TUHIN, recruitment consultant, major-league caner, and my then girlfriend’s ecstasy pal, drove us to the gig, as he often did, with his three year old contact lenses burning their way through his eyeballs – so that’s probably why we got there fashionably late. I may even have been on the radio immediately beforehand, who knows?
The details are all a bit sketchy. Please feel free to add your own recollections if you were there – and your memory is less shot to pieces than mine.
Outside the venue, an old library building on the corner of Hyde Park that the boss had somehow managed to hire, there were hundreds of kids, mostly teenagers from Leeds and its suburbs, who had been attracted by all the on-air hype for the party in the preceding weeks. I’m guessing this would be around 1991 or 1992, when everyone in the world seemed to be tuning in, turning on and dropping out – and most of them seemed to be tuning into Dream FM.
Leeds has a long and illustrious history of excellent pirate radio stations, but they were playing black music – soul, reggae, hip hop and house – at a time when few white people were interested in hearing it. The established Leeds pirates lacked the aspiration, transmitter power and often the organisation to really maximise their potential.
Don’t get me wrong. They did alright, I’m sure they made a bit of money and they sounded great – big shout out to Soulmaster Hazzy, Fluid Irie, MAR, the President, Mark Ital and even, I guess, Gary B – but the people behind them, community-minded music lovers and straight-ahead gangsters alike, were wary of getting too big and too conspicuous.
Dream FM was different. The guy who ran it was an old Northern head and a pirate radio freak from Wakefield, who’d had dreams of running his own station since he was a kid. He’d just come back from being away and ran straight into the emerging rave scene, made himself a bit of money co-promoting the Dream nights at the Trades Club and sank it into getting a radio station together.
The whole point of Dream FM was that we were playing music that practically everybody under the age of 35 was going absolutely nuts for, but you couldn’t hear it anywhere else on the radio – this was way before Kiss ventured out of London and a long time before Xfm even existed.
It quickly went from a three-man operation in a council flat in Little London to a semi-professional organisation with dozens of DJs, a proper schedule, an exhaustive list of on-air rules about swearing, drug references and the like – and what seemed like thousands of listeners. And okay, although, a lot of the time we were in various high rises in Little London, we also transmitted from a couple of basements in Hyde Park and a weird little ornamental cottage in Headingley. It was all very glamorous.
Tony Walker, Simon Scott, Daisy & Havoc, Nick Camaro, Tantra, Leafy, Dan Greenpeace, Moose, TC, Steve Luigi, Alice, Shock, Everlast and Corby, Simon Harrison Paul Taylor, Funk Boutique, Scars on Sunday and many more aspiring local DJs all became firm fixtures in the schedule, as did my former Microdot comrades – but I had Juan Atkins and Joey Beltram on my show, so it was clearly the best out of all of them.
Carl Cox came in to do a live mix and ended up cooling his heels in a broken lift for a couple of hours. DJ Zinc and 2For Joy didn’t.
Over the three or four years Dream FM was on air, we had listeners from York in the north to Barnsley in the south. The quality of the signal, the professionally-produced ads, and an endless line of promotional car stickers, T-shirts and mixtapes meant that a lot of listeners didn’t even realise the station was a pirate – even after me and another of the station’s DJs who, just for the sake of argument, we’ll call Chris Martin, were interviewed for some YTV arts show and were right there, on the telly, in silhouette, speeding our tits off, talking absolute shite. It was a wild time.
But that was all in the future. Tonight was the very first Dream FM party.
We knew people were into the station because they were calling in for requests and shout-outs, but nobody really knew for sure if they would actually turn up on the night, so it was good to see the number of people spilling out of the venue and across Woodhouse Lane. Less welcome were three or four police vans parked just up the road, watching and waiting. Their presence at least might explain why we couldn’t hear any music.
We squeezed into the venue, which was rammed with people just standing around, to hear some confused tale about the DJs who were down to kick the night off refusing to play on the crappy belt-drive decks in the corner of the room. So they were all waiting for some 1210s that were supposedly on their way from somewhere. And I guess they might have been wary of having their records confiscated by the cops as well.
It turned out the cops had some issues with the flimsy pretext the boss had used to hire the place – and they would almost certainly have had issues with the fact that he was operating an unlicensed bar, if they‘d known about it. The punters weren’t too happy either.
The decks were the pair we had in the studio at the time, and I was used to them, but to be honest, my mixing skills weren’t that great and 1210s probably wouldn’t have made that much difference anyway. Either way, I didn’t need to be asked twice.
I’d borrowed a couple of tunes from the station’s library (and had to sign them out, of course), specifically a couple of promos of Acen’s Trip II The Moon Parts One and Two on Phil (Galaxy) Fearon’s Production House label. Hardcore was evolving into jungle, everything was speeding up, and they were a little bit fast for my taste, but that was nothing that the pitch control couldn’t cure and they were just brilliant otherwise. I stuck one of them on first.
The place exploded. It wasn’t down to me. There was still a degree of nervousness about all those cops outside but something approaching a collective euphoria that a night which had looked like it was turning into a tremendous anti-climax was finally kicking off. It was about having some music to listen to, to move to, to provide that moment of release.
And maybe it was also about everyone’s drugs kicking in at the same time once they heard some loud music.
It wasn’t about me at all. But I felt like a proper little superstar DJ all the same.
I must have spent the best part of 20 minutes slamming between the Optinkonfusion and Sequel mixes of Acen’s last single, Close Your Eyes, and the promos of their as yet unreleased epic Trip II The Moon.
To the uninitiated, Acen Razvi and Floyd Dyce’s stuff might sound like a cacophony of hoover whooshes, helium-vocals, bleeps, clattering breaks, excessive sub-bass and fairground barrel-organs – and even the hook from Here Comes The Sun (which prompted George Harrison to consult m’learned friends and get that one withdrawn from sale) – but hearing it out loud for the first time was a genuinely head-changing experience. For me, anyway. And everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.
Acen and Dice’s demented dirty dubby grooves might be as trippy as fuck but, by crikey, they’re funky with it. Their stuff is superbly crafted and produced with, I’d recklessly suggest, a level of sophistication rarely found in dance music of any genre from the UK at the time.
Anyway, it was just fucking mental. Total dancefloor devastation. The place was absolutely rocking. I followed up with some proper rude, ruff-tuff ragga business by people like Criminal Minds, 2Bad Mice, the Kleptomaniacs and Phuture Assassins. It was all very sweaty and intense – and lots of fun.
Immediately after I’d finished my set (I’d like to say there were cheers, but I can’t remember any), when my last record was safely back in my bag, the cops decided to close down the party. There was no aggro but the night was most definitely over.
There was never any question of getting paid and I had to give the Trip II The Moon promos back. Plus I lost a lot of the other stuff I played that night when I left a load of records behind during a move from Harehills to Armley a few years later. Ridiculous really.
Buying them again never seemed like a priority, which is probably just as well as a lot of these breakbeat hardcore records seem to be stupidly rare these days, especially when you remember that they used to knock them out by weight in the early 90s.
There’s a trend on YouTube for people to post film of some old hardcore classic going round on a turntable. It’s weirdly absorbing, watching the needle inexorably move toward the centre of the record, a bit like the potter’s wheel intermission must have been in telly times past – except that you’re listening to the rumble and thump of Hackney Hardcore’s Dancehall Dangerous instead of Greensleeves. The ones where they just have a still of the label aren’t half as good.
There are comments from oldies reminiscing over raves of ye olden days – “When Harrison kicks in and everyone used to just stop and float two seconds later, havin IT ! ! Records like this just can’t be done anymore!” – and people who are discovering all this for the first time:
“I’m 12 and I’ve been listening to Drum and Bass since I was seven. I don’t know but it just came naturally to me that Hardcore, Jungle and Drum and Bass was the stuff for me, but I do wish they still made it like they used to in 1992.”
And it’s not just the young ‘uns that are hearing some of this stuff for the first time. ‘onmyownintelaviv’ (the usernames tell their own story) posted a stupidly limited (50 copies apparently, according to Hard To Find) remix of Trip II The Moon, a kind of semi-official, unreleased Part Four, by acid breaks demon Omar Santana that, I’ll be honest with you, I’d never even heard of before. It rocks.
YouTube seems like it’s one of the few places you can actually hear some of this stuff – although that might seem difficult to believe given that the whole rave-nostalgia industry is running full-throttle at the moment, with club nights, compilations, websites, forums and whatever (one of my favourites is Rave Generator).
I popped into the basement of Vinyl Exchange in my dinner hour yesterday and found a copy of MFSB’s fantastic Universal Love album for a fiver. Just before I leave, I decide to check out the rave section to see if anything interesting has come in. I finally succumb to the lure of this bootleg that’s been hanging around in the rack for ages with Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy, a Seduction remix, some Goldie bullshit and the original version of Trip II The Moon.
It seems I’m now buying records from back in the day that I didn’t even own in the first place, just so I can write about them. That wasn’t the idea at all.
But, then again, you know the score. Strictly for the hardcore, yeah?
There’s an interesting interview with Acen Razvi over at Back To The Old Skool, where he talks about his love of sampling and filmmaking and raises the possibility of a new album some time this year. More info at his RaveSpace – and make sure you listen to the fantastic new track, Nasty Raver, on the player.
During my endless ongoing trawl of Manchester’s charity shops and new and secondhand record emporia, I saw a copy of Window In The Sky last week (like I’m going to tell you where), but I remember thinking it was a bit disappointing when it first came out, so I didn’t bother – and besides, I was after Trip II The Moon or Close Your Eyes. Then I saw the daft prices people charge for Acen records online, went back into town and happily my paid £5.99.
It’s still not doing much for me. It’s all too fast and furious and, dare I say, a bit dumbed down and obvious. There doesn’t seem to be the same sense of fun as there was on the earlier stuff. To me, it seems a bit ordinary. But maybe that’s just because I don’t have any history with it. So I’m going to flog it to the highest bidder, like the dirty rotten capitalist I clearly am.
Maybe this is where I finally get paid. Rave reparations.
Wish me luck.
Thanks to the ever helpful Chris Martin, here’s side A and side B of a tape he recorded off the radio the night top techno bod Joey Beltram and his glamorous girlfriend Tina came to the Dream FM studio, which at that time was in Billy’s basement in Hyde Park, around 1991.
If I remember rightly, afterwards we got in Helen’s red Volvo and she drove us over York where Joey was DJing at Mike Morrison’s Galactica rave-in-a-tent event. It was sponsored by McCain’s Oven Chips.
Anyway, there’s very little chat from me but lots of banging early R&S shit from the man Beltram. Enjoy.