POSTCARDS FROM 88… Alex Paterson, The Orb

There’s no doubt that the summer of 1988 marked a watershed moment in the history of dance, as the house rhythms of Chicago, artistic exuberance of Ibiza, and electronic soundscapes of Detroit surged through club culture. Acid house had arrived.

With this in mind, 909originals presents ‘Postcards from 88’, a series that sees leading DJs, promoters, journalists, club owners, photographers, and of course the clubbers themselves, shed some light on just what went on during those halcyon days, 30 years ago.

This week’s ‘Postcards from 88’ comes from the only permanent member of arguably the world’s most legendary ambient/electronica group, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Alex Paterson of The Orb.

Q. Do you remember what you were doing as the Summer of 1988 started?

I was starting a house label with Youth, WAU Recordings, which was where The Orb released its first track. As well as that, I was DJing in south London squats and playing ambient sets in yoga centres in Soho/Convent Garden.

I played with the KLF at some mad festivals as well, and Spectrum was THE place to be on a Monday night. Driving around in Jimmy [Cauty’s] American police car was a gas, too – I got told off by Oakey [Paul Oakenfold] once after a night of merriment driving the police car around London; kids hanging out of cars following us.

I got turned away by Jenni Rampling at Shoom once for being too old, but my old-school Chelsea connections came to my rescue! That was the weirdest thing, football hooligans and ecstasy. ’88 was the year the country got loved up, and it’s still in our system.

Q. When or where did you first realise that ‘something different’ was happening with music, particularly dance/club music?

In 1987, on the Tony Humphries show on Kiss FM – Friday night, from 11pm to 1am. Artists like Larry Heard – a genius – Joe Smooth, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson. Funny, when I was in charge of A&R at E.G. Records I tried to sign Larry Heard’s publishing, only to be told that this house music craze would blow out in a year!

Q. Was there a particular tune from the Summer of 1988 that stood out for you? Why?
Can You Feel It by Fingers Inc. Why ? It was uplifting on ecstasy – party on, Larry. It was the tune that made everyone run to the dance floor and into little fluffy clouds of smoke with strobes in your face. Jacking your body to the sounds at clubs like Spectrum and Heaven, [Trevor] Fung and Oakenfold at their deadly best.

Q. Why do you think that people are still so interested in the origins of the dance scene, old school and everything that goes with it?

Because they weren’t there. It’s something like wishing you had seen Joy Division, only you ended up with New Order. Pioneering sounds are always worth a small story or a packet of crisps.

At the beginning of house music, people were living the dream. It’s still going on now, my stepson went to a illegal rave last weekend – kids giving it back to the masses, all ‘on one’ and smiles all round!

Q. If the ‘you’ from 1988 could give the ‘you’ from 2018 a piece of music-related advice, what would it be?
Keep all your vinyl! Blimey, vinyl is back in full affection this decade too.

‘Postcards from 88’ continues next week.

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