Andrew Weatherall: a short history

 

Not many people would have heard of Andrew Weatherall (or Andy, as he was known then) before he played at Shoom.

“While most of his contemporaries were black music fans desperately hunting down the indie and rock highlights of Alfredo`s Amnesia sets, Weatherall – “that bloke with the weird records” – had his own collection of post-punk-funkers all ready to go. It was Weatherall`s copy of Dizzi Heights that would be rushed downstairs, so that Rampling could play it as a last tuneat Shoom,” writes Dr Rob, a Weatherall fanatic and self-confessed near-stalker.

The cognoscenti got an early blast of what was in store via the wit and wisdom of the Boy’s Own fanzine, which Weatherall produced with Terry Farley and their motley crew. The first recorded masterpiece was Bocca Juniors’ punk funk balearic house record Raise produced with Hugh Nicholson, Pete Heller and Farley….

However, for the massive majority of people it started with Loaded. It was Loaded that opened our eyes and ears and hearts, our doors of perception… a clash of styles that opened the gates for one of the most creative periods in musical history. As rock came together with acid house and dub reggae and psychedelia, a tidal wave of sound was launched that crashed through the 90s, noughties and through to the present day. It swept up indie pop and rock, rave, jungle, garage, dubstep… While Andrew Weatherall cannot be credited with starting the whole thing, he was certainly one of the firestarters. Ah fuck it, I’m not gonna argue with you if you do claim he kickstarted that cross-pollination.

And so began, a few years when everybody wanted an Andy Weatherall remix – from James to My Bloody Valentine to the Happy Mondays and Galliano…. There’s 30 of them here.

Personally, I don’t think it gets any better than this:

Meanwhile, Loaded led to a production gig with Primal Scream that resulted in the album Screamadelica and the rock’n’roll acid house bandwagon of a tour that careered through the nation’s smaller medium-sized venues.

Screamadelica 91

I was at the Manchester gig and it was mind-blowing. The Scream were shambolic – barely able to play the electronic rock’n’roll mashup that Weatherall and Hugh Nicholson had created for them – but the volume and enthusiasm more than made up for the lack of polish. This was absolute rock’n’roll, who needs professionalism?

Weatherall would DJ afterwards and played a set that climaxed with towering mountains of sound that overwhelmed the senses of this young raver. I had dragged along one of my best friends (a devotee of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and U2), who instantly jumped on the acid house bus with glee.

Nobody has been able to track down a recording of any of Weatherall’s sets from this legendary tour but I’m led to believe that one of those towering mountains of sound might have been this:

Or this, which would later appear on Weatherall’s fantastic Nine O’Clock Drop compilation:

In amongst the acid house, of course. It was just one of those evenings. And Weatherall would go on to provide the soundtrack to thousands more.

Alongside the Screamadelic shenanigans, Sabres of Paradise was formed with Jags Kooner and Gary Burns. They delivered tropical acid techno bangers…

…and blissed out balearica

Weatherall also launched the Sabres of Paradise record label (and offshoot Sabrettes run by fellow traveller Nina Walsh, which showcased the harder edge of Sabres‘ sound). Sabres, the label, perhaps climaxed with this disco monster…

Sabres of Paradise even had something of a hit with Wilmot. Andrew appears in the original video in full-on rock star mode…

…before a descent into the Haunted Dancehall

The Sabres would not come out of the Dancehall intact. After a short period of r’n’r, Andy emerged as Andrew and hooked up with electro don Keith Tenniswood to embark on an underrated decade of dub techno glitch electro ambient remixes and records. Again veering between bubbly orchestral manoevres

…and future funk…

…and dub trance rock…

…and eventually to five years of sludgy post-punk rock, which lost me for the only period in his career. Andrew even began to sing during this period.

Onwards. The years in the Shoreditch Bunker also produced a new record label Rotters Golf Club. RGC003 was a classic from Tenniswood in solo mode…

…and the classic remixes continued…

… and then there were solo records, more record labels in the shape of the Bird Scarer and Moine Dubh imprints, plus an impressive Asphodells LP, and a reconnection with Nina Walsh for his last band – the endearingly and typically-named Woodleigh Research Facility.

All the while, Andrew hosted a series of club nights with Sean Johnston, which would entrance devotees for a decade. A Love from Outer Space became something of a cult with its ethos of beats never knowingly exceeding 120 bpm. Its drug chug disco dub pulled many ex-ravers back to the dancefloor, while showing the youngsters a transcendental alternative to whatever happened to be in vogue elsewhere.

For 30 years Weatherall guided my jilted generation’s tastes with a magpie’s choice that I can’t do justice to here.

Sets like this…

…and his wonderful NTS Radio shows, in which Weatherall assumed the mantle handed down to him by John Peel… I would like to leave you with this ambient masterpiece created on January 2nd this year to soothe our aching souls…

On any given day, I could have posted 30 different songs and/or 30 different mixes. I, like many others, am distraught. The Guvnor was a joyful inspiration. I didn’t go and see him play enough – even though I have been to more of his gigs than any other DJ. I spoke to him briefly just twice. You always think there will be another opportunity. There isn’t.

There may not be another like him – a revolutionary who was there at the beginning of a creative explosion and guided his followers on a 30-year journey with barely a missed beat.

“Andrew’s death feels like a theft, because we’ve been robbed of a figure who represented and shaped the counter culture. Not the ’60s hippie one, or the punk one, but our counter culture… As such, he’s irreplaceable — the future version of him will come from a different generation, a different scene and will come with different reference points that we’ll endeavour to follow but will struggle to keep up with. But that’s just the nature of things isn’t it?” wrote another collaborator Robin Turner in Caught by the River.

Enjoy all that he left behind.

Disclaimer: This was dashed out in a hangover of sadness. More considered pieces from DJ Rob here and Joe Muggs here.

Every good DJ deserves one more tune. Andrew deserves several but one will have to do. It does not get much more blissful than this. It still sounds utterly unique, utterly entrancing and utterly beautiful.

First published on Campfire Convention

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