808 State: Biography
The story of 808 State defines an era of electronic dance music, and sets a
blueprint of possibilities for future generations. Formed in Manchester in
1988, their first album – Newbuild – is now regarded as a milestone in UK
electronica and sprang from a desire for a more outer-limits dance sound from
the growing warehouse party scene in North West England.
Pacific State followed, becoming an end-of-night anthem at the Haçienda and
breaking out of the dance underground when it was picked up by daytime
Radio 1. But the band pushed against dance-celebrity culture and became
more of a corporate electronic product with intentionally minimalist record
sleeves and a reluctance to self promote.
Paul Morley signed the band to the ZTT label, and the first fruits of this
partnership – 808:90 – was awarded 10/10 from the NME. As The Guardian
pointed out, with this record, “808 State mapped out the future of club music,
utilising techno, ambient and rock to usher in the E-fuelled indie-dance
Between 808:90 it's follow-up, ex:el, 808 State delivered two of the most
brutal and absorbing instrumentals ever to enter the UK top ten: Cübik, with
its squalling abstract guitar and uber-riffs, followed quickly by In Yer Face.
At the height of chart success and the 'Madchester' era, 808 celebrated with a
massive hometown gig filling the G-Mex stadium with the biggest PA system
ever assembled. Hearing ex:el, Q magazine described how “808 State
playfully tickle the underbelly of sampling, KLF-style stadium house and the
dormant ghost of Kraftwerk to create something innovative, daring and
Signing in the USA to influential hip-hop label Tommy Boy, they collaborated
with the likes of Quincy Jones, David Bowie and Afrika Bambaataa. With
Gorgeous, they tamed the beast that rave had become – a schizophrenic,
mass-market dance culture – and delivered their most well-known album
stateside, perhaps due to some numerology with the singles 10x10 and 1 in
10 and Plan 9 all hitting college radio stations one after another.
With the Don Solaris project, 808 State recorded a whole new album. Then
they scrapped it completely, went back to the drawing board and recorded a
whole new 808 State. As the NME wrote at the time, “808 State
revolutionised a whole genre of music in the late-80s, inspiring Underworld,
Orbital and the Chemical Brothers in the process.” But in the late-90s,
Andrew Barker, Graham Massey, and Darren Partington pushed further and
unearthed a deeper, darker version of their own selves.
The bands back catalogue has been reprinted several times in expanded form
both by ZTT, UMAA Inc. in Japan and Aphex Twin’s Rephlex label. It is a
catalogue that continues to evolve, with 00s output taking in collaborations
with Simian Mobile Disco and Ninja Tunes, the beautiful Lemonsoul (with
guest vocals from Elbow's Guy Garvey) and the Outpost Transmission album.
2011 has seen the release of career overview BLUEPRINT and an expanded
reissue of the 1990 album “The North At Its Heights” with MC Tunes.
808 State in recent years could be spotted around the world at festivals, with
a full live band including bass, drums, percussion and a mountain of
electronics, recent highlights including Primavera in Barcelona, Creamfields in
Argentina, Bestival on the Isle of White and the Wire Festival at the
Yokohama Stadium Japan.
And, in between all this, there's an ever-evolving series of side-projects with
Andrew Barker and Darren Partington generally either on a plane to a club or
spinning in a DJ booth, and Graham Massey producing and performing both
with his 28-piece big band Toolshed, art-house organ-group Sisters of
Transistors, or solo electronica outlet, Massonix.
808 State Live 2012
27th Jan: Village Underground, London