In discussion with Dave Mothersole on “Techno! The New Dance Sound Of Detroit” (1988).
You wrote in a recent article about the roots of the music played in Goa that you came back to the UK from there and found acid house in full swing. Did that connect with what you heard in India, or was it something else entirely?
It was the very start of acid house. I got back from India in March 1988 – Shoom was still at the fitness centre in Southwark (although I never went) and a month or two later Spectrum opened at Heaven on Monday nights.
It was different from what I’d experienced in India. In some ways it was more tame as people had to go back to work or college or whatever after the weekend or on a Tuesday morning after Spectrum, where as in Goa partying was a full time occupation for most people and therefore more extreme. Goa was like Mad Max with palm trees and techno – almost totally lawless in those days, so nothing compares to it really. I’d been there the previous season (86 / 87) too and I’d come back with all these stories about freaks dancing all night to music that sounded like one long track – like all the best music you’d ever heard with all the crap parts taken out. How it didn’t stop all night and how everyone was freaking out to it on acid and on this new drug called ecstasy. I think my friends back home all thought I was mad, but when acid house came out they were like ‘ok, I get you now’. So I was pleased that they finally knew what I was on about. There were things I didn’t like though, like the MCs. Partying in Goa was like a mystical, very psychedelic experience. Almost a spiritual thing and it was all about getting inside the groove and letting the music take over, so to have some guy shouting ‘hands in the air’ every few minutes as everyone faced in the same direction was a bit distracting. So in that way it was different.
The music was totally different too. The influence of the soul scene (where most of the DJs came from) was very strong so there where a lot of song based tracks with very soulful vocals. The themes were different as well – the famous Martin Luther King speech over Mr Fingers; Ce Ce Rogers ‘Someday’; ‘Promised land’ – these were all Black American themes – songs about the struggle for liberation and freedom. They translated perfectly to multicultural, 80’s England though. Before acid house black and white kids didn’t mix so much on the dance floor, there were exceptions but on the whole the clubs were either separate or divided. Acid house changed all that overnight and these songs, with lyrics about reaching the promised land and living together as one family had a very powerful resonance with the audiences. I think it was a tremendous relief for my generation to finally come together in this way. And this applied not just to the divisions between black and white, but also to class divisions and those that separated the various different youth cults. It was an amazing time – an entire generation taking the same drug at the same time. Listening to the same music, feeling the same emotions. My friends all went from wearing designer clothes and hanging out at the pub to clubbing every weekend in dungarees, purple kickers and long sleeve tops and hoodies with peace signs, smileys and flowers and stuff on them. Some of them even quit their jobs and started throwing parties, selling drugs, DJing – anything they could do that would let them carry on partying. It was a huge change and it happened really fast. By the summer of 88 loads of people were into it and come the summer of 89 it was massive. Huge parties, every club in the country playing house music, office workers out on Friday shouting ‘mental’, mainstream compilation albums full of acid house hits and 10 year old kids dressed like ravers.
Was it like hearing the roots in Goa, and then back in the UK, acid house seemed to be the next step musically?
I wouldn’t say the next step from Goa, as the scene in Goa existed in it’s own little bubble. Culturally, I was very pleased that we were the first country to take the concept of dancing to electronic music on ecstasy, and push it straight into the mainstream. This wasn’t a new concept – people had been doing it throughout the 80’s in Chicago, New York, in Dallas (at the Stark Club), in Ibiza and of course in Goa – but we kind of democratised it. You didn’t have to be a freak in India, a New York club kid or a jet set Ibiza type anymore. You could be an ordinary kid, you know, from pretty much anywhere in the UK. That was really cool.
Musically, house had been popular in England since 85 / 86. ‘Jack Your Body’ was number one in the pop charts in 86 for example, and ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ was top five in the same year. So I was already familiar with house music and indeed it’s roots as I’d been into the soul scene before and had grown up dancing to records like D-Train’s ‘You’re The One For Me’, ‘Beat The Street’ by Sharon Redd and Sinnamon’s ‘Thanks To You’. And then the whole electro thing hit big in England, so yeah, it was the next step musically for sure, but it was ecstasy that made it explode in the way it did. Much as I was familiar with it though, house music could still be shocking. I remember standing in the queue outside Spectrum for the first time and hearing this thunderous acid track booming out of the club and thinking ‘fuck me, this music is dark’.
On the whole though, the music in Goa was far more foreign to me. I lived in Italy as a boy and went on holiday there most summers right up until I went to India, so I was familiar with italo disco, but that was my only reference point. That an a few Front 242, Yello and Nitzer Ebb records my brother had. It might sound strange but until acid house broke, European club music was very rare at parties in England. After acid house that all changed, first with stuff like A Split Second and Code 61, then later with all the R&S and Music Man stuff and after that the Frankfurt stuff and whatever. Pre acid house though, only a few gay clubs played euro beat (as we called it) so hearing it in Goa – particularly in the psychedelic way they played it there – was a complete revelation to me. Read the rest of this entry »