ALTERN 8 should need no introduction to anyone with the vaguest clue about the UK rave scene in the glory days of 1991. At a time when politicians, top cops and the Daily Mail were having full-on mass hysteria about young people taking ecstasy and dancing to music characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats, the men in chemical warfare suits and dust masks symbolised the true hardcore of the scene.
Twenty years on, so strong is the love for all things Altern 8 that a Christmas pudding that had originally been intended to be thrown as alms to the poor from a hot air balloon (until it was realised there might have been a health and safety issue) sold on Ebay for £129!
Mark Archer, one of the key creative forces of Altern 8, now performs under his own name and has just released a mind-blowing set of remixes by some of today’s most respected producers, including Luke Vibert, Ed DMX, AGT Rave Cru and Killa Productions:
As predicted by Ravetalk in our relaunch article of 2 October, pre-release orders of a special yellow vinyl edition of the remixes sold out well before today’s official release***.
Amid all this excitement, Ravetalk caught up with Mark to ask him a few questions about the current scene and the good old days…
RT: So, 20 years after the original Frequency, how does it feel to have four of today’s hottest names in these genres reworking this old classic?
MA: Having the track played out still by the likes of Ben Sims and Paul Mac, Soulwax etc 20 years on is more than I could have ever wished for but having these mixes done by people I really respect, knowing they have done them purely because they love the track and turning out such superb mixes is just mint!
Dave Haslam, one of the former Hacienda DJs, wrote a book about how the 1970s have been repackaged to people who weren’t there as “70s nights” that are all about Afro wigs, fake sideburns and Rose Royce. Is there a danger of “Spirit of ’91″ type nights coming up and doing the same sort of thing – being all about glowsticks, whistles and dust masks and missing the whole point? And if they do, does it matter?
I don’t think there was ever a really fake side to the rave scene that was detached from the original underground movement like there was with disco, which towards its end was very commercial, so I don’t think there’s any danger of massive raves full of kids wearing acid house T-shirts and dungarees dancing to 2 Unlimited (god help us if it does).
What is your own personal favourite tune out of your back catalogue?
Probably Dream Plant and Heifer Nation from the DS93 ep.
And by anyone else?
I’ve got loads of favourites, but two that stand out are It’s Happenin by Plus One and Just Another Chance by Reece.
Going back to the Altern 8 days, I read somewhere that before your musical careers took off, you and Chris were deckchair attendants in Stafford. Was this just a piss-take?
That was just one of the many stories that the press gurus at Network Records made up, taking the piss really out of the kind of crap that papers printed about groups, playing them at their own game really and seeing what they would actually print. Stafford’s nothing to shout about really and there’s certainly no need for deckchairs.
How did the thing with the chemical suits and masks with the Vicks Vapo-Rub inside start? And did you ever start thinking “this is getting old” when wearing those outfits and wanted to try a different look?
The suits were from my brother who was in the RAF at the time, we had done a PA at the Eclipse in Coventry as Nexus 21 and were booked a few months later as Altern 8 so wanted to look different on stage. The Vicks came from when we played at Rezurection in Newcastle, someone walked past smelling of Vicks and we just thought it would be nicer to breathe in whilst on stage, 50 minutes on stage breathing the same air wasn’t pleasant.
As Altern 8 only really did gigs from 1991 – 1993 the image didn’t have time to get old and since then it’s what is associated with the group so when I have worn it to DJ in, people know exactly who’s on the decks.
Altern 8 was notorious for its stunts and scams, including the infamous car park rave, standing for election as the “Hardcore U Know The Score Party” and planning to throw special Christmas puds out of a hot air balloon (until someone realised it might be a bit of a health & safety issue). What was your favourite stunt?
Probably the car park rave, it was just our way of extending the night at Shelley’s a bit more and giving a bit back to a crowd who really supported us. Was an ace night and went down in rave history, plus we managed to get some great footage for the Activ 8 video.
Whose voice says “Top one, nice one, get sorted?”
Top one, nice one, get sorted was by the record label boss’s daughter who was three years old at the time, the label dubbed her Mc Crazy Claire and we even had magazines asking if she was recording more material.
Who were Astrix and Space – and who is it that tells us to watch our bass bins?
Astrix & Space were two DJs from Sheffield who I met after I’d sampled them off a tape a mate had recorded of a radio show they did on SCR. The one who actually said “watch yer bass bins” is Chris Duckenfield, but he hates anyone mentioning it… oops! 😉
***You can still buy some of the remaining limited edition vinyl from online shops and the digital release is now available for Â£2.99 from Balkan Vinyl with some exclusive bonus remixes from Chevron and Datassette.