I was emailed this week with an offer to speak to Suddi Raval- one I was more than happy to take up. In the late 80s and early 90s Suddi was half of Together, the group who played a fundamental part in bringing the sounds of UK rave into the pop charts with their all time classic Hardcore Uproar. Hardcore Uproar is one of those records that is never going to sound dated. From the crazy, pompous Star Wars intro to the wild cheering, to the euphoric Italian piano line, it's pure adrenalin rush music. These days Suddi - who's day job is making music for computer games, including the Lego franchise- has started producing dance tunes again, making deep house under the name of Nightgeist, and turning out a few deeper acid bangers that have been heard blowing up at the I Love Acd night. He's a ridiculously enthusiastic guy, and was happy to open up about the strange life of a surprise hit record, a story that goes from police brutality to pissing off Pete Tong, and includes redefining the word 'hardcore' for an entire generation...
How did you get into the emerging rave scene?
The way for a lot of people is they go to a club, someone gives them something funny and the next thing they know the music connects with them, and they get into it as a result of that path. Whereas with me, when the rave scene happened in 88-89 on a grand scale I’d already been into house music for 3 years. I got into buying the vinyl since I was a very young teenager. It is very unusual – I’m sort of patting the young teenager I was on the back and saying ‘you’re really ahead of what was going on!’ I used to tell all my friends at school and college that they really needed to listen to this music and they’d be laughing at me like it was a fad.
Was there a record shop that put you onto the music?
Well not really! There was a record shop I bought it from, but they only stocked the records to make money from them – they weren’t exactly behind it. They were called the Soundhouse in my town of Ashton under Lyne. I discovered a lot of music through compilations, I was 15, 16 when it first trickled into the UK so I couldn’t afford to much. Listening to Stu Allen was important. He was such a pioneer, he switched on millions of us to dance music. His show, the acid house show, used to have this deep voice saying ‘this is sound of acid house, 103FM stereo’- and I nicked that almost line for line, and used the same voice, but changed the end but so it said ‘this is the sound of hardcore uproar”
The more I look into house history the more I think there’s a strong argument that the North was way ahead of the South
Well what happened with Shoom in London was massive, it was amazingly significant. But Mike Pickering was playing house music before that. I think it’s just the fact that Ecstasy hadn’t happened yet, so there wasn’t the devotion- but for me, I was already obsessed, Chicago was like my religion as a kid. I even used to go to the local library and look at books on Chicago in the hope there’s be something in them about house music, but of course it was so new there was nothing there. People like the Face and i-D were kind of on it and knew about clubs like Spectrum and Shoom, but when I was 15 or 16 I looked about 12, there was no chance I was getting into a club. I looked like a little kid, so my experience of the music was pretty much confined to my bedroom for a few years.
When did you decide to make dance music for yourself?
I was bursting with ideas, dying to do a tune from about 15- 16. I spoke to loads of people because I didn’t know what it consisted of, and the amount of money was ridiculous. It was just a dream til I met Jonathan and formed Together. I just had to meet the right person with the equipment.
How many tunes did you hit on before you got to Hardcore Uproar?
We recorded about 6 tunes, but it was obvious Hardcore Uproar was the special one out of all the ideas we had. The intention was we’d put that out, and our ambition was just to hear it in the Hacienda. We thought we might have some small success, but it ended up dominating everything, it was a monster of a tune – at the time it puzzled me.
It feels like you chose the right name at the right time
I was massively against it! The original title was Can You Feel the Beat, which I was quite taken with. So the story is, the rave scene in Blackburn was the thing took the dance scene from clubs of 2000 people dancing to illegal warehouses with 10,000 people. The scene exploded. When I first started going I realised the scene was growing and growing, and the people behind the raves were called Hardcore Uproar. Jonathan seemed to know everyone, so he approached them and asked if we could record the crowd from the rave for a sample. They agreed and said if you do that, can you call the track after our name. We said yeah – I thought we were saying yeah just to be polite, but Jonathan could see how brilliant a name that was. I couldn’t see it – I’d love to be able to say I was part of making that decision but I was against it... So we went there and recorded the crowd –you can hear my voice shouting ‘yeah’ trying to get everyone going. We spoke to the crowd afterwards and the reason why they’re quiet at first was that they assumed the power had gone off. They didn’t know it was the DJ trying to get them to join in, so it took us shouting to get them going, and all that is on the start of Hardcore Uproar. The mental thing about this is the rave ended up getting busted by the police- this ended up being featured in the Sun and The Mirror – the police broke it up and it was the last ever Hardcore Uproar, an historic event and we caught it on tape. It was a really horrific, violent scene
Was that from the police themselves?
Yeah the police with riot shields and batons came in and hit anybody they could. They succeeded in scaring the hell out of everyone. We were just kids, we weren’t gangsters. We certainly didn’t deserve that sort of treatment, but they scared us so much that no one wanted to do it again – no one wanted that violence because it was a very violent incident.
That sort of experience for 10,000 kids must have made them have quite a strong sense of hostility towards the police
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that at the time I’d go as far to say that I hated the police. I was a little young to appreciate it at the time, but you hear the expression police brutality, and that was police brutality. They did abuse their position, especially in the late 80s, early 90s. They abused their power and weren’t entirely honest at times. There was a lot of bad feeling between the people who used to go to the parties and the police at that time.
In some ways you got the best revenge by getting the sounds of that rave into the top 40 – you took it into the mainstream
Yeah- I forget that. People moan sometimes about David Guetta and pop shit, but you can’t have it both ways. There was a time we begged and prayed for it to be bigger, well you know what, it’s bigger! House music is pop music and I love that. People like Disclosure or Duke Dumont, I love them, it’s fantastic they’re making quality house music and putting it in the charts, and us putting the sounds of the rave in the charts helped start that, I’m proud.
Was there a tipping point when you know it was blowing up?
It was so quick. We did everything completely naively, but through total luck, we did everything right. We got 25 test presses and made a list of who we wanted to give it to. We just went, right who’s the biggest DJ? Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Mike Pickering, Andy Weatherall… And we thought, what can they do? Tell us to piss us? So we decided that we’d go to the clubs they were playing in and say, hello Paul Oakenfold, we’ve got a tune, if you like it, would you play it? We caught up with him at Park Hall when he was on a tour, and the most incredible thing happened- he said yes he’d play it and the next week was Spike Island, the Stone Roses show with 30,000 people. He was playing in the daytime and he played our tune. No one knew it at the time, it’s got the Star Wars intro, so people thought he was going to play Star Wars but we knew it was going to be our tune. We were doing cartwheels, we couldn’t believe it – we were running up to people being ‘this is our tune’ but no one believed us.
When we give it to this list of the 25 biggest DJs in the country , we gave it to all the right people and everyone played it. We gave them all out on Thursday night and by Monday it was absolutely massive. On Monday the phone was going off non stop, everyone wanted to know what this record was, where it had come from and who we were. We were like, shit, we didn’t even have a band name. I was still at college and still had my part time job, we didn’t think it was going to be massive at all. John DeSilva said to us, you’ve got a big tune there, and we thought he was just spinning us some spiel.
You ended up releasing it on FFRR – and I can’t help but mention that your next release was called Ffrree At Last, which doesn’t suggest you had a great time on the label…
I’m kinda careful as to how I phrase this, because the industry relies on favours. The truth is the truth so I’m happy to say it, but I don’t want to piss Pete Tong off more than I have to as he such a significant player in the game. Essentially I wasn’t really happy with my time at FFRR. That title was actually a compromise – my manager told me, you cannot call the EP Licked By the Tong of Pete, he said it was too direct and personal and we’d never be able to go back from it… The record also had ‘goodbye and good riddance’ scratched onto it – I was a teenager and I was having a little tantrum, I probably wouldn’t do it now. I did hear that Pete wasn’t too impressed by it.
And then you had to deal with tragedy – Jonathan died in a car crash in 1991. Was it hard to carry on making music?
I tried to continue what we’d started, I kept going for about 5 years with the blessing of his family, I felt like I’d made a promise to his family that I’d finish all the tunes we’d started, but dance music is all about positivity and I just wasn’t in the headspace. It might even be why it’s taken me so long to get back into it, he wasn’t just my bandmate, he was my best friend. I gave it my best shot, by I think I failed. It’s a depressing tale to be honest.
But now you’re making music again-
Well I never stopped, but something switched for me. I think it was because it was 25 years of acid house, and 25 years of Hardcore Uproar, and people started getting in touch to talk to me about the scene, and I just started putting stuff out again. As well as the Nightgeist stuff which is my main thing I do a lot of solo acid house records, which do alright – the scene is pretty underground so they’re never going to sell millions, but I’m very happy to be making music on the TB-303. It just took off a few years ago, suddenly there was all this interest in what I was doing and I barely had to try.
How do you feel the scene now compares to how it was?
I keep hearing people saying, ‘it used to be amazing, it’s shit now, it’s gone too commercial’, but the people saying this either don’t go to the new clubs or they’re too young to have been to the clubs in 1989, so they can’t genuinely comment and compare the two. Most people who get to my age are too knackered to go out any more, but there’s a bunch of us who just can’t stop, and, dya’ know what? It’s still brilliant. The I Love Acid party I went to where DJ Pierre played, honest to God I remember standing back and thinking, this is at least as good as it was back then. I can’t say it was better because there are such differences between now and then- it was all new back then, we used to have to go to crappy clubs with carpet on the floor where you’d have to wear a suit and tie to get in, and rave changed all of that. But the atmosphere when you go out now is just brilliant. The sound is crystal clear – the Hacienda sound used to be terrible, although somehow it still worked. I’m being asked to play a few nights now, and when I finish playing I don’t pack my keyboards up and go home, I stick ‘em in the boot of the car and go onto the dancefloor, I really enjoy the night. I’ve been going all over the place, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Glasgow, and just seeing that it’s really healthy, really alive. I find it as exciting as it ever was!