In Memoriam: Andrew Weatherall Talks
This interview is a few years old, spelling mistakes and all, recorded and written post resurgence when I was working with the sadly departed Derren Smart, a close friend of the site.
He’d launched a party, a new venture called A Night With… a platform where Derren would give one DJ of some repute all night excursions. A Night With… meant that not only did I get to work on these amazing parties, into which Derren put such meticulous detail, it also meant I got to go and meet all the people I’d danced to for so many years…
Derren had sent me off to the infamous Scrutton St – a studio that Andrew shared with the likes of Keith Tenniswood, Richard Fearless and others – to interview Andrew Weatherall ahead of A Night With… I was so nervous as it was the first time I’d properly got to sit down with him one on one – he’d been my hero since age 15.
When I got my first job in the music industry – club promotions for a small company called ZZonked – I was tasked with having to call up the likes of Andrew and ask them what they thought of the actual records – yes, vinyl in the post for free – that we’d sent them the previous week.
I recall having to call him up one day about a little known record titled “Where Is The Love” by the The Black Eyed Peas. The record company had expressly ask me to find out what he thought. I still remember his response as being a slightly mocking…
“Yeah amazing, play it as the end of the night record in every set. You can print that too.”
So we did. I’m 100% sure he never played it once.
It was freezing down in the Scrutton St basement and I was worried about my questions. Obviously Andrew was the epitome of a gentleman, tolerating my stumbling words and picking up the important threads. It remains to this day probably my favourite interview.
Since then we’ve had the pleasure of putting on countless parties, events and talks alongside Andrew.
He always supported our label.
With all of these outpourings, what’s amazing about Andrew is the generations of people that picked up on his stuff. I got in on the second phase of his trajectory – Screamadelica as a teenager that had first discovered you could listen to both guitars and electronics – having just missed the second Summer of Love, Sabresonic etc.
Since then he’s pretty much dabbled in all and everything else whilst still maintaining his own unique style. He was without doubt a constant evolving and interesting force within this insipid industry. To say the music world is a far poorer place without him is the biggest understatement…
Rest in Peace.
As the first snow fell last week, I sat down in a bitterly cold basement – it felt colder than it was outside – with Lord Sabre for a rather mammoth interview to hear his thoughts on the John Peel facebook movement, twitter, the Balearic revival, getting Boca Juniors back together (or not) and forgotten acetates. There’s an exclusive 8 track selection that Mr Weatherall’s very kindly put together for us of what to expect from the 8 hours below…
Your 6 music shows have picked up loads of attention when they’re broadcast, so much so that there’s now even a facebook group to have you instated in John Peel’s slot on Radio 1. How do you feel about this ‘movement’ and has anyone actually asked you if you’d want to do it or is this just ‘Internet fever pitch’ once again?
“I don’t personally social network. For me, anyone over the age of 14 that twitters can never really truly be my friend! I find it really disappointing when you see people interviewed who’ve written great literature, made great music, television programmes… and then at the end they start talking about Twitter which almost negates everything else they’ve done. But the facebook thing’s quite nice though, it’s nice to know that people are listening to what you’re doing and care about you in some small way I suppose. What prompted it all was the Primal Scream show on 6music. Richard Norris had been saying it for ages about the whole John Peel thing. And I thought it’s really nice but part of me is “Do I want to be the next” whatever…? I just wanna do my show. I like the fact it’s a bit sporadic and I think that’s what makes it more of an event. If it was on every week I don’t think it’d have such an impact. I’d quite like a regular show and the people at 6music are trying to get me one but I’m too old to be careerist and I definitely wasn’t when I was young. And I’m just too busy really. But yeah it’s nice that people care.”
You mentioned on your 6music show recently that the Los Ninos by Liaison Dangereuse track was one of the first Balearic tracks before that term was even invented. You’ve recently remixed the Le Corps on Heavenly, which is some kind of joyous pop music with more than a cursory glance towards Screamadelica-era Balearia.
Seems quite fitting that it’s come out around the 20 year anniversary of the album. There seems to be a so-called new wave of Balearia happening all over again! Are you getting Boca Juniors back together anytime soon?!
“To me that period is yesterday, but it’s twenty years ago! You know and that’s what happens in music. In the mid-70s when I first got into music there was a traditional rock n’ roll revival going on. And then you’ll have the 80s revival about ten years ago. Music seems to go in twenty year cycles. And if you’re actually living it, yeah it seems like yesterday. But then you’re thinking people making this music weren’t actually born or were very, very young. But yes I do get a real sense of that early 90s Saint Etienne vibe going. There’s worse things to revive I suppose!
Getting Boca Juniors back together? I don’t mind other people doing it but it’s for the young people. I’ll inject a bit of that into the remixes. A lot of remixes recently people have commented that it’s ‘old school’ Weatherall and I suppose it is, I wasn’t really conscious of it. It’s just the things I’m being offered and the way I think they should be remixed have certain sounds to them that are of a certain tempo a la the Steve Mason remix that I turned into a full on steppers remix. Sounds like an outtake of Sandinista. When you’ve been around for quite a long time people want to put you in with what’s going on even though consciously you’ve not done that. They try to shoehorn you into things. Boca Juniors do have a certain naive charm tho. Mr Farley did actually ask me the other day where the Boca Juniors multi-tracks are. I had no idea, they’re probably languishing in a vault somewhere like Raiders of the Lost Ark in a massive room of Balearic remix crates with a green fuzz coming off it…”
I’ve been asked to ask you about your remix of Switzerland’s Inflight and why it never made it past an acetate as apparently it’s amazing. Why hasn’t someone bootlegged it?
“I think it did make it past an acetate. I think I did a cut mix. That’s weird, that’s the second time that’s come up in a couple of weeks. I could’ve sworn it was on a white label… maybe they just didn’t like it!”
To the observer it can appear your career’s travelled in reverse: from producing a celebrated album and batting away big remix offers, to learning to sing/play guitar and lugging your own amps in & out of small live venues. Was this deliberate or do you ever wish you were sipping pina coladas & watching Big Brother royalty cheques roll in instead?
“Ha ha! Yeah well when I was actually physically lugging backline down here at 6 in the morning because the band had stayed at the festival getting fucked up and it was destroying me mentally, physically and financially part of me was wishing that – I dunno about BB royalty cheques but. Part of me has always enjoyed a certain amount of difficulty, it’s just a bit more of a spur for me.
When the superstar DJ thing started it’s trajectory. I was kind of in on the bottom rung playing Cream and all those clubs and I nearly went with it. But I was in these clubs thinking I should be playing better music than I ‘m playing. I was thinking “I shouldn’t really be playing this music, there are far better records in my bag. I’m just playing this for some kind of hands in the air reaction. So I just decided to take a step back. Music a lot of the time as you get older is about going backwards cos you start at a certain place – in my case 10 or 11 years old – and you’re looking for all the avenues and connections and when you’ve made them up, where you started is your favourite kind of music. In any music career as such that’s what you do. I got to the top of the hill and I thought the valley’s quite interesting, I’ll go back and live there out the way where no-one can disturb me.
That was it, with the singing I just felt I’d written these songs and about 7 or 8 years ago – I’m not so mental about it now – but I had this real kind of hatred of ‘get the famous guest singer’. The more famous your guest is, it’s less your record. Yeah it was a bit of a petulant act! I guess I just thought no, I’m gonna do it myself and I’ll sell a tenth of the amount of records. But they were quite personal songs and I was feeling pretty comfortable. You know we used to sit down here and slag everything off in our little kind of ghetto, in our ‘Shoreditch studio basement’! But we weren’t actually doing anything about it, we were just kind of moaning. And so I guess the route was “Let’s give other people ammunition in their ‘Shoreditch studio basements’ ammunition to slag us off! That’s all it was. You give it out… but can you take it?! And believe me, we took it! But that was half the fun. They’d put us on in the techno tent after Slam or your equivalent of Jeff Mills and it’s quite electronic based but we’d shamble on with guitars and it wasn’t the kind of pounding tribal techno that 5000 people in the dance tent who’d paid their money were expecting. But after 3 or 4 songs if you win over a crowd with that to me it’s more satisfying than preaching to the converted. And it’s things like that, that stay with you more than 2 hours of obviously easy glory. You actually feel like you’ve done a days work!”
Is this A Night With… concept something you’ve ever attempted in any form before? How are you going to go about distilling Andrew Weatherall into just 8 hours?! I know it’s not a business plan or presentation but can you talk us through some of what we can expect? Will it be all vinyl?
“I have indeed. I’ve done it once before. I did an 8 hour set at the Liquid Room in Tokyo about 10 years ago. And it was amazing, because Liquid Room’s quite a big place – about 1000 people I think. I thought I’ll start with some dub cos people will just be coming in, get the thing going. I got given the signal to play the first record and it was literally a wave of people and the place just filled up immediately, y’know they were there for the whole experience. And I played and I was packing up and then this little door opened behind me onstage this little door opened and this little fella came out with his head down and this tray in front of him that he gave to me and he’d been in this cupboard recording the whole set. It had my picture on it, the date and like first hour, second hour. I got them home and they’re pretty perfect as he’d obviously been riding the levels all night! I started with dub then went into house, electro, techno and calmed it down again at the end.
I’ll probably just be using CD’s. I still love playing records but as years go by you can’t rely on decks in a lot of clubs these days as everyone plays off Serato/Traktor/CDjs. Yeah OK it’s a digital version but they’ve all been recorded straight into my recordable CD player. Still making it difficult for myself! There’s actually only one place in Aldgate East that sells recordable CDs! Most places you go into and ask if they sell em – especially looking like this – they’re like ‘fuck off mate’, have you just slipped through the curtain of time, you twat!”
Your friend Ivan Smagghe, who did an amazing A Night With… a few months back, is quite a big fan of blogs/the Internet from what I could tell when I interviewed him. Can you tell me about your love/hate affair with the Internet?
“This is a weird one because I always get accused of being a luddite. And it’s not that. I have got a computer, I use computers. They are just handy tools, they’re not the centre of my universe because I lived for so long without them. I’m really shit at emails. I don’t have that automatic thing that a lot of people have that is to get up and check my email. So I check them once a week and you see people getting increasingly angry because I haven’t replied and I’m like “ahhhh, delete!”. It’s just a form of communication that I don’t really have a need for unless someone wants to send me some music to listen to. Also, if I have some kind of cynical, rash thought. I’ve had these thoughts for years and years and it’s best just to let them go into the ether! You know, keep them to yourself or just within the bounds of whoever’s sat round the pub table when you’re all pissed and feeling a bit rowdy. I don’t have this thing of “I’ve had this thought, I must share it with the entire world. I’ve not thought it through.. because I’ve just had it! It will literally go from my head to the rest of the world without any kind of buffer or thinking it through or checking my facts or put it into any sort of perspective. I’ve never understood why you would want to do that. The whole world is now just people, that years and years ago would’ve thought fuck where’s my fountain pen with the green ink “oh fuck it I won’t bother writing it…” then they calm down. Now the whole world is full of people with kind of virtual green ink pens being angry from… y’know Hemel Hempstead or wherever. And it’s there forever! And that’s the thing people want; instant response. Someone sends you a text message, if you don’t react within 10 mins, you can sense they’re getting angry. Even I’m guilty of it sometimes. I’ll send a text to someone work related and if I don’t hear anything within a half hour I do start getting a little bit… it’s infected even me!
Twittering is beyond me as I mentioned! I’m kind of benefiting from it though. After the Screamadelica 6music show, my producer uttered the immortal words ‘you’re all over twitter like a rash’. It’s a double edged sword. Here’s me slagging it off but at the same time it’s a good way of getting your name around. Yeah it’s ok for other people who wanna do it! And obviously as you get older you’re like “ooh twitter what’s this all about” and you’re like “oh shut up granddad!” I think the fact that I find it interesting and funny probably shows that I like pop culture and am still interested in it at the age of 47! I’m fascinated with history and you know living in these times it’d be pointless dismissing it because you just realise that in 20 or 30 years time people will be reading the history of now and be absolutely fascinated with it. Don’t let it upset your day, you can just watch it and see what’s going on but you don’t necessarily interact. I shall let the people interact on my behalf!”
Obviously you were well into your fanzines back in the day – JBO etc. I just wanted to talk about that mad scene of fanzines & music heads in contact with each other many of whom are still well connected with music. It was how people stayed connected before the internet. How has it changed?
“Computers have made it easier. What computers do is what’s been done for 100s of years. On every level; music, art, film. They’ve made it quicker & easier but not quite as good. Online publishing is great. It’s quick and there’s some great art being done but then what? I want an artefact, I want something in my hand. Ultimately, we are chimpanzees and we love a shiny new toy. It’s like kids, they can be sat at Xmas with a cardboard box full of tissue paper quite happily building a new house and then someone plonks a playstation in front of them. They’ll go mad for a couple of hours and then you go back to em later and they’re sitting in the cardboard box again. What will save us is that wanting to sit in a cardboard box. That searching for artefacts. We’ll always want to go on that search. Being glorified chimpanzees is what will ultimately be both our saviour and our downfall!”
What effect do you think computers would have had on publishing your Boys Own fanzine?
“It’s obviously a lot easier now. When we were doing it we were writing things free hand. We had a let-ra-set and it was literally a case of writing things out and getting people to type them and then cutting em out and sticking em in. I sometimes think if we had computers we would probably have used the technology. It’d be stupid of me to hark back to an age where we used go “ooh, wunnit great we all used to sit round with pritt-stik and glue it all down.” I’m sure at the time I would’ve thought “fuck this, get me a desktop publishing program.” I’m kind of having my cake and eating it here! ‘Oh, they were magic times but we’d’ve fucked em off if we had a computer!'”
You were also a freelance journalist. Do you still write?
“I kind of write all the time. I have notebooks. I read a lot and I’ve got notebooks full of paragraphs either copied from whatever I’m reading or ideas about short stories or a song based on one concise line I’ve read and then try and expand on that idea. The last thing I wrote was a Malcolm Mclaren obituary for Heavenly’s Caught By The River site. I do enjoy writing tho. In fact Phl Thornton commented, ‘Weatherall is a really good writer when he can be arsed!’ That’s my writing career in a nutshell!”
Do you use computers in your production at all? I find it really interesting that you make such future thinking music whilst at the same time eschewing modern technology.
“Yeah! They’re great, they’re really quick. But my music’s made with computers, not by computers. We’ll programme with a computer but to give it an ‘actuality’ – to use David Toop’s excellent phrase – we’ll use a real guitar amp or real synths. It’s not a massive difference but I get kids coming up to me saying I’ve made this track and it just doesn’t sound quite right and I’ll ask them “Well is everything in the computer?” and they’ll say “yeah” and I’ll say “well take it out”. Even if you get a reel to reel tape recorder and take the whole track out and back into the computer at least it’s had a breath of fresh air before it goes back into that sterile environment. Computers are brilliant tools but they just don’t rule my life. Part of that’s an age thing I suppose. I’ve lived 30 years without them. I’m not against them. It’s brilliant, in your front room you are connected to everything that’s ever been… which is a pretty good tool!”
What do you think about the current disco resurgence/explosion or have I missed a ‘9 O’ Clock Drop’-esque album/moment that you’ve already compiled and put out 5 years before everyone else caught up?!
“Haha, there’s none of that. There’s probably compilations I made 10 years ago of similar sorts of stuff lying around here though ! It kind of passed me by a bit cos I’ve been playing such a wide range of music for years there’s some times I would play that.
“Accusation Four: Boys Own is written by football hooligans: this is nonsense. Two are confirmed cowards whilst the other two were seen handing out flowers on the north stand gate…” Which one were you?
“Haha, Who said that? You wrote that! Did I? Fkkin ell, that was very astute of me at the time. I probably come into the coward kind, well it’s not cowardly I just don’t enjoy fighting. I can look after myself and I have been known to have a punch up in my time but only if 100% necessary. I just didn’t understand hooliganism, I had an obsession with clothes and I thought well I’ve saved up a month to buy these. Why should I just go to some small northern town and have a ruck in a car park. I didn’t see it. It’s weird, that kind of organised male violence, isn’t it just repressed homosexuality?
I’m weird with fanaticism, part of me loves it part of me hates it. Having a blind faith is an amazing thing but also a very dangerous concept. Football hooliganism falls into that kind of extreme sort of behaviour which part of me admires and part of me abhors. I suppose that’s what the fascination is with a lot of things that I’m interested in is, that kind of abhorrence but at the same time being slightly impressed with!”
I know it’s a cliched question but I don’t think I’ve ever read your answer to this: What was the first record you ever bought? Do you still own it?
“In the mythologised rock n roll version of my life for some reason it’s ‘See My Baby Jive’ by Wizard & Solid Gold Easy Action by T-Rex. The Wizard album was the first album I bought and I know I’ve still got it because I dug it out the other day. But that’s the glamorised version. It could’ve been Ernie´s ‘The Fastest Milkman in the West!’ The first record that made me feel funny was Terry Jack ‘Seasons in the Sun’. The original was a death ballad called ‘Le Moribund’ by Jacques Brel. It’s someone dying looking back over their life. This was a cheesy pop version in the mid 70s… but a death ballad all the same!! But I also have fond memories of Benny Hill doing Ernie ‘The Fastest Milkman in the West’ for all my Jacques Brel pretensions!”
Have you ever thought about living anywhere else than London?
“I nearly moved to Dublin about 15 years ago. Yeah Paris or Dublin. For some reason the two cities have a similar vibe to them. Maybe it’s the rebellious history that I’m picking up. I got to the point a few years ago that there will probably come a time when I can’t afford to avail myself of a city that’s got the finest theatre, art galleries music etc so while I can afford it, I’ll stay here. But if that time comes when London doesn’t hold that it’ll be the seaside. The peeling paint of what was once a thriving place. There’s nothing better than the faded glory of a British seaside town in the winter time. The Glory of Gloom as Genesis P Orridge said.”
I was flicking through my Boys Own fanzines recently and came across this which seems really relevant once again:
Jobs For All
“Never had it so good” is the whine we hear,
from Lord Young and his merry men.
What relief that must be to the millions unemployed,
whose lives are declared null and void,
by policies that have ruined and destroyed.
But we’ll get the figures down,
cries the Minister With drastic measures for our jobless masses.
Who are press-ganged into menial labour,
these Tory bastards know no bounds.
Anyone for Y.T.S., J.T.S. or Restart?
“Yeah that was Steve Massey’s Poetry Corner…”