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Gordon Raphael, Kat and India at Filthy McNasty’s (2002)
“Kat and India outside of Filthy Macnasty’s pub in Islington. Those bright red picnic tables were our party place.” (2002)Photography Gordon Raphael

‘It was an amazing explosion’: photos from the epicentre of indie sleaze

We take a look through the archive of Gordon Raphael, The Strokes’ producer at the heart of the 00s in-crowd

My first memory of Gordon Raphael is of a taciturn but gentle presence at an afterparty in 2002 – a kick-on from a Libertines gig at Cherry Jam in Westbourne Grove, at the inception of what we’re retrospectively calling “indie sleaze”. Raphael – the feted producer of The Strokes’ first two albums who also went on to discover Regina Spektor – soon afterwards moved over from the US, rented a house in Islington, and became a central part of it all, hanging out with everyone from club kids to indie overlord Damon Albarn.

Speaking over Zoom from his home in Hebden Bridge, Raphael recalls, “Although there were definitely some debauched parties that we were privileged to see and be part of, I was really about the music – all these musicians were there and there were all these new bands starting up. Being in the studio was what I was really focused on.”

As a prolific photographer, the many noughties party scenes documented in his archive of images – featuring the ubiquitous ripped tights, scuffed heels and dirty trainers – more often than not feel like afterparty shots, the dying embers of the night. Booze, club entries and gig tickets were cheap and blag-able and there was no expectation of designer clothing; everything was inexpensive and accessible.

“It was an amazing explosion” – Gordon Raphael

Raphael, who has now been sober for many years, reveals some of his most cherished experiences from a life lived utterly for music in his book, The World is Going to Love This  (published by Wordville). From studio sessions with The Strokes to his recollections of the grunge scene, he revisits past times in Seattle, New York, Berlin, London and now West Yorkshire, alongside images from his collection of behind-the-scenes photography. 

 “There were already these great people hanging around. The individuals were so striking and vibrant. It was a great, heady community,” he tells Dazed. The music scene of the early 2000s ricocheted between London and New York. The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Rapture were all gigging at venues and nightclubs in London. Raphael remembers that, while there was a small music scene in London, you could go out every night, whereas in New York there were a wealth of bands with nowhere to play. 

“The Strokes… New York is in every cell of that music. But living in New York at that time was very hard for musicians,” he elaborates. “It was about jungle, trip-hop, and acid jazz. It was DJ-only, it was really hard to be a musician. So when The Strokes first came out with their singles and their Modern Age EP, the UK was the first to adopt it. It came out on Rough Trade, they were featured in NME, and they toured the UK. Back in New York, they weren’t even going above the tiniest little clubs.” Meanwhile, in London, bands partied at dancier venues like 333 Mother Bar with scenester DJ duo Queens of Noize, or at now-legendary nights like Trash at The End where, if you were lucky, you caught live performances from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem.  

The World is Going to Love This is a passionate paean to music, chronicling in images and text Raphael’s journey through the picaresque world of indie sleaze. “A scene is either really boring or you feel it like the temperature,” he concludes. “It was an amazing explosion.”

Take a look through the gallery above for a closer look at images from Raphael’s vast archive of photographs from the 2000s. 

The World is Going to Love This by Gordon Raphael is published by Wordville and is available now.

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