...I used to send out emails to
my mates,
Saint Acid's Neo-Rave
mates were going 'What the hell is that?

Ravetalk: How did Bang Face come into being?

Saint Acid: First one was in October 2003, it was in a kind of disused public toilet in London near Brick Lane. It was just a small empty box basically, under the pavement, was more of a party for mates really.

And I’ve been putting on parties and DJ-ing for years, but then started playing in London, music I was calling “neo-rave”, as a joke basically, and it picked up from there really. People seemed to find it funny, an eclectic mix of styles like you get at BF now, acid, rave, jungle, techno, electro, breakcore..

I’d been playing lots of mashed-up DJ sets like that, not even really thinking about it too much, and it just seemed to be going down well with friends and I’d played a few warehouse parties in east London, so I thought why not put on my first night in London? The first three were just free entry and word got out pretty soon that it was a good laugh. That’s really where it all began.

I’d actually come up with the name Bang Face before that point, I used to have this thing where I sent out emails to my mates, it was called Saint Acid’s Neo-Rave Newsletter, haha, and I used to just write gibberish in there, pestering my mates to go to raves.

And I remember one, I was playing three gigs in one weekend, one at a warehouse, one in a bar and one in someone’s house, and I sent an email saying come along to this, Bang Face – the Birth of Neo-Rave, mates were going “What the hell is that?” and it basically took off from there. It was kind of a happy accident and by October 2003 I got my arse into gear.

You got into rave in your teens in 1990, what stuff do you remember being played?

I remember listening to house music and electro with a couple of mates down the road who went on to be big drum & bass acts and then by 1990 I was doing my GCSEs swapping rave mix tapes with mates and by that time we were 16/17, started going to raves around the M25. Not every weekend, I wasn’t a diehard, I was at school still.

Was there any particular tune that really stood out for you at the time?

The first rave track that really hit me was Cubik by 808 State. That was the first rave track that made me think “Shit, I’ve got to go to one of these”.

Then I left school, went away to university to do an art foundation course and a degree, then went to Goldsmiths College and got an MA in Image and Communication. I was the eternal student for a long time, haha. I’d been an art student for years and took it pretty seriously, got one or two arts awards, got some exhibition spots from the Arts Council and stuff, and wanted to be an artist really or a film-maker.

Where did the name Bang Face come from? What made you think of it?

I don’t know, it just came to me, just seemed funny at the time

Do you know it’s one of Tim Westwood’s catchphrases? “It’s gonna go bang in yer face!”

Yeah, it’s actually funny because someone I knew who works in radio, a couple of years ago, actually got Tim Westwood to do a Bang Face jingle, saying ‘Big up the Bang Face crew’ etc. I’ve got it on mp3 but it’s never been released (laughs).

We’ve got to hear it!

Yeah, I should upload it to the forum some time, shouldn’t I? Haha.

You said you’ve had a lot of people claim that the Bang Face face is their face, when in actual fact it’s your brother’s face. Who’s claimed you stole their face?

Oh, I’ve just heard that people have been going around claiming that it’s their face. They could be dining out on it, haha, but it’s actually my brother. I had this idea for a logo and just got my brother to pose for it, took a few photos from different angles, distorted them a bit and sketched it from there. My brother’s a bit younger than me, he’s not really a raver. He thinks it’s hilarious. I emailed him that picture of the tattoo and he was like whoa, it’s all going a bit too far (laughs).

There are a few people who say “Oh, it’s changed, it’s not like it used to be”? Do you think there’s any truth in this?

You know, I’ve been hearing that from the early days! There’s been a few periods in the history of BF, defined by the venues they’ve been at or significant events that have happened in between.

The first three were mostly mates and then people we didn’t know started to come. And then those people were asking to DJ and I was saying OK, go for it and it all started changing from there. And then we moved venue to a bar basement on Old Street.

Some people think those were the halcyon days of Bang Face. We started to get people like Ceephax, DMX Krew, Bong Ra, Mike Dred and Shitmat to play. Then it was getting to the point where you had about 150 people rammed in like sardines in this small basement and you’d have a queue up the stairs and out into the street, and the toilets were outside the basement.

So if you went to the toilet, you lost your space. The first person in the queue would take your space and you’d have to rejoin the queue. This is how the Hard Crew thing developed, you got there early so you could get in and then you stayed there and couldn’t leave the room, you were in it until the end.

Ah, I see. Well hard!

Yeah, and that’s where the rave banners and stuff started. Catchphrases were developing. One of the first slogans was ‘Hard Crew Don’t Piss’ haha.

What’s your favourite rave banner? Mine is “The only thing I'm f**king tonight is my prospects.”

Ha ha, that’s a classic! Another good one, “Call the police, there’s a bomb in my brain” - that one makes me laugh every time. I like the simple ones too, just a couple of words, its all about the context you see them in.

Because people have such a good time, do you ever get people saying: “That’s not real clubbing, you’re supposed to be serious about it, not taking the piss”?

We actually get the opposite, people saying “Shit, this is what it’s supposed to be like when you go out, like a party.” The first known DJs we started getting were from the electronica scene, I don’t like that term but it’s what describes it, IDM is probably even worse. Neo-rave is just something silly too. We always had silly things like, you know, Chinstrokers’ Corner, toys, masks, stuff like that.

What do you think of nu-rave?

I don't really know much about it to be honest. A few bands did approach
Bang Face but I didn't really see how the music would fit in at the time.
But I reckon a few nu-ravers came to BF and saw the light and are now
Hard Crew. Ha ha.

Sometimes artists at BF play sets that aren’t at all their usual set. What’s been the most completely unexpected set you’ve seen someone do there?

A lot of the DJs and artists in the early days would get right into the spirit of the party and basically play raved up music when they’re known for different styles. That used to surprise people. People would ask “Where’s so and so?” and be told they’re on now. I guess now people want them to play in their signature style but ramp it up. So they see it as an excuse to crank up the BPM and that’s good as we end up with live sets that you probably wouldn’t see somewhere else.

Let’s talk about the Weekender. The pool party on the Saturday sounds intriguing, can you tell us a bit more about it?

There’s a swimming pool that holds a couple of hundred people and we’re gonna put a soundsystem in there and some DJs and make it you know, the whole Bang Face set-up. Ha ha. With lifeguards and everything!

But I thought “Health and Safety can f*** off”? ;)

Well, yeah, unless they’re saving a life. Slides too. It’s going to get messy. (laughs). I always prefer to think that ‘Health and Safety can f*** off’ means personal health and safety!

How’s the Chas and Dave set going to work out? Are they going to simply play their standard knees-up set?

Well, there are a few jokes about them doing some collaborations with some other artists but whether or not that will happen, we’ll have to see. But they’re going to be belting out the classics.

Any chance of a Bang Face tour?

The thing is, I get a lot of people asking me about this, people in Europe, saying we’ll do everything for you. But that’s not really the vibe. We’ve been talking about doing one in America, one in Japan. I would definitely love to do it. It’s not just a case of booking a venue and playing some music, it’s more than that, so many things have to be right.

If we had one in Europe, I’d have to go around Europe first scouting everything out. It’s having the time to do all that.

What about the occasional one-off night in British cities? I’m trying to steer this towards having something in Leeds or York or something. ;)

Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Leeds over the years, I’d love to do one. The thing is a lot of people do travel from around the country, and around the world, to come to Bang Face. I like the idea of it having a sort of spiritual home. And its amazing that people travel from all round the country, Europe and beyond!

What attracts all these people from around the world? Is it the artists or have they heard of Bang Face?

Hopefully because it’s a damn good laugh! But we’ve always had a wide range of subscribers on the email stuff. Even in 2004, people were emailing and saying why don’t you bring it to Japan, please bring it to America. Nothing’s really changed from that point of view.

Has Bang Face ever been accused of “selling out”?

(sighs) Yeah but only a few people have said that, it depends what they’re into. Like booking an old rave act, a few people think that’s selling out. I think you’ve sold out when you start doing stuff you don’t believe in. And I haven’t done that yet.

20 April 2008. Words by Paul Gardner. Pictures by Saint Acid and Bang Face regulars.
© 2008 Paul Gardner and Ravetalk

This is the second of two articles about Bang Face. Part 1 is a beginner's guide to Bang Face.


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James 'St Acid' Gurney, the patron saint of neo-rave, has never before given a media interview about his unique club night, Bang Face, which is attracting attention from all corners of the globe. In a world exclusive for Ravetalk, he talks about Bang Face's past, present and future.