In Memoriam – Andrew Weatherall
It was as though the death of Andrew Weatherall last week, caused a disturbance in The Force that is the electronic music community and created an outpouring of grief that could only be a testament to the talent, respect and love that so many producers, DJs, clubbers and music lovers felt.
Andrew’s initial success as a DJ came from his fanatical record collecting habit; “Whilst other kids were copping off with girls, I was like ‘check out what’s on the B side of this seven inch”. When acquaintances and friends realised he was the guy with the amazing records they asked him to DJ at parties, a journey which eventually escalated to reach the ears of early acid-house luminaries as Danny Rampling who invited him to play at the legendary Shoom.
At that time the Balearic sound had been channelled back to the UK by Nicky Holloway, Pete Tong, Paul Oakenfold and Johnny Walker and had smashed its way into London, where a relatively small group of dedicated hedonists where forming the nucleus of the electronic music scene in England. The Balearic sound, that hugely influenced the early years of the acid house scene, was drawn from a diverse range of influences such as art-house rockers The Residents, and The Woodentops, the sanguine pop of Mandy Smith, The Waterboys and Chris Rea and the trippingly beautiful sunset sounds of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra et al.
Weatherall realised that he had many of the records that had been played in the Ibiza superclubs like Amnesia, plus more that had never been heard, and so started a gigging job as a DJ at some of the most, unintentionally influential clubs of the time, and arguably that have ever been.
The moment in time that turned the indie and dance music scene on its head and soundtracked the second summer of love was Weatherall‘s famed production of Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica. Weatherall put the success down to his “confidence of ignorance” but the resulting album seemed to tell the story of a generation in real-time. The disaffected Generation-X had turned to the countryside to dance in fields and shrug off the totalitarianism of the Conservative government with a drug-fuelled, hug-filled, music-driven uprising that rocked the establishment and spawned a deep cultural movement that hadn’t been seen since the sixties.
But many now realise whatever he was channelling into Primal Scream‘s rock musings that twisted the sound to a heavy, bass-driven, psychedelic, late night & early morning collection of anthems was unadulterated genius.
Weatherall‘s baseline stance was unashamedly uncorporate. It is widely recognised that Weatherall could have been the superstar DJ of the time, yet he shunned fame and that kind of career to carry on creating and playing the music that he, above virtually all of his peers, had the ear to recognise. Weatherall understood that corporatism didn’t equate to great music “the basic need for transcendence is still there regardless of how many gigabytes you have in your computer” he said and, in so many ways that is what endeared him to the people around him.
His biggest fans were often the producers of the age. The DJs, the early influencers and creators who were successful in their own right but peered through the Weatherall window, understanding that what they were witnessing was truly unique.
He unintentionally broke records, steered trends and changed perceptions. He was humble, informed, witty and interested. I once had the honour to warm up for him on a full turbosound rig and it was as though, whilst in his presence, his creative conscience was infectious. It gently encouraged to break a boundary or go one step further.
His own influence in the early days of Boys Own with Pete Heller, Rocky & Diesel and a number of other early (yet relatively unknown) visionaries was immense. He took the Balearic sound and with that crew created anthems for a generation and brand and style that resonates and influences today.
His own productions as ‘Two Lone Swordsman’ with Keith Tenniswood, ‘Sabres of Paradise’ and the many productions and remixes under his own name, and many aliases, are legendary with so many of those productions becoming beard-scratching game-changers. His remixes of Saint Etienne and My Bloody Valentine were unlike anything that went before, uncompromising and drawing influences from a wide range of musical genres. ‘Smokebelch II’ became an anthem for the Cafe Del Mar generation who loved to chill and contemplate as much as they did stomping to techno and house ryhthms. On the lighter side, his part of the productions for the Boys Own label under aliases like The Bocca Juniors brought a more danceable sound but alongside Heller & Farley, Weatherall brought the dirt. What transpired was yet another anthem snuck in the back door with Andrew steering the ship.
What last week has taught us is how many lives Andrew Weatherall touched. There were tears and reminisces in the most unexpected places, but the sheer breadth of people whose lives he touched is testament to a gentleman of creativity, a spark of genius that burned for decades and consistently, and sometimes torturously continued to push boundaries, a man nicknamed The Guvnor for his leadership and influence that was wider and deeper than most people had ever recognised.
A true life rebel and a rare soul who had the courage to follow his own convictions.
Rest in Peace Andrew Weatherall who died 17th February 2020 age 56