The DJ and producer was one of UK dance music’s most influential and idiosyncratic figures
Where do you even begin with Andrew Weatherall? After news broke yesterday that Weatherall, one of UK dance music’s most influential and idiosyncratic figures, had died aged 56, the music journalist Philip Sherburne did a good job of summing up the range of his output: “if you asked ten people to name their favourite production of his, you’d get ten different records”.
Weatherall’s tastes were broad, and if you caught him DJ at any point over the last few years, you’ll have probably seen this free-spiritedness reflected in the make-up of his crowds: young techno heads mixing with acid house casualties, club kids with crusties. I remember my friend’s dad, a serious heavy metal and goth-rock fan who I assumed hadn’t listened to a new record since Floodland came out in 1987, rhapsodising about seeing Weatherall play in the 90s. Or, as a friend said to me yesterday, “his sets were about attitude rather than genre, which was why so many people liked it, and why his crowds were always good” (he also put it another way: “you basically never got cunts at a Weatherall set”).
This isn’t to say that Weatherall didn’t have his obsessions. Dub, rockabilly, punk, ambient, psych-rock, electro, and cosmic disco were all recurring sounds in his DJ sets and inspirations in his own music, whether as a solo artist or in his countless collaborations (Sabres of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen in the 90s and 00s, or the Asphodells and the Woodleigh Research Facility in the 2010s, to name just a small handful of his partnerships), but he was able to unite dancefloors around what he believed in, no matter how esoteric.
Like a lot of younger dance music fans, my first introduction to Andrew Weatherall was through his work with Primal Scream on Screamadelica. Although he was just one of many producers on the album, Weatherall was the catalyst for its fusion of rock’n’roll revivalism and acid house delirium after the band asked him to remix their 1989 track “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”. He was effectively clueless about music production when he first went into the studio, but this naivety led him to make the track that would later become “Loaded”. This then led him to work on Screamadelica, which was followed by a run of untouchable remixes for Saint Etienne, My Bloody Valentine, One Dove, Flowered Up... it’s a list that goes on and on.
Had he wanted to, Weatherall probably could have leveraged this hype to reach the same heights of fame as his old associate, Paul Oakenfold, but he never seemed particularly interested in playing that game. Instead, his interests became narrower and more unconventional as the years went on, which seemed to prevent him from ever landing in a creative rut. Rather than getting stuck into clubland’s lucrative nostalgia circuit, Weatherall always championed new music in his DJ sets, radio shows, and interviews (revisiting a 2010 conversation with Dazed, I was pleasantly surprised to see him voice his admiration for then-emerging ‘witch house’ artists like SALEM and Forest Swords). When a journalist once asked him when the best period of dance music was, he simply replied, “last week”.
As much as I’d love to pretend that Screamadelica opened up my teenage ears to a whole new world of dance music, the reality is that it’d be another few years before I really dug into Weatherall’s work. Towards the end of the 2000s, I started to notice his name pop up more and more in the indie press as a producer for artists like Fuck Buttons and Warpaint, which led me to a fairly obscure remix he produced for Nick Cave’s Grinderman project. Slow, groovy, and dubby, with a serious bassline, it introduced me to what remains one of my favourite styles of dance music today – the ‘drug-chug’, as Weatherall called it.
From there I worked backwards, discovering not just new music, which was generally excellent, but also new ideas, thanks to Weatherall’s involvement with the Boy’s Own fanzine that he co-founded in the late 80s, which documented football, fashion, and music against the backdrop of the still-unfolding acid house subculture. Boy’s Own displayed Weatherall’s sharp sense of humour and use of language, something that also made him a great interview subject – insightful but never too intellectual, funny without it being a joke. That wordplay could be found in other places, too, from his evocative track titles (“Fail We May, Sail We Must”, “Haunted Dancehall”, etc.) to the manifesto of his A Love from Outer Space parties – “never knowingly exceeding 122bpm” – just a few words that I’d imagine were vivid enough to inspire a lot of musicians to create slow, hypnotic dance music.
Weatherall was prolific, and there are literally hundreds of his tracks, remixes, and DJ sets that I’m sure I’ll be discovering for years to come, but below are eight productions – four classic, four less well-known – that showcase the breadth of his creative curiosity.