R$N re-examines the life, times and legacy of producer, musician, remixer, DJ, label owner and all round cultural pioneer Lord Sabre himself, Mr Andrew Weatherall.
It’s 1989, the Happy Mondays are leading the baggy assault on British culture, with the Hacienda firing on all cylinders and still yet to acquire the reputation for guns over pills, acid house is burning it’s way across the country like some kind of out of control forest fire – the club mix of Hallelujah by Happy Mondays, with it’s trademark pitched up vocal hook and ravey piano opening, is sound tracking this manic cultural phenomenon. Look on the credits of the Hallelujah 12” and who do you see as the producer, alongside Pete Oakenfold? Andrew Weatherall.
Fast forward fifteen years to 2004, and the initial culture that burst into being with the outpouring of creative, hedonistic expression of the acid house explosion in the UK has matured and been through a whole life cycle – the commercial peak of DJ culture in the mid to late 90s, where UK DJs were picking up silly money to play all over the world has passed, dance music has (in some quarters of the media) been declared dead, but an infrastructure built around this industry is rooted in place – Fabric in London is now one of the biggest, best known clubs in the world – a tastemaker behemoth, whose Fabric mix series have become a way to read the pulse of the electronic music scene.
The 19th mix of the series, featuring tracks from Egyptian Lover; Steve Bug and Booka Shade, is mixed by: none other than Andrew Weatherall. Still at the forefront of the culture, still intent on breaking new ground.
Push onto the present day, and in the last couple of years we’ve seen people like Nicolas Jaar, Mark E , Beautiful Swimmers etc making waves with an approach to house music that slows the BPM right down, bringing out a dubby, drugged feel that allows the dancefloor to luxuriate, get lost in the groove and really stretch out. Then think about Weatherall’s night (with Sean 'Hardway Brother' Johnston) A Love From Outer Space, which focuses on dance music with a slowed pulse (under 122bpm to be precise) and continues to educate the masses on the musical background of the current vogue for everything slo mo. The pattern that starts to form when you look at his backstory is of Weatherall’s influence, whether directly or through a sort of osmosis, continually oozing in, shaping various areas the electronic underground, before the man himself moves onto something new. Everything he touches turns into a sort of virulent cultural meme.
As a producer and remixer Weatherall has been prolifically involved in many key moments from throughout the dance music pantheon. The most legendary of these was born out of him meeting Primal Scream at a rave in the late eighties, a meeting that ended up with Weatherall being asked to remix their track ‘I’m losing more than I’ll ever have’ and resulted in the monster hit ‘Loaded’, a track which set the scene for the beastly success and influence of Screamadelica, which Weatherall produced in it’s game changing entirety.
As well as the list of production and remix credits longer than your arm is the music he’s made himself. Weatherall started up The Sabres of Paradise with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns in 1992 and Keith Tenniswood, aka Radiocative Man was added to the lineup a couple of years later. Their brand of tripped out, dubby electronica pushed forward the Balearic sound into new psychedelic territory and the group were snapped up as signings on Warp records and went on to produce a host of singles and a couple of albums as well as applying their golden touch to remixes for everyone from Leftfield (the I Hate Pink Floyd remix of Open Up) to New Order.
In the mid nineties Weatherall left The Sabres of Paradise to start up a new group with Keith Tenniswood, Two Lone Swordsmen, still incorporating the dub ethic but with more of a nod to early techno, electro and the dark corners of the electronic underground than his previous project. Tracks such as those off the game changing EP A Bag of Blue Sparks, were so formative on the modern sound of techno and yet, still to this day almost fifteen years after release, sound futuristic and ahead of the game. These are the better known musical outfits that Mr Weatherall has inhabited, but he’s also made records under untold aliases, from the mad deep house of Rude Solo
to the otherworldly ambient wig outs under his Meek alias.
And did we get round to mentioning the legendary Sabresonic radio shows on Kiss fm in the early 90s? Or the public campaign to get him to take on the John Peel show on the BBC? Or the influential record labels he’s run such as Boys Own and Rotters Golf Club? Or the fact that he decided, mid noughties to start singing on his own records for the first time, sounding something like a cockney Tom Waits?!! No, because in order to write a proper, comprehensive retrospective of such a full and interesting career and such a unique character, you’d need to stretch to a full book (maybe even a few volumes) with a chapter on each of Weatherall’s different phases.
What can be said without doubt, is that few people have done so much to effect and nurture a particular culture; and for people of a certain age and ilk the mere mention of Mr Weatherall’s name brings about a wistful look and a cloudy eye as they recall formative experiences, either in the form of getting lost on the dance floor to one of his epic sets or getting lost in the grooves of a record he’s made or produced. It’s actually ridiculous that one man has done so much good work, made such a sterling and varied contribution – you get the impression that if you asked the question ‘Who is Andrew Weatherall?’ you’d have a a group of people standing up, raising their arms and proclaiming ‘I am Andrew Weatherall’, like the rave equivalent of I am Sparticus. In the end, though, there is only one and, as he nears 50 years of age, he shows no sign of slowing down his pioneering ways just yet.