No Sell Out 
Acid house is just over two years old. But did it ever exist and why are the people who started it all trying to do something different?
"People are definitely looking for something different – they're bored of the scene, the bullshit in it, the house music – they've had enough of mad music and are looking for something more mellow." Two years after it all started, two years after The Project Club, Shoom and The Future initiated an energy that refashioned club attitudes, music and dress codes, the people who were involved in its inception are starting to explore alternatives. Somewhere between the first warehouse flyer that advertised bouncy castles and the emergence of the Freedom To Party campaign, they have taken a left turn and said enough is enough, It isn't a 'scene' With a convenient label, and if the key word is 'alternative', the people who are leading the way are as diverse in opinion as they are united in sentiment.
It might have been Blane from Kazoo who articulated the need for "something different", but it could easily have been Steve Mayes (Monkey Drum/Boy's Own), Terry Farley and Andy Weatherall (Boy's Own), Spencer, Sean and Steve Lee (Monkey Drum), or Steve Bicknell (Kazoo), It might even be you, It is no coincidence that they know each other either – two years of going to the same clubs has instilled them with a common purpose and the knowledge that the scene they helped create has shifted several gears in a direction that none of them approve of.
"I think a lot of people realise that there was a real opportunity missed there – something could have been absolutely brilliant. The only people to blame about the police clampdown are the people who run the raves and the people who go to them. 'Cos when I first went to Shoom there were hundreds of police round there – the police knew it was going on, and as far as they were concerned, so long as you behaved yourself 'and didn't take the piss, then they wouldn't hassle you." Some might say that Terry Farley is just stewing in his sour grapes. In fact Terry himself suggests that some might say exactly that, "The people who run the raves would probably say what a bunch of insignificant idiots we are while they're sitting there with fat bank balances, But we see ourselves as not selling out.
There is a lot of money to be made and I think we've realised we all could make it – perhaps it’s not wanting to sell out that keeps us all together. The Right To Party campaign is more about the right to make money anyway. Tony (Colston Hayter) doesn’t understand why none of our DJs will ever play for him – he doesn’t understand that it doesn't come down to money.”
Throughout last summer, as both the warehouse raves and the media hysteria got bigger and eventually out of control, the spirit of the original scene was lost. The two words ‘acid house’ emerged ominously, colouring rational discussion in the media and producing a nation of lilac-clad youths who read about it on the Sun. But the truth is that acid house never existed. Not until, that is, it entered mainstream vernacular and became a self-fulfilling prophecy, became a commodity. For those who went to Future and Shoom, it was a private party where anybody who had the right attitude was allowed in. And for all its clumsy vowels and vagueness, ‘Balearic’ expressed that attitude better than most, the idea that you clould play and do anything you wanted. “A lot of people thought the word was a load of bullshit, but there was definitely something there. It described an attitude that came from Ibiza, but it got pushed to the side when the whole house thing took over." Paul Oakenfold, with Danny, and Jenny Rampling, was the prime mover of a scene that eventually spun out of control. "The whole scene has been hammered to the max – the music, drugs, the raves, the bullshit flyers. But there's always been a hardcore scene that live this life, they're not Saturday night clubbers – they don't switch off and that's the difference."
For the people behind clubs like The Monkey Drum and Kazoo, fanzines like Boy's Own, it's less that they've taken a radical new direction, and more that other people have begun to come round to their point of view. Ever since the early days of Future and Shoom, the emphasis has been on good music, be it the Thrashing Doves, The Wooden tops or house music. Only now, not only have other people started dancing to the same records, but records are being produced that draw on the same desire. The desire to break down barriers, Without drugs. "What we want to do is get everyone's inhibitions down without drugs. The music isn't manic and you've got more time to socialise," says Sean from Monkey Drum. Once upon a time the music was called Balearic, now it's called alternative, as every other indie band is keen to exploit. Primal Scream, The Shamen, Frazier Chorus, That Petrol Emotion, Soup Dragons – bands are tripping over themselves to be mixed at the hands of Oakenfold, Weatherall or Farley.
"The Manchester thing and the rise of indie/dance music is definitely part of it – before that no-one wanted the alternative stuff. I think the new dance/rock is a new progression for music – dance music is opening up. The kids who are getting into it haven't got a funk/soul background, they don't understand the divisions of the past and have got a wider musical spectrum," says Paul. More and more clubs are including live music/percussionists and although this and the music' may have changed, some habits haven't. Some DJs go to the lengths of covering up records, ensuring that their rock/dance hybrids remain underground, for the time being at least. If you go to Future Records in The Garage in Kings Rd, run by Jonathon Moore and Spencer and Steve Lee from The Monkey Drum, you will have to know exactly what you want. The records they play at, their club are kept under the counter, If there has been one lesson leamed over the last couple of years, it is don't let, things get to big too quickly
For those involved, getting it right is more important than getting people in. You won't find Monkey Drum lised in any magazine, and you won't get into Kazoo wearing Kickers or even trainers. To say that those concerned are publicity-shy is an understatement. And understandable. Given the current climate and the imminent enforcement of the Bright Bill, any club would be stupid not to take care that the wrong people don't get in, the wrong press doesn't happen, and the attitude doesn't prevail.
This shift in direction isn't just confined to London either. In Manchester, Spice has been running on Sundays at Konspiracy since the beginning of the year. Run by Greg Fenton and Justin Robertson from Eastern Bloc, the aim is simple: "Because of everything that's happened over the last two years, the original idea has been lost," explains Greg. “WE’re rebelling against the mindless attitude of going to clubs, getting out of your head and forgetting about everything else. We’re trying to promote a different attitude and different music. Although Manchester bands might be influencing London
(enter Flowered Up), the most obvious sign that The Happy Mondays have made it in their home town is the number of flared trousers on football terraces, "Up here, everybody's still into house and nothing else and it's difficult to get away from the hooligan element, continues Greg, "the whole scally thing is so big – and I think that's half the problem.
In London, the only flares you'll see at clubs like Kazoo will be the ones being turned away. Two years of dressing down and a desire to distance themselves from the mainstream means that people are starting to dress up. "To a lot of the kids who are going to these clubs, John Richmond is an absolute god. It's basically everything that Shoom stood against, but when you've got millions of kids running around with hooded tops and lilac bottoms, there's got to be a reaction," says Terry Farley. "We had a Michiko Koshino ad in the mag (Boy's Own) once, and the next thing I knew everybody down Future was wearing her clothes.” But this isn't some revitalised one-upmanship, it's an inevitable move by clubbers who don't want to stand still, "We're not fashion victims – we dress how we want to," explains Blane. "It’s important that people aren't dictated to – that's when you lose it, when you get people doing it 'cos they think it's the trendy thing to do,"
Trendy. It’s a dinosaur of a word, one that belongs firmly in the ‘80s. And for people who run clubs like Kazoo and the Monkey Drum, the children of ’88 if you like, it is the anathema of everything they’ve grown up with. “When I used to go to Le Beat Route, I always used to feel out of place, it wasn’t our scene,” explains Terry Farley. “This is our scene.” From fanzines like Spice, produced by the club and inspired by Boys Own), Positive Energy of Madness, record shops like Future Records, and the clubs, it seems that “yesterday’s punters have become today’s club-runners” as Paul Oakenfold puts it. In other words the people who first went to Shoom and The Future have started doing things for themselves, and as Steve Bicknell says, it’s not about telling or even showing other people what to do – it’s about “doing what you want to do”. It’s what we’ve always wanted, says Steve from Boys Own. “Other fanzines, other clubs, other choices – people are starting to think for themselves.
© John Godfrey
Originally published in i-D, 1990