THREE or four years after hearing Brandon’s seminal acid house tape, music was coming at me from all directions.
The shock waves from the initial slo-mo house detonation continued to roll around the world – bouncing between Chicago, Detroit and New York, reverberating across the Atlantic to London and Milan before booming back to New York and then back again to Ghent and Antwerp and Frankfurt via Sheffield and Manchester and beyond.
And all of these shockwaves seemed to collide in Leeds in 1992.
EVERYONE was on tour in the States and I was staying at Southview House on my own. Alice and Dan were playing stadiums for MTV with Aerosmith and I was working in Belle Isle. But at least I got to hang out with Derek the dog.
One morning, hungover as hell, I stumble out of my basement bedroom and head upstairs.
I discover the Ex cheerfully bouncing around the kitchen with what I have come to understand is their customary enthusiasm and vigour, laughing and joking with each other in high-volume Dutch while frying cheese and mushrooms with abandon.
The people in Chumbawamba and the Ex had been friends for years – in fact Coby did the live sound for the Ex before she moved to Leeds and began working with the Chumbas – and they’d let themselves in after playing a local gig somewhere the night before. It was that kind of house.
A LOAD of us went down to the Ministry at some point in the mid 90s and, despite hearing some great music, we were not particularly impressed by the distinct lack of atmosphere compared to clubs such as Kaos, Basics and Hard Times in Leeds. There just wasn’t the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.
A few weeks later, me and Earnshaw DJed at a party at a mate’s house and someone did some jokey flyers saying we were residents at the Ministry of Shite. We ended up keeping the name when we started putting on parties ourselves.
It was all a bit rough and ready, but we had a run of great parties over three or four years at an old mansion house at the Weetwood end of Headingley in Leeds, with perhaps two or three hundred people coming through the door during the night, generally ending around 6am with no bother from the cops.
We played a lot of new US garage and vocal house but we also threw in old acid, techno, hardcore and hip house at key moments to ensure everything remained suitably blurry and twisted out of shape.
IT’S nine o’clock on a cold Saturday evening and Ali Cooke and Dave Beer are in their tiny office in the labyrinthine Music Factory, looking suitably shagged out after a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to collect Back to Basics’ prestigious Mixmag club of the year award last night.
The two bleary-eyed promoters clearly enjoyed the occasion to the full. They are not at their best. And all this less than a year after the club’s first night.
“I didn’t even realise you got awards for stuff like that,” Beer says. “When we set the club up, it’s not as if we did it to put ourselves in the limelight.”
“Dave wanted to go to a club where he’d like the music and the people around him,” adds Cooke, who also DJs at Basics. “And I wanted the chance to play the kind of music I want to play.”
FLIES ON YOU lumber onto the stage, and contain not one, but two of my very oldest and dearest friends, while the crowd contains lots of other old and not-so-old friends from far and wide. It is very much a family affair, and all the more wonderful for it.
I even run into the lovely Maureen, who used to sell me pot back in the day. It’s like some kind of obscure DIY band, fanzine writer, drug dealer convention.
Having missed the debut gig of the Extricated in Manchester a couple of months ago, due to circumstances beyond our control, going to see them at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds was the next best thing, particularly when I found out my old friend Doug’s band, Flies on You, were supporting.
The gruesome twosome of Doug and Paul (who is standing in for studio bass monster Andy Watkins), plus a couple of guys I don’t know, play short, spiky, angular rock tunes with great titles like Can You Smell That Burning Noise? and You’re the Anaesthetist, John.
THERE are some records that I’ve been mooning over for years and years with the intensity of some hopelessly lovelorn teenager who’s just had their heart broken into little pieces for the very first time.
Records that soundtracked beautiful times and wonderful places, important, vital, essential records that I’ve loved and lost but never found again, that tug insistently at the edges of my memory, just beyond my reach, forever naggingly untouchable, unattainable, unforgettable.
And there are some records that I didn’t know even know I’d lost, that I didn’t even know I had in the first place, to be perfectly honest with you.
The uncharitable might suggest this is indicative of a man who has too many records, or that all those years of burning the candle at both ends – and in the middle, all at the same time – are finally catching up with me. Or that I’m finally succumbing to early onset Alzheimer’s.
To which I would respond: Who are you? And where are my records?
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.
I KNOW for a fact that Doug only started talking to me because I wore a White Riot T-shirt at sixth form. He’s told me often enough. And as he will also no doubt tell you given half the chance – like it’s somehow an issue – I was actually more into reggae at the time.
We’ve been bickering about my fake punk credentials ever since. You’ll find that Doug crops up in a fair few Hip Replacement pieces, one way or another. On balance, he probably has a few more embarrassing stories about me than I do him – but not that many more.
Despite his often lamentable taste in music, extraordinary clumsiness, excessive flatulence and outlandish dress sense he is a top bloke. Generous, reliable, as dry as fuck and – although he’s always been a good deal more sensible than me – as daft as a brush. Well, he was daft as a brush once. Having children often makes you a good deal less daft and it seems to have done the trick for Doug. He’s still a bit daft though.
Together with Rachel, Garbage, Andy and Paul, we used to go to a lot of gigs in exotic Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Retford, as well as Steve Bird’s discos in town, various boozers in the village, John’s mum and dad’s flat above the Post Office – anywhere there was loud music and alcohol really.
ANOTHER reprint from the annals of GRUNT magazine, this time an interview with legendary guitar-botherer, microphone enthusiast and In Utero, Surfer Rosa and Pod engineer Steve Albini.
Big Black imploded at their darkest, angriest and most intense, when they’s simply done everything they wanted to do as Big Black. Albini got together with a couple of the guys from the brilliant Texan bluesy noiseniks Scratch Acid and created a band with a name inspired by their favourite cartoon character.
Steve ‘Weave’ Hawkins put them on in Leeds and the Brag editorial board (Mark, Marie, Doug and me) bugged him into letting us interview the band at their contentious Poly gig.
We were all major Big Black fans, but we were all as appalled by the name of the new band as any of the people protesting outside the venue. Well, maybe not quite as much. But they were great. The music Albini and his bandmates made was pretty fantastic, with Albini’s big, bad guitar accompanied by a muscular rhythm section that was simply out of control.
Albini was something of an indie legend already, from his work with Big Black. And Scratch Acid were just unbelievable, if not quite as well known. We were proper excited.
All the same, we had to walk through a picket to get into the venue. It felt very weird.
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WHILE Richard Curtis probably isn’t someone you would turn to for stark social realism, the story of pirate radio deserves a slightly more serious appraisal than that found in his latest happy-go-lucky comedy, The Boat That Rocked.
Curtis’s Sixties-set tale of high-jinks on the high seas has received mixed reviews – “fine if it were funny, but auto-pilot Curtis prevails”, said one reviewer; “I am going to email Richard Curtis and tell him I hate him and ask for my money back,” said another – but unlicensed radio remains a staple of British culture to this day.
In The Boat That Rocked, much is made of the fact that a hopelessly out-of-touch BBC played just 45 minutes of the new-fangled pop music per day, meaning that pop-hungry teenagers had no option but to tune into stations that took the music they loved more seriously.
In reality, despite attracting daily audiences of up to 25million people, the pirates’ brash and breezy US-style of commercial radio was anathema to Harold Wilson’s Labour government – although the official line was that pirate radio broadcasts had the potential to blot out the signals of legally-sanctioned stations, as well as emergency services and air traffic control communications.
The then-Postmaster General Tony Benn declared war on the pirates in 1965 with the promise, “the future does not exist for them”.
Although the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act of 1967 sank the pirates anchored just outside British waters, and a couple of years later Radio One (fronted by many former pirate DJs) soaked up their audience, unlicensed radio never really went away.