Iconic acts are gathering for the inaugural Festival of House
Underworld, Leftfield and Haçienda Classical headline the new Tayside festival
This article is from 2016.
A two-day June celebration just outside Dundee, the Festival of House is a brand spanking newcomer on the Scottish dance scene. A mix of DJs and live acts across the electronic spectrum, the festival features a line-up including Erol Alkan, Sasha, Danny Howard, Rudimental (DJ set), Eats Everything, Dubfire, James Zabiela and Dixon but, as the name suggests, focuses on the rich heritage of house. Perhaps most exciting of all, it’s headlined by two of the most influential production units of the 90s: Leftfield and Underworld.
Underworld's looping dub and techno beats became synonymous with the early club scene. Karl Hyde and Rick Smith started as an indie band before joining forces with DJ Darren Emerson to create a new sound which drew on elements of post-punk fed through electronic production, topped off by Hyde's stream-of-consciousness lyrics. 'By the end of the 80s when Underworld mark one had collapsed, Rick had already decided he wanted to make dance music,' explains Hyde. ‘And if anyone else wanted to go with him they were welcome.'
1994’s breakthrough Dubnobasswithmyheadman still sounds fresh today, overflowing with multi-layered rhythmic grooves and with its darkly gothic take on the house formula. Their infectiously buoyant 'Born Slippy' soundtracked the final scene of Trainspotting and is as evocative of the 90s as anything by Oasis or Blur. 'It was something you could make outside of the industry,’ says Hyde. ‘You didn’t need promotion or press, telly or radio; you just needed the ability to make music, play it on the dancefloor and people would vote with their feet. Instant feedback.'
Emerson left the band in 2000 but Hyde and Smith continued as a duo producing startlingly original and unique music including the sonic experimentation of this year’s Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future. 'As long as somebody is still in their bedrooms making stuff and sticking two fingers up at people like us then dance music will keep coming up with something that is healthy and exciting.'
Another inspired addition to the bill is Haçienda Classical, a celebration of the rave era filtered through a full orchestra which also appears at SSE Hydro in April. The brainchild of original Haçienda residents Graeme Park and Mike Pickering, it captures the essence of Manchester’s iconic club but reworked on a huge scale with a 40-70 piece orchestra (depending on venue specifications).
'It's two worlds colliding,' explains Park. ‘The Manchester Camerata Orchestra have a score and an arrangement, so in every concert they’re doing the same thing but Mike and I as DJs thought "let's do something different at every concert". So I have lots of samples I can play; I do old school scratching and Mike's got a lot of FX that he plays.'
Haçienda Classical aims to breathes new life into old school club classics. Park would prefer to keep the setlist secret but via social media and early reviews we know to expect tracks like A Guy Called Gerald's 'Voodoo Ray', Derrick May's 'Strings of Life' and 808 State's 'Pacific State'.
'It just shows you the depths, musicality and layers that all these early techno and house songs have,' says Park. ‘They were all made on very cheap synthesisers and drum machines but the people who made them (all the original Chicago and Detroit producers) put so much music and quality stuff in there so when you get strings playing acid house riffs it sounds fantastic. I'm very proud to have been there from the beginning and to still be carrying the torch for quality electronic underground dance music but with a twist: a massive twist.'
Festival of House, Panmure Estate, Angus, Fri 10 & Sat 11 Jun; Haçienda Classical, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Fri 22 Apr.