For those that love all things old school – and let’s face it, that’s most of us – the newly-launched Dance Music Archive (www.dancemusicarchive.com) is a revolutionary resource, bringing together articles, artwork, live sets, DJ mixes, flyers and forgotten memorabilia from 30 years of dance music.
The site is the brainchild of Andi Durrant, co-founder of media agency and content syndication firm This Is Distorted, and one half of production duo Riley & Durrant, along with a team of like-minded miscreants with a penchant for all things dance music.
909originals caught up with him.
Congratulations on the site, Andi. First off, tell me about yourself – you’ve been immersed in club culture for a couple of decades now?
I’ve been lucky enough to work in electronic music since I was 16 years old. I started as a tea boy at Kiss FM in Leeds while I was still at school in 1997, and worked my way up to presenting my own weekly radio shows in the UK on Galaxy, Capital and Kiss, as well as a number of stations in Australia, Europe and the US.
I’ve also been fortunate to have a fantastic music career – releasing 130+ tracks and remixing/collaborating with a lot of my own heroes over the years. As one half of Riley & Durrant, we were global residents at the infamous Gatecrasher in Sheffield in the early 2000s and have held residences at Privilege and Amnesia Ibiza, Ministry of Sound and loads more.
Basically through a mixture of good luck, hard work and not being a dick, I’ve managed to do what 13 year old me would have wanted.
In 2013, we stepped away from being in the spotlight so much to set up our production company and media agency This Is Distorted, where we now produce and syndicate a lot of the worlds biggest dance music radio shows and work very closely with people like deadmau5, Don Diablo, Defected, Claptone, Alok, Sister Bliss, Sasha and a load more.
Where did you first get the idea to create the Dance Music Archive?
I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder – I don’t really know why, but I even kept the copies of Muzik, DJ and Mixmag that I bought from the newsagents when I was a kid – thinking they might be useful one day.
Throughout the years as I’ve been presenting my radio shows I have 100s of huge guests do special sessions for us, and I’ve kept almost all of the recordings.
When the first COVID lockdown happened around March last year I found myself with a lot more time at home, so I went up into the loft and started digging through all the boxes of stuff I’d been meaning to upload do something with.
I kind of presumed there must be quite a few archive type websites that collected all this stuff together – and there are some amazing ones, but they’re all quite specialised in early rave or pure trance, or old school flyers etc – there didn’t seem to be one overall platform that amalgamated and curated all these things together to celebrate the incredible and rich history of dance music over the last 30 years.
So I just thought I’d have a go myself. We’re not trying to compete with all the different sites and resources that are out there – rather give fans a place to start so they can go on and discover more stuff that they’re interesting in elsewhere – like some of the BRILLIANT content on 909originals. [Aww thanks – Ed]
It soon spiralled almost out of control, after realising what a huge job it would be, but very quickly people started donating DAT and minidisc machines, and giving up their time to help rip CDs, write articles and do research.
Through the artists and labels we work with at Distorted, and all the friends I’ve made in the industry over the years we had an enormous stack of stuff to get going with, and after 18 months finally managed to get it ready to launch this month.
Was it challenging to compile the material?
It’s been challenging in terms of time – just because it’s such a mammoth task to compile everything and then get it all online, without the help of a professional web design team.
The hardest part is just the research, as there wasn’t just one place you could go. We had to physically read hundreds of old magazines page by page and pick out the important events, use the waybackmachine internet archive to trawl defunct websites, and spend days on YouTube searching for the best stuff people had uploaded.
Saying that, when you’re listening to amazing DJ sets and radio shows or flicking through old artwork it’s hardly a chore – it’s been an absolute joy to do to be honest.
I would imagine that the archive will be a constantly evolving process; that you will continue to add to it over the years?
100% yes – not just over the years either but every week. I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface so far, and a lot of people will visit the archive and see glaring holes for bits of news, artwork, events, genres or DJ sets that we’ve missed.
As more people get involved and get in touch, we’ll keep adding to it. Just yesterday we’ve uploaded a couple of interesting new bits, like a raw DAT recording from the dance stage at MTV Ibiza 2000 which is a pretty cool piece of UK Garage history.
I hope that as it grows we’ll be able to get a little community of moderators and passionate fellow-nerds who’ll be able to keep building the archive and adding new things. I can’t really every be ‘finished’, which I find quite exciting. It’s also very UK-focused at the moment but it would be great at some point in the future to have country-specific versions of the site, as we all have our own histories and stories of the scene.
The archive runs until 2016 – why?
It’s just a matter of time, to be honest. It takes a crazy long time to delve into each year and create a whole page for the archive, but rather than wait another six months to get up to the present day, we decided just to go live and work on 2017 onwards in the background.
We thought anything under five years ago was pretty recent history so that could wait a bit longer… but it will be coming soon.
How can people contribute to the archive?
Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow some of the new socials we’e just set up:
We’re looking for DJ mixes, radio shows, live recordings, flyers, artwork etc – basically if you have something with particular historical merit to the scene that you think should be included, please get in touch.
From a personal point of view, what was your favourite club night/period in dance music history, and why?
This feels like a bit of a “pick your favourite tune” question that DJ’s always refuse to answer, ha ha. However, I’ll cheat by choosing a couple.
If I had to pick one year out of the whole archive it would probably be 1996 – purely because I was 15 years old and just becoming obsessed with buying vinyl, reading and listening to everything I could get hold of to do with dance music or DJs.
I thought it sounded so amazing that there were these super-famous but almost secret cult figures who travelled the world and got to play at these incredible clubs. I lived in a small Yorkshire town and the idea of going to somewhere like the Ministry of Sound seemed about as likely as going to the moon, so when I hear the tracks and see the flyers from that time it gives me nostalgia goosebumps.
In terms of my own career, I’d probably choose the early 2000s, when we had the honour of being Gatecrasher residents and playing every week at the Republic in Sheffield.
I don’t think there will ever be another venue or scene quite like it, where the music, the people, the fashion and the scene all come together to make something so special. You had nurses, solicitors, students, lawyers, teachers and builders who’d have normal jobs in the week, then at the weekend all get together, dress in these crazy cyber outfits and have create the most intense energy and euphoria imaginable.
It was a really special time and it was a privilege to walk into that booth and be allowed to play.
[Discover the Dance Music Archive at www.dancemusicarchive.com]