Tag Archives: DJ

Weatherall – Rest In Beats

On the day when a ‘weirdo and misfit’ UK government adviser called Andrew made the news for all of the wrong reasons, some thoughts on a man who shared that Christian name, a maverick who awkwardly and rightly sat – and will now for ever sit – somewhere between iconic and iconoclastic:

Along with Theo Parrish and Harvey, he was an uncompromising and ever-challenging DJ who kept playing, kept evolving, but kept you coming and made you get on the floor. There are inevitably only ever going to be few of these future-thinking technicians and they don’t tend to kick around until they’re in their dotage and so can collect a gong or two. Even fewer are the ones who sound like nobody else.

He kept faith in a creed where music was central to living and breathing be it at a blues party, an unfashionable boozer or a sweating club. As we gained a mortgage, kids and bills, we moved away from the fields, the unofficial festivals, the ‘one night only’ warehouses, the dodgy basement parties and the industrial estates with vacant lots. For many, the vinyl was parked in the loft and new discoveries were forbidden. Not him.

As much Augustus Pablo as Paul Simenon, he seemed to be as black as he was white in his musical tastes, which is a rare combination in general but is even more noteworthy given his prominence and success within dance music culture and when one considers his well-known affiliations and team-ups.

Pigeon-holing him never worked. There was still a magical, organic lustre to his name which directly evolved from his sets, remixes and productions (unlike other DJs whose surnames were bandied around pre-party or club night but who fell from our admiring view along with the short-lived musical movements associated with them).

He was a Larry Levan-cum-Malcolm Sargent for those of us who came of age in clubs of the late 80s and early 90s; a vinyl lover and backroom man who was quickly promoted to the main stage who convinced in the flesh and also away from the decks, his pedigree never doubted and his star never dimming.

Was he ‘cool’? Yep. An example would be when I couldn’t muster the courage to do anything other than nod to him one day in London in the mid-Nineties – pre-beard and braces – even after an old friend had remixed one of his tracks on Sabres of Paradise.

Does ‘cool’ matter? Yep. Am I trying to hive off a little of his? Yep.

As dance music emerged in the 1990s as a commercial behemoth in the UK, Europe and further afield, both as an industry and as an alluring, captivating and demanding force within our lives, he kept his good taste and ploughed a productive and occasionally lonely furrow. His reality and myth-puncturing realism was a welcome contrast to the ‘over-hyped and over here’ shiny, happy DJs who still lived off the glory of two decades-old sets in order to milk every last penny from your memories. 

With his remixes, he elevated the frequently half-decent and the end result was frequently triumphal and ever-lasting, and usually a realm away from what was expected (and this should have been expected but rarely occurred with others). In an age when ‘remixing’ was short-hand for hasty beat replacement/insertion under one stripped vocal phrase, he re-positioned, re-made and re-invented.

Soon by My Bloody Valentine was a good track anyway, but the addition of Westbam‘s Alarm Clock was a genius move if only for joining the dots between Gang of Four, German music post-DAF, NYC beats and the morphing nature of Creation records.

It frequently took the rest of us a while to catch up on where he was headed, musically, and many of us, including myself, didn’t keep pace.

29 years ago his set at the Event in Brighton with Alex Paterson of The Orb before and after Primal Scream played were the perfect accompaniment to my ‘Bart Simpson’ and one pint of lager, to my lift-off and re-entry from a sticky carpet in the midst of a memorable summer.

Two summers ago he made me dance on my own on an empty dance-floor at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge as he played support to A Certain Ratio and the middle-aged Factory devotees sat and waited for the main act (who were excellent). Slowly probing but essentially expansive, his CDJ set was the perfect warm-up and a filling ‘meal’ in itself.

In an age of celebrity, it seemed that he resisted it. In an age of blatant bollocks masquerading as truth, he was publicly silent and free of BS. He lived it, he meant it, whatever it was that he was up to. More music, more effort and less PR, few interviews.

As with the recent death of another music lover and DJ, Scott Macnaughton, who also never lost sight of the dance-floor, this is an unexpected loss in so many ways.

He was Andy Weatherall.

Mellow Music No.1

AFTER what seems like a lifetime of finding, buying, playing and coveting vinyl, I’m well on my way down the road of divestment. But there is still much music out there which is un-digitised and not known [especially anything outside of canonical lists dominated by white American males] and I like to research and enquire about it, perhaps to write about it too.

In light of the recent report on just how much music was lost in the Universal Music Group fire of 2008 – and what that says about music companies’ traditionally cavalier approach to artists and their recorded output – it’s all the more important to stand up, as it were, for that which has been lost or is in danger of being forgotten.

At the same time, you can take the man out of hip hop but you can’t…

In other words, old habits die hard. A crummy album from a bargain bin or dusty, damp back room in a shop may well have a few seconds or more of a weird beat/arrangement or strangely affecting voice/keyboard line. The rest is dreck but that one element is to savour, perhaps even re-deploy elsewhere to greater effect.

In the same vein as the seminal Octopus Breaks and continuing the great auditory turn-on which was Lovefingers – RIP to both – here’s four beats for free; musical oddities which still possess life and a promise of… of… of something! Do what thou will neighbour.

Name all four tracks and I’ll send you a coveted, culturally valuable and scarce piece of vinyl, free of charge.






Flyer Artwork No. 2

Blister, Basement, Brighton

I’m appalled. In so many ways. I ‘made’ this.

It’s 1991. I’m one of two guys DJing at a midweek indie night in Brighton, East Sussex, England. The other guy plays the rock, I play anything else. That makes the grungers and grebos leave the dancefloor.

I know I played the Prodigy and Public Enemy. Chances are I had Aphex in my carrier bag (as Brighton is where I first bought him). Suspicions are that I rarely played him, such was the angry/unhappy/unsure response from the punters.

But memories are few and far between.

Having dropped out of university, unable to sign on and incapable of doing anything other than lying in a bath full of tepid water, rolling and listening to the Orb‘s ‘A Huge…‘ on an auto-playing Dansette, the £25 this gig paid was a life-line.

I sometimes went dancing with friends. Courtney Love rolled around on the floor of the stage of the Zap Club when Hole supported Mudhoney. I heard Choci, Rev and Harvey every month there when the Tonka sound system came to town. I was 19; a poor, permanently stoned and very pink (from all that bathing) whippet. A fool but a happy one.

The Underground venue was the cellar of a building on Grand Parade, not far from Brighton’s promenade.

If they still make Letraset, perhaps I need to re-invest.