EVERYONE in the world seemed to be at it. Going out, getting on it, getting out of it, getting wasted, leathered, trollied, mullahed, munted, fucked. Staying up all night at raves, clubs, blues, parties, dancing our hearts out, like nobody was watching. Like our lives depended on it.
A generation of wasted youth? Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘wasted’.
I’d somehow fallen in with the denizens of a crazed student household in Hyde Park, possibly through an acquaintance named Moz who’d attached himself to them as a way into the burgeoning student drug marketplace. That’s about as much as I can recall, officer.
There was one carrot-topped chubby posh-kid southerner stude named Archie who transcended extreme physical ungainliness and dismal social skills with astounding dexterity on a pair of turntables, cutting up a veritable storm with the blaring hardcore then in vogue in the UK.
The guy was just a fucking demon on the decks – he’d come up through hip hop and had grown into a great scratch DJ who also know how to work big, booming basslines and dirty, ruff-tuff breakbeats for maximum dancefloor devastation.
One of his party tricks was to stick an ashtray on the turntable, turn the headshell and cartridge of that deck upside down, stick a record on top of the ashtray, weigh it down and then move the head to play the underside of the record from the middle outwards – with the result that it played backwards. And he used to do all this in the mix. It sounded absolutely bananas.
Not having any decks of my own, I used to go round and practice on Archie’s and met his mate Ben, who studied at Leeds College of Music and used its state-of-the-art equipment to make these really extreme acid-techno tracks. None of it was really my cup of tea, to be honest, but he was a nice enough lad.
Ben had some connection with Spiral Tribe already – he ended up releasing stuff on their label and becoming heavily involved in the parties – and he was the local link when they came up to do a party in Yorkshire.
I didn’t spend too much time with them and didn’t even bother going to the party that weekend, which I remember being somewhere in the Dales.
For a start, I just wasn’t into the music. And after hearing so much about these Spiral Tribe party guys, I was disappointed to find that a lot of them appeared to be the same old humourless, condescending, self-righteous holier-than-thou traveller types who emerged from the festival circuit at the end of the Seventies, a demographic already well-represented in my social circle at the time. I’d heard it all before.
To be fair to them, I was probably a bit of a dick myself at the time so my opinion may not be entirely reliable.
Either way, by all accounts the party wasn’t Spiral Tribe’s finest hour. From what I remember, it all sounded a bit miserable. The weather wasn’t too kind to them, not many people turned up and those that did enjoyed the kind of drearily excessive turbo-hedonism which is more about quantity – the volume of the music, the number of pills you neck, the sheer amount of time you stay up in one stretch – than quality. I’m sure everyone had a whale of a time, but it wasn’t my thing then and it isn’t my thing now.
Spiral Tribe went on to play an integral role in creating the hugely successful Castlemorton temporary autonomous zone later that year while I went on to play an integral role in creating a string of singularly unsuccessful club nights. You’ll have to judge for yourself whose philosophy is more worthwhile – although it’s probably worth noting that it wasn’t until I started getting involved in unlicensed, illegal parties again that it really began to come together in any kind of meaningful way.
I think I first started doing a Sunday morning show on Dream FM a year or so later, when I was playing in blues dances in Chapeltown a lot. I’d been up all night anyway, so another couple of hours wouldn’t make too much difference.
Occasionally still absolutely shit-faced but usually more or less vertical – if phasing in and out of normal – I’d get the bus down Chapeltown Road and then walk up the hill to the studio in Little London, carrying as many records as I could manage.
After playing a load of big, obvious, hands-in-the-air piano house and garage numbers for the indefatigable Chapeltown rave crew all night, it was nice to be able to slow things down a little and play a more esoteric selection of music.
I played stuff from the dark far reaches of my record collection, from the languid dub of Doors Of Your Heart by the Beat and the smooth Euro-disco of Im Nin Alu by Ofra Haza to mellow rave bombs like Never Let You Go by Marina van Rooy and Snappiness by BBG, and beyond into edgier territory with stuff like Fantasy UFO’s Something For Your Mind, Body & Soul and Radio Babylon by Meat Beat Manifesto. Probably not the most obvious music to wake up to on Sunday mornings but it made sense to me at the time.
I was aiming for a chilled, trippy kind of a vibe, to ease your passage from one world to another, from hazy, post-rave half-asleep fuzziness to full-on horizontal, giving it the big Zzzs. And vice versa. And all points inbetween. I didn’t know what the fuck I was aiming for, to be perfectly honest, but focus, commitment and coherence are over-rated virtues anyway.
Sometimes I called it the Get Up Come Down show and sometimes I called it the Come Up Get Down show, depending on what words came out of my mouth first. It didn’t really seem to matter.
In between the records, I’d talk addled nonsense about the previous night’s events and yammer whatever random bits of crap I could think of about the stuff I was playing, some of it true, much of it completely untrue. I also made up stupid competitions for utterly fictitious prizes like MCing lessons from Guru Josh, two-week luxury breaks in Stoke and an actual hoverchair, as used by Commander Shaw off of Stingray. Daft as a brush.
I smoked an awful lot of weed during those shows. You could probably tell. I had a great time but I’m not sure about anyone else. I don’t ever remember getting many calls for requests, shout-outs, or made-up competition entries – but that’s probably because canny listeners didn’t like the idea of this rambling, out-of-control drug-nut, who’d somehow got access to Dream FM’s studio, knowing their phone numbers. I don’t think you could blame them.
Of course, it might be that nobody was listening and I was just talking to myself. It wouldn’t be the first time. Or the last.
The chilled-to-the-gills 1992 rework of the Killing Joke classic Requiem was perfect for the Sunday morning show. Renamed A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea, Requiem was always one of Killing Joke’s more restrained moments, but Greg Hunter and Kris ‘Thrash’ Weston – better known as (ex KJ roadie) Dr Alex Patterson’s opposite number in the Orb – slow everything down and stretch it out into a shimmering, deliciously trippy, hippy, drippy haze.
Seemingly retaining the fierce opening salvo from guitarist Geordie Walker only to suddenly excise it altogether – before bringing it back in corrosive stabs time and again – our dynamic duo draw out the throbbing pulse of Jaz Coleman’s opening synth motif, leaving open spaces big enough and wide enough for Youth’s elastic funk b-line to simply dance in and out, before emptying a skipful of reverb, echo and delay all over everything, everywhere. It’s a trip.
Even now, a couple of decades later, I still have vague memories of being in the Dream FM studio, nine floors up, listening to this. Spliff in hand, utterly zoned out looking out of inner city Leeds in the morning sunshine, slowly waking up in front of me as I’m gradually nodding off – and only realising where I was when the music suddenly stopped playing.
Needless to say, I never gave the clumsy and unimaginative Spiral Tribe remix of Change on the other side any airplay whatsoever. It was too banging. And it was too crap.
Having lost the first copy I owned who knows where who knows when, my man Laurie Laptop gave me a recording of A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea last year but intangible soundfiles rarely do the trick for me. Happily, just before Christmas those nice people at Vinyl Exchange sorted me out with another very tangible copy of the original vinyl – with splendid abstract collage picture sleeve – and charged me just five of your English pounds.
For your information, A Floating Leaf Always Reaches The Sea is rocking my world once again.
In the interests of fairness, I thought I’d better have a listen to the remix of Change, just to see how the years have treated it.
It’s still rubbish.