HE MIGHT describe himself as the “classic underachiever”, but Andrew Weatherall doesn’t seem to have done so badly.
A music and fashion nut from Windsor with an unhealthy obsession for the minutiae of the rituals and mores of a string of different youth cults, Weatherall is part of that charmed generation who were just about old enough to experience the first wave of punk rock first hand but not too old to appreciate acid house 10 years later.
Inspired by Peter Hooton’s The End fanzine, Weatherall and his friends Terry Farley, Cymon Eccles and Steve Mayes – already seasoned clubbers to a man – created the football, music and fashion Boy’s Own fanzine in 1987.
They threw some very groovy guerrilla parties styled on the scene they’d experienced at places like Amnesia in Ibiza, before Weatherall, Farley and Steve May launched the hugely-influential Boy’s Own record label (look out for 20th anniversary events coming up this year), which has gone on to bring people such as the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, X-Press 2 and Black Science Orchestra to the world’s attention.
Weatherall is probably as much to blame for the horror that was ‘indie-dance’ as the Great Satan Oakenfold. His remix of Primal Scream’s I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have – which he transformed into the downtempo Balearic masterpiece Loaded – spawned a thousand tedious de-facto cover versions by everyone from Blur to the Soup Dragons.
Since then, the former Shoom resident has become synonymous with the heavier, more intense end of electronica, with club nights like Blood Sugar and Sabresonic and production outfits like Sabres of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen. But Weatherall has a million other aliases and guises. He’s a difficult man to pin down.
The last time our paths crossed, a couple of years ago, I busted my knee dancing around an open-air club at 6am after a long, long night at the Benicassim festival in Spain.
I’d somehow got separated from Dr Drew and, decidedly dazed and confused, made friends with some lovely boys from Zaragoza who, amongst other kindnesses, blagged me into the party.
Weatherall wasn’t playing punk, but I felt the need to pogo. It was that kind of night/morning. In fact, he’d actually gone a bit disco, well, in a deep house kinda way. It was an entirely unexpected turn of events, but it was a laugh a minute.
The first time I met Andrew Weatherall was in Leeds towards the end of 1993 after a gig at Soundclash.
According to the listings in the mag the interview eventually appeared in, the week that Weatherall was next due to play at Soundclash, Chapterhouse, DOA, Pulp and Tindersticks were at the Duchess of York, while Anthrax, the Levellers and the James Taylor Quartet were at the Town & Country Club.
Meanwhile in Leeds’s burgeoning clubscene, Daisy & Havoc were doing the business at Vague, Billy Nasty, Lisa Loud and the Jam MCs were at Back 2 Basics, Zero B at the Gallery and Sven Vath, Spice Lab and Resistance D were appearing at the Orbit.
Outside of Leeds, Charlie Hall, APL and Higher Intelligence Agency were at the House of Maya in Bradford and Miles and Elliott were rocking Hard Times in Mirfield.
I even had a couple of gigs myself – at an anti-racist benefit at the Irish Centre with Fun-da-Mental and the KK Kings, and with dancey prog-rockers Ship of Fools at the Duchess. Stuff was going off all over the place.
I went down to the Music Factory with my Northern Star colleagues La Jackson and Chris Eejit, and got heroically drunk and possibly quite stoned too. Later on, I remember shouting unpleasantries across the street at my long-suffering-but not-suffering-for-much-longer girlfriend when she came to pick us up. I thought I was being hilarious.
During his set, Weatherall banged out a load of old school Tubby’s dub, although funnily enough, the biggest tune of the night was probably his booming remix of Senser’s Switch. It was a fantastic night and I got a decent interview, which we spoiled somewhat by running under the ludicrous headline: ‘Don’t need a Weatherall to know which way the wind blows’.
It may even have gone on the cover of the mag. I am still blushing 16 years later. It just doesn’t work on any level. At all.
It’s no ‘£75 fine for Ribena misdemeanour’, that’s for sure.
* * *
IF YOU’VE been paying any attention at all over the last five years, you’ll have heard of Andrew Weatherall. Out of all the DJs and producers who have become cult superstars in the UK since the house music explosion of the late Eighties, Weatherall is perhaps the most innovative and certainly the most enigmatic of them all.
It was Weatherall who fucked about with the music of the Happy Mondays, My Bloody Valentine, James and most famously Primal Scream – as well as what seems like a million identikit white indie boy rock bands.
He gave them a groove, made them dancefloor-friendly and helped them sell a lot of records.
At the same time, he’s steered an increasingly eccentric course into uncharted waters of tripped-out weirdness with remixes for acts like Galliano, the Sandals, Future Sound of London, Utah Saints, Jah Wobble, One Dove and Bjork. He’s got form.
Weatherall also makes his own music and has just released an album full of hard-edged electronic dance music, Sabresonic, which he recorded with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns under the name of Sabres of Paradise (the name was taken from an old Hayzi Fantayzi record, fact fans).
So it was quite a surprise – but not that much of a surprise – to find him DJing at Dean Cavanagh’s Soundclash downtempo dub jam at the Music Factory in Leeds a couple of weeks ago.
“I’d like to think I wasn’t just known as a house DJ,” he tells me after his stint on the decks, struggling to make himself heard in the disorganised chaos of a packed Basics office. “I’d like to think I was known as a DJ who plays a lot of varied music. Just when they think they’ve got me pinned down, like, oh, he plays all that heavy gear, they come down here and they hear something totally different.
“It’s a good way to avoid being pigeonholed, and I enjoy it.”
Weatherall tells me that he’s always included diverse elements within his sets, reflecting his own very diverse tastes – but as someone who has been head-over-heels in love with music since he was a kid, you wouldn’t expect anything else.
But Andrew, what about these stories I hear of a shady past in jazz-funk?
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he laughs. “When I was about 14, I got into dressing up and going out, and the best places to go were soul all-nighters and weekenders. But it was the social aspect I was really into, the clothes, the wiz – the music wasn’t really saying a lot to me.
“There are some tunes from that era I’d still gladly cut a rug to – Prance On by Eddie Henderson, some Olympic Runners and some Brit-funk stuff – but it wasn’t the main thing really.”
Weatherall goes into one about how the original punks, people like the Sex Pistols and himself, were just bored soul boys looking for something new. He is occasionally interrupted by motormouth Basics staffer Metal Mickey accusing him of wearing Tukka boots, “like Ralph Lawson”.
Okay, I say to Weatherall, where does dub reggae fit into all this?
“It doesn’t! He’s a fake!”
Thank you Mickey.
“I heard a Johnny Rotten interview on the radio,” answers Weatherall, bravely carrying on despite the increasing pandemonium around us. “He was playing Doctor Alimantado, Big Youth and Tapper Zukie. And then there was Don Letts playing at the Vortex and the Clash doing reggae songs.
“To be honest with you, I’d never even heard Pressure Drop before the Clash did it. I’ve never lost that attitude – I’m still 14 and I still want to take everything in. The minute you get blinkered and you just go down one avenue, it’s like giving in. You’ve become your parents.”
Despite the obvious differences – the tempo, the drugs, the haircuts – Weatherall says that the music of people like Derrick May and Lee Perry has more in common than you might at first imagine.
“I can see elements of techno in dub and vice versa. Like digital reggae these days, it just sounds like raw 808s. I can’t see much difference in a Mixing Lab record and a Prince Jammy record. The new Ritchie Hawtin record, Plastikman – put a skanking bassline over that and it’s a digital dub record. It’s a classic case of less is more. Good techno is good dub, it’s as simple as that.
“Dub is one of them musics,” he muses. “You have flirtations with other things but you get bored and you always go back to it. It works on a really basic level. It borders on the religious to me, sometimes, when I listen to it.”
Talking of which, Weatherall is obviously itching to get back down to the Music Factory’s basement for the Year 2000 dub plate selection of Rootsman. It seems he is “extremely uncomfortable” doing interviews (you wouldn’t guess) and I’m lucky to have had as much time with him as I have.
He reveals that at the moment he’s working on remixes for Primal Scream, Ice T and, most excitingly of all, Dub Syndicate and Adrian Sherwood, “although that’s a bit daunting for me really, because he’s such a hero.”
Variety, it seems, really is the spice of life for Mr Andrew Weatherall. Just when you think you’ve got the measure of him, he veers off on another tangent.
“This week, I thought to myself, right, I’m listening to too much techno,” he tells me. “I’ll have a day off. So I ended up listening to Nikki Sudden and the Jacobites, Mazzy Star and a Northern Soul compilation that I got in a newsagents for £2.99. It’s got all the old classics on it, y’know, tunes – uplifting, good songs. I love a good song.
“When I’m not listening to dance or reggae music, I love a fucking good song, be it country and western, rock, a ballad or whatever. You can’t beat a decent song.”
See also: 2010 Weatherall interview
[This interview originally appeared in the Northern Star in November 1993. Another decent old interview with Weatherall at Uncarved here.]