So what’s it all about then eh?
I’m in the office closing down issue 807, which moves on to setting up the next issue templates, folders etc.
I hadn’t seen it coming, but the second I found myself typing 8 0 8 for the first of many, many times this week, my head was full of 808 State’s classic 91 ‘In Yer Face’, and so the stage was set. For the next day or two I reacquainted myself with such glorious tunes as Flow Coma, possibly the most acid of any acid house track ever recorded, their first hit Pacific, and some of their many collaborations and remixes with such luminaries as the Stone Roses and Bjork.
So how accessible would the founders be? 808 State were one of the first wave of the Acid House that revolutionised music in the UK and set a scene that aside from evolution and divergence of sub genres still forms the core of the contemporary music today that can be collectively grouped under the heading of ’House’.
Important to remember that back then, from the late 80’s and into the 1990 summer of love, making successful music still meant you made serious money. People bought records, cassettes, and quite a few people were turning their collections over to these new fangled CDs.
Add the earnings from those huge sellers to being one of the biggest names on the lucrative rave circuit and who knows. Perhaps they were all now happily ensconced in their individual ivory towers sipping on unicorn milk with a smug disdain for those of us still on Unilever.
Then again, that didn’t seem very 808 State. Had to be worth a punt, I mean being asked for an interview because you happened to be on issue 808 of a provincial newspaper had to be as worthy as an appreciation of your creativity right? Strangely enough it worked.
NG: Hello Graham and thanks very much for agreeing to do this on such a tenuous premise. I’d better get straight in to music to show you my interest does go beyond your name.
GM: Ha ha, no problem. We’ve had quite a connection with Ibiza over the years so pleased to contribute.
NG: So I’ve discovered, it seems you were involved in a lot that people over here now hold in legendary status.
GM: Really? Well our first trip over was in 1990 I think. It was quite an adventure. I don’t think any of us had really been on foreign holidays, for some of us it was the first time we’d flown.
We had become aware of Ibiza from lads coming back to Manchester. Not everyone could afford foreign holidays back then but the lads that came back had an influence on what was happening. We had all grown up in and around Post Punk Electronica and it was a very tight knit circle around the clubs at the time. They brought back a different feel, I don’t know, it was the way they looked, the way they danced, and of course the music. All of sudden you could play a really wide range of music and still be considered cool. It was really that diversity of styles played together that we thought of as the Balearic sound.
Our break came through Ibiza too. Gary Davies the radio One DJ had apparently heard us played out there. By then we had stuff out on White Labels and it must have reached Ibiza because he picked up on it and almost overnight we went from what was really a group of mates, everyone knew each other, to getting played on daytime national radio.
NG: And in 1990 Radio One was the kingmaker. Were you popstars by the time you came out for the first 1990 trip, part of a documentary Charlie Chester was working on with Channel 4 wasn’t it?
GM: Yeah, that’s right, was it, or was it MTV? No that’s right Channel 4. But no we weren’t treated as anything special then. By the time of the second trip it was all private jets. Crazy looking back.
NG: Funny that there does seem to be a collective amnesia about the period. I asked Charlie if he had any anecdotes from the trip and his answer was “I can’t remember anything from 1990.”
GM: Ha ha, they were mad times by today’s standard, but I remember a lot of our time over there. We played Ku on the first trip as well as doing the documentary.
We got to go out a bit too. I remember going to Space. The terrace as it was. I remember being really impressed with the sound system they had there, totally different class to the UK . It really impressed me.
NG: Was your second visit to play in the quarry? That is one people here really do speak of in hallowed terms.
GM: I think that was the 3rd trip. We’d been back once in between. To play Ku again. The quarry was incredible. Absolute chaos, much of it was back in the early days of acid house, but it all seemed to work out. I remember we had a huge stage backdrop which was fixed up to the rock face of the quarry. Sometime during the show somebody nicked it. God knows how, but anything was possible. We had some great weekends but it wasn’t all good. Some friends were killed on one trip. The roads outside Amnesia were just so dangerous. It was waiting to happen really. That was rough but that aside my memories of Ibiza are al good.
NG: I expect ‘In Yer Face’ was released by the time of the quarry gig. That’s the tune that immediately came into my head when I thought of the magic numbers. Is it the tune that haunts you with requests. Is it ‘the’ 808 track?
GM: Funnily enough I think its been a little overlooked if anything. It was the highest charting single we had (number 9), but our first big single was Pacific and the thing about that is it has been remixed and reworked so many times. Being more ambient it can be used as backing music so easily. It always seems to be coming up in TV shows and commercials.
NG: Do you always know when your music is being used?
GM: No, not at all, just the other day I noticed one of our tracks is on the soundtrack for This is England 90. I had no idea.
GM: It is all a bit confused to be honest. Old contracts and rights ownership. Hard to know exactly who has what.
NG: Talking of backing music I read you were involved with the ‘It’s all gone Pete Tong movie.
GM: Yeah I was asked to compose the score for the film. There are none of our tracks in it, but all of the incidental music, scene setting, that’s all my work.
NG: Must have been a challenge writing background music for a film with some real banging anthems? Did you enjoy the project? Like the Film?
GM: It had some huge tunes but it is interesting work. It was all done in a surreal context really. I’m nowhere near the film production, I did most of it in my home studio. They would send me clips of film (I’ve been around Colin Butts enough lately to know they are called rushes, but I appreciate Graham’s dumbing down for me), and I would write music without any other points of reference. It is difficult for me to comment on it as a movie as I have watched it, all be it in really odd ways, literally hundreds of times.
NG: Graham I am going to have to ask you the question that more than any other must bore the pants off you. Where does the name come from. I’ve had the benefit of research in the last few days but not everybody will know.
GM: No problem. It is taken from the name of a really early drum machine that we used. The Roland TR808. As it turns out it was really important in the history and development of music. They have just made a film about it, sounds geeky but really interesting.
Graham is right about the 808’s influence. Used on tracks as iconic as Planet Rock and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, plus of course a good few belters from some chaps in Manchester.
Things did then go a bit geeky in another direction, at least as far as relevance to most Ibizan readers is concerned. Having grown up around the same music we spent quite some time talking of everybody from Cabaret Voltaire to Mantronix to KLF (great to speak with somebody else who valued what they were about), and at some length of course about Joy Division and New Order. For me it was like talking to somebody who was at Woodstock in the 60’s, or watched the Pistols pre-press. Very special.
See below left for details of Graham’s amazing gesture of a mix dedicated to our 808th issue. Our own 808 state is officially over next Wednesday night, but now reacquainted I’ve a feeling I’ll still be play…., actually nah, this is building to a really cheesy ending. Sod that. I need something far more
Ibizan Issue 808 State Mix, by Graham Massey, Listen in on Sonica Radio, 1pm, Tuesday 10th November 2015
Graham Massey has proved himself the splendid fellow we always knew he was by recording a special mix to mark the Ibizan’s 808th issue. We are honoured and indebted. As if one decent chap wasn’t enough Sonica Radio’s Andy Wilson has stepped up and will be broadcasting the mix live on his Tuesday lunchtime show. The show starts at 12 noon so that’s when you should start listening, but he did say he was playing it at 1pm. Ignore that, tune in at noon.
If you cant wait that long you can listen here
Still from the 1990 Channel 4 documentary.Watch it here:-
Graham Massey (born 4 August 1960,) was a member of experimental jazz rock group Biting Tongues.
By 1988 he was a founding member of the British band,808 State, formed in, England which by 1989 became the focus of his work and resulted in the demise of Biting Tongues.
Originally a-hopcalled Hit Squad Manchester, 808 State shifted to anhouse,debut album,Newbuild1988 under the new name 808 State.
Massey had also been a member of the D.I.Y. band Danny and the Dressmakers - a mixture of “bad” music and Gong (living up to their tagline “We don’t play our instruments, we abuse them”) and also hippy – fusion band Aqua in the 1970s, along withClark (also later of Gong).
Massey co-wrote and co-produced the tracks ‘Army of Me’ and ‘The Modern Things’ for Björk’s album. Initially recorded in 1992 for her album Debut, they were not released until her second album Post in 1995. Army of Me was the first single off Post in May 1995, reaching number 10 in theSingles Chart
Massey released the solo album under the name "Massonix" on Skam Records. He has side projects with ‘Toolshed’ and ‘Sisters of Transistors’, he also recently remixed Dougans’s (of Future Sound of London) track "Stakker Humanoid" from the remix album, "Your Body Sub Atomic". He has also remixed FSOL before on "Papua New Guinea".
In 2004 he worked as a composer for the score of the movie "It’s All Gone Pete Tong".
2008 saw the realization of a research project as the keyboard quartet Sisters of Transistors with whom he also plays live drums. Massey provided lyrics and music to much of their debut album released in 2009.
Massey is part of the Part Time Heliocentric Cosmo Drama After School Club, a Sun Ra covers band formed in 2013 by Paddy Steer