Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Sally. Let’s begin with the exciting news of a new album from yourselves after over a decade: Farmarama. The obvious question is why has 2019 felt right to return?
We did a few live shows a couple of summers ago – we had a new way to perform the music, new machines, we started sampling our own records – it was fun but didn’t satisfy because there was no new material there. We’ve done so much musically since we last released an A Man Called Adam record, we wanted to make something that brought all these new techniques and ideas together with the good things from the past. It just took a while for us to get a whole album together.
One of the things I love most about the album is the way it plays with senses and sensibilities grooving between styles and moods. Who were the most important influences for you when creating the music?
Well I hadn’t thought of it but I guess we’ve made a lot of experimental music in the last few years – creating atmospheres for radio plays or museums or whatever. Steve attended some fairly serious improv workshops in Paris and brought that to our work. I DJ’d a lot and brought the dancefloor to the tracks. John Cage meets Eddie C?
The production sounds wonderfully rich. What would you attribute those qualities to?
We build things up then break them down, refine them then shake them up again. Right at the end you have to get the chaos back into them, they have to have energy. We’ve overproduced things in the past so all that improv and experimental ‘see what happens’ type music we’d made helped us with that. We also worked on some of the tracks with our friend Paul Smith – he’s jazzy and riffy – so for us it was a perfect trinity. Steve = bonkers art music, Sally = beats n’ rhymes, Paul = catchy riffs and jazzy licks. We’re good friends and working together is a lot of fun.
In broader terms how do you feel about Dance Music and culture in general? What would you say has most noticeably changed (for better or worse) since you began A Man Called Adam?
Well I feel the responsibility of being a woman in dance music more than I ever have. I’ve had little girls come to my DJ gigs with books to sign (Girls who rocked the world) or older women saying they’ve never seen a woman headline – and I feel that. My friend Lucy Williams, a brilliant young DJ, came up to me after my NYE DJ set at Outlaws and said ‘I’ve never seem a woman DJ the midnight slot on NYE before’. I mean think about it, it shouldn’t be that way – so I’m conscious of that influence and want to do right by my girls. I’m a producer, a DJ and an educator – and I want all women to feel those possibilities are there for them. And musically there is so much ace new stuff around, plus all that obscure catalogue to dig around in. It’s the best of times.
One of the standout tracks for me is: Spots of Time / Ladies Of Electronica/ Sally’s Ladies Rerub which blends hints of Kraftwerk, intense breakbeats and vocals, alongside a memory of Daphne Oram. Can you talk us through where the original ideas came from, how the track was created and some of the synthesizers used?
Steve was really busy doing his PhD and I was itchy to do something so I made a little EP under the experimental alias we’ve used ‘Discrete Machines’. Ladies of Electronica was on it as a little Afro-breakbeat thing but I always felt it could be better with Steve’s input. And the tiny amount of people who heard it liked that track. It’s like it wouldn’t go away. There are iPad apps, Ableton packs, live instruments, Steve’s MAX MSP patches on there – my own voice is the bass on the Rerub. Spots of Time is a live improvisation, a sonic experiment. They all segued nicely together. And it pays respect to the women who did so much for the development of electronic music. It’s a hymn.
You recently road tested music from the album live at Outlaws Yacht Club in Leeds. How did you recreate the music in a ‘live’ setting and how did the night go?
Yeah it’s cool. We set up all the kit and play the songs. They were composed and produced to sound as they would live so hopefully it sounds like the record – but with a lot more jeopardy! Outlaws is our home crew, they’re always there for us, and they give us a place to try things out.
2019 looks like an exciting year for music. What plans do you have for the year?
To re-boot the label (Other Records) and keep writing and recording and collaborating with great people. We have Prins Thomas and Carrot Green on the first remix ep and both are amazing, generous, gifted artists. Nothing but love and respect for them both – more of that please. And gigs, loads of gigs!
Sphesihle Mshana Ndlovu delivers three equally tasteful tracks for his debut release on the heavenly Black Vinyl. But, I’m going to skip straight to the third number: You Show Me Love which appears in two versions. First is the glorious Raw Mix which sequences a blissful array of shinning stabs together with brisk, insistent hats and bold bass, producing one of those truly sunrise moments. Next, the Vocal Mix teases out yet more soulfully rich vibes care off additional vocals and a selection of heart-warming string lines. Now, back to the beginning as both Light Years Ago and then Sabela Africa each create intriguing, playful music completing this excellent release.
Love this brilliantly, exciting trip to Acid heaven that never feels like it’s looking too far back. But then all of those the big, splashing hi-hats and furious 303 lines are simply too explosive to ignore. Things get even more twisted towards the end as synthesizers get even more electrifying, and all of this contained within five and a half minutes of ecstasy fuelled pleasure. New York-based DJ/ producer Justin Cudmore then attacks the sensibilities with renewed vigour, plus a more brutal tempo agitating the punchy keys and delays.
Lazarusman’s poetry feels defiantly emotional in these days of cold, hard facts. And it is a pleasure to hear it spun out across Jay Hill’s warmly embracing set of keys, which at once recall the 1990’s yet pulse throughout with visions of the future. It’s a fierce experience for sure accompanied by a surprisingly uncomplicated arrangement, given the power it supplies, connecting addictive qualities to melody and meaning. Remixed by Richy Ahmed who squares the deal via a viciously, beautiful bassline plus additional percussion, generous big-time stabs and a bag full of attitude on his typically first-rate reworking.
Time erodes memory. Especially when you chuck in a shed load of Drugs and mix it up with Acid House. Which is precisely why you need to (re)read this collection of Manchester’s long gone, though not forgotten Freaky Dancing. Euphoria can get lost to the cynicism of age but perhaps the remedy to that is contained somewhere inside the crazed, wild-eyed excitement that played out at the cities Nude night, as the shock of the new sent waves of inspiration charging through the minds of its creators Paul Gill and Ste Pickford. The first issue appeared for free in July 1989 and ran its course by August 1990 after eleven issues, in-between the so-called second summer of love and before The Hacienda closed for the first time in 1991 due to the surrounding violence engulfing the venue – an ironic state of affairs, even then. Billed by Tony Wilson as “the most important piece of journalism I’ve read in the last twenty years” a typically overblown pronouncement, there is however a grain of truth to that given that you feel part of the experience, living the lifestyle as it happened like a diary of events. Consequently, in ways the graphic content illustrates better than most studied books on the subject have the significant highs and lows of experience revolving around the turn of that decade. And yet in amongst all the youthful zeal and resolutely, idealistic belief in pill formed culture (alongside its institution) there lies an acceptance of the enviable downfall. That resulted, by the end, in the collapse of a dream and a demolished club. Which thankfully is now poignantly, though starkly contrasted via the evangelical conviction in the transformative powers of ecstasy celebrated throughout the pages, without the substance it would have meant a lot less content – in fine style even that is joked about in October’s Volume 5, as are students, i-D, Boys Own and ‘the south’ basically in general.
So what’s left? A document and a bagful of memories. A bunch of worn records. And that maybe you were part of something that felt important – life changing.
Freaky Dancing: The Complete Collection is published February 21, by TQLC
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Ste. Along with Paul Gill you started Freaky Dancing back in 1989 and it has now been republished by TQLC (an imprint of the Quietus). Tell us about the story behind how that happened?
Paul arranged the publication of the book with The Quietus, so I’m not quite sure how that actually happened. My role was more technical, preparing the book itself. Paul had been keen to get the fanzine restored and republished in some form or other for a while, and to be honest I was always a bit reluctant. To me it felt like a great memory, a lovely moment in the past, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring it into the present. Paul persisted and eventually convinced me it was worth doing. We were originally going to get the book out for the 25th anniversary, in 2015, but that date came and went. We were both busy with work and it was hard to find time to give the book the attention it deserved. I think hooking up with The Quietus gave us a bit of a kick up the arse to actually get it finished.
On the technical side, I had most of the original artwork, so my job was to scan and clean up every page, and design and build the book itself. There were a few missing pages that had been stolen or returned to the original artists over the years, so a few of them had to be put together from scans of the fanzine itself, but most pages were scanned from the A4 sized originals. We also wanted to do some new material, so I drew a three page comic strip, as an intro, which ended up taking me about six months to complete! Paul drew a page at the end of ever issue of me and him chatting about the contents, and reminiscing about the time.
One major issue was that we weren’t actually in touch with all the contributors. In fact, some pages were anonymously submitted, so we never knew who drew them. Also, a lot of the work was done under pseudonyms, so we had to consider how or if we needed permission from all the original contributors, IP rights, and how we would split any money the book might make. Taking everything into account, particularly the fact it wasn’t possible to contact everyone involved, and that the spirit of the magazine was to give it away where possible, we decided to stick with the pseudonyms for all the contributors, and once we’d covered the costs involved in making the book, we’d donate any money we made the the Manchester Digital Music Archive https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk
What influenced the comic-book/ graphic style in which it was constructed? Who did the artwork and who wrote the text? What was the philosophy behind it all and how important was it for you that it was free?
Both Paul and I both wrote and drew our own comics, and had made our own fanzines and small press comics before Freaky Dancing. That’s how we met, in fact – I picked up a copy of one of his fanzines from a small press fair in Piccadilly in 1986 or so, and he picked up one of mine from the same place. We noticed each other’s’ addresses, both in Stockport, and we started writing to each other about comics and video games and music, both in our early teens, and before either of us had ever had a pint of beer, let alone been to a pub or a nightclub!
But, once we had the idea for Freaky Dancing, everything happened so fast. We didn’t really plan very much, we just spurted out whatever was going in our heads into comic strips and printed them. We both worked separately, writing and drawing our own comics, and bringing them together every week or two, to see if we had enough stuff to make a new issue with. What was really surprising, and exciting, was that our friends joined in. Friends who weren’t especially into comics, or who weren’t writers or artists. They just caught the same wave of excitement and enthusiasm that gripped us, and threw their own pages into the pot. Some of the early issues were literally put together between 5pm and 7pm on the Friday night they came out, with people turning up to my office after work, handing in pages they’d drawn, while Paul and I would arrange them into some kind of order. Then we’d start the photocopier running at about 7pm, to get 100 or so copies ready to hand out next door by 9pm.
Giving the magazine out for free felt massively important at the beginning. It was almost the main idea behind Freaky Dancing – giving something back to the people around us. Over time that idea receded and covering costs and becoming self-sustaining became our goal. If we’d carried on, we’d probably have wanted to turn it into a money making business. I guess this is a natural trajectory, and perhaps it was for the best that it never went that far.
Why was the Hacienda and Friday’s Nude night in particular, as opposed to the other nights, such an important place for you at that time?
I feel a bit reluctant to mention the drugs, but you can’t get away from the drugs. We all started taking ecstasy together – and by ‘we’, I don’t just mean our friends, but I mean everyone in The Hacienda on a Friday night – and it was incredible. I’d been going out for years in Manchester already. Generally indie nights at The Venue, Boardwalk, The Ritz and places like that, and The Hacienda sometimes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Clubbing was ‘alright’, and I enjoyed it, but suddenly in 1989 (for me – I know it was earlier for some), it was like I’d been woken from my sleep, and going out on a Friday became a mystical experience. It felt IMPORTANT. Once I’d been grabbed by the place, then I started to appreciate just how bloody good the music was as well, and I think the music has stayed with me more than anything else.
You poked fun at Boys Own and London culture. Did it feel like there was a North/ South divide – what made the North better?
Haha, yeah, I think everyone in Manchester feels that north / south divide thing, don’t they? We used to read NME, and once the acid house thing started up, you’d read these articles where they’d send a journalist up to Manchester and they’d just be talking about a couple of indie bands and a few gigs, and not mention the house music that was in the air in Manchester, that was everywhere, they’d not mention acid house at all, and it seemed bizarre. They might be covering The Stone Roses in the article, but The Stone Roses would be dancing to acid house in The Hacienda that week, and that influence wasn’t being mentioned in the music press at all, or only in the most condescending ways, it seemed bizarre.
We did have a bit of a sneering attitude to London and the south, but on reflection I think that was a bit silly, and I can’t really defend it now. I think partly it might have been that we just didn’t get much coverage or recognition, as the main magazines were based in London, but I dunno.
Obviously the city gained a reputation (as did the club) for violence and gang activity around doors and the supply of drugs. What are feelings about that, both at the time and now, in relation to the Hacienda?
I guess it was inevitable. There’s a neat parallel with the effect of the drugs themselves. You start off with a euphoric burst of energy, and everything is amazing, then eventually you feel strung out and stretched too far, followed by twitchiness, paranoia and a feeling of doom. That trip played out over the life of the magazine, and over the course of a few years in Manchester’s club scene as well.
I don’t think nightclubs work as long-standing institutions, and the Hacienda not being around now is probably for the best. Let younger generations build their own legends, without any baggage from the past.
What for you were the original ideals (socially and/or politically) of Acid House? And how do you feel about the way in which DJ culture and Clubs themselves have evolved and changed into more of a business model?
It felt like we were at the dawn of something special in 1989. A whole generation (or so it seemed) full of optimism and effortlessly removing the barriers and the differences between us all. It felt like more than just hedonism, but only in the vaguest, non-specific ways. I guess that’s kind of evaporated since. Maybe that’s a feeling everyone has at that time of their life, no matter where you are or who you’re with? I don’t have any strong feelings about DJ culture or clubbing. I still like house music, still listen to people like Sasha, but very rarely go to nightclubs any more.
In terms of ethnicity and class. How well do you think each was represented at The Hacienda?
A few years ago I saw an acquaintance on twitter complaining about a clip he’d seen of The Hacienda, from the acid house days, saying it just looked like a bunch of straight white blokes getting off their head, and that rave culture was a load of bollocks. I can’t speak for rave culture, but The Hacienda wasn’t that at all. It felt to me like the best possible mix of people you could get in Manchester, in terms of ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, etc. A wonderful combination of everything the city had to offer. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how it felt to me at the time.
Was Tony Wilson a spokesman for the generation? If so, how did you identify with him?
Tony Wilson was an odd character for anyone my age from the North West. We grew up with him as this super smarmy TV host on various news and current affairs programmes. The natural reaction for any young, cynical teenager was to hate him. Then you learn from someone at school that he’s got a record label or something, and you get an inkling that he’s not quite what he seems. You listen to what he says on those music programmes he presented a bit more closely – maybe he’s more than just a smarmy presenter? Then as you grow older you learn a bit more about Factory and The Hacienda, and the bands, and he changes in your mind into something else. Something inspiring.
I’ve been in business in creative fields a couple of times, and I can honestly say that Tony Wilson was a big inspiration in terms of how I went about things. I don’t mean writing terrible contracts on napkins, necessarily, but more in terms of wanting to make something great, something special, something that will be remembered, and getting the best out of creative people you’re working with.
From the time of Freaky Dancing could you name a couple of tracks which signified everything the magazine was about?
Ralphi Rosario – You Used To Hold Me. I think that was my first, stand out memory on the dancefloor, seeing the crowd reacting, the way everyone in the place knew the tunes, it was wonderful. Kid n Play – 2 Hype (that UK mix, not sure the proper name of it). My second dancefloor memory. The way the whole place would just freeze when that intro started. Stakker – Humanoid. Just incredible. Still sounds awesome today.
Why did you stop producing Freaky Dancing? And would you be tempted to do it again?
Mainly we were just knackered. We’d put out 11 issues in not much more than a year, while also holding down fairly high pressure full time jobs, and being in a band. The magazine was actually starting to get really good by the end, so I can’t actually remember exactly why we stopped. I think the energy from the scene itself, that had been propelling us, had dissipated, and we didn’t have enough energy ourselves to keep it going without that wave behind us.
I’d publish comics again, and give them away, but I don’t think I could do anything at the speed we managed back then.
Tell us about what you and Paul are up to these days. And what would you say you taken from those experiences which has informed your life now?
I still design and make video games, now as an indie, working with my brother as The Pickford Bros. Our last game was nominated for a BAFTA, but made no money. We also do a comic together, Plok, featuring the star of one of our SNES games from the 1990s.
I think I’ve still got, and always had, the do-it-yourself ethic that led to us making a fanzine, and that’s reflected in the games and comics I’ve made since then. And I honestly thing the acid and the ecstasy have made me a better person.
The Quietus Presents The Freaky Dancing Book Launch at The Soup Kitchen, Manchester on Saturday March 2.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Intro_p. Let’s start with your label: Introp Music. Tell us the types of music you seek to champion through it. And what are the most important musical elements that determine which tracks you sign?
Thank you for your invitation. My motivation with Introp Music is to offer people a balanced concept of dance music and other genres besides the club scene. I am especially interested in unconventional dance music, inspiring imagination, evoking emotions and suitable for different situations or even audiences. For this purpose, I combine in my productions dance music patterns with different melodic and harmonic elements in an intuitive way, sometimes leaving rules or formulas behind.
Your next release sees you return to Introp Music with the stunning: Trieb. Can you talk us through how you produced the track and which favourite pieces of hardware/ software you used?
One of my challenges is trying not to repeat myself and to imprint my current state of mind in my productions. “Trieb” EP shows clubbier sounds than my debut “Exposure”. In ‘Trieb’ I’ve moved from my basic workflow. I split the work in 2 parallel projects, one for drum & FX elements and the other one for more musical instruments. I don´t know if this is good or a bad idea in general terms, but the experiment worked here. My target was to get a closer perspective of both kinds of elements for decision making. A part from Minimoog and Walldorf Streichfett, most elements have been processed in the box. I love using Ableton, Max for Live, Maschine, Komplete, Kontakt, U-he and other 3rd party plugins for sound design experimentation.
The release also contains an Ambient Mix. What is it in particular about ambience that appeals to you?
I would not say that the Ambient mix really fits with the Ambient genre. But surely there are common elements in it, like those diving atmospheres. I like Ambient music because it invites me to reflect and pay more attention to my inner voice. I think this kind of music can help people to be less materialistic.
Your music has a distinctly original flavour to it. Which artists have most influenced your sound?
I thank my parents for having a great music collection. As an only child I grew up with a turntable and thousands of records. At the age of 18 I had my own collection constantly growing. Therefore it´s not easy to name my early influences. There are plenty of bands and genres from the 60s until nowadays that I really love. For sure I started into dj’ing in 1995 because of my fascination for Jeff Mills, Laurent Garnier and Richie Hawtin. They brought me to go to clubs and pay attention to the music as it was a concert. Some of my friends started to be annoyed of me (lough). Other artists that might have influenced my sound are Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze, Jon Fox, Ultravox, Simple Minds, The Church, Stranglers, King Crimson, Can, Gong, Sly & Robbie, Soft Machine, Devo, Depeche Mode, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Four Tet, Bonobo, Trentemoeller, David August, Max Cooper, etc. etc.
Which artists, painters, writers etc outside of music have also inspired you?
I am not an expert in any kind of art, but as a fan of cinema I would highlight artists like Darren Aronofsky, Lars von Trier, Xavier Dolan etc. In my personal opinion, the most important elements of art are emotions and message. Therefore authenticity is the key.
How would you say the move from Malága to Cologne has influenced what you do, both in terms of work and play?
I came to Germany in 2005 to work as an engineer, learn the German language and gather experience abroad. During these years I realized that I don´t want to belong to any industrial corporation. I am not interested in power or career. My priority is to do something with passion, having the possibility to learn my whole life and inspire other people to do the right thing for themselves.
How do you feel club culture has changed since you first started? And how would you like to see it evolve from here
In my opinion the club scene has grown a lot. There are much more artists than before and the new technologies allow us to search and play music more easily, and to get in contact with other artists or with the audience. This democratization of the music can be something good. On the other side, I think it is more difficult to make and promote alternative music today because everyone is exposed to a large amount of distractions and information. For the future, I would like to see more projects dedicated to the search and support of upcoming and underground artists.
And finally. Tell us about any forthcoming plans for 2019?
2019 is the year of my birth as a full time music producer. My plan is to enjoy my first steps out of my comfort zones by doing what inspired me the most during my life: music. Definitely there will be more releases in 2019.
Tough, brisk and beautifully funky are words that flow easily over this excellent production from James Teej. Dolby B is the sort of track that feels instantly epic as irresistible drums and taught electronic stabs punctuate your life in a series of stages with the whirring intensity of stark synthesizers creating an abundance of atmospheric charges playfully igniting all of the senses. Jay Tripwire delivers the remix that takes all of that and condenses it into a liquid mess of undulating notes and signatures excelling and exhilarating, pulsing along a future fuse hints of electro dance dangerously alongside chiming repetitions, plus the insistent splash of sophisticated hi-hats. Then to the title track itself which has Solder Solder reach for moodier climbs as slow voices suggest sinister intent, with another original Two Set Six completing the release returning once again to funkier rhythms to elevate proceedings.
D’Julz returns to bass with more inevitably smoky reflections on culture beginning with the immense title track, Lemon Juice. To say this reaches deep inside your soul, fizzing with an Acid infused frenzy, would be somewhat of an understatement. There’s just something about the wild abandon loosely contained in this production that makes you want to scream as the breath of raw intensity generated by the basslines erupt across shuffling kicks and snares – feeling succinctly funky, yet hard as nails. Wrecka Stow, then adds more musical flair with rolling rushes of emotion unfurling over pounding beats, leaving the contrasting drum-breaks of Singularity to explore deeper ground while completing yet another first rate EP.
Posing questions and seeking answers Cypherpunx reveal themselves with these two new richly rewarding productions for Rebellion. Hier+Jetzt is a standout number in any book referencing the electronic output of 1970’s Germany yet feeling defiantly here and now. Brooding synthesizers create darker edges which in turn are surrounded by fizzy, drum-machine encoded percussion, existing alongside warm envelopes of beautifully engaging sound tactfully teasing out lavish scenarios. The English translation of the title then forms Here+Now which reworks the elements lending the arrangement a more forceful, robust feel as energy levels are engaged and then tuned up a notch via choppy keyboard strikes, adding a deft intensity amid heady swirls of ambience.