Feb 22, 2020

A tribute to Andrew Weatherall: imagine a cake, a simple cake


I've spent this week feeling like poo. Some kind of lurgy that has robbed me of all my energy. No brain space for blog posts or for creative projects or for functioning as a human being.

In the midst of this week's funk, I heard some terrible news. Andrew Weatherall died. I hoped that my fever had got so bad, I was hallucinating worst case scenarios. Alas, no. We lost a giant of electronic music.

There may be some readers of this website who are unaware of the pull of gravity Weatherall had over modern electronic music. I'm still not quite out of the fog of illness, so here are some unedited and slightly clumsy thoughts on how important I thought Andy was.

Imagine a cake. A simple cake. Something with a sponge and a pleasant jam filling. Now imagine shoving all the pills into that cake. Paracetamol, ecstasy, uppers, downers, bum pills, dog pills, M&Ms and Skittles. Imagine the pills being inserted by one of those tennis ball machines with a spring-firing mechanism. That's what Weatherall did to music.

He did this to Primal Scream. He did this to Saint Etienne ("cool and deadly!"). He did this to New Order and Leftfield and mother-chuffing Starsailor. He was a constant remixing presence in the early releases of the Chemical Brothers, James and the Happy Mondays. Pow! Pills! Pow! More pills!

Except it was never about narcotics for me: my highest and happiest days clubbing were devoid of any alcohol or drugs. It was about the trippy rhythms and driving bass that added a fizz to anything he touched.

That fizz is probably best summed up in his wonky party production of Primal Scream's Don't Fight It Feel It – a track that bursts with B52s-style jazz-hands energy while still getting away with farty shredded guitar, clowny sirens, genuine soul and the chunkiest Italo-piano lead of 1991. Just listen to it build and build...



Without Andrew Weatherall, there would be no Fat Roland. He was a staple of Manchester club night Herbal Tea Party back in the 1990s: in fact he was probably their most-booked act. That night was my gateway into electronic music.

And I have fond memories of seeing him at The Orbit in Leeds, a venue I once blogged that "arguably spawned my Fat Roland career. I remember watching DJs Andrew Weatherall and Sven Väth with intense interest, hovering behind them like a stalker. As I left the club, I had a lucid moment when I decided, with a theatrical flourish, that yes the world needed my DJing skills. (It didn't, but I went into DJing anyway.)"

For some reason, the likes of the Guardian and NME have left that element of Weatherall's legacy out of their tribute pieces.

From Shroom to Boy’s Own Productions to Sabres Of Paradise to his insistance that DJs shouldn't play anything beyond 122bpm, Andrew Weatherall's impact on my corner of electronic music cannot be underestimated.

I really wish this was a fever dream.

1 comment:

Tim Footman said...

"Imagine a cake. A simple cake. Something with a sponge and a pleasant jam filling. Now imagine shoving all the pills into that cake. Paracetamol, ecstasy, uppers, downers, bum pills, dog pills, M&Ms and Skittles. Imagine the pills being inserted by one of those tennis ball machines with a spring-firing mechanism. That's what Weatherall did to music."

Yes, very true. But he often threw the cake away as well.