Pioneering spirit - Andrew Weatherall interview
After a career spent inventing, redefining and disappearing, Andrew Weatherall’s latest collaborative project, his first under his own name, continues to defy expectations. He talks to Henry Northmore.
To say that Andrew Weatherall has had a diverse career is a bit of an understatement. He started way back in the late 80s DJing the backroom at Shoom (often credited as the birth place of Britain’s acid house scene). ‘I’d be the kid that would play at six o’clock in the morning and I’d play dub, early electronic music, soul, reggae. I just played records that I’d want to hear if I was out of my tiny fragile mind at six in the morning,’ recalls Weatherall. ‘I was that kid with the weird record collection.’
He was instrumental in setting up record label/magazine/club night Boy’s Own; was an integral part of electronic trio Sabres of Paradise (who gave us the chill out classic ‘Smokebelch’) and the associated record label Sabresonic; formed post-punk electro duo Two Lone Swordsmen (with Keith Tenniswood, aka Radioactive Man) and later set up another label, Rotter’s Golf Club. A former punk, Weatherall is famed for his dark, dubby take on electronica and occasional forays into rockabilly. ‘I was chased from a building two years ago for playing rockabilly because people hadn’t read the small print properly,’ laughs Weatherall. ‘There’s nothing quite so interesting as having to run out the back of a club into a waiting taxi while people make throat slitting gestures at you from the dancefloor.’
However it is perhaps his production work that brought him to the attention of music aficionados beyond the late night dancefloors. Although he has produced the likes of Beth Orton, Björk, New Order and My Bloody Valentine, it will always be his production work on Primal Scream’s seminal Screamadelica that will ensure his exalted position in Scotland’s affections, coating the Glasgow rockers with a house/dub/ambient groove that brought the club and rock worlds into alignment. ‘To this day when I play Scotland there’s people thanking me for Screamdelica,’ says Weatherall, adding modestly: ‘I politely say “thank you”, but respect is due to the band, it’s still their work. I think in places like Glasgow, once you’ve proved yourself, people stick with you.’
Despite his long and varied time immersed in the music industry, it wasn’t until 2009 that Weatherall released his first material under his own name with A Pox on The Pioneers. ‘I’ve always thought of this as a joint effort and I kind of like that gang mentality. But this time round I just thought: “this is a collaboration, but I’m more in charge of the project than I may have been over the last 20 years, so I’ll put my name to it.” Also, hopefully that means I might sell a few more records,’ laughs Weatherall, who’s currently working on the final stages of his next album, choosing the running order from the 20 tracks he has prepared.
For T in the Park he’s teaming up with French DJ Ivan Smagghe – founder of dark electro duo Black Strobe – for a special back-to-back set. ‘We’ve got very similar tastes and very similar styles of playing; it just works well together,’ explains Weatherall. ‘It will probably be two or three records each I’d imagine, his coming out of a computer, mine coming from vinyl. I think we’re on really early, which is really good because you’re playing to people that are really going for it, who haven’t been to bed since Thursday. So we’ll play something weird and groovy for people who haven’t slept for four days.’
Andrew Weatherall and Ivan Smagghe play the Slam Tent at T in the Park, Sun 11 Jul.