Clubbed: a visual history of UK club culture

Clubbed: a visual history of UK club culture

I kickstarted Clubbed a while ago, and a few days ago I got my copy in the post. Now its got a proud spot on my bookshelf.

Clubbed: a visual history of UK club culture

Of course its not just about the Hacienda but lots of famous UK clubs and dance nights. Its a beautifully designed booked which reflects the graphic design of the era.

Clubbed: a visual history of UK club culture

Very happy to be a backer along so many others.

Ecstasy

Ecstasy Facts

My experience with Ecstasy is not like you would imagine.

I have never ever taken Ecstasy or for that fact taken any other illegal drugs. Even though I was surrounded by the ecstasy filled rave scene. Me personally I was very much into the music and the experience of dancing in time with people of all cultures and backgrounds. However I won’t be lie and say I never noticed the amount of drugs going around. In actual fact I have some interesting experiences off the back of ecstasy.

Channel4 are putting Ecstasy on trail in another one of their grand experiments.

Nearly half a million people are believed to take the Class A drug ecstasy every year in Britain and the country was dubbed the ‘drug-taking capital of Europe’ in a recent EU Drugs Agency report.

Now, in a UK television first, two live programmes will follow volunteers as they take MDMA, the pure form of ecstasy, as part of a ground-breaking scientific study.

Presented by Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen, the programmes aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA.

When I was in school, I had strongly held believes that Ecstasy should be decriminalised and even legalised for many reasons. Most of it is about getting drugs out of the drug dealers hands. But even more to get a base-level quality. Ecstasy use to be cut with all types of crap including brick dust, ketamine, asprin, sugar, etc, etc. So what your buying could be anything. In the past there was rumours of Ecstasy being sold with a coat of LSD. End of the day, you had no idea.

Ecstasy was new on the scene and was instantly demionised by the press. Then Leah Betts died and all hell broke loose. The notion that she had drunk 7-8 litres of water in 90mins was ignored or never came out till much later. After that the war on drugs went into overdrive and by the mid millennium ecstasy was being replaced by other drugs. The point I guess I’m making is it was never tested in lab conditions to see the full effect, who would be allergic to it and the long term effects.

You could say I’m a total hypocrite because I’ve never taken it and never will. But I’d suggest that I can have an opinion and I’ve seen more that enough use in my time.

In times when I rubbed up against ecstasy use. I’ve never seen anyone die, I have seen some admitted to hospital to have there stomach pumped however, I remember spending time in First Aid with a asthmatic attack talking with a girl who had eaten 11 ecstasy pills (of course who knows what were in them) but she was chatting away and hugging people while chewing her lips off. Not a good thing but certainly not what the war on drugs wants you to see and think.

I welcome the Channel4 trial but to be honest I don’t think it will be scientific enough. Ecstasy has been used for many things in the past including a tool for couples having relationship problems. Fact is street ecstasy is nothing like you see in the lab. This is why I was a massive fan of those people who went to raves and clubs and tested ecstasy in the wild. I was also part of the Drugs Awareness Campaign in Bristol and dj’ed for them in many different venues (good to hear it still exists)

Its all about cutting through the hype, crap and frankly bull. Giving people frank honest information. Something the war on drugs never learned…

It upsets me so many people are fed dis-information saying “Just say no…” Hopefully Channel4 can raise a light to this massive issue.

Banging the drum for Media Freedom and the Web

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

The Mozilla Festival use to be the Drumbeat Festival but got a rename. The event is something between a un-conference and a hackday. A whole series of challenges which people can duck in and out of. Challenges ranged from Data Journalism to Disc Jockey hacking (ironically both DJ).

Dj Challenge

I headed up the DJ (disc jockey) challenge which was first formulated quite some time ago on behalf of BBC R&D and FutureEverything.

The challenge was to reinvent or at least evolve dj’ing. We started the challenge on Saturday afternoon and it kicked off with a little stimulus from myself and others in the form of a modified presentation. On top of that, we pointed to the Google Doc, which was an aggregation of thoughts from not just myself but many others including BBC staff.

That list is still available if your interested in getting involved in the challenges.

Andy

But what came out of the challenge were 2 very strong ideas…

  1. Can we create a format which supports tracks or layers in songs, then build Dj software which takes advantage of them.
  2. Can we build a club environment which makes use of sensors to feedback to the Dj and Vj in real-time through meaningful visualisations
More were talked about but these were the strongest ones, and these are the ones which will be taken forward hopefully into the Future Everything festival next year.
The theme for the conference/hackday was around media & web freedom and there was a question how does the Dj challenge fit into this? Well I gave the example of my pacemaker…

Dj Challenege

A few of us were looking at the problem of what you do with mixes once there finished? Actually one of them was from Mixcloud.com and we were exploring the idea of licensing, etc but we started to think what other ways can you experience mixes? One idea was to map locations to places in a mix.
On my pacemaker, I’ve done mixes walking through locations such as the wrong end of irlam mix. Imagine if it had GPS, so you could map sections to a location. When the mix is uploaded, it could lead people through an artificial version of my journey. So you could experience that moment when the bus streamed past and almost knocked someone over 🙂 How exactly this works, we don’t know, but that’s the challenge…

Hugh

This for me is the effect of the web on Djing, perfecting fitting into the media and web freedom ethos.
The challenge asked a lot of the people who did attend and frankly if I was to do it again I would size down the challenge down to a few core areas and work on things which can be done in the 90mins we had. Mozilla did allow us to run over 2 days and we have some ideas did run through-out them.
Moving away from the Dj challenge for now, I didn’t get much of a chance to attend the other challenges, but they sounded great. There was a real feel of excitement in the air and the location of Ravensbourne added another layer to it all.

Mozilla Festival

Here’s some of the other stuff which looked very interesting to me…

This Javascript library is looking very impressive and the documentary combining Popcorn with WebGL was impressive. I can only imagine what Adam Curtis could do with this… I’ve made a note to check it out in detail soon. I also think it could be useful in the area of Perceptive Media.
Its another one of those Javascript library’s (seems to be a trend). This one is a nice gaming framework, its still in alpha but it slightly crosses over with the BBC R&D universal control spec from what I saw in the demo.
Hyperaudio links written text with the spoken word. This means you can edit a audio file like how you edit text. Its quite magical when you see it, and would make a great tool for remixing
Teaching young people through standard web technologies how to change the web and make it there own. I think of it like One Laptop Per Child’s Sugar but less programmatic…
Although this wasn’t in the event, I found them from one persons suggestion and then when I went to look up the Eatery I found it again. Its like Creative Commons for privacy, interesting…

Mozilla Festival

Unlike Hackdays where everyone gets a chance to demo there hacks to everyone else, the Mozilla festival had the challenge leaders stand up on stage and give a brief overview of the best ideas and prototypes. On the Saturday night there was keynotes from a whole bunch of people including Tim Hunkin. Everything was good till a guy from the Tech City commission or something started going on and on… Wrong place and wrong time to do a pitch for how great silicon roundabout and techcity are… Frankly I would have liked to have thrown a popcorn.js rubber toy at him because it was so out of tune with the rest of the event. Of course I didn’t do that… but it was bad. Honestly if I caught his name, I would be naming and shaming…

Luckily all the rest of the keynotes and presentations were actually good to excellent.

The event finished with the Dj challenge taking control, because we didn’t have anything built I Dj’ed on my pacemaker along with the Alphasphere guys putting on a performance on stage. If we had thought about it a bit more, we could have Jammed together but alas maybe another time? Maybe at the Future Everything festival…

Congrats to the Mozilla crew, it was great and certainly a highlight. Mozilla’s mission is a good one and something we can all get behind. I was surprised how many people I know from Yahoo, Ebay, etc who are now working at Mozilla. Although it was very adhoc it kind of worked…

I look forward to next year…. Excellent work Michelle, Dees, Alex and a whole host of other cool Mozilla people. It was a honour…

Welcome back to South East London

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

I decided to split the entry, so if your just interested in the Mozilla Festival, skip to the newer post…

For me it was a bit epic because not only was it exciting because I was leading the DJ Challenge on behalf of the BBC, it was in south east London and frankly nothing geeky happens there. The nearest place is maybe the Excel centre which is more east London or Docklands than anything. Not only that, it was North Greenwich which was 5mins ride from Woolwich where I lived with my ex-wife (Sarah) for years. I hadn’t been back for (I believe) 5 years! When I left they were building the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal and of course the housing prices had gone up. So I was amazed to see how it looked now things were actually open.

Woolwich to be honest has changed quite a bit in some parts and not so much in others. Most of the structures and shops are still where they were when I was living there (this is very true of Greenwich too) but things like the square have been totally revamped with a massive screen showing local information and BBC News. There’s even a Starbucks now but didn’t spot a Pizza Express? Its maintained its down-market feel but also embraced the new upper market shops. For example the market selling copied perfume, clothes, etc is still in place.

Lastly the college I studied & taught Interaction design at, was the host for the Mozilla Festival.

For years people in Ravensbourne banged on about the move to North Greenwich. right next to the Dome. It was going to be a landmark building, etc… Well its certainly different, not quite sure it fits in with the rest of the north greenwich developments but its actual quite nice inside. Reminds me of Salford University in MediaCityUK actually with all the space and multiple levels. Right now it feels very bland because they only moved in a while ago?

Good to see a whole bunch of people popping up who I use to work with including Richard, Roman, Arthur, Hamid, etc, etc… each time I saw one of them, I would take a picture and post it on twitter mainly for the purpose of showing Miles and Dave.

So generally it was great to tie all these things together because generally when I come down to London for work or a un-conference and there never anywhere near south London let-alone South East. My only wish is that I could have visited a few of the people I had left behind. Would have been great to know what my neighbours were up to now, see how big their kid, etc.

Selling old Rave stuff

Dreamscape 1 flyer

Over the Easter weekend I have been cleaning out all the old crap I own and found not only my vinyl collection (mainly hardcore/rave and happy hardcore) but also my magazine collection. I have a load of the home computer course magazines and early T3’s but more interestingly I have Eternity which is not the monthly conservative Christian magazine according to Wikipedia. Nope its the controversial underground dance magazine and I seem to have issue 4 onwards till the last one. Currently Fantazia.org.uk are selling them at between 9.99 and 14.99 a issue which is a markup of at least 500 percent, and they seem interested in buying more. Which is good, because I could shift my lot and it will go back into the hands of someone who will enjoy them.

I also have a ton of Rave flyers in a briefcase (heaven knows why). I was able to remember the combination even after so many years and so now have access to about 250+ flyers. Once again Fantazia seem to want to buy them, but I also noticed Fantazia don’t just sell them, they can put them on Canvas and ship it to you if you like. So I’ve been thinking it would be great to get some of the really good flyers up such as the Obsession fish flyer. Like the magazines, I’d be happy to help out on any project which puts all the flyers online including Fantazia, raveflyers, its-all-about-flyers, phatmedia and hyperreal.

There is so much that happened during this short period of rave culture. The history of house music timeline is worth reading if your not aware of the differences and don’t know where house music came from. Its also quite interesting to super impose the timeline of house music on top of the history of rave timeline. There are some classic bits that even I remember reading or hearing about….

1988

At a time when football violence was escalating, rival fans dance together in an ecstasy induced euphoria thinking the world is going to change. – “…like angels from above, come down and spread their wings like doves…”

Paul Stone & Lu Vukovic start RiP. They provide a harder edged party. Located in a labyrinth like warehouse complex on Clink Street, near London Bridge, home centuries ago to Britain’s first prison. RiP sees Mr C (Later of the Shamen – who played their first experimental acid set at RiP) and Eddie Richards & Kid Batchelor play a harder more underground house (“as opposed to the pop songs at Shoom” – Mr C) to a very diverse crowd, from gangsters to people in shell suits.

In Manchester the Hacienda’s Hot & Nude nights kick start acid house in the North.
April – RiP (still at Clink) move to Fridays with their ‘A-Transmission’ nights and Sundays with ‘Zoo’.

April 11th – Paul Oakenfold opens Spectrum in London. A brave move, in that it is to be held at Heaven, near Trafalgar Square (at the time one of the biggest club venues in London). To make matters worse it is held on Monday nights. Even so after 3 weeks they had 1200 people in every week with just as many locked out. Spectrum quickly gains a musical reputation as anything goes. Paul Oakenfold even plunges the complete club into total darkness and played Tchaikovsky’s 1824 Overture on one occasion. They also hold a few nights at Legends in Manchester and one party in a marquee by the Thames.

1989

The location of these events was a closely guarded secret up until an hour or so before the start. Meeting points would be made available through flyers and pirate radio stations (Sunrise, Centre Force, Fantasy). Mobile phones were still widely regarded as Yuppy toys but thanks to BT’s messaging service they became an ideal way to co-ordinate people to different meeting points (Motorway service stations usually) and eventually the venue itself. It generally turned into a game of “follow the car in front” until you find a party. By keeping the venue secret like this they could get everyone on the move heading for the party or in the wrong direction if needed. The police have no option but to follow. So the end effect is that 1000’s of people can descend on one location in a matter of minutes. Once a party’s goes past a certain size there is, in reality very little the police can do.

June 24th – Sunrise’s Midsummer Nights Dream at White Waltham airstrip, Berkshire is attended by over 11000 people. The Sun newspaper runs the headline “Ecstacy Airport”. Other reports involve “youngsters so drugged up they ripped the heads of pigeons!” & “at the end of the night the floor was covered in empty ecstacy wrappers”, unsurprisingly , both are untrue, the empty wrappers are actually pieces of silver foil that fell from the ceiling – dead pigeons nowhere to be seen.

1990

10th August – “It’s a fad. It will be over in 3 months” claims Superintendent Mick Bromwich of the Coventry police.

Alex  paterson (later of the ORB) and Jimmy Cauty (KLF) take over DJing in the VIP room at Land of Oz (held at Heaven in London). They play a weird mix of film music and animal noises! Ambient music is born.

October 13th – The Legendary Eclipse opens at Lower Ford Street, Coventry. Britains first legal all night rave club. The club is packed all night every Friday & Saturday.

September 1st – Pirate radio station Kiss becomes Britain’s first legal dance radio station.

1991

January 30th – Hacienda closes after door staff are threatened with a gun. “We are sick of the violence” – Tony Wilson

New Years Eve – 12,000 at Fantazia at Westpoint Exhibition Centre ending with the now legendary Top Buzz set &  Raindance-Big Bad Head at Melton Mowbury.

1992

April 10th – ITV’s Hitman & Her program do a show from the Eclipse in Coventry. A classic TV moment see’s Michaela Stachen having to leave the club because “its too hot … they’ve all got eyes like saucers … “. – I have this somewhere!

June 27th – Amnesia House hold “The B
ook of Love” at Brayfield Stadium. After first announcing hit intention to get married at a rave on the BBC’s “The Time, The Place” back in 1989. Mickey Lynas (partner in Amnesia/Nemesis) gets his wish and marries with 15000 ravers as witness’ and Grooverider as the best man.

July 25th – Fantazia hold “One Step Beyond/Castle Donnington”. Licensed for 25000, the totally outdoor stage is made to look like a castle with a huge dragon in the middle of the crowd.

1993

April 30th – Universe do the first Tribal Gathering with 25,000 people at Warminster near Bath. Total chaos on the surrounding roads with a 15 mile traffic jam leading up to the site at about 9pm.

August 13th – Universe stage their Big Love event attracting 30000. With 2 totally outdoor stages set back to back, Heaven (House) & Earth (Hardcore). Probably the last totally outdoor event. Sound restriction problems cause the levels to be turned right down half way through the Prodigy’s set.

The Criminal Justice bill is put to parliament. With the new rave clause, defining a ‘Rave’ as 100 or more people dancing outdoors to music “mainly comprising of repetitive beats”. New powers for the police will include the right to detain anyone they believe is heading to an illegal rave and the right to confiscate sounds systems (like they hadn’t been doing this anyway)