Rewind: iamelectron on “Don’t Fight It, Feel It”

Posted: December 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

In discussion with iamelectron on “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” by Primal Scream (1991).

This single is an outtake of Primal Scream’s seminal “Screamadelica” album. What is so important to you about this track that you chose to discuss it, and not the whole album?

The album as a whole is an amazing creation (excuse the pun) but it’s “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” that means the most to me. Every time I hear it I’m back in 1991 and it still gets the hairs standing up. It’s one of those songs that I’ll never be able to disassociate from the state, time or place I was in when I heard it.

How do you have 1991 in mind, especially compared to the years shortly before and after? What made that year special?

The summer of 1991 was a major point in my life. It was when I decided to pack in Art College and give the DJ game a serious go. I’ve been around electronic dance music in one form or another for quite a while. I was, and still am a huge fan of New Order, and some friends and I started a Joy Division/New Order cover band at school called Funeral in Berlin. I had the bass and the pony tail so I was Hooky, haha! Then I got involved in a Goth Disco band. Don’t laugh! We covered Dead or Alive, Sylvester, The Fine Young Cannibals and our Hi-Nrg version of “Jolene” was legendary (to about five people). So I was really into the sound of drum machines and synths. But it wasn’t until I went to Edinburgh Art College in ’89 that house and techno really hit me. I stayed in halls of residence for my first year. In the room around the corner from me was this guy from Aberdeen and he was always with this girl from college that I had the major hots for but was too shy to approach. So one day I went up and introduced myself to him in the hope that he’d introduce me to said lovely lady. I never got the girl, but I did get introduced to Acid House. My new friend lent me copies of “The House Sound of Chicago” and the first Jackmaster compilation, and I was blown away by the rawness of it.
So I started hunting down more records. I’d done a few bits of DJ’ing before, playing at indie disco things with a few electronic tracks thrown in; Factory releases, Tackhead, Nitzer Ebb, early Ministry/Revolting Cocks, The Residents that sort of stuff – and now I was sticking in these new House tracks, completely unmixed I must add because I had no concept of how to put two records together at that point. I started to meet more people at college who were into the House scene and we’d head down to nights like UFO; a short lived weekly party in Edinburgh that Optimo’s JD Twitch ran before he created the infamous PURE night (with his DJ partner Brainstorm).

Then in 1990 Glasgow became the European City of Culture and with that came late licensing laws and Atlantis at the Sub Club (with residents Harri and Slam) so we’d head over there and got to catch the first touring DJ’s like the Boys Own and Flying gangs. Then a friend and I started driving down from Scotland to London to go to clubs there. I was being consumed by House! By now I’d completely lost interest in actually getting a degree and to my parent’s dismay I moved back home (home being St Andrews, a very small, very insular University town on the East Coast of Scotland) to ‘take a year out’. I’d unintentionally timed my move with the opening of a night in the nearby city of Dundee called the Rumba Club, and from the spring of 1991 to Christmas of that year it was absolute chaos! During those eight months Weatherall played three times – and on his second visit he dropped “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” as his very last song. I had never heard a reaction to a record like the one he received that night – and I don’t think I’ve heard a reaction like it since. When the whistle noise, stuttering percussion and that wobbly bass line started the place erupted – it was madness!!! I’d love to hear a recording of his set because I’m sure he was mixing both sides; starting with the A side and then moving onto the “Scat Mix”. When that deep, deep, bass noise he briefly uses in the track came on the place went up another gear. So I’m on a packed dance floor going nuts to “Don’t Fight It Feel It”, surrounded by all my friends who are going nuts and whack – epiphany time! Sod college, sod everything else…I want to do what he (Weatherall) is doing! So I left the club that night…“and he was never the same again”. Yip, 1991 and this track will always be really important to me.

How would you compare the music Primal Scream did in 1991 with the classics of Madchester of the same era? Was there some kind of regional competition? Factory vs. Boys Own?

I don’t think you can compare “Screamadelica” with the Madchester sound. I love the Happy Mondays and you can’t knock the first Stone Roses LP, but all those bands like The Charlatans, James and The Inspiral Carpets weren’t for me. No, I’d put “Screamadelica” in with the Orb’s first LP and Saint Etienne’s “Foxbase Alpha”. They have a very unique sound which I personally think has aged well over time. As for any regional competition I don’t think there was any back then. Everyone was still buzzing from the Second Summer of Love and folks like Farley and Weatherall were remixing all these Northern bands (the only time I’ve ever bought a James record was when Weatherall remixed them) and you had folks like Justin Robertson remixing London bands. Also Boy’s Own was still a relatively small underground label in ’91 – while Factory was an indie giant on its last legs – they folded the next year.

There are some elements in this track that I associate with a lot of UK club music, like the use of dub and piano hooks for instance. Would you say that this is a genuine UK record?

I suppose it is quite a British sounding record – but it’s using musical influences from outside of the UK. The dub elements will be because of Weatherall’s love of the genre and we were all mad for the piano back then – that was the Italian House influence (but you’ve also got the very talented keyboardist Martin Duffy in Primal Scream). You know I’ve never really thought of ‘Screamadelica’ as being a very UK record though. Did it have much of an impact outside of the UK? Was it popular in your scene in Germany?

It was popular but not as much as in the UK. And it didn’t spark a comparable merger between the indie and rave scenes. That took a few years longer. Primal Scream went through many phases musically, with varying degrees of artistic relevance: Anorak Pop, Rave, Rolling Stones, Stadium Techno and many more. Are they opportunists? How did they matter in the context of what they absorbed?

I don’t think that you can call them opportunists for “Screamadelica”. It was just a simple case of a band being in the right place at the right time. They met Weatherall at a Spectrum night, they had a similar taste in music and Weatherall had just started to get into remixing. So no, I don’t think they can be called opportunists for this LP/period. But post “Screamadelica” they do seem to be leaping from wagon to wagon – although they’ve been doing this Stones thing for a bit too long. To be brutally honest I really don’t like Primal Scream – ha! I was very aware of Creation Records, and another of my favourite bands is the Jesus & Mary Chain whose original drummer was Gillespie. But pre and post “Screamadelica” Primal Scream don’t interest me at all. Before “Screamadelica” they were just a band who I read about in Sounds but never paid any attention to. It wasn’t until “Loaded” arrived that they made any impact on me. There have only been a couple of occasions since ‘Screamadelica’ where I’ve listened to them with any interest, and both have had Weatherall involvement; the Two Lone Swordsmen’s remix of “Stuka” is superb, and then there’s Andrew’s amazing take on “Uptown” that came out last year.

Primal Scream made use of Andrew Weatherall’s abilities to merge Indie and Dance contexts in his productions and remixes. How would you describe his style and status? Is this both a defining Weatherall and Primal Scream record?

I think “Loaded” and “Screamadelica” definitely put the band on the “popular” musical map, but Weatherall already had his fan base from his DJing and previous remixes. I also think the album marks the closing stages of this particular Weatherall production style. The Sabres of Paradise period was just around the corner and you can hear this on the B side, on the “Scat Mix”. That tranced out tabla drum sound that was so synonymous with early Sabres is creeping in. I’m not completely sure, I’d have to ask Andrew this, but I think he and Hugo Nicholson went their separate ways shortly after “Screamadelica”. I just have to quickly point out that although we’re talking about Screamadelica/Primal Scream in the Weatherall context, he wasn’t the only producer involved in the creation of the LP. The Orb, and producers Nicholson and Jimmy Miller were all part of it, too.

As with Primal Scream, Weatherall also played a part in many different musical contexts. How would you describe the way he evolved? I would say he impressively managed to stay at the forefront of things over the years. Do you agree?

This is where I become a gushing fan boy. In my opinion Andrew Weatherall has been one of, if not the most important figure in the UK’s electronic dance music scene for the past twenty years. He’s also one of the most underrated figures, too. He could have quite easily taken the Oakenfold route, made a shed load of cash and basked on the front pages of the music press, but that’s not the Weatherall way and we’re all the better for it. Some people have accused Andrew of being an opportunist, jumping on fashionable bandwagons like techno, deep house and electro but that’s rubbish. If anything he’s helped raise the profile of these genres and added is own unique twist to them. His new solo LP is off the scale in my opinion.

Why did so few of the bands from that era fail to keep up with their past glories? Was it only drugs? Is that’s just the way it is?

They didn’t evolve. I suppose this happens with a lot of bands.

What does it take to remain relevant?

A fashionable haircut and the right trainers?

Sounds Like Me 12/09

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