|808 State - Prebuild (Album)|
808 State - Prebuild (Album)
808 State - Prebuild
4 October 2004 (recorded during 1987 - 1988)
CosaCosa, Johnnycab, Clonezone recorded by - Gerald Simpson
Automatic - Simpson/Massey
Automatic and Ride recorded at Spirit Studios Manchester, direct to two track analogue tape, summer 1988.
Automatic later became Gerald's Automanikk, Massagerama & Sex Mechanic were previously released as the Lounge Jays (12" only). Thermo Kings is a live recording made during 808 State's first live gig at the Boardwalk in Manchester.
Talking with 808 State's Graham Massey about Newbuild's Mutant Prehistory, the Bunker Archaeology of Acid House and the Dangers of Electrocution on the Manchester Party Scene from 1987-1988.
Only machines can do things in precise sequence. People and circumstances tend to be a whole lot messier, which is when things start to get interesting. Technology becomes destiny. The rest, as they say, is history, and who knows where that comes from? 'From a personal viewpoint, I always saw the Acid stuff as an imitative first step towards finding an identity in electronic music,' Massey remarks of the recordings in this collection. 'Because of its limitations, it became an established form of music pretty quickly: anything with a 303 on it could sound like Acid. Once you had the machinery to do it, which we discovered we already did, it wasn't hard to make Acid House.'
Wind the tape back to around '87/'88, and the machines are there. Hip Hop is a powerful carrier signal on Manchester's dance music scene. Electro is aligning the sound of the Roland 808 drum machine with the glittering promise of the future. 'The 808 had such a history before the British dance music revolution, mostly in soul music, I guess. It had connotations.' The Roland 303 Bass Line had also been around for some time before '88. However, the minute you knew it was the 303 being used on Acid records you pulled it out of the cupboard and started using it again.
'We knew we were copying American music, but often what we heard on Acid Trax compilations and dance imports didn't hit the mark. The charm of a decent Acid record didn't necessarily happen every time. There was maybe one in ten that really rocked, and it was almost accidental that a track was successful. The formula was there, and we knew that we weren't coming up with anything new when we started to make Acid records. It was more the urge to take it over the edge and do that transcending thing with it.'
Prebuild follows that line of transcendence, comprising studio recordings from the period, a reel-to-reel of a radio session jammed live on air, a clutch of demos recorded by Gerald Simpson in his bedroom and a cassette of the first ever 808 State performance. An ecstatically extended fourteen-minute workout that took place at the end of a Hip Hop night at The Boardwalk Club, 'Thermo Kings' is a glistening wall of radioactive sludge, the sound of industrial waste undergoing a profound chemical change.
'That was the accident that formed it all. It was unplanned but had a definite magic to it. Gerald and Martin were on stage, and I was at the back of the hall working the mixing desk. We hadn't done any recordings before then, but we wanted to try and get that on tape again. The Roland gear did seem limiting but that's all we had, plus studio time was at a premium so you did what you could with what you had. The cheapness of the gear at least meant that we could get in the water with electronic music.'
The result was a series of barbed and energetic dance abstractions that were derived from a specific scene but yielded far wider implications. Technology both preserved and united 808 State's disparate elements.
Massey was running a basement cafe across the road and was learning sound engineering at Spirit studios a few blocks away on Tarif Street. It wasn't long before Martin was organizing Hip Hop crews into club nights and bringing them to the studio to record. Gerald Simpson and MC Tunes formed one such crew. Gerald had a Roland 808 drum machine, the sh101 mono synth and a 303 Bass Line machine.
'One of the reasons we got together was we all had bits of equipment but not enough to experiment with. The more boxes we could wire together the better. Gerald never had plugs on his gear and would jam bare wires into the mains with matchsticks. If we needed a new lead, we would cut an old one in two. I remember a scary moment when we played a rave in Victoria Baths with the pool open, and everyone's in the water dancing water-hockey style, and there's all Gerald's bare wires.'
Safely plugged into the mixing desk at the back of the hall, 808 State's wild-style circuitry left bands like Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets free to take over the stage at concerts, giving them a connection with dance culture they might not otherwise have made. 808 State own sets of the period would include early versions of 'Voodoo Ray', plus House remakes of New Order's 'Blue Monday' and 'Confusion'.
This volatile first rush of activity was probably over within a few months, but in that period, 808 State cracked the Acid code, laid down a methodology and shifted the number of beats per minute, unleashing tracks like the fearsome 'C.I.S.' and 'K.Narcossa' on Stu Allen's radio show or dropping twenty-minute tapes into sets at the Hacienda or at warehouse parties. By then Price had sorted out a distribution deal, forming Creed Records to release Newbuild and the 'Let yourself Go' 12" . Gerald recorded 'Voodoo Ray' and the Hot Lemonade album as A Guy Called Gerald for Liverpool's Rham label.
Masking their identities as the Lounge Jays, the 808 trio also put out the sleazy driving funk of 'Sex Mechanic' and 'Massagearama' as a 12" for Sheffield's Mr Modo label. 'I think you have to take into account that there's a certain amount of automatic writing with that kind of technology,' Massey recalls. 'It's trial and error a lot of the time. You'd only press the record button when it was happening.' Now press rewind and play.
Ken Hollings London 2004