Eddie, ‘Evil’ since a joke at a long-gone Halloween, is a founding father of the London house scene, the guy who turned the Camden Palace from a new romantic haunt to a house stronghold, and brought scores of American DJs over for their first gigs. After three decades behind the decks, he’s still up and at ’em all over the world.
How did you get into music as a youngster?
I had an older sister who used to play Motown at home but I wasn’t into music as such. I had a friend at school who was into technical stuff and he would talk about these Garrard SP25 Mark 2 turntables. So we thought, “OK it would be a great idea to start a mobile disco.” That Saturday we went out and bought a couple of turntables and we were kind of committed after that. We didn’t have a mixer so we ordered the parts and built it ourselves, soldering it and everything. This guy in a band loaned us an 18-inch bass speaker. No tops or mids, just bass. We DJed like that as a mobile disco for a while, doing weddings and parties.
So is that what you did for a living straight away?
Well I went to polytechnic in London, doing electronics and electrical engineering. But I found myself going out at lunchtime and DJing at these strip clubs. I wasn’t so much interested in going to college, I only went because my parents said I should. Topless lunchtime bars, they were, in Soho. I played pop music. I only played there as a way of avoiding going to classes. In the end I jacked it in.
I started a night in Milton Keynes called Poppers and that was really early ’80s. Milton Keynes had just started and was attracting all kinds of different people. They wanted to build a city from nothing and they offered free rents to a lot of companies to attract them, so there were all these people from all over, all thrown together. The crowd that started coming was a new romantic, post-punk crowd. I was playing things like Grandmaster Flash, some punk stuff, new romantic, goth music, gay disco. In fact, we had quite a few young gays. And they said, “You should go to this place called Heaven in London, it’s wicked.”
I went to Heaven and was really blown away by it. I’d never realised that there was anything like that in the world: loads of different people, all dressed uniquely and a DJ that would actually mix stuff and play music I’d never heard before. I’d never heard of anything they played. There was a guy near the booth who was smoking and I got his attention and that turned out to be Colin Faver. I said, “I’m really interested in the music.” So he took me down into this basement and showed me all these records, imports. I was like, “Wow, I didn’t know anything about this scene.” So I invited him to come and play in this little pub in Milton Keynes called The Starting Gate.
Colin turned up, amazingly, with a black plastic bin liner with his records in it! He was great. Anyway, a little while later he said, “here’s this new club opening in London would you be interested in coming down and doing an interview for it?” The weird stuff I was playing was what they were looking for. It was the Camden Palace and the club was hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan of Visage Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got the job.
I ended up being there for five years. It was voted the number one club for five years in a row. It was basically like Fabric now. I played there from 1983 and during that time house music started coming in. I started playing stuff from Trax and so on in 1985 and ’86 and mixing them together. I really don’t think there were any other clubs in London with a set-up like the one at Camden Palace where you could mix, because it was based on Studio 54. They’d gone to New York, ripped off all the ideas, and even invited Richard Long over to design the system for them. They had a reel-to-reel, they had three Technics turntables and this was in 1983. There was nothing else like it, as far as I knew, in the UK. And I was DJing there! I learnt to mix there. And all the stars used to go there – Wham!, Spandau Ballet, Grace Jones, Heaven 17 – because they were friends of Rusty and Steve. I DJed for Boy George at a party, I did a Pet Shop Boys party, I was even Duran Duran’s resident DJ for a while.
Do you remember the sort of records you played at the Camden Palace?
Well it was everything from Nina Hagen to David Bowie to Prince. Then there was all the obscure underground stuff like Alexander Robotnick and Italo-disco stuff we played. What’s interesting is a lot of the stuff that I’d picked up on at the time is the music that lots of the kids are picking up on now, so I guess what’s good music is always good music.
Did you ever go to New York during this period?
The first time I went was about 1985 just to check it out. I went to Paradise Garage. I went to Zanzibar. I went to Roxy, which Jellybean’s club then. It was kind of a pilgrimage. I went to Studio 54 and actually got invited in. Massive queue, and they were just picking out people and luckily I got picked.
Which one made the biggest impression?
Studio 54. They had some amazing things in there, really thoughtful effects. For instance, they would lower this thing on the dancefloor. It would stop above their heads and they would move and it would lower to the floor. It was a house. And it was a house that people could go into and dance inside. It was that big. Another thing was a huge beating heart which they swung only one time during the whole night. These were things you’d be amazed at today.
What amazed me when I went to see Larry Levan was his set up. It was incredible. He had windows and you could slide the windows so you could hear out on the dancefloor. He had a lighting rig above his head and he could just flick a switch and take over from the lighting guy. He had three big circular reels full of records. They were like the things you see in a doctor’s surgery. If he couldn’t find it, he had a little boy in his booth, a runner. And he would go in the basement to look for the track. He was the focus of the evening. That’s how much attention they focused on the DJ. He’s the guy that selected the lights, he’s the guy that chose the music. They realised that if you’ve got a guy who knows what he’s doing that’s all you need. That would never have happened in England then. And what surprises me is a lot of them don’t even know that secret now. They’d still rather spend more money on the bar stools. Take any great club: Paradise Garage, Zanzibar and it’s because they’ve got a great sound system and a great DJ. Camden Palace got it right. Fabric got it right.
What was the reaction to it when you first started playing house music? Was it negative, positive, did it change the crowd?
Not really, because I could fit it in. We used to get special versions of things that no one else had, test pressings and dub mixes that no one had, so you’d play two copies of the same 12-inch for like 15 minutes, and that’s what I used to do. They’d hear completely different versions at the Camden Palace. I was probably one of the first DJs to start playing house. First time I remember hearing about warehouse parties was in 1986 with things like Dirtbox and Jay Strongman. Anyway I got asked to do one in Clink Street, which I think were probably before Shoom. RIP was all about dark and black. A lot of reporters didn’t want to go there because they were too scared. Shoom was white pop music and I was playing black underground music. Two different things going on, both really good.
When you were playing at Camden Palace were there many drugs about?
Surprisingly there were, actually. Do you remember Soft Cell?
Well they did their first album on E!
Exactly. Cindy Ecstasy who appeared on that album was their dealer. They used to come back from New York with ecstasy and they used to give it to that crew they hung out with. Colin [Faver] knew them and I got to know them. It wasn’t illegal at the time but it was around.
What were the crowd doing on the floor there?
Nothing I don’t think. The lucky ones got E.
What was the crowd composition?
Very fashion, dressy crowd. Very much like Boy George.
Was it like that by ’87 and ’88, though?
It had changed by then. The whole scene was changing. DJs like Pete Tong and Jeff Young… A lot of those guys didn’t like this new music they were into that old soul sound and I was playing early house music. They had this thing at one stage called: LADS. League Against Disco Shit. True! All that group were really narrow minded.
Anyway, when I finished at the Camden Palace the raves kicked off and the guy that started it, Tony Colston Hayter, came from Milton Keynes. He asked me if I’d be his – he had little titles for everybody – “music co-ordinator”. So I became the music co-ordinator. I found all the DJs for his Sunrise parties basically. So I ended playing for most of the rave parties: Sunrise, Back To The Future, Energy. And they were the biggest raves at the time.
Tell me about the first time you did a Sunrise?
It was in Wembley. It wasn‘t like the massive ones that came later on, so there were only a few hundred people.
This was the famous one where Shoomers came out and asked everyone to boycott it?!
I don’t remember that scene happening. It wasn’t that commercial in the beginning and to be honest it was a breath of fresh air. I went to a club in Bletchley one time, and they said my socks were the wrong colour so I couldn’t come in. That was the attitude of club owners and door staff. So when the rave scene started, it was power to the people. Clubs were empty. No one was coming to them, they were all going out to the raves. You could do what you wanted. It was much better than going to clubs where you had to dress in a suit or tie and there were always fights.
I loved the fact the rave scene turned it upside down, because then the club owners had to go to the rave promoters and say, “Will you please put on a night to get our clubs busy again”. I did it myself. In fact, I eventually took over the club that had refused me entry, Rayzels in Bletchley. I started this thing called Outer Limits on Sundays and we had guests like Louie Vega, Orbital and Derrick May. I was the first person to bring over Louie and the first person to bring over Jeff Mills, Todd Terry and Richie Hawtin. All the guys from Detroit I brought over. They stayed in my house! I’ve got pictures of Moby and me in my back garden… in Bletchley.
So Bletchley is the secret home of house?
In a way yes. I helped get Richie Hawtin his deal with Mute and we signed the deal in a Chinese restaurant around the corner from my house. All the guys from Mute came up to Bletchley. I couldn’t get him bookings when he started with me.
Ah yes you ran the DJ agency Dy-Na-Mix. How did it start?
When I was doing the raves, I was finding that myself and a lot of other DJs were finding their names on flyers and often they hadn’t been booked to play. There were a lot of guys who saw it as an opportunity to rip people off. They’d promote an event, have a meeting point and there was no party. There were gangsters turning up with guns and taking the money off the door. There was a period when it was not that good and I thought the DJs needed an organisation. I started getting all the DJs playing the raves and issuing contracts.
Who signed up?
Colin Faver was involved. Paul Oakenfold. At first it was the rave DJs, but not long after that, it was US DJs who’d heard that the raves were really popular. I’ve still got handwritten faxes from Moby and Jeff Mills saying we want to be involved. I pretty much got them established in this country. It started in 1990 and as far as I can tell was the first DJ agency in the world. Anybody who was anyone at the time went through us and it go so big so quickly that I had an office in Bletchley, with offices in San Francisco, Belgium, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Germany and it got massive. I think I could’ve run a good business from that if I could’ve been bothered, but I was spending most of my day doing accounts and stuff so in the end I gave it up. People said I was stupid. That was me, though.
I did that when I was working at Camden Palace. One day I thought, “I’ve had enough”. Didn’t have another job, just left. Then one door shut s and another open. A month later a guy asks me to do the RIP parties. I didn’t try, didn’t have to try, so I think I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been a big part of that scene since the beginning and there aren’t many that have been doing as long as I have.
Can you tell me about the label you ran in the 1980s, Baad? Was it something to do with Rhythm King?
It was… It was a bit annoying actually. There was this guy who wrote about dance music in Music Week and I thought he was good. I wanted to have someone who could approach record labels. It was a different scene then, there were only really major labels and the other indies were punk music indies. No one really started their own label like they do now. We wanted to license things from the US and put them out here. So he approached Cherry Red and we got a deal with them. First thing we released was Mac Attack…
‘Art Of Drums’? You did an edit of that, didn’t you?
Yeah. Then we did Osiris’ ‘War On The Bullshit’. The third thing was going to be ‘Go Bang’ by Dinosaur L. I was really into that. Unfortunately, Cherry Red didn’t have very good cashflow, so when we said let’s get this track they didn’t have enough money.
Citybeat licensed it over here, didn’t they?
Well they beat me to it. I said to this guy we can’t have this problem, we need to be able to sign things when they’re hot. So he went to Mute and he got Baad Records a deal with Mute. But then he went behind our back and decided to do it himself. He screwed us. Baad Records should have been Rhythm King. He took our idea and started his own thing. So Baad was one of the first independent dance labels in the UK.
You had a hit during the acid house era didn’t you?
Yeah, I did: ‘Acid Man’ by Jolly Roger. While I was at Camden Palace I used to play little house tracks that I liked but some of them were either poor quality or not long enough. There was one by Jack Frost that I really liked but it was only two minutes long. So I said to Colin Faver, “I’m going to do a re-edit of this track so we can play it for longer.” I had this reel-to-reel and what I did was get a little loop from the track and found a similar bassline on my Roland 303. Then I recorded the 303 on to this tape machine but because I didn’t have a way of synchronising the 303 with any music I put on there I had to keep stopping and starting the tape machine. That’s why it goes “acid man” and then stops!
Anyway, I made the track – for fun, there wasn’t meant to be a release even. I gave it to Colin and he played it on Kiss FM. Next thing I know I’m getting phone calls from Virgin Records saying they wanted to license the track. So I took this reel-to-reel master in and they decided to license it and put it out. They didn’t expect anything of it either. I offered to make a video, but they said, “Eugh, we won’t need a video.” But it overtook Kevin Saunderson and all their big hitters. It got to no. 19 in the end. They needed a video for MTV or something so they used the outtakes of ‘Big Fun’. That was my video for ‘Acid Man’.
© DJhistory.com 2011.
Interview by Bill Brewster in Bedford on February 4th, 2011.
Photo captions. Top: Eddie Richards (1980); Middle:Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin, Daniel Bell, Mad Mike and Eddie in Detroit, 1993; Bottom: Karl, Eddie, Joey Beltram, Moby, Mundo Musique in Eddie’s back garden, 1993.