Scream, a year before that dance culture kicked off they were still a band and they take on the culture. They adapt to the culture. And The Happy Mondays and The Shamen. They were all formed before that culture. And that became the face of the culture.
Clash: You used to get people turning up from London and all over the world at the Hacienda imagining they were playing Happy Mondays and stuff not realising that they were playing techno.
Graham: They barely played Manchester stuff. It was a small percentage of what they played.
Clash: The bands would turn up though, wouldn't they, and hang out?
Graham: It was the social centre that was important about it. That cultural exchange element to it that wasn't just about music either. Businesses were living off the same energy back then that gave Manchester a renaissance in a way. You've got to remember how crap it was before then. It was really a depressed place in the mid-Eighties. Particularly with the soundtrack like The Smiths and that sort of thing going on. They were almost wallowing in a darkness that lifted at that point, that became connected to a wider world. It was quite isolated at that point, the same for Liverpool and Stoke and all those places. The triumph of that dance culture was to be provincial. It didn't matter what the media were saying about it. It didn't matter a hoot to us. Once that Mixmag culture came in it was a bit, 'do we need that?' because it was alive and tangible and belonged to people. It didn't belong to the media. You get a sense these days that everything belongs to the media.
Nathan: Do you feel that changed pretty quick, from something that was fresh and just you lot doing it, to everybody getting on it?
Graham: It wasn't about everyone getting on it because that's about ownership. Ownership was the difference. People had ownership of that culture and it's rare to find that. It's not often that happens. Usually something is set up to gather around. You got that sense that that wasn't the case in that particular situation, in the northern provincial towns. It was as strong in places like Stoke. Manchester gets a lot of credit for it, but places like Leeds, Liverpool and Stoke had ownership of it. There was an important club in each one. There was a network amongst the country, That's what was so important about the rave situation; the gathering of the provinces. It's a little bit different now, it's packaged, festivals are very organised things. The chances of spontaneity now at a festival are pretty minimal. It felt slightly out of control all of the time. It had its own energy. It would be interesting if you could go back in a time machine. You'd probably think it was too chaotic.
Bruce: It's totally punk rock though isn't it?
Graham: Yeah you got the sense that it was the energy that was carrying it. And the media were following it. Not the other way round. A lot of places like Sheffield and Nottingham got really politicised over those issues. That's when it split into either an underground thing or this very organised money thing. A lot of people made a lot of money off it. There was an establishment and anti-establishment thing that came about in '92/'93. That felt just as weird. The period before it felt very unified, it split into two things.
Bruce: Do you think the press had a lot to do with that then? Creating that moral panic around that era, destroying that spontaneity about the raves.
Graham: I don't know how long it could have gone on for really. You can't organise big groups of people like that without... It wouldn't be spontaneous forever.
Bruce: Did you play a lot of them, the illegal raves?
Graham: We used to get offered sometimes two in a night. There were a couple of occasions where we split into two. Nobody at that point would know. There was little expectation of a performance in a way. I remember one time this rave wedding we went on as KLF and played all their stuff. I don't think we had a booking agent. We just used to get phone calls. It wasn't that organised. It was much later on that we had a booking agent and things like that. A lot of word of mouth.