Following the death of Andrew Weatherall, Kirk Degiorgio reflects on a lesser-known remix from 1992.
1992 was an odd yet exciting time in dance music. It was the post-acid house period, and some of the eclecticism of the mid-'80s was creeping back. Almost all genres became infected with a post-rave influence of breakbeats or euphoric Balearic glaze. The NME indie-rock world was no exception. Andrew Weatherall played a vital role, pushing an often unfashionable post-punk, leftfield side of the Balearic vision at clubs such as Shoom and in the charts with his reworks of Primal Scream, James and My Bloody Valentine.
Marrying rock with dance music is never an easy undertaking. Weatherall, François K and very few others have done it consistently well. An open-minded musical education that spanned Caister Soul Weekenders, the proto-techno of Chris & Cosey and Alfredo's sun-blissed DJ sets laid the groundwork for Weatherall's natural ability to shoehorn these seemingly incompatible genres together in an effortless way.
So when Weatherall's name appeared on a remix EP by British acid-jazz outfit Galliano in 1992, it was unexpected and intriguing in equal measure. It has remained my favourite Weatherall moment over the almost 30 years since it was released—specifically the Cabin Fever Dub—and hugely influenced a remix I did in the late '90s for Papo Vasquez. It's a lesson in how to weave a repeating bassline and languid break.
The whole EP is a double slice of dance floor fun. So many of Weatherall's finest mixes are on a fundamental level full of joy. But to break it down is to get into the DNA of Weatherall's musical menagerie. There's a dancehall-like intro with vocal trill and a towering Jamaican dub bassline with a twisting, almost acid-like didgeridoo conjuring up pure mayhem at messy squat parties and free-raves. When the breakbeat drops in, it just slays. An irresistible drum & bass interchange thunders on while electronic sinewave swirls come and go, speeding up and slowing in a skunk-fuelled haze.
Patrick Forge was one of the first DJs to get hold of a copy. "The Weatherall dub of 'Skunk Funk' was huge for us at the Talkin' Loud events at The Fridge in Brixton," he says. "The mix of rolling reggae bassline, breakbeat and heavy FX used to sound huge on that system." Forge added: "I'll always remember Andrew for his eclectic vinyl-buying habits at Reckless Records, where I worked in the mid-late '80s. He would spend hours trawling the entire rock section and come out with a stack of albums of the most obscure and odd stuff that nobody seemed to want. They're probably all worth loads now. Always ahead of his time, ploughing a singular furrow."
The idea to have Weatherall tackle a Galliano track was a merging of minds of Galliano's Rob Gallagher and Talkin' Loud A&Rs Gilles Peterson and Paul Martin. Martin recalls: "When Weatherall's remix of 'Skunk Funk' came into the office, I remember us playing it again and again, like a repeating Buddhist mantra, and being blown away by the creativity. The bass just bounced off the walls. It was in your face, militant and melodic, and no doubt inspired by the dub reggae that Andy admired so much."
"That was a beast of a remix," recalls Gilles Peterson. "It was bittersweet, as I remember thinking I should have got Andrew to produce the whole album the original track has come from! It was great to release this and it actually became a track that bonded Rob and Andrew." It was a bond that lasted years. Gallagher says Weatherall's death this week at the age of 56 has "left a massive Weatherall-shaped hole that I don't think can be filled."
That Weatherall-shaped hole will sadly become more apparent as time moves on. Even as he shunned the success of the superstar DJ, he continued to remain vitally influential, uber-relevent, always supporting up-and-coming talent and educating via his DJ sets. He also put in an incredible amount of hard work to continue to musically educate himself.
Paul Martin, who co-A&R'd the remix EP, sums it up. "Andy Weatherall, time and time again as a DJ and producer, became a sorcerer conjuring musical magic out of air. He transformed dance floors into confessional spaces where you could let go of your emotions and for a moment let the groove take you to a space beyond the clouds. I see him floating now, vari-speeding tapes and silver Technics turntables as he contorts the air around him into a bass-heavy melody set to some never-ending dub delay."