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Review: Happy Mondays – Excess All Areas – by Simon Spence

Happy Mondays

This is the third Simon Spence book that I have read. He is a very talented music journalist from Manchester with a taste for documenting, wild, stylish cultural movements that have emerged from the Madchester craziness. Excess All Areas covers perhaps the most successful and innovative band to have ridden the early acid house craze that swept the nation in the mate 1980s. With the charismatic Shaun Ryder heading up the band, a true hedonist, a notorious substance abuser, it was always difficult for the true Happy Mondays to translate through the myriad web of journalists who tried to document them. Ryder, much to the annoyance of most of the musical backdrop of the band, Paul Ryder (Bass), Gary Whelan (Drums), Paul Davis (keyboard), Mark Day (Guitar), Mark ‘Bez’ Berry (dancer), got into a habit of blagging the press and feeding them over the top exaggerations of the band’s history and exploits. In hindsight, this was pure marketing genius and led to much of the mystery and notoriety that paved the way for success. However, it sifting all the bullshit, has made the writing of this book that much more difficult for Simon Spence. The early days of a relatively privileged middle class upbringing contrasts with the bunch of Manchester council estate ‘scallies’ they tried to portray themselves as. Sure there was petty crime and shopflifting etc. but nothing serious, although perhaps the addition of Bez to the group was actually verging on real true life crime as he obviously was up to the neck in it as a youngster and quite obviously expanded his mini empire quite a lot under the guise of being part of the band…. Manchester Giants, Factory Records and Tony Wilson picked up the band and signed them which paved their way to success following the ilk of luminaries Joy Division and New Order and allowing them direct access to one of the UK’s most influential music venues, the Haçienda. It all happened at just the right time for this band, as the cultural rebellion against failed Thatcherism took hold of the UK’s disillusioned youth masses and expressed itself in the ‘Acid House’ movement. Ecstasy-fuelled, fashion shifts, mass movement and gathering of people in raves, parties and festivals, vast increase in polydrug clubbing and mainstream ending of anti-drug taboos. A lot of this movement was driven by DJs and the Mondays’ uniqueness was that they…

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Review: Altered State – The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House – by Matthew Collin

altered state

I’ve already read a Matthew Collin book – This is Serbia Calling – so I was chuffed when I stumbled upon this work, a history of UK dance music culture. As a DJ and Promoter for 24 years I’m quite aware of a lot of the history of dance music in the UK. This book, however, filled in many of the gaps, and was a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening read. The well known story of how acid house culture came to the UK via Ibiza’s Summer of Love where Nicky Holloway, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold and Trevor Fung experienced the delight’s of Alfredo weaving magic on the White Isle and brought back their ideas to the London clubscene, is a familiar tale, often recited religiously in club culture publications like Mixmag. The author gives a comprehensive account of the beginnings and it was great to hear the true story and what bliss these guys must have experienced. Shoom, Spectrum and the Milk Bar launched successfully and the early adopters were soon welcoming new ‘Acid Teds’ and a hippy revival based on lush house electronica began to hit the mainstream. The book looks at London and Manchester in detail as well as exploring some of the less likelier destinations of UK club culture like Blackburn and later the countryside free party and rave movement. The study of the fracture of dance music into its various sub-genres and the movement of people that followed each branch provides much analysis and we see Warehouse parties, techno anarchists, drum and bass division and later the emergence of new genres like speed garage, grime and dubstep. The book focuses a lot on the role of narcotics in this new ascendant youth culture. The critical importance of ecstasy (MDMA) to the whole movement which eventually led to a massive increase and normalisation of drug culture across the country, with polydrug use becoming popular and clubbers and ravers exploring acid (LSD), cocaine, heroin, ketamine, amphetamines and the various different types of cannabis. It’s amazing how much anti dance music propaganda was spread by the media. Governments were scared and there was a great deal of legislation set up to counter the whole movement. Enlightened masses were a danger to the establishment and the whole culture was seen as an alternative political situation. The long-running battles between promoters, DJs and the UK Police was interesting and it was…

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Review: Still Breathing: The True Adventures of the Donnelly Brothers – by Anthony and Christopher Donnelly (and Simon Spence)

still breathing

Chris and Anthony Donnelly are two likely lads from Wythenshawe, Manchester. Growing up to a backdrop of crime, allegedly part of the the notorious Quality Street Gang, these entrepreneurs became leading figures in the birth of Manchester’s Acid House scene, initiating illegal raves and forging bonds and networks across music from the Hacienda to the launch of their own short-lived crime-ridden Parliament Club, at the peak of The Gunchester headlines when Guns and gangs took hold in Manchester. After heading out of music they entered the world of fashion, launching Gio-Goi. Using a mixture of guerrilla marketing, incorporating their music friends and street buddies, they became a necessity of fashionistas. The brand ultimately became corporate turning over £40 million a year at its height. This tale, interview-style, arranged by Stone Roses biographer, Simon Spence, is a true journey of life’s ups and downs, for a most colourful family. From drug busts, media headlines and jail sentences to filming videos with Pete Doherty and Deadmau5. I especially enjoyed the reminiscences of Old Skool Hacienda DJs, Mike Pickering, Jon Dasilva and Graeme Park. This book has it all. I’m sure that no party is complete without the Donnelly brothers influencing it in some way.

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Head Alchemy

Head Alchemy

I felt like a bit of a change, a bit of an up-tempo feel to the mix to warm those toes in the murky winter weather… I’d recently put together a nice acid house feeling dub for a Brazilian vocalist to work on and wanted to fit it into the mix… It is Hacienda style Acid House… This mix flows from Acid House to techno and back down to Acid… I wanted to bang it up to full-on Adam Beyer style techno and add in some Goa Trance but unfortunately couldn’t get the tempo geared up that high in 80 minutes… Some nice Laurent Garnier tracks thrown in and he has been a big influence on me as a DJ – I’ve never seen anyone at all demonstrate crowd control on a dancefloor like he does… He’s like an operatic conductor and his versatility and range of music in his sets is astonishing… I started off in the scene listening to a lot of techno and playing it so I guess this mix is taking me back full circle… :::TRACKLISTING::: 1. Wez G – Brasil Acid (Dub) [White] 2. Joey Beltram – Energy Flash (Original Mix) [Transmat] 3. Irregular Synth, Andrea Frisina – Dub City (Lutzenkirchen Remix) [Gate Null Recordings] 4. The Japanese Popstars – Heavy Hitter (Sharooz Remix) [Bedrock Records] 5. Paul Ritch – Run Baby Run (Original Mix) [Drumcode] 6. Gabriel D’Or, Bordoy – Kepler 69 (Original Mix) [MKT rec] 7. Soulik – Enjoy This Trip (Original Mix) [Audio Elite] 8. Möd3rn – Mö 3 (Original Mix) [Mod3rn] 9. Scan X – Midnight (Laurent Garnier Edit) [WTF! Music] 10. 04LM – Tragicaller (Original Mix) [Soma Records] 11. Gayle San – The Porter (Original Mix) [H-Productions] 12. Kollektiv Turmstrasse – Grillen im Park (Dreher & Sm.art Remix) [DJ Series] 13. Mark Henning – Blackout (Original Mix) [Soma Records] 14. Syco – Danaka [Oxygen Music Works] 15. Laurent Garnier – Jacques In The Box (Chicago Bordelo Remix) [Ed Banger Records / Because Music] 16. Dax J – Spotlights (Original Mix) [Unknown Territory] Wez G – Head Alchemy by Wez G on Mixcloud

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