It's not often you’d hear of a dance music legend wearing a one-piece Edwardian bathing suit to the beach, but it’s not everyday you come across someone like Andrew Weatherall. He’s best known as being the nob-twisting producer extraordinaire behind Primal Scream’s seminal album Screamadelica, the heavily tattooed Londoner looks more likely to be a rockabilly poster boy than a man behind the decks, but don’t let that scare you away from the dance floor. Over the years he’s worked with Boys Own record label, formed acts The Sabres of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen, released his own music, started the label Rotters Golf Club and done countless remixes for people like Bjork, New Order, the Orb and My Bloody Valentine. This month Australia is lucky enough to have the man returning to our shores where his epic sets are sure to inspire dance music lovers, both young and old alike.
Pulse: So Mr Weatherall, what have you been up to of late? Have you been making many of your own productions? Andrew Weatherall: I’m trying to. The last year or so I’ve had some nice remix offers, things I really want to do. They help pay for the studio when the whole financial side of the business turns. Over the past 20 years I have been so in and out of favour more times than I can count. When it goes pasty on me I can make my stuff knowing that I have paid my studio rent.
What’s your studio like? It’s in a part of London called Shoreditch. If you said you were coming here 15 years ago it was like going to the Wild West, but lots of artists came here because it was so cheap. But now you can’t buy anything here for less than £500,000 (approx $755,400). It’s (the studio) like a crackpot Edwardian inventors garden shed. A mixture of stuff, quite a big studio, I have other people working here too. There’s a massive area of records, CDs, equipment old and new, keyboards. It’s not a clean clinical studio though.
How many records do you have? I don’t know, I would say 10,000 records. They take up two pretty big rooms at the studio and a reasonable amount of space at home. I’m going to have to start culling. Records and bikes, I just don’t like getting rid of them. I’m a bit of a hoarder, but it gets to the point that something has to give.
What remixes have you done recently? I’ve just done one for Clock Opera. Also recently I’ve done some for the Horrors, Cut Copy, Toddla T and Wooden Ships.
How do you select which songs you want to remix? There has to be an element to it, a remixable element to it, just one synth line or a bassline to make me think `I can do something with that’. I always think, `do the band really want me to do this’? I don’t mind if they don’t know who I am, but if you’re a vocalist in the band and ask me to do a remix, there’s a good chance the vocals could be left out.
My whole career is based on a song where I moved the whole vocals [so] It’s weird when a record company says to me `yeah it’s alright but can you put more vocals in’.
What was your last tour of Australia like? It was the year before last . I had a couple of gigs in Sydney so it was like a mini whirlwind tour. I had two records out and remixes. This time I have no products to sell, I won’t be hitching it around to radio stations, so hopefully I can lug myself down to Bondi Beach.
Make sure you take sunscreen! I wear a stripy Edwardian one-piece on my body and gloves so I don’t get sun on any part of my body. It may scare a few people but I will be safe.
Will you be DJ'ing with vinyl or CD? I make life really difficult and I buy all my music on vinyl and burn it to CD on an analogue line so all the CDs are vinyl quality. I love vinyl. I love the quality but not lugging it around. You have to listen to the records anyway so you might as well burn them onto a CD while you’re doing it and you get to know your records.
What could we find in your DJ bag on any given day? Anything. I’ve got my CD bag, it’s a little bit anal, it starts at 80bpm and works back to 140bpm. There’s anything with a good bassline, whether that’s disco, techno, a few bootlegs. I’ve got a brick in case of emergency to smash the old chestnuts from the history of acid house noise from 20 years ago.
What’s your aim for the night when you start the set? Sometimes I just mix straight out of whatever has been playing before, not making it journey, just carrying on that groove. If the DJ before me has been banging it I let him finish, take his bow, and I find the slowest record I can find. It’s more about a groove, establish a groove and pick it up gradually. The longer the set the better really, three or four hours is really, really good, six hours is even better. Like any artistic job, the more time you’re given, what you come with is more interesting. I do prefer the longer sets. I would rather work for my money.
Has music always played a big part in your life? I didn’t have a bad childhood, but it was lower middle class, quite boring, quite suburban, quite structured. So pop music was a little more crazy to the world I inhibited, a parallel universe to my black and white world. It was exciting for a 13 year old to discover the joys of punk and girls.
Growing up in the late 70s and listening to punk music, how did that then transform in to dance music for you? I liked punk but I always liked disco as well actually. The disco sucks movement was a little racist and homophobic and wasn’t to do with disco. But the post punk sound that arised in 1979 and 1980 took things from disco, bands started to use synthesizers and drum machines, so it was a natural progression. I remember my parents having Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, playing the full long version. So I had (Giorgio) Moroder in my blood from a very young age. I can thank my parents for a lot, but I especially thank them for that.
How did you get involved with the early rave days? I was a jaded clubber by the age of 24, I had been clubbing for 10 years, sick of listening to rare grooves and hip hop. Someone called me up one day and said there’s this club weird music you will love. So I went and there was all this weird indie music that the DJ had bought back from Ibiza. The acid house scene at the time in London was only 300 people and I knew everyone, so I would always ask to play house parties, doing 6am spots throbbing gristle and dub. I started to play earlier and earlier sets. But when it got earlier, at 1am or 2am, you had to bring in techno and house, so that’s how the sounds kind of came together. I was at the right place at the right time.
Everything that you’ve taken on in the dance music world, what is it that you’re most proud of? The fact that I still have a job 20 years later. I have weathered the storm. There has been time on this journey when I drilled holes in the boat and tried to sink myself, but I managed to survive. 20 years of recordings and productions. In general I’m reasonable proud of my career. As pop culture becomes more and more throw away, it’s good to know that you’re not being thrown away.
Having been around for the past 20 years and seen many genres come in and out of fashion, what is a good electronic music song to you? You have to be a gimmick for a classic. You can date records, when synthesisers came in, or computers. Nothing dates quicker than a new sound.
Picnic are touring Andrew Weatherall this January. He'll be headlining the Keystone Festival Bar show at Sydney Festival on January 14th. Check out his exlcusive tour mix for Picnic here and get your tickets here.
Andrew Weatherall will also play on January 12th at Sugar, Adelaide and January 13th at New Guernica, Melbourne.
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