Picking up where we left off in part one, in part two of our interview with Edzy from Unique 3, we discuss whether there was ‘something in the electronic air’ around Yorkshire at the start of the 90s, the circumstances that led to his departure from music and subsequent re-emergence, and the likely layout of the post-COVID clubbing landscape.
Remember to check out 33/45, a collection of Unique 3 cuts recorded over the past three decades or so, which is due to be released on Chill Records at the start of October. Click here for details on how to pre-order it.
Over to you, Edzy….
At the tail end of the 80s/start of the 90s, Yorkshire was a hotbed for electronic music – you had yourselves, LFO, Nightmares on Wax, Sweet Exorcist… and of course Warp Records. Why do you think that was?
Unique 3 was supposed to be the first artist on Warp, actually. Rob [Mitchell] and Steve [Beckett] took me aside and said ‘we’re starting a label; we have no money, but we’re going to try and create something new’.
I had a couple of massive cheques from Virgin Records at home at the time, although I didn’t have a bank account to put them in at the time. So I declined. But seriously, though, I had young kids at home and we were struggling a bit, so yes, we followed the money.
The whole Warp thing was very interconnected. Boy Wonder, who was part of the DJ crew of Unique 3, went on to make music with George from Nightmares on Wax; Gez from LFO went to school with George, and so on.
I don’t know if you could say there was something in the water, or in the air, but there actually weren’t that many people making music at the time. You could probably count them on one hand. We just happened to all know each other, we were cut from the same cloth.
I think the whole ‘bleep’ thing got quite protective very early on. We’re all friends now, of course, but maybe if we had been smart, and formed more of an alliance, we could have turned it into a thing. But maybe because of where we were, and the fact we all came from nothing, we wanted to keep hold of what we got.
Do you think you could have created a sort of ‘Madchester’ scene, or something like that?
I don’t know if it was jealousy, but there was certainly a lack of cooperation.
When you look at what was happening in Chicago, and maybe also the early drum n bass scene, they were helping each other out. Also with the early punk scene, you had those elements of cooperation, and it spawns a bigger thing.
But for us, I think we were quite insular with it, which was to the detriment of us all to be honest.
After Jus’ Unique, there were a few singles up until about 1993, and then you took a big break. Why?
I bought a nightclub, and I had to put 2,000 people in it four times a week! I signed a track to Strictly Rhythm around that time, but by and large, while I was making a lot of stuff, I was not doing anything with it.
Obviously I had the club income coming in, and there’s a lot of work involved in that. We had 60 staff. My focus shifted a bit. I still DJed, but none of the happy hardcore crap that came out around that time appealed to me, it was just throwaway shit.
What was the catalyst that got you back making music again, and led to the release of Invasive Signals in 2007?
I think I was in London at the time, and I heard a few stories about people using the name Unique 3 incorrectly, and that pissed me off a bit.
So I looked back at some of the stuff that I had parked up, and there was an album’s worth there. I decided to put some of it together and release it on Fat! Records. It got some really good reviews, and that got me going again.
That was around the time you founded Mutate Records?
That came a little later I think. Mutate was an outlet for anybody doing anything that was a little odd, but nobody else would put it out.
We were trying to get away from that world where somebody would put out a track and then everybody would emulate them for the next four months, and then somebody else would put a track out and it would be copied and copied.
It became so tiresome. I was looking for something that would take me away from this dirge of people copying whatever anybody else was doing, with no originality.
That still happens to this day – you get pigeonholed for paying a certain techno sound, and God help you if you decide to play something else. Artists tend to play it safe, they don’t mix it up as much.
On that, I’ve just started a label called Tan Ta Ra with Gez from LFO and we’ve put out two releases. We both had a track on each of them, and we’ve received some reactions from DJs, a lot of whom I’ve never heard of. Somebody said ‘well, this isn’t proper techno’.
I was happy about that one. It wasn’t the percussion they expected, or the wrong drum sound – I’m like ‘get the f**k’.
At the moment, we’re seeing a bit of an old school revival; which comes around every few years. There are lots of tracks emerging that sample the old rave stuff. Is that a good or bad thing, do you think?
I don’t really have a position on that. We’ve sampled and we’ve been sampled and there’s different levels to it. You can be clever or you can be an absolute arse.
The kids that are doing it these days are getting younger and younger, so I’m not sure if they’ve heard the originals at all.
With that in mind, what’s your opinion on social media?
I can’t say that I don’t use, it because we have the radio station and we batter it daily. Plus, any time I’ve got a record out, I’m on it.
But on a personal level, if I never went there again, I’ll be there happiest man out there. I wish I lived in a world where I didn’t have to deal with it.
What effect do you think the coronavirus situation will have on dance music – what sort of industry will emerge at the other end? Will there be a ‘reset’?
I think what we’re going to get bored with are these do-gooders trying to ‘save the promoters’ and the festivals and all these things.
I think losing a few of those big festivals wouldn’t be a bad thing – rather than spending £300 per year going to a festival, maybe people would spend £25 to see a band at a small venue several times a year. Part of the music scene would be kept alive.
Yes, it is a reset, and in situations like this the underground always comes through. Maybe this will wash away a lot of s***, and all these inflated DJ wages and the crap that goes with that. They still call themselves DJs, but they’re doing a totally different thing to what I would consider a DJ to be. Hopefully they’ll get some realisation into them that you can’t behave like that.
So maybe we’ll see these cool, dirty, underground clubs re-emerge, with a fat arse sound system, where you can hear an amazing track that will change your life forever.
Let’s hope some of these pop back up, like a flower.
Tell me about the 33/45 anthology that’s coming out?
It’s a 45-track anthology album covering the last 33 years, so that’s playing on the 33/45 theme. It came about because my wife found an old Bleep chart with three Unique 3 tracks on it. She was like ‘I didn’t know you had done those’, so that prompted me to go back and listen to them. And I loved them, I hadn’t heard them for years.
That’s what made me think about putting them out again. There are lots of tracks there that I forgot I had done, so it’s a bit of a treat.
Does it flow chronologically?
It’s not in any particular order, it just flows from then to now and back again. Obviously I spent some time placing them in the correct order.
It was fun actually, because you might have a track that’s 30 years old next to a track that’s five years old, and they don’t sound like there’s such a big difference. I’m happy with the result.