Interview: Andrew Weatherall, the English gent of techno
Cramming Andrew Weatherall’s vast, multi-genred career into a teensy paragraph feels quite unjust. Not least because, while many of his acid house contemporaries have wafted away with the spirit of ’89, bushy-faced Weatherall has remained ahead of the curve.
His sonic CV dances through helping to kickstart Britain’s rave-in-a-field dance culture as part of fanzine collective Boys Own, all the way up to, most recently, producing Fuck Buttons’ latest album and his first solo record, ‘A Pox on the Pioneers’. That’s all while regularly banging the bollocks out of the best house and techno across the world, digging around in his rockabilly crates for the occasional pub-club set and working with a new studio partner, Tim Fairplay, the former guitarist of Battant.
And yet, despite these enviable credentials, you can still find him DJing regularly in the captial, whether it’s at his new and intimate disco night with Sean Johnston at The Drop, A Love From Outer Space, or spinning for Primal Scream, as he did at the end of last month when the band played through the seminal – and Weatherall-produced – album ‘Screamadelica’ over two nights at London Olympia.
Perhaps ‘Wevvers’ himself will have better luck at this cramming lark, then. This weekend he’s the latest techno star to step up for the A Night With… series, where DJs weave all of their influences into a seamless eight-hour journey at a warehouse somewhere in east London.
I find out what exactly to expect from the dark earl of eclectronica…
What was it like to DJ at Primal Scream’s Screamadelica shows at the end of last month? "It was amazing. I was in bed for days afterwards. I didn’t eat – my idea of sustenance was chocolate milk with a triple shot of brandy in it. When I got in there, it was a bit like drowning: my whole life flashed in front of me. But the music itself, I don’t think it was an exercise in nostalgia, it was an exercise in timelessness. I think it still sounds futuristic. It felt good standing at the side of the stage watching 10,000 people going bananas. I said to the guys: 'Who’d have thought that 20 years later we’d end up in an aircraft hanger in west London?'"
What should we expect from your set on Saturday? "I don’t think there’s going to be any rock ’n’ roll or rockabilly. It’s going to be my more dance-orientated stuff."
You mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people: has that multiplicity worked in your favour? "Sometimes. People like to know what they’re getting; they don’t want surprising. It can lead to great excitement when they learn of a new facet to you, but it can lead to people wanting to kill you, as happened in Cork last year. I turned up to an arts festival there to play rockabilly, which they’d advertised, and a load of people had travelled for miles to hear me play techno. I played three records and a girl came up to me and did that fingers-across-the-throat motion right in my face. I thought, right, I’m going to have to twat someone in a minute. And in the age of the cameraphone, I don’t want to be a YouTube sensation, you know: 'Veteran acid house DJ in drubbing incident'. So I slunk out the back door while the bouncer protected me."
Blimey. What are your toilet break tracks? "Probably something by Ricardo Villalobos, although one would be long enough for a spot of light lunch, followed by a toilet break!"
Yes, I imagine you might need a snack in eight hours. ‘The thing is, there’s going to be photographers present and people with camera phones. When I was younger, I didn’t look at my favourite cool pop stars and think, 'Oh, look at that picture of Marc Bolan eating a bun'. I try to avoid getting photographed eating, or defecating, or pissing: it’s never a good look."
Carl Craig did a session at Plastic People last month and he ordered in a pizza for the duration. "I’ve got a full-on Romanov-style facial hair, though, so imagine me trying to eat a stringy pizza. I could go from hero to zero in one bite of a pepperoni!"
It used to be that you could get away with a lot in the DJ booth… "You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I’ve been almost caught a couple of times. The funniest one was at T in the Park and, admittedly, it was in front of about 5,000 people, but I thought that the DJ area was closed off and no one could see. So I was about to indulge in something naughty and I thought, I’d better have a look round, and I noticed that there were two 30-foot projector screens showing what I was about to do!"
I’ve noticed that you’ve gone from the rockabilly to Edwardian look… "It’s a seasonal thing; Edwardian is much warmer for the winter. And if you see yourself as an explorer, why not dress like one?"
Has anything else changed lately? "It’s actually the first time in years that I look forward to coming into work! I’ve got a finished second album too, but, due to legal difficulties, it won’t be coming out. Part of me though, perversely, is pleased that I’m one of those producers who has got a ‘lost album’ that, hopefully, will gain mythical status way beyond its critical worth."
Your mantra at the turn of 2000 was ‘promote or die’. What’s 2011’s? "It’s not ‘selling out’, it’s ‘buying in’. Scruples come with a bank balance. It’s why Bono and Sting can save the world, you know what I mean?"