DJ Hamish MacDonald

Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: DJ Hamish MacDonald

This month I’m focusing on a person rather than a tune, to present a vital but overlooked element in the evolution of early 1980s UK electronic music – the barrier-trouncing dancefloor at infamous London goth niterie the Batcave, driven by DJ Hamish MacDonald.

Writing notes for the taboo-shattering club’s ‘Young Limbs Rise Again’ book when it was first released, I somehow didn’t give Hamish the credit he deserved, possibly because I always linked him to the awesome goth-punk trio, Sexbeat.

While Rusty Egan was spinning Visage to new romantics at Camden Palace, Hamish blasted goths with heavyweight electronic mixes by Killing Joke or Soft Cell. Playing Throbbing Gristle’s ‘United’ amid crowd-pleasing Bauhaus, he helped fling young minds open to discover the glorious excess and debauchery that stoked the club’s notoriety as it moved between Fooberts, Gossips and Soundshaft at Heaven between 1982 and 1986.

Asking Hamish for his Top 20 playlists, he supplied a typical evening’s entertainment, straddling New Order’s ‘Ceremony’, Killing Joke’s ‘Follow The Leaders’, The Cure’s ‘The Walk’, Depeche Mode’s ‘New Life’, The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’, Soft Cell’s ‘Memorabilia’, Alan Vega’s ‘Magdalena 83’, Wendy Carlos’ ‘Ode To Joy’, Tubeway Army’s ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’, Japan’s ‘Quiet Life’, DAF’s ‘Der Mussolini’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’, David Bowie’s ‘The Speed Of Life’, Brian Eno/David Byrne’s ‘The Jezebel Spirit’, Devo’s ‘Jocko Homo’, The Sisters Of Mercy’s ‘Alice’, Ultravox’s ‘Quiet Men’, Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Dub’, The Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’ and Iggy Pop’s club anthem ‘Night Clubbing’.

Like the gigs he played for promoter John Curd, such fare sounded new and startling between live acts. Apart from trampling barriers, vital seeds for the acid house movement and backrooms were sewn by Hamish at the Batcave, and it was an honour to take up his baton after he moved on.

On the home front, the Moine Dubh event for Mr Weatherall that Nina Walsh and I organised in a disused church was magical. She has continued her vault-raiding ‘Apparently Solo’ EP series with three more unreleased nuggets forged at Facility 4 between 2016 and 2019, dropping the tempo to what Andrew dubbed “the drug chug” as “a leveller” after recent festive cavorting. The insidious grooves of ‘This Whole Fandango’, ‘Heat To Meat Ratio’ and ‘We Two’ will make a sublime summer soundtrack when the sun comes out.

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