Having worked the underground circuit as The 237 Turbo Nutters and latterly The Dust Brothers (a name that was ditched after the LA production duo of the same name threatened to sue), 1995 saw Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands emerge as The Chemical Brothers, with a debut album, Exit Planet Dust, that deserves its place in the electronic pantheon.
From the opening bars of Leave Home (which borrow from Kraftwerk’s Ohm Sweet Ohm) to the trip hop stylings of closer Alive Alone (via the genre-defining Song To The Siren, among others), Exit Planet Dust was reportedly recorded over a three-week long session in late 1994, and was released on the duo’s tailor-made sub-label of Virgin Records, Freestyle Dust.
The cover, too, was intentionally a world away from the ‘fractals’ and computer graphics that adorned other dance albums of the time; as Ed told Medium in 2017, “We wanted something a bit more romantic and otherworldly with soft, nice colours. It’s the wrong way round as well — intentionally.
“If me and Tom are in that picture we’re in the car going Oh she’s alright, I wish I had a guitar on my back with her.”
Little did Ed and Tom know it at the time, but it would spawn a 25-year plus career that has installed the duo as an unlikely stadium act.
In June 1995, just ahead of the album’s release, Ed and Tom were interviewed by MUZIK editor Push – whose description of Tom as ‘the one who looks like a bleached Nana Mouskouri‘ is still one of our favourite dance music epithets.
“Nobody from the dance world has come up with an album to reflect these times,” Ed explains during the interview. “Why is that? Why is it left to a group like Oasis to express the way that young people want to go out and get battered every weekend?
“That’s what The Chemical Brothers are about. Tom and I are out all the time, off to clubs and gigs, living fast, living it up. That’s what I hope we’re putting across on our records.”
Not that the pair didn’t come in for some criticism during their formative years, of course – Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez was one to slam the pair for healthily borrowing one or two of his beats, while one dance fanzine suggested the Chems should ‘be like Prince’ and adopt a symbol as their name… in this case a pile of dog shit.
As could be expected of an act on the cusp of greatness, Ed and Tom took such criticisms in their stride.
“Perhaps it’s because we don’t really have much to do with anyone else on the scene,” Ed suggests in the MUZIK article. “There are probably one or two people we’re supposed to shake hands with and ask what they’re having to drink, but we’re not into playing that game.
“There’s far too much good blokery in dance music. Some people have built an entire career out of being good blokes. That’s a load of bollocks. We’re not into DJ get-togethers, you know, everyone going down to Strutt on a Sunday night. We’d rather run around with our friends.
“In some ways, I don’t particularly care if people want to take a pop at us. At least it shows we’re having a bit of an impact, doesn’t it? In the final analysis, our music speaks for itself. It’s been bloody good right the way down the line. People can criticise what we do as much as they want, but they’re not going to stop us totally believing in the noises coming out of the speakers.”
The full article, Chemicrazy Pilots, from the June 1995 issue of MUZIK, can be found here, while you can listen to Exit Planet Dust below.