Matters of State (1)
7 magazine article, 8 December 1999

Eighties techno innovators 808 State are alive and well, and back to show the new boys how it’s done. Neil Davenport popped along to their studio to hear their master plan. Photos: Simon King


Restaurants are not booked. Cafés are not agreed upon. The only place, it seems, to meet and talk with 808 State is in their natural habitat – the recording studio. In case you’re wondering, 808 State – Graham Massey, Darren Partington and Andrew Barker – is alive and very well indeed. Not much has been heard from the original pioneers of UK dance since 96’s inspired Don Solaris album. Only a Greatest Hits compilation here and the odd live show there have briefly punctured the silence.

When they’ve not been Djing (Darren and Andy), setting up Improv club nights (Graham) and mixing local beat-folkies Jeep (Darren again), they’ve been here at Ducie House in Manchester: making music, taking stock and carefully judging their next move. After an unsatisfactory decade with ZTT records, the trio wants to be fully in charge. And if that means a temporary low profile, then so be it.

"We’re doing it on our own terms now," says Darren Partington, a man who could quite possibly talk for England. "It can be frustrating for us as well as the fans, but if an album takes four years to make, then it takes four years to make. You don’t have to hit deadlines all the time. We did that for ten years at ZTT."

"We’re a bit long in the tooth," adds Graham Massey. "And not as green as we used to be. We want to get the record label thing right and avoid any wasted opportunity. We know how much hard work goes into the band, so we don’t want anyone messing things up."

808 State estimate they’ve 2 albums worth of new material ready for release, pending the right deal. As a kind of stop-gap, a one-off single ‘Invader’ is currently available. Originally recorded for the dreadful BBC docu-soap, Made In Manchester, its combination of fast cuts and thunder beats, acid house and Hammer horror demanded a general release.

"We had quite a response on our Internet site about getting it out." says Graham, "We knew the DJs behind Hook also wanted to put the track out. After all the mithering about releasing it, we eventually agreed."

As ‘Invader’ was recorded some time ago, 808 State seem quietly nonchalant about the whole thing. Instead, the banter constantly gravitates to current dance culture. What’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and 808’s relation to it all. They may have been on the public sidelines for the past three years, but they’ve been taking notes and, by the looks of it, gnashing teeth and pulling faces.

"People in dance circles underestimate the people who buy dance music," says Darren. "They just think that putting out the tried and tested thing is good enough. There is some great stuff out there being played in the clubs, but dance music was more interesting when people were throwing spanners in the works. People have become complacent, rehashing old tracks just to keep the scene going. There’s not enough producers coming through and not enough new scenes. You still need to progress, there’s plenty of things that haven’t been done." "I always think its amazing what you get on a dance compilation," laughs Graham. "Stuff like Britney Spears!" >>

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