Tuesday, 18 February 2020
This is a post I didn't expect to be writing. Andrew Weatherall died in hospital yesterday of a pulmonary embolism aged fifty six. This unwanted piece of news turned up in a Whatsapp group and then my social media timelines, people who were fans or had connections with him, were deluged with reactions, tributes and memories and his music. It goes without saying that this blog has reflected my love for the man's work. This is the 499th time that I've tagged 'Andrew Weatherall' on a post and his music and influence has been the subject of my writing since Bagging Area's first week of existence back in January 2010. My personal history with Lord Sabre goes back twenty years before that, to 1990 and his first remixes. Loaded, Hallelujah, Come Home and Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Raise by Bocca Juniors. It all started there and then mushroomed in spectacular style, from Screamadelica in 1991 to his most recent works in the Woodleigh Research Facility and solo records. It's not an exaggeration to say that a huge swathe of records and CDs I've bought since 1990, shelf upon shelf of artefacts (plus books, T-shirts, prints and posters) are because of his involvement as producer, musician or remixer or because in some way he recommended them, through interviews in the music press, articles written for magazines and websites, out DJing, warming up for bands, club nights recorded onto cassette, internet DJ mixes and his regular radio shows for 6 Music and most recently NTS.
I had a number of encounters with him in real life, DJing at club nights and events. In the 1990s Weatherall was a regular at Cream, the Liverpool superclub. He played in the backroom, a dark box of a place where we- me, Lou, Nick, Meanie, Mandy, Ian, Vinnie, Julia, Ross, Amanda and others- gathered on a monthly basis to dance to his sets, mad techno, dub and electro that often ended with the room bouncing in unison in an acid house pogo. The train ride over from Manchester to Liverpool would be filled with anticipation and the return journey the day after with the warm glow of a night well spent. There was a night at the Hacienda circa 1993 I attended which has gone down in legend but of which I remember little except that it was the stuff that reputations rest on. At some point he played Sankey's Soap, then an outpost in a post- industrial wasteland north of Manchester city centre. Somehow (via Julia I think who had an acquaintance with Ian Weatherall, Andrew's brother) we were on the guestlist. We arrived at the front of the queue, our names checked against the list on the clipboard and then the door-woman called across the courtyard to the inner door 'these are Andy's guests, they can go straight in'. I floated across the courtyard.
In 1998, very close to the birth of our first child Isaac, we went to a performance at the Cornerhouse on Oxford Road. Weatherall was playing records to accompany a screening of the 1922 silent movie classic Nosferatu, music, sounds and noises to go with the freakiest film of early cinema. Isaac, in utero, at some point found it all a bit much- a limb protruded and made a wave from inside Lou's stomach, like a shark's fin in time to the ghostly soundtrack. This event doesn't exist anywhere on the internet (or least I've never found any record of it). In modern parlance, 'pics or it didn't happen'. But it did happen, I was there. I went out a bought a pair of Levi's cinchback jeans not long afterwards as a result of Mr Weatherall wearing a pair that night. When he put together the Nine O'Clock Drop compilation album in 2000, punk funk ahead of the curve, one of the gnomic remarks on the inner sleeve was to 'keep your secrets, they're all we've got'. The Nosferatu Cornerhouse event fits into that ethos.
In the early 00s at a venue on Oldham Street called Planet K we saw him play a minimal electro/ techno set, sparsely attended but musically perfect (also attended by Johnny Marr if memory serves). There was a night at The Music Box on Oxford Road with Keith Tenniswood, part of a Two Lone Swordsmen tour done with turntables and laptops. Later on in 2008 or 2009 TLS had become a rock 'n' roll band, playing the songs from the excellent Wrong Meeting albums, garage and rockabilly inspired music with Weatherall on vocals and Chris Rotter on guitar. Chris and James Fyffe on Facebook have both hinted at times when that band played a festival, went down like a sack of shit with a crowd clearly wanting something else, and then overdid it recreationally. Fail we may, sail we must.
More recently, since 2010, in partnership with with Sean Johnston Weatherall put on a roaming club night called A Love From Outer Space, an oasis of slow in a world ever speeding up, slow motion, cosmische chug, transporting and transcendent music. I attended one just under a year ago at The Refuge and had a ball. There was an ALFOS night at The White Hotel in Salford a couple of weeks ago which I missed for a variety of reasons. Never mind, I thought, they'll be back soon, I'll go next time.
In 2018 Harvey and I travelled over to Liverpool to see Weatherall DJ at a pub called The Merchant in Liverpool, an afternoon drinking beer and listening to a Music's Not For Everyone set of rock 'n' roll, blues and garage rock. I approached him and stumbled through a fairly excruciating exchange (for me)- I was nervous. I met him a couple of times at Cream but only in the end- of- set, handshake, 'nice one, great set, thanks mate' kind of way. In Liverpool two years ago I introduced myself and bumbled my way through some kind of conversation and got a photo of me and him. I always meant to re- introduce myself at a gig, say hi and apologise for my tongue- tied nature in Liverpool, mention the blog (which I neglected to do in 2018- duh). He was familiar with Bagging Area apparently- a friend of his from the old days had been in touch with me once or twice by email to thank me for my work sharing AW's work and said that he, Weatherall, knew of the blog- that on its own blew my mind.
I'm just scratching the surface here and I suspect I'll have more to say this week and beyond. What a loss. A true maverick, a pioneer, a genuine talent, a lovely bloke and an inspiration. My life has been considerably richer because of his. My most sincere condolences to his family and friends for whom all of this is much more personally felt. The world was a better place with Andrew Weatherall in it.
Smokebelch II (Beatless Mix)