*Article previously appeared on Pioneer DJ*
British electronic music is often presented through one-dimensional narratives that skew the complex history and development of scenes, communities and genres. There are personalities, clubs, cities and stories that dominate, obscuring the contributions of many others, whose names are, for numerous reasons, lesser-known. They say history is written by the winners. In this case, history has been written by those who have, consciously or unconsciously, obtained power and influence by virtue of the colour of their skin. The myths we all know don’t tell the full story and, sadly, many of them exclude the significant contributions made by members of the Black community.
When George Floyd was murdered in May 2020, his death sparked the tinderbox that had been ready to blow for a long, long time. The pain and anguish endured through decades and decades of racial oppression, abuse and inequality exploded into mass protest and a universal demand for change. Real change. The kind of change that takes constant, conscious effort. Work. The kind of change that makes those in positions of power feel uncomfortable and desperate to cling on to it at whatever cost. The kind of change that makes the privileged feel threatened. That change is happening now.
Slowly but surely people have been waking up and finally taking notice of what Black people have been trying to tell them for years. We matter. “All lives matter,” they say in response. Yes they do. But right now, there are millions that haven’t felt like they’ve mattered. Ever. Since the day they were born.
The UK’s diverse and vibrant electronic music scene is globally recognized for its influence and innovation. When dance music as we now know it began to develop, many of those at its inception were Black. The pioneers of house, techno, jungle and bleep were captivated by the new electronic sounds of the ‘80s. Their histories interlinked through a shared passion for music and interconnected styles—jazz funk and rare groove, soul, electro, hip-hop, reggae. The roots had already taken hold and they were Black. Soundsystem culture, DJing and the notion of “dance music,” before it became electronic, were core tenets of Black club culture.
Over in America, communities on the fringes of society—Black, Latino, gay—formed their own safe spaces and musical movements. When tracks like “Planet Rock” and Cybotron’s “Clear” made it to UK shores, along with early house cuts by artists like Larry Heard and Chip E, they captivated a small, disparate group of music lovers who immediately envisioned the future through these new styles of electronic music. It was fringe music, shunned by the rare groove and funk heads.
Going against the grain to embrace this future music, artists like Colin Dale, Kid Batchelor, Fabio & Grooverider and other pioneers laid the foundations for what would become a world-famous, hugely influential music industry. Hailing from across the UK—London, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Nottingham—Black DJs were, along with their white counterparts, the catalysts behind the genesis of the nation’s electronic music revolution.
In this piece, we’ll hear from some of British electronic music culture’s Black originators. Each person presents a perspective on their personal and social history, the impact of the malevolent, yet often invisible, effect of systemic racism on UK dance music, plus their thoughts on the present moment, in the wake of BLM. It’s hopefully an opportunity for the artists to broaden the narrative, and for readers to learn more about the multicultural, multi-faceted origins of the music we all know and love.
FABIO & GROOVERIDER
THE GODFATHERS OF DRUM & BASS ON UNSUNG HEROES, RACIST DOOR POLICIES AND BRINGING SOME EDGE TO RAGE
Grooverider: [Pre-rave] you rock up with two other Black guys you’re not getting into the club, no matter what club you’re going to in London. If you don’t know a bouncer you’re not getting in. I’ve had people deny me because they didn’t like my aftershave, that’s how pitiful it was back then.
Fabio: Our introduction to acid house involved that kind of shit. We went to Spectrum, which was at Heaven. It was the seminal acid house night at the time. We were stood outside for an hour and a half before we got in. We talk about this night a lot, but we were only in there for 45 minutes because we spent so long waiting outside to get in. This is how bad it was; we’re two guys from Brixton, we don’t mess about, but we were willing to do that because it was so ingrained in your subconscious that this is what you do as a Black man. You’ve got to wait around and if the bouncer feels sorry for you, you might get in.
Grooverider: We grew up in an era when Love Thy Neighbour [a famously racist TV show] was on primetime TV. The Black guy got called “sambo” on TV and it was normal, the black and white minstrels. This is what we grew up with.
Fabio: We’d been going to clubs for a long time before acid house. I remember it got to a stage where, for the first time, as a Black man, you didn’t see color anymore. Half my friends in acid house were white, maybe even more than that, but you never felt like it was a thing. At the soul clubs, the Black guys would dance and the white guys would stand at the bar, there wasn’t any mixing. But acid house was different.
Grooverider: You didn’t think about color. The music was that strong you didn’t even notice. Music has always been there, and people have always loved it, but it never hit as hard as it did during that period.
Fabio: Jungle was a new take on everything, that’s what was exciting about it. Those records you grew up listening to, people fucked them up, whether it was a funk sample, jazz… We could relate to it because we’d heard those samples before, in rare groove clubs. We’ve got to give a shout out to Rapattack, Funkadelic Soul Sound and Soul II Soul because those guys started that whole warehouse thing just before acid house came along. Parties like Shake ‘n’ Fingerpop, all those kinds of things, they were popping off.
Grooverider: Don’t forget about Barry B.
Fabio: Yeah Barry B! There’s some legends that don’t get the love. Guys we looked up to, names that aren’t spoken about everyday, but growing up in South London you had local legends. People like Barry B. No one talks about him but he was a G. Me and Groove used to worship him.
Grooverider: He was the first guy I heard mixing two records together. Not in the hip-hop style—proper mixing. He was the template for me, I’d never heard that before. I was like, ‘Hold on a minute, this guy’s making a third tune out of those two tunes. How the fuck does he do that?!’ Blew my mind. Never forget Steve Jackson as well.
Then there were the sound systems. There’s a whole other side to DJing and that’s selecting. When we were growing up, we weren’t listening to people mixing. Our heroes would be able to construct a set and, at the end of the night, we’d leave thinking, ‘They killed it,’ just because of the selection. Some DJs we grew up with could tell a story purely by selecting the tunes, no mixing at all. Alistair from Rapattack, oh my God, that guy was a selector! He’d play a tune from start to finish, then play the next tune, and it was like you were listening to a mix.
Grooverider: You can’t help but respect everyone that’s come through with you because we know the struggle and how hard it was, especially as Black people. We gained a lot of trust, people loved us but also respected us as human beings.
Fabio: When we got into the scene it was very, very white. Sometimes we’d be the only Black guys on the lineups. We were the first Black guys to play on the main stage at Heaven. We broke down a lot of barriers, we went out there in a world that was not overly populated by Black people and smashed it. We brought a little edge to Rage. It was a bit stush when we first started playing there. It was purist and we kinda changed it up. Then it got a little bit too ghetto but… [laughs].
THE MUCH-RESPECTED LONDON DJ HIGHLIGHTS THE COLLECTIVE ENERGY THAT CREATED UK DANCE MUSIC AND THE IMPACT OF STRUCTURAL RACISM ON THE SCENE
Before house came along there were some nights that were mixed but they tended to be the really big commercial nights like The Best Disco in Town at The Lyceum, with people like Greg Edwards. Because he was on the radio [Capital], it enabled him to reach lots of people, but the smaller, clubbier nights were definitely more segregated, and that was to do with the music being slightly different in these “Black” and “white” clubs. No clubs were exclusively one or the other, but you’d find a majority Black or white people in certain places, for sure.
[The house revolution] came about over a matter of years. It was very gradual, but when it hit the media, with The Sun doing that famous anti-rave article, and the television coverage, I think that’s what made it explode. You had loads of different people from all over. I remember hearing that the ICF [a football hooliganism firm] were coming out clubbing and taking ecstasy. It touched the whole culture of the country, it wasn’t just restricted to the club scene. Everything changed. Then you’d see a greater mix of people, not just race it was people of different ages, classes, across all boundaries. It was huge.
It was mind-blowing, but I came from a background that was always really mixed anyway. It was always a shock to me to see news reports where they said multiculturalism isn’t working because I grew up with it working perfectly well.
Structural racism has without a doubt impacted the dance scene across the board. It’s hard to explain to what extent but I think everyone would appreciate that it has been impacted. With BLM it’s great that this kind of thing has been brought to everyone’s attention and become more of a discussion. Whether it’s going to change things or not I really don’t know.
It’s pretty well-known and an unspoken thing that, as a Black person, to get where you want and to equal a white person you’re going to have to work harder than them to reach the level that they get to. I’ve known that from school days. That’s also prevalent in the dance music scene. It’s only this week that I’ve been reading about the Essential Mix and the percentages of Black or Asian DJs that they’ve had and it’s down to 10%, or less than that some years.
A conference called me to do something about Black Lives Matter. But when I looked at their lineup the only Black people that they had on there were speaking on that panel and they weren’t involved in any other part of the whole conference, which is why I didn’t do it. I thought, ‘Is this the only time you’re gonna call me up, to talk about this?’
The system is very prevalent in our scene, you only have to look at the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs to realize there’s a serious problem. No one says it but essentially house music is Black music. It doesn’t get said enough because it really is. I don’t think we get enough representatives up in that higher level of things. I’ve seen things change but it’s a real slow, grinding change. A lot of Black acts on the scene, myself included, tend to go off and do things themselves rather than depend on other people.
It’s almost as if a lot of history has been rewritten and a lot of people have been written out of it. It has become very white unfortunately. It wasn’t only certain names [that pioneered the scene], there were loads and loads and loads of other people, it was a collective thing really. So, I don’t like it when the media bring out one or two people, it wasn’t like that, it was a collective thing that occurred in all different parts of the country.
THE BLEEP INNOVATOR ON SHEFFIELD’S LEGACY OF CULTURAL INTEGRATION AND BLACK ERASURE IN THE MEDIA
Jazz funk, UK soul funk, that was my birthplace. I’ve been DJing since 1982 so I’ve seen all the changes that most people would be able to identify within both pop and underground music culture. The jazz funk scene was very much a Black scene, although it was pretty mixed. It was powerful because of the identity that came with the music. We had our own fashion, we had our own venues—not necessarily owned by us but where we were accepted. Being turned away from clubs back in the ‘80s was a really common occurrence for Black people, especially young Black men. So, when you could go to these all-dayers and jazz funk nights, you knew they were on because the owners accepted you as a person.
Cultural integration in Sheffield was something no one could have stopped. It was a natural progression. Up here in the North, Sheffield has always been overlooked. It’s industrial. It’s a stronghold for socialist ideals. It was a very insular city, surrounded by the seven hills of Sheffield. The mentality here was that we were on our own. All cultures felt that, so the Black communities here felt very much at one with the rest of the working-class communities.
There was very little racial tension here. Maybe individually people felt it, but collectively it wasn’t that much of an issue. It was a great breeding ground here for people to just come together without necessarily questioning what culture you were from. Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s there was already a cross-section of Black and white people that were being creative and making music together. There was a lot of integration in terms of relationships, too. I’m sure I could be challenged on that but it was my experience.
Institutional racism manifested itself when the media took hold of dance music. White artists making Black music get favored more and they’re seen as the more “accessible” face of it. This became obvious when Mixmag got hold of the house thing in the country. I was one of those DJs who was playing all over the country, playing house when it was still considered to be “devil’s music.” I remember seeing this magazine start to turn really white and a lot of Black DJs started disappearing from their pages.
Then the magazines started to dictate the music. Black culture at that time was thriving on its independent style and newness, fashion always came from the dance floor but there was a change when the magazines started to mimic youth culture fashion and take it to another level to sell it to a larger, whiter audience. The Black communities started to feel pushed out and isolated because we were still being excluded from clubs. You really started to feel “other.”
Recent events have helped to remind people that divisions still exist. The stereotypes that have become the norm, that have shut down the Black community instead of allowing for discussions—“You’ve got a chip on your shoulder”—that’s been happening for so long now, and it’s stopped us from having a voice. I think that we have allyship now, and strength in numbers is a powerful thing.
It’s such a relief to have this acknowledgement now. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. Ever since the murder of George Floyd all the attention is on us and our skin color again! It went back to that thing of crossing the street because you don’t want someone to worry about you. It’s been great to see people in a position of influence using their platform, like Róisín Murphy. People have spoken about the influence of Black music on their lives and who they are. People have got our back. If you say something and it upsets someone because they don’t understand you as Black people, people will back you up and you don’t have to keep your mouth shut anymore. This recent change has really helped those that are struggling to accept that a Black voice is a relevant and powerful voice.
THE INFLUENTIAL JUNGLE DUO REFLECT ON HOW REGGAE CULTURE INFUSED WITH RAVE
Deman: We stumbled [into rave] because we were doing our Unity Soundsystem thing. We wanted to become recording artists and do more studio work but we were just going out doing reggae raves so we decided to knock the Soundsystem on the head. Just after that, in 1990, we bumped into Smiley from Shut Up And Dance and he wanted to use a sample from a Unity sound tape that had my voice on it. At the time, Daddy Freddy was doing his ragga-hip-hop ting and we thought, ‘We’d like to do something like that.’ So when Smiley approached us we agreed and we also said, ‘Can you do something for us? We’d like to change our direction.’ He was up for it, so me and Flinty went to see him and that was the birth of the Ragga Twins.
Flinty: We were aware of acid and all that because it was going around at the time. Everyone was shouting, ‘Aciiiiiiiid!’ We had some friends who were going to those parties in ‘88, ’89, they were coming back and telling us about them but we were still hard in our reggae back then. Even when we signed to Shut Up And Dance we weren’t going to the raves, we were just going to the studio and making the music. When the tunes were being played out our friends were coming back to us and saying, ‘I heard your voice on some tunes!’ We didn’t really tell anybody what we were doing. ‘Every set, every DJ is playing the tunes,’ they told us. ‘If you guys ever come down and pick up the mic the place is gonna go mad.’ After a while we started doing PAs and we started to realize what impact we’d made on that circuit. It was definitely a game-changer.
Deman: We used to do the PAs, eat the nice fruit in the dressing room, collect our money and go home, or find a reggae soundsystem rave. One year we were doing World Party at Chelmsford County Showground and I said to Flinty, ‘Mate we’re here, it’s a festival, why don’t we just stay and see what this thing is all about?’ That was in May 1991. Since that day we haven’t stopped raving.
Flinty: It was an outdoor thing and there were 25, maybe 30,000 people there. We were used to outdoor things, with soundsystems playing in the park, but it wouldn’t be that amount of people and it was a majority white crowd. The PA went well, the sun was shining, people were coming up and asking for autographs and pictures. That’s when it hit us, that’s when it took our soul.
Deman: We thought, ‘Let’s give this music a chance, let’s see if we like it.’ And we left there at six in the morning when it finished. By the Wednesday we were in Astoria raving ‘til about three o’clock in the morning and then Turnmills on the Sunday. As the year went along I don’t think we were ever in our house come the weekend.
Flinty: At the beginning the crowds were definitely whiter, with pockets of Black people. As it went on that changed, and I think we had a big part to play. A lot of people who came to hear us in reggae were like, ‘Those guys have gone over there, so it must be alright.’
Deman: They didn’t know about rewinds but that was what we did in reggae: chat a lyric and the crowd goes, ‘Pull up, selector!’ The reggae crowd knew about it and the people who didn’t, they soon got to know.
Flinty: Where we came from it was predominantly Black. You might see one or two white guys in the reggae rave so it was really good to see the mixture and everybody coming together [in acid house raves]. It was the era of pills, so that helped people socialize and love each other. It was good to see people just going mad to our lyrics, it was different to what we were used to. Everybody just came as one.
Deman: The first show we did was at Dome in Birmingham. We walked in, four months after we left the reggae scene, and the only Black person in there was Caron Wheeler. I was saying to Flinty, ‘We’re gonna get booed in this place, they’re not gonna understand a word we say.’ The announcer is introducing us and he’s like, ‘We’ve got a new act from London, they’re called the Ragga Twins,’ and the place went mad. I thought, ‘We’re gonna be alright in here, man!’
THE LEGENDARY BRISTOL ARTIST SPEAKS ON SOCIAL DIVERSITY AND THE INFLUENCE OF EARLY HIP-HOP
I grew up in a place called Knowle West which, according to Tony Blair, is the worst council estate in Europe. When I read that I was like, ‘Cheers mate!’ It’s predominantly white and there were around 11 Black families in the area. I was there from the early ‘70s to the late ‘80s and I experienced all the imaginable things that a first-generation Black British man would go through in a predominantly white working-class area. It was very colorful, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
At first music was a form of pleasure for the house. My mum listened to it, my dad; my brother was introducing me to new music. Then it became a route out of oppression, something that I could actually do and be good at. Not just to make money and be another number.
The moment I saw Wild Style [the ‘80s hip-hop movie by Charlie Ahearn] it was a lights-on moment. Before that came along I was a mod, and what I loved about that culture was the multicultural aspect. But mods just looked cool, they didn’t really do anything. When I saw Wild Style, it was a lifestyle. They’re breakdancing, they’ve got clothes, they’ve got an ethic, there’s organization, a philosophy, spray painting, rapping, DJing—for a 14-year-old it’s like, ‘What the hell?!’ Immediately I felt like I could be a part of that culture. Not only that, but I felt like I could excel at it.
I was watching kids on the streets of America who looked like me, who didn’t have much more than me, but they’d made something. My mantra is, Wild Style is the blueprint, the Bible, but always make something from nothing. The film was a blueprint for how you build culture, they’re all the pieces: dancing, music, communicating with authenticity, respect, honor, codes of conduct, you learn your art, practice and practice and practice.
You had this high energy within the youth in Bristol, but they didn’t know what to do with it. You’d walk around and there’d just be gangs of us hanging around not knowing what to do. The energy wasn’t being utilized by society. When we started to funnel that back into ourselves and really ignite it, it became apparent that everybody had skill sets. We were all brought together, from different backgrounds, by this culture, music culture. People were starting radio stations, magazines, nightclubs, record labels. It felt important that we were all doing it together. I don’t think anyone looked around and thought, ‘Oh, there’s not enough white people here,’ or ‘We need more Black people for this,’ it was just obvious that it was cool to be around good people.
It was nothing to do with what color our skin was, it was the same thing when we went to these raves. All of the barriers dissolved because you were in a field dancing and you’d see the commonalities. It was like another world that we’d visit every week from Friday to Sunday. These blueprints are just ideas of what societies can look like and what people can do together.
The unexpected consequences of colonialism brought so much diversity back to England. My dad was a hardcore Jamaican. He came here and all of a sudden, he’s having to mix with white people, Indians, Chinese, maybe some eastern Europeans as well—you have no choice, you’ve got to get on. They’re having to learn what it’s like, which can be hard. But I’m growing up with the same ethnic backgrounds in my schools so it’s not that difficult because, at the time, it’s not that different. We all speak English, we’re all watching the same TV channels, so those barriers aren’t there for us. It’s just kids with ideas and excitement and passion and wonder and curiosity.
The impacts of structural racism are not as present on the ground. We’ve always made music, we’re always going to be creative. Where it’s really apparent is on the executive level, where certain decisions are made, that could be made by people of color, and culture gets appropriated by other races that don’t have the historical take on it, and abuse it because of its perceived value. White women can get bum implants, lip enhancements and darker skin and be considered more desirable. Our music can be emulated by anybody, now it’s not Black music it’s urban. These little things take away our impact and make it look like we’re not the purveyors of the culture.
A question that tacks on to all of this is, where is the Black tech? Where are the Black inventors that are going to be levelling the playing field? Although there’s the systemic problem in the music industry, technology freed people. Think about how we were liberated just by having an Atari 1040—that changed my life.
It’s up to us to stop looking around for people to stop being racist, it’s not in their self-interest. Human beings put their self-interests first; when push comes to shove I’m putting myself and my family first. What is their incentive to stop being racist? To stop giving themselves the best jobs, the best pay? There’s no incentive to do that.
Until there’s a system that is obviously intuitively better than the one we’ve got, I don’t consider these minor changes to be progress. I don’t think change can come from people who aren’t invested. Anything that got changed in the last 1000 years happened through people taking it, not requesting it. That’s not how animal kingdom, human affairs work. It doesn’t work through voting or asking questions or polite requests.
ONE OF UK HOUSE MUSIC’S ORIGINAL ARTISTS CONSIDERS THE SOUND’S WHITEWASHING
My first introduction to the music scene as a youngster was Soul II Soul. Jazzie B took me under his wing, I was DJing with them playing a bit of rare groove, a bit of hip-hop, but my interest was in emerging electronic music. I was moonlighting quite a lot in clubs that were playing that kind of music, which, at the time, were only Black gay clubs. Now Black people listen extensively to house music but then, let me tell ya, they weren’t into it.
When I used to play house music or electronic music they’d stop in their tracks like, ‘What’s going on?!’ If the dancers didn’t like what you were playing they’d let you know, either by asking you to play something else or just standing there with their arms crossed.
I’d go to the Jungle club at Busby’s or Stallions. House music was a no-go area for the audiences that I was playing to at the time. It was a rare groove landscape, London was virtually completely dominated by rare groove, which I can’t complain about too much. I had quite a hand in that with Soul II Soul and kicking off huge warehouse parties and I loved that music as well. The party I played at, Hedonism, eventually merged the rare groove and acid house crowds, kicking off an almost overnight change in London’s clubbing landscape.
There’s one thing I believe about acid house, and it’s more real now than ever, and that’s that it was hijacked—like most Black music—by white people. You don’t even imagine that Black people were part of it because it was hijacked. Danny Rampling, Terry Farley, Nicky Holloway, all these people who are synonymous with house music. There’s always been a massive movement that was mostly Black people. If you go and listen to house music in America, those clubs were full of Black people. It’s always been completely whitewashed here in Britain.
There’s a big difference between the US, and the UK and Europe. It was whitewashed over here ages ago. From the 1990s onwards, you’d never believe that Black people were involved at all. Younger people might think white people were always at the fulcrum of this music—no. They muscled their way in, took it over and claimed it as their own, just like they do with any of these other types of music. I’m not saying that’s good or that’s bad, that’s just what happens. There’s nothing new there, it always happens and that happened with house music. No one can say to me, ‘Ah well, he’s wrong, he wasn’t there,’ because I was there, I was in the middle of it.
Structural racism is a huge issue and, thank God, a necessary conversation has been going on about that. It’s very difficult to see and to discern, and you never truly know if you’re a victim of it. We’re at the very beginning of what is a revolution. Thankfully now is not the time to be coy, now is the time to be honest. What it all comes down to is power, it’s whether people are allowed to concede power.
There’s been a lot of educating going on, and I’ve had to do a lot of that myself. Even with the radio station I work on, I’ve had to fight a lot of fires with my own skills and state the organization’s position, after having to educate them. A lot of people in important positions have had to undergo some serious education. When you say structural, it’s serious, it goes all the way from the top, all the way down to the bottom. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of pushback because a lot of it is uncomfortable to hear, but it’s real and it’s alive regardless of what people want to think.
A GUY CALLED GERALD
THE MANCHESTER ORIGINATOR EXPLAINS HOW BLACK CREATIVITY WAS OFTEN “SWALLOWED BY THE SYSTEM”
I grew up on the jazz funk scene and the electro funk, breakdancing b-boy scene in Manchester. There wasn’t really a house scene in Manchester when I first started doing my thing, most people were into funk and there were some Soundsystem people. There were radio DJs, like Mike Shaft and Hewan Clarke, who were on the jazz funk side of things. These people were really big influences on me. If it wasn’t for the funk and the jazz I wouldn’t have wanted to do something different. Jazz inspired me to go down a different path.
It might sound strange now, but at the time doing acid house music was really, really different. It was alternative. The things that people take for granted now—DJing, turntables, mixing—a lot of people didn’t even know about. What happens is, you show one person what you’re doing, that person shows two people, those two show 10 and it becomes general knowledge. Then everyone knows how to do your thing that you originally showed to one person. People look and they’re like, ‘Yeah? Everyone’s doing that!’ That’s what happened to the Black people that were originally doing this, they got swallowed up by the system. There’s no way they were gonna end up on the cover of one of the big magazines.
We had a little crew called Scratch Beat Masters, it was like a b-boy Soundsystem. We made our own speaker boxes, amps and everything; we built the system ourselves. I wanted to take it further than that, and do what no one else was doing. That was the thing with a lot of people, they didn’t want to push it—until someone else was doing it, they didn’t want to do it themselves. Especially for Black people, if you do something that someone else is doing, you’re gonna get buried. It’s like the Errol Dunkley tune [sings], ‘Every man do his ting a lickle way different’! You had to go by that code.
That’s how jungle worked originally. You take the same break that somebody had taken and switch it up. From day one, “version” was the law—you take something that someone else was doing and twist it up. That’s the spirit, I’m not gonna say of Black music, but that’s what the spirit was.
One of the biggest jazz funk DJs, for the ghetto people, was Hewan Clarke. He was the first DJ at the Haçienda. He used to play at this school called Burley High, at the youth club. He never played on the radio, he never got those props, but he got picked to play the Haçienda and he brought all the dancers. I can’t remember the names of the crews now but loads of them would go and dance there. The Haçienda was a place for people to go and dance.
There wasn’t really much of a dance scene outside of Afro culture. There was northern soul but it was all based around that same kind of thing, it didn’t come from rock & roll. In the ‘70s and ‘80s rock & roll had nothing to do with dance music. By the ‘90s you had people from that background who were into dance music, mainly because of the inebriation. I used to say this kind of thing back in the early ‘90s but at that time it was easier for the press to get rid of things people said. People were sampling Derrick May and those guys, who I’d met when I went to Detroit, but when I called it out that also didn’t make it into the press.
I was watching New Orleans with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong the other day, from 1947, and they portrayed these people as if to say, ‘Oh my God what are they doing now?!’ All the people in the movie were offended and saying it’s not God’s music—it was basically classical versus jazz.
I did a bit of research on Billie and her story goes from scrubbing the streets to being on stage, and then she got a chance to sing in white music halls but she still had to enter through the back door. After a while she started getting loads of hassle. In the end she got sacked and a white lady took over her part. So, as soon as she showed them how to sing over a jazz band they kicked her out and replaced her. You might as well do stuff for yourself because they’ll manipulate you and use you for something else, and that’s what happened with rave music.
What’s been happening lately is good because it helps people’s struggle and it’s shone a light on it. There’s a certain kind of suffering that has existed and some people are more thoughtful about that now. There’re also some people who are angry about it—racists have got a really clever way of twisting stuff. The fairness of something also brings out the crazy side in people, they’re obviously threatened by that—saying Black Lives Matter is not aggressive but it’s brought this aggression in people. I’m totally happy that there’s awareness and it needed to come out, because it was always swept under the carpet.