We asked ten DJs to pick their favourites from one of electronic music's most influential mix series.
Less than a week later, the club reaches a more bittersweet milestone: the final edition of its celebrated mix CDs. After 200 mixes, split evenly between fabric and Fabriclive, the series concludes today with fabric 100, a three-part mix from Richards, fellow resident Terry Francis and club cofounder Keith Reilly.
In our 2009 oral history of fabric, Richards said of fabric 01, which came out back in 2001: "I wanted to say as much as possible about the end of the night in Room One—the music, the club, and lastly myself. I really love the combination of old and new. Old records that still sound good remain strong in the mind. I tend to be proud of very little, but I'm very proud of what I did."
With each mix that followed, DJs relished the chance to have their own piece of music history housed inside that silver-metal case. Some, like Steffi, used unreleased material on their mix. Others, like Villalobos, Omar-S and Shackleton, used the platform to showcase their own productions. Raresh imagined himself in a fully packed Room One when he recorded fabric 78, while Maceo Plex reflected on seeing Villalobos "surrounded by a sea of bobbing heads" when he announced fabric 98. It all adds up to probably the most influential catalogue of mixes in contemporary electronic music. To mark the end of an era, we asked people who have contributed to the series to talk about their favourite fabric or Fabriclive mix.
It is very hard to pick a favorite fabric mix. It's nearly impossible. But I am a big fan of Shackleton and that makes this task much easier. His "mix" is almost an album. A fantastic, imaginative, ever-changing sonic palette that is like a movie existing on its own terms. It's hard to determine the genre in which Shackleton works because he is actually beyond any genre as he managed to create the genre of his own. And this hour of recorded psychedelic boogie-woogie is the gate to his own fairy tale-like universe, where every sound and every voice, like in the jungle, coexist in a perfect harmony.
In choosing my favourite entry in to the fabric mix canon I went for the mix that had the biggest impact on me in my formative years. I first heard Fabriclive 09 by Jacques Lu Cont when I was 16 at a time when I was "properly" getting into dance music. It's a mix that traverses electronica, electro, deep house, well-worn classics and versions of tracks that are unique to the mix. What blew me away was how coherent the whole mix was and it certainly informs how I mix records, and especially how I construct mixes and podcasts to this day. In a beautiful turn of events he played in Room One the first time I ever went to fabric. I remember making my way in to the middle of the crowd, and half an hour in he played "It's Automatic," which he wrote under his Zoot Woman alias. A guy turned to me and said, "It doesn't get much better than this." Never has a truer word been spoken.
This is the perfect DJ mix/compilation. It's unpretentious, deep, warm, driving, hypnotic and groovy as fuck. Every track is amazing and you get totally lost in his story, which he tells from the heart. That's exactly where the groove comes from, the heart. It's my favourite DJ mix of the last 10 years and I can't praise it enough. Thank you Calibre!
Fabric 01 by Craig Richards has always been my favorite of the series. The reason for this is twofold. First, this mix came out before many of us had been to the club (I went just a few months later), so it provided a sonic picture of what fabric was. To this day, the mix is fabric Room One in its heyday to me. The second reason I love the mix so much is Craig's low-slung, nonchalant approach. No fancy intro, just the first kick of Gemini's "At That Café." Mixes fade in and out with subtle ease. Basslines rise and fall as the momentum builds. The mix climaxes with SWAG's "Drum Hydraulics" and as the melancholy mood of Schatrax's "Mispent Years" fades out, we are left with an age- and genre-defining mix.
Such a quality series, from the artwork to the mastering and the carefully curated mixes. fabric's vision is at work here and it's manifested in the CD series. It's incredibly difficult to choose just one mix, but one of my personal favorites is the very first. Launch duties were rightly left to one the club's master residents, Craig Richards. He, alongside Terry Francis, became synonymous with the club and its sound. A classic mix without flash, just solid programming evoking the mood of the club during a late night or early morning spent there when he's at the controls. It seamlessly interweaves deep house, techno, dub, breaks and tracky elements with standout cuts by Gemini, CPEN and LO-KEE among others. A timeless mix indeed.
I've bought fabric and Fabriclive CDs pretty much since the series began. Choosing a favourite is tough as there are so many which felt crucial at the time of release, but I decided to pick the John Peel CD. Growing up with John's Radio 1 show in general had a very core influence which still echoes very clearly in what I do today, as both a DJ and producer. In a time when dance music was exceptionally tribal, John's was the only show to my knowledge where you could hear guitar music side-by-side with electronic music—it was also the only show where you could hear a collision of extreme and fringe music alongside mainstream developments. I was delighted that this ethos was echoed on his CD. Hearing the Velvelettes' "Needle In A Haystack" next to MC Det's "Hipsteppin'" and a Marc Smith Rotterdam-style hardcore track, a banjo version of Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life," dystopian techstep into a live Peel session of "Lion Rock" by Culture, Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" with field recordings of football commentary over the top, all made absolutely no sense to me, while at the same time making absolutely perfect sense. I feel really lucky to have caught him play records live a couple of times in Room Three. This CD perfectly encapsulates John Peel as the original walking, talking random playlist shuffle. I thank him for his teachings.
The Pearson Sound Fabriclive 56 mix from 2011 is one of my favorite fabric CDs because it's so significant for its time. First of all, the CD is expertly mixed by one of the UK's best DJs coming out of the "bass" scene. Secondly, it contains a brilliant overview of all the important producers from that scene at that time—the likes of Burial, Appleblim, Joy O, Julio Bashmore, Jam City, Pinch and Mala, with a few curveballs such as the massive Marcello Napoletano tune and Addison Groove's "Fuk Tha 101." But most importantly, this release documents the artistic transition of David from his Ramadanman alias into Pearson Sound. Changing direction in one's career is always difficult, but what better way to do it then with a musical statement.
I think my favourite from that series is not any particular mix, but there are just a few moments. I haven't heard all the mixes obviously, but there are certain moments on certain mixes that have been very emotional and inspiring. I think the end of the John Peel one I would put in that category, and the first few tracks where Robert Hood goes through "Who Taught You Math," and a few other things. It's just the most incredible start to pretty much any techno mix I've heard. I always thought that Craig Richards was an absolute pro at pacing DJ mixes, track selection, and I've definitely learnt something off his early two. The Villalobos one has some spectacular moments, but I also think it's kind of flawed as a DJ mix, it gets very very meandery at certain tracks, because he didn't really do much with the actual mixing of the records, but it has some of his best music on it. But I think that when John Peel plays The Undertones, that will definitely always be something in my heart.
Weatherall's mix truly meant something to a kid who had previously presumed club culture was only for people unlike him. Along with the Radioactive Man, Death In Vegas and Ivan Smagghe mixes in the series, it showed me everything about approaching electronic music from a leftfield stance. The 2 Lone Swordsmen remix of Villalobos here still reminds me of that moment of discovery. Cut to 2012 and after several years of playing warm-ups in the club, I was offered the chance to record a Fabriclive CD, way before any fucker really knew who I was. I had been working in a studio next door to Weatherall's and he'd started playing out some of the music I was handing him. I text him asking, "Do you happen to have anything old knocking about? I'm making a fabric mix." He immediately called me back: "Good work, dear boy. I'll make you something. What BPM are you after?" His track "Dry Heat" (as The Asphodells with Tim Fairplay) fit right at the end of the mix and completed one of my favourite circles in this life so far.
I really liked the Michael Mayer and Guy Gerber mixes, but the Ricardo Villalobos would probably be my favourite out of the whole lot, more on the deeper side of things. I think it's a fantastic series, it went all over the place. There's techno, house, it just totally expressed everything that's played in the club. The choice of people, I think it'd be hard to match so many DJs all in one series again. You'll struggle to get a series like that going again now, it's a collectible thing capturing the 19-year history of the club. I really enjoyed mixing fabric 100. I tried to capture some moments from all over the club, from different rooms and different styles—a bit of techno, bit of house, bit of deep stuff, and make it a story. I wasn't really trying to follow any passions that happened in the moment, I just wanted to do a mix of the 19 years of the club.