THROWBACK THURSDAY: Armand Van Helden – Witch Doktor [1994]

Armand Van Helden turns 48 tomorrow, and so for this week’s Throwback Thursday, we recall the record that arguably sprung the Boston native to superstardom, 1994’s Witch Doktor.

Having received moderate recognition for his early releases on Nervous Records and AV8, Witch Doktor was Armand’s first release on Strictly Rhythm, and was one of the filthiest house stompers released in the mid 90s.

Kicking off with some African tribal chanting, things pick up a gear around thirty seconds in, as a siren starts to blare just before the beats start pumping. As dance intros go, it’s one of the all time greats, particularly when enjoyed on a massive soundsystem.

Discussing Witch Doktor in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, Van Helden described its origins thus, “I moved from Boston in late ’93 and “Witch Docktor” came out spring of ’94, so I had gotten right to work.

“I was out almost every night – it was club kids era, you know, but I was more on the fringe – and “Witch Doktor” was maybe the third record I did with those big New York clubs in mind. I needed something that could really fill out a place like Limelight, and “Witch Doktor” was the first time I really succeeded with that.”

Close to a quarter century later, it’s lost none of its power. Happy birthday Armand!

[Kudos to lokuazaz for the YouTube upload]


Satoshi Tomiie – the musical prodigy behind the Def Mix sound… [November 1994]

It’s been 29 years since producer Satoshi Tomiie recorded one of THE standout house anthems, alongside the late Frankie Knuckles: Tears.

But I’ve always wondered how the Tokyo-born Tomiie ended up working with Knuckles in the first place, and indeed join the Def Mix stable alongside heavyweights such as David Morales and Hector Romero.

As this DJ Mag interview from November 1994 reveals, Tomiie, an accomplished pianist and jazz musician, was performing alongside composer Ryuchi Sakamoto, when he was approached by a promoter to compose a ‘theme’ for an upcoming tour of Japan by Knuckles and his entourage.

“When I met Frankie, house music was just about to break worldwide,” he told the magazine. “This was 88, it was not like it is today. It was much more underground.”

One year later, Tears was released, and Tomiie was a household name.

As Tomiie put it in a later interview with XLR8R:

“I had already done all the instrumental parts to “Tears” in my bedroom. I had named it that because of the way the one piano line reminded me of tears rolling down. Anyway, that was the one Frankie liked.”

And we know Frankie had good taste…

[Article taken from DJ Mag, November 1994, words by Paul Davies, photos by Benoit]

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Beloved – The Sun Rising [October 1989]

Whisper it quietly, but the evenings are starting to get longer.

Ok, as I write this, the temperature hasn’t been above two degrees for days, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to imagine being on a beach – anywhere – without several layers of clothing.

But with January now behind us, Summer is, albeit slowly, on the way, and with that in mind, what better time to think back some 29 years, and to one of the most sun-blissed Balearic anthems of all time.

The Beloved‘s The Sun Rising was released in October 1989, the first single off the following year’s Happiness.

The Beloved’s second album was reportedly influenced by the band’s Jon Marsh and Steve Waddington spending a lot of time in Shoom nightclub. The Sun Rising strongly supports that claim.

As the lyrics put it:
“Movement outside, silence inside /
Restless lovers spread your wings… as the day begins…”

Was there ever a more perfect description of a club emptying out, and the crowd emerging into the morning sunshine? Or better yet, the sun peering over the walls in the then-open air Ku, in Ibiza?

Check out Adam and Eve’s Son of the Rising House remix for a more dancefloor-friendly version, which is also arguably one of the first trance tracks ever made.

Fun fact: The iconic female vocal in The Sun Rising is taken from a track called ‘O Euchari’, which was originally composed by Hildegard von Bingen, a German abbess that lived during the 12th century. Even back then, they knew a killer lyric when they heard it, it would seem…

[Kudos to Rhino for the YouTube upload]

How classical music invaded the chill-out zone… [July 1994]

What goes up, must come down, as the old expression goes.

Long before The Orb, Mixmaster Morris or Thievery Corporation were crafting the perfect soundtrack to the post-club chill, classical music composers were mastering ambient soundscapes without ever having reached for a single laser in their lives.

That’s according to this article from The Face, from July 1994, in which journalist Cliff Jones examines how ambient DJs were raiding the archives of Ralph Vaughan-Williams and co.

“Classical ambient is certainly a step in the right direction,” Moby says at one point. “Ambient has become too tasteful, too unchallenging and mundane.

“The Aphex Twin pushes it, but most of the stuff you hear is just post-industrial techno without the beats. Ambient has become a caricature of itself: whooshy digital synths, a few pastoral sounds, a waterfall or two.”

Is chill-out killing clubland? Or is classical music killing chillout? 24 years later, I guess we’ll never know…

[Article taken from The Face, July 1994]


Enjoying your Monday? Not as much as these punters enjoyed this Doncaster rave, 25 years ago today… [February 1993]

It’s been doing the rounds one YouTube for some time, but now it’s finally come of age.

This legendary footage of a rave in Doncaster, UK, was filmed on 5 February, 1993, 25 years ago today.

That’s a quarter of a century folks.

And judging by the happy faces of the crowd (special shout out to the legend at 2:15 and his white-gloved mate), they sure knew how to large it back then.

Fast forward to 7:20 for evidence that despite what The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft might have sang, yes, the drugs do work…

[Kudos to uprising95 for the YouTube upload]

So Sven Väth is moving Cocoon to Pacha. I’m not sure how I feel about that…

“At the end, you probably don’t hear anything, everything just goes black.”

This famous (albeit misquoted) line from one of the closing episodes of The Sopranos, kind of sums up how I felt when I read earlier today that Sven Väth, after some 19 years of Cocoon at Amnesia, is taking his legendary night six kilometres down the road to Ibiza town, and Pacha.

Announcing the news on Twitter, Papa Sven described the announcement a an indication of how ‘Ibiza will never stop changing, and nor will Cocoon’, and highlighted his excitement at this new “collision of visions”.

But other than the natty new branding – who knew the Pacha cherries would work so well as part of the Cocoon logo? – to me this is another regressive step in the history of clubbing on the White Isle.

It also means no more nights like this (one of the most ‘Sven’ Sven moments on the internet; I’m watching this as I type, with tears in my eyes)…

Ok, I should preface this by saying I haven’t been to Ibiza since 2009 (I am planning on returning this year!) but during the first decade of the millennium, I was there nine times. Approximately three months, if you add up the weeks and fortnights.

And over that time, you start to get to know the place, and particularly the places you like and don’t like.

Pacha, for me, was in the latter category.

Yes, it’s one of the most beautiful clubs in the world (if not the most beautiful), but from my experience, the crowd was just… how shall I put this…. disinterested. Perhaps that pixie dust they picked up on their trawl through Ibiza Town’s super-expensive bars wasn’t working.  Or perhaps they were just wankers.

One thing that always got me was the fact that Pacha served water in little glass bottles rather than plastic ones; aka less product for the same price (€10 the last time I checked, this might have gone up).

Amnesia, of course, was always expensive too, but it was a different vibe… you felt the crowd were there for the music, not to be ‘seen’, or ‘seen with…’.

Hell, the first time I was there, it was for a Dance Valley night, with Michel de Hey lashing out quality acid techno… the ‘dahlings’ of Pacha wouldn’t know what hit them.

And THAT sound system! Whoomph.

When Sven brought Cocoon to Ibiza in 2000, it was the perfect fit; two rooms of craziness, thousands of mentallers on the same vibe as the DJ, and a cold air cannon to bring everyone back to reality (or send them to the stratosphere) when things got too heated.

Each year, Sven and the crew would adopt a new ‘theme’, generally accompanied by promotional photos of each of them looking faintly ridiculous, but in keeping with the hedonism of the location. Case in point – just LOOK at the head on Richie Hawtin in the promotional shots for the 2006 season, dubbed ‘Wild Life 2’.

Will we get the same craziness in Pacha? I doubt it.

In Ibiza, as with everywhere else in the world, it’s the crowd that makes the party, and while Cocoon in Amnesia was, for a time, the wildest party going, I fear that Pacha may bring this wonderful, demented merry go round to a shuddering halt…

But I guess we won’t know until the doors open. Prove me wrong Sven!

(PS: While I’m not a fan of Pacha, I have no doubt that it will not sink as low as Hï Ibiza, the club fondly remembered as Space, which has taken to booking Martin Garrix as a resident. There’s no making a silk purse out of THAT sow’s ear…)

[Kudos to TopDJMag TV for the YouTube upload]

THROWBACK THURSDAY – Laurent Garnier – Acid Eiffel [1993]

Today marks Laurent Garnier’s 52nd birthday, and I can think of no better track to commemorate this techno legend than Acid Eiffel, released under his Choice moniker (alongside Shazz and Ludovic Navarre) in 1993.

Released on FNAC Music (later F Communications), on the Paris EP, and weighing in at an impressive 13 and a half minutes, Acid Eiffel set the template for Garnier’s later work, with lush strings brooding over a gurgling acid rhythm.

It’s a perfect blend of techno and trance… from a time when genres were irrelavent.

As one poster on Discogs puts it, “It’s quite an achievement to make a record that clocks in at over 13 minutes and keep you wanting more. Breathtakingly good.”

We couldn’t agree more… Happy birthday Laurent!

[Kudos to Henrik Fodor for the YouTube upload, picture by Scott Sandars/CreativeCommons]

That time Carl Cox teamed up with James Brown… [November 1998]

Carl Cox has worked with many great artists over the years, however in late 1998, he teamed up with arguably the greatest showman of all.

As this article from MUZIK magazine in November 1998 explains, none other than James Brown (JAAMES BBROOWN!!) teamed up with Cox for a live broadcast on French TV, direct from Paris.

As a spokesperson for the event told the magazine, “James Brown is going to Paris with a full band and a live orchestra. The concept at present is Carl will mix in the records alongside them. He’s going over for an audition shortly, to check that it’s technically possible.

“If it’s not, what he’ll probably do is play tunes in an interlude, when James Brown takes a break – he is about 75, after all!”

Sadly, no video exists (from what we can tell) of this epic encounter, although we’re still hopeful…

One can only suspect that Carl himself was completely star struck – as a recent Iconic Underground interview revealed, one of his ‘earliest musical memories is witnessing “Get Up Off That Thang” by James Brown being played and seeing everyone up on their feet, laughing and enjoying themselves”.

As to whether James shared that sentiment, however, I guess we’ll never know….

[Article snippet from MUZIK, November 1998]

Give Us The Night – Isn’t it time we got some clarity on the future of Irish clubland..?

With Dublin venues District 8 and Hangar now earmarked for closure in the coming months, and smaller venues struggling to make ends meet, clubbing in the Irish capital is at something of a crossroads.

This Wednesday, Give Us The Night, a collective led by techno DJ Sunil Sharpe, holds a public meeting in Dublin city centre to debate how we got to this point, and what Ireland’s nightclub sector needs to do to in order to not just survive, but thrive.

Promoters and club owners are encouraged to attend.

You can find details of the meeting, and sign up to attend, by clicking here

Sadly, the current situation is nothing new, and Give Us The Night has long been campaigning for Ireland’s nightclub industry to be given fair treatment from a business perspective.

Back in the mid-2000s, I wrote an article for Ray O’Connor’s Slick DJ magazine, on Ireland’s openness to the possibility of extended licensing hours for clubs – the article came on the back of the UK introducing 24-hour licensing in November 2005.

Among other things, the article showcased how the Give Us The Night campaign sought to bring the issue of early closing into the public consciousness. More than twelve years later, we are still hoping for some clarity.

The article is below, click the images to enlarge

Pot, Kettle, Black…! Only joking, I think Judge Jules is making a good point here… [July 1997]

There are few things worse than a marauding gang of pissed-up idiots taking over the dancefloor, and back in the summer of 1997, Judge Jules took matters into his own hands when he ‘called out’ a bunch of idiots that were disrupting the night at Gatecrasher in Sheffield.

As this Mixmag snippet from July 1997 explains, Jules stopped his set to take to the mic and shout, “Oi, you wankers! […] This is not a place for beered-up lager lads. This is a place where people come to dance and have a good time. The reason 500 people have been turned away from this club tonight is to stop twats like you coming in and ruining it for everyone else…”

Now, from what I remember of Judge Jules, he was a fairly mild mannered chap at the best of times (I have to confess, I wasn’t a fan of his DJing), but his words on this occasion were absolutely spot on.

As one onlooker put it, “It’s nice to know he cared enough to do something.”

And as per yesterday’s post about smartphone use in clubs, the issue of ‘wankers’ ruining quality nights out isn’t a new occurrence, it would seem… 😦

[Snippet taken from Mixmag, July 1997]