dawn of man*
[still from 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by stanley kubrick]
this series of six mixes traces my musical interests from 1981 to 1996. it came about after an invitation from british anthropologist georgina born to list some key pieces of music - a kind of musical genealogy. my original intention, and georgina's request, was for a short playlist. i took this to mean about 10 or 12 tracks, but once i started this process it became clear the list would be much longer. i've broken this up into six manageable sections each lasting about one hour, each with a focus on a specific period. tracks are not listed in strict chronological order, but instead are listed according to when i discovered them... so it starts in 1981 and initially goes back in time as i uncover things i had missed in earlier years.
in the summer of 1981 the special's ghosttown had dominated the charts. they played in a local park in rotherham and it seemed like the whole town had turned out to see them. later that year a new sound and style appeared - for me pioneered by soft cell and the human league. love action entered the charts some time later than tainted love. but i preferred the production and choice of sounds. while my best friend at school became massively into soft cell, i became massively into the human league and began to collect their new releases and track down their back catalogue. i was also interested in other synth pop acts of the time including depeche mode, whose album 'speak and spell' was awesome. the 12" single 'just can't get enough' had a brilliant b side. after the departure of vince clarke from depeche mode my attention followed him to yazoo. their first album 'upstairs at erics' with its fragmented human dummy and warehouse setting had a kind of uncanny appeal. a friend's copy had a slightly different inner sleeve: mine had a blue and white photo of clarke and moyet which was repeated on both sides; his copy had a slightly different photo of the two on each side. i can't remember this guy's name but he had a polo mint addiction and was worried about the wrinkles on his forehead getting worse - it was a thing you were not allowed to mention. the following year (1982), after getting home from school, i turned on the tv to be confronted by a skinhead in a vicar's shirt - genesis p orridge of psychic tv. a band i had not heard of, but i was instantly hooked. and probably this musical encounter changed my life more fundamentally than any other. here was a group using video and discussing issues about the nature of reality, society and identity - just the kind of thing an alienated teenage boy needs. i called my friend (the soft cell fan) who had also seen it. and for a time we were both massive psychic tv fans, but me more so. i found their album 'force the hand of chance' in a local record shop in rotherham market, and inside was a free album - themes volume 1. this was the weirdest music i had ever heard. re-listening to this i realize it's actually a brilliant album. anyway following the encounter with psychic tv on the tv, and the complete dissatisfaction with school and small town life, i decided i wanted out of normality forever... and music was the way out.
1.1, chart rundown 27 aug 1981, -, TOTP, 1981
so i begin to track down older releases by the human league - the ones before the girls joined. their first 12" 'the dignity of labour' was a particular favourite. i remember also hearing the track 'marianne' in the school youth club and going up to the dj to ask him what it was. it turned out it was only available on the double pack of holiday 80, and i only had the single version. i also got increasingly into throbbing gristle who became a massive influence and i started to collect their records, as well as chris and cosey (i should have included a track from heartbeat but its way too scratched). i guess the rest of the records listed below speak for themselves - these were my favourite records of the time.
2.1, The Dignity Of Labour (Part 2), Human League, The dignity of labour 12", 1979
around 1984 to 1985 the miners strike was happening. i grew up in the village next to orgreave so was acutely aware of what was going on. by this time my dad (a steel worker) had been made redundant too. and it seemed like society had fallen to bits. most of the shops were shut or the units vacant. and then the police seemed to become just a weapon of the state... two horrific events happened - the battle of orgreave, and a massive conflict at the bean field around the stone henge festival in 1985 - these were utterly and unbelievably brutal. i've included two tracks that reflected this brutality - one by test dept, the other by mark stewart. by this time my interest had shifted from the human league and psychic tv to throbbing gristle and mark stewart. i also found fats comet - a fictional character. here the track hypnotized has another incarnation 'djs dream' sharing the same musicians and production (adrian sherwood). by this time i had also met a few people involved with a group in sheffield called the anti group (aka TAGC) which was related to clock dva. i was into the symbolism and sound of their meontological research recordings (vols 1 and 2). these seemed to point to a new direction in sound, but along with these a more popular movement was growing. i went into shock records in sheffield one day - the shop that had introduced me to mark stewart and so much other music - and he played me some music he called 'acid house'. for me acid house seemed to achieve what throbbing gristle and TAGC had hoped to achieve - altered states through use of sound and rhythm. i got totally into it.
3.1, fuel to fight-shockwork (voice edited), Test dept, Shoulder to shoulder, 1985
through friends in the anti group i got tapes of detroit techno. and soon after started at the local art school studying experimental film and video. this coincided with the beginning of warp records, based in sheffield, and the bleep and bass sound. for a few years life at university integrated into club culture and free parties. but as a non drug user i could see the carnage and drug casualties - it seemed like people were destroying themselves and their relationships under the banner of having fun, and just taking more and more drugs. the low point for me was standing in a club and looking at a room full of people dancing to 'youve got the love' by the source featuring candi staton. probably the worst record ever. i hate that track so much - it's like kryptonite to me... it marked the end of my interest in that scene. and soon after i left university.
4.1, Rock to the beat, Kevin Saunderson, Faces & phases, 1988
around 1992 i met a sheffield house dj callum wordsworth, he worked in a record shop opposite from warp records. and his interest was new york house. he lived with jez potter (who i would later work with on the shirt trax album on or records). anyway as i hung out with callum my interests shifted away from techno and 'experimental' music to american house music. the section starts with youth's remix of the sugarcubes vitamin ep, which was the first example i can find of a rhythm being filtered by a low pass filter. i later used this technique extensively with mat steel on our snd project.
5.1, decline of rome part 2, Sugarcubes, vitamin ep (Youth Remixes), 1992
around 1994 i was working on music with mat steel and hanging out with him and jez potter. i started to work with jez on a radio show 'non axiomatic living room' which was based sometimes at mats house and sometime noel kilbride's. it was through the radio that i met sean booth who turned up with a synth and did some shows with us. these generally were on saturday night from midnight til 6am. also involved was rob baker of the antigroup. so it became an interesting crossover of different people and styles. through mat i was exposed to the ifach label, through jez i encountered general magic, farmers manual and ikeda. and these blended into a radio show. often we would make music on saturday afternoon in a few hours to play that evening on the radio show. and from this came shirttrax (the project on Or with jez) and snd with mat steel. of particular interest here is the track 'o licky' by matthew herbert - this was the first time i had heard scratches or kind of noise like knocks (i assumed to be a damaged record) sampled and used in the context of house music. the use of this sound here, in terms of the sound and the patterns it plays, were a major influence - you can clearly hear these in SND records to the present day.
6.1, monolense, baby ford, monolense ep ifach 1, 1994
[still from La Plančte Sauvage directed by René Laloux]
[asterisk] please note - the title "dawn of man" is meant to be ironic. the idea of producing an 'aural history' such as this is that it is personal. so i chose the title as a bit of a joke. please don't take it seriously.