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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Andrew Weatherall

A year ago today Andrew Weatherall died. I was sitting in a pub in Didsbury, back in the days when pubs were open and popping into one was the most normal thing you could do. We'd been for a walk around Fletcher Moss Gardens and were having a half term lunchtime pint when I got a message. Within an hour social media was a torrent of outpourings of loss and also of love and affection for the man, and his music filled the internet (or at least the parts of it where I tend to go). In the eleven and a bit years I've been writing this blog I've tagged 567 posts with his name. One in ten posts have been about the man and his music. It could easily be more- I realised this when writing about the Two Lone Swordsmen remixes of Texas recently, a pair of fairly overlooked deep house/ electro remixes from a time (1997) when he was in the shadows (a self imposed shunning of the limelight), a long way from the glory years of Screamadelica and all those early remixes and from the elder statesman/ national treasure status he'd acquired in more recent years. Nearly six hundred posts in and there's so much more in his back catalogue to throw some light on and to write about.

As a DJ he was untouchable. His skills on the turntables weren't just his undoubted technical prowess or his peerless tune selection or his unerring capacity to take a crowd on a journey but the fact that he could play across a wide variety of genres and make all of them sound like his specialism.  There are many very successful, well respected and well paid DJs but most of them stick within their field. Andrew could play house or techno or Balearic or dub or electro or exotica or trip hop or rockabilly or ambient and other genres besides and be the expert in the room. A purist with wide tastes, he had a range of interests but had mined each one deeply. The last ten years saw the creation of the travelling club night A Love From Outer Space, a never exceeding 110bpm cosmic disco, a sound he described as 'drug chug', but it constantly evolved, the next night different from the last. Despite this, everything felt like it was joined up, it all came from the same source. The internet is awash with his DJ sets and mixes, a huge, long trip around the styles and nights he played (you can find over one thousand hours of them at the Weatherdrive if you're so inclined). 

His monthly residency at NTS radio, his two hour programme called Music's Not For Everyone where he played whatever was tickling his fancy that week, was full of avenues and back alleys for you to disappear down, artists and albums and singles and compilations to uncover and explore. It never felt thrown together, but planned meticulously. Again, on these shows, his taste took in so many styles of music from weird jazz to African funk, 60s psyche and 80s post- punk, acres of dub, his own remixes and the work of people who'd put a CD into his hands at a club or in a pub. Many obscure and unknown artists will attest to him playing their music without them knowing he was doing so, because he'd discovered it somewhere and loved it. He seemed to be endlessly open to the new, to the undiscovered and unheard. In the 90s he often gave records away straight from the turntable at club nights to punters who'd asked him what it was he'd just played. 

I've written about his remixes endlessly and the sheer variety is headspinnning: the everything- and- the- kitchen- sink euphoria of the early 90s remixes; the dub in two halves deconstructions; the Sabres Of Paradise remixes that could be rave meets techno, stoned grooves or two a.m. deconstructions; the Two Lone Swordsmen remixes that took a snatch of vocal, twisted it into an unrecognisable shape and built a bassline- led deep house track around it; and the glorious widescreen remixes of the last decade- to pick a handful almost at random, just cue up these ones and see the range and depth of his work, the wide open spaces and giddy ecstasies of his Moby and Wayne Coyne remix, the controlled chaotic noise plus huge rhythms of his Fuck Buttons remix,  his grin inducing remix of Out Of The Window by Confidence Man and the deep space glide of his remix of Emiliana Torrini. 

Speed Of Dark (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

In 1991 Andrew and fellow travellers A Man Called Adam met in 'a shitty hotel in Coventry' and Sally and Steve asked him to remix their song The Chrono Psionic Interface. It is one of those early 90s beauties, infused with the spirit of the times, music that suggests endless possibility, open minds and freedom. A Man Called Adam have made it available at their Bandcamp page as a pay- what- you- want deal but if you can pay for it all monies raised will be going to one of Andrew's chosen charities, Thrombosis UK. Get it here.  

I was wondering what he might have done with the past year if he'd lived. Lockdown has stirred lots of creativity out of people. Last year's A Certain Ratio album Loco would surely have been accompanied by a Weatherall remix given the links between the two. The monthly W.R.F. EPs carried on without him but eventually he'd have gone back to one of the Facilities and made more music. Maybe he'd have started those memoirs that Lee Brackstone at Faber had suggested to him. Possibilities, maybes and what ifs. 

Throughout 2020 I did a series of hour long mixes, most of which were a response to lockdown and the situation we all found ourselves in almost a year ago now. This one, Weatherdub, was a bunch his dub infused productions and remixes stitched together (featuring tracks recorded under his own name and  as Sabres Of Paradise with remixes of St Etienne, Steve Mason, Richard Sen, Lark and Meatraffle and the one off recording with David Harrow as Planet 4 Folk Quartet). I did a pair of mixes of songs that came to me because he'd played them, talked about them or listed them in a magazine chart, a brace of tributes to his ears, his record collection and his taste- Songs The Lord Sabre Taught Us One and Two. In December I did a collection of songs from his back catalogue titled Audrey Witherspoon's Blues. Between them I tried to sum up something of the spirit of the man and his music. A year ago in one of the many obituaries and tributes that appeared online as the world ground to a complete halt came from London based magazine Time Out and it's worth quoting the final section in full-

'It’s been pointed out that, spookily, you can still see the man on Google Street View – walking purposefully up Kingsland Road, looking customarily fantastic in smart brown shoes, wide-legged camel-coloured trousers and tats galore. It’s just one of many beautiful perspectives on Andrew Weatherall – a street-pounding, eye-catching local London legend. 

He is survived by his partner, his family and about 7 million children of the acid-house revolution. Rest in peace.'

17 comments:

drew said...

Excellent

The Swede said...

Along with his many other attributes, Weatherall had ears I could trust, as I discovered to my financial detriment month after month when listening to his NTS show.

I look forward to checking out your mixes SA.

John Medd said...

I'm intrigued as to which shitty hotel in Coventry they met. And, if it's still there, you must photograph it when LD is lifted!

Rickyotter said...

Wonderful post Adam. I wonder how many people have a "where I was on 17.02.20 when I heard" story

Nick L said...

To start off with, I completely agree, I so identify with the feeling of missing a half term lunchtime pint this year.
And as for Weatherall, it was so sad to see such a genuine music fan pass away so young and presumably with so much more to offer. Regarding his memoirs, I'd love to have a book to read about him Adam. To be honest you sound like you might be the right person to come up with such an appreciation..

Jake Sniper said...

Wonderful piece Swiss, you've described him as a lot of people see him. A musical explorer with no borders or boundaries to stifle the joy of music.

Craig said...

Lovely writing, Adam

You'll no doubt be familiar with the current IWDG In A Lonely Place release. It's formulating into a POP article in my head right now.

Until then, and as I work from homw, I'll soundtrack my afternoon wih one of your lockdown mixes. Cheers.

Adam Turner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Turner said...

I'm part way through a IALP post too Craig.

Anonymous said...

Like Deckard in Blade Runner searching for clues in the mirror world of a photo image, we find ourselves looking for signs of Weatherall, in the street mapping imagery, but in vain we still look into the future/past- past/future.
-SRC

Michael Doherty said...

I think it's called The Godiva, thus the mix name. I could be wrong.

John Medd said...

I think it might be The Leofric; near the Godiva statue.

Swiss Adam said...

SRC- good point, just checked the link (which I copied and pasted straight from the original Time Out post) and he's gone.

Walter said...

Excellent post, Adam. I agree to a lot you wrote about the artist I miss most. And by the way, it is funny that you, Echorich and me have chosen the same remix for today.

Khayem said...

As ever, an eloquent and heartfelt tribute. I can't even begin to adequately describe the positive impact his music - whether remixes, productions or his own material - has had on my life. But, in fact, you pretty much said everything I would want to say. I wondered what song/remix you would choose today - and brilliant that you, Walter and Echorich plumped for the same - but any selection would have been amazing, that's just the body of work that he left behind.

Although Lord Sabre was no longer physically with us during lockdown, his music was always there and kept me going. I really, really enjoyed your Weatherall-related mixes throughout 2020 and I think you captured the spirit in all of them.

I posted my similar attempt at a tribute mix a couple of days after Andrew Weatherall died and I've stitched together a second, one year on. Both available on my Mixcloud page. This one's heavy on the 1990s remixes, but includes a fair bit from this century and one of his final releases from last year. As ever, there's a golden thread linking everything that he worked on. I feel sad thinking that he is no longer here, no longer making music, but then Perpetual Dawn, The Moton 5, Shack 54 or Come Together comes on and I feel so, so happy. Gone but never forgotten.

And only 567 tagged posts? Honestly, it feels like fewer. Keep writing 'em and I'll keep reading 'em, Adam. Thanks.

Echorich said...

Beautiful words Adam. You reignited my fascination with The Chairman, providing me a clear lane to listen to him in new ways. I’m glad that A Man Called Adam’s tribute release is where Walter, you and I found a common jumping off point to pay out isn’t tributes. At lunch today I played his 2016 album Convenanza, a record that treats me to something new or something familiar every time I listen.

James said...

Beautifully written Adam, your love of Andrews music has been channelled into the Flightpath & you and Martin have created something really special there for fans of Andrews music. I was fortunate to get to know him, watch him at work in the studio and he was phenomenal but also really humble, he'd ask me what I thought about a tune he'd just done, we'd talk music for hours and it was a joy. For me , he was and always has been the best, I told him not so long ago that I felt he was only just getting started with his artistic legacy, it's a tragedy he's left the building as he was going to be concentrating more on art and writing. RIP Andrew X