The first interview with Andrew Weatherall outside of his role in the band Bocca Juniors, which was originally published in the UK weekly music paper Melody Maker on 17 August 1991

Primal Scream, New Order, James, My Bloody Valentine, Saint Etienne, The Orb and S’Express are just some of the acts who have called upon Andrew Weatherall to remix their work over the last 18 months or so. In every case, Weatherall has literally demolished the track and built it back up into something totally different, something more of his own than of the original artist. The chances are you’ve got several of his records in your collection and you don’t even know it.

But although he is probably the most sought-after remixer in the land, a popular club DJ and a pillar of the Boy’s Own organisation, a role that involves running a record label, promoting events and publishing a magazine, Andrew Weatherall is an enigmatic figure. This is the first time he has agreed to be interviewed about his extensive work outside of Bocca Juniors, the group he pilots with fellow Boy’s Own bigwig Terry Farley. 

“I have no desire to be in the limelight,” asserts Weatherall as he tucks a few wild strands of his long hair behind his ear. “I’m a lot happier staying in the backroom, keeping myself to myself. The trouble is that some people are starting to think I must be a right arrogant bastard and they’re filling the gaps in what they know about me with fantasy stories, like how I get paid 10 grand for a remix. Shit, I’ll do a remix for a couple of luncheon vouchers if the track is good and it’s all the band can afford.

“I’ve tried to steer clear of music industry bullshit as much as I possibly can. I don’t like the way the business works and I don’t like the sort of people who are involved. Most of them might as well be selling double glazing. I’d rather go out with my mates or sit at home having a quiet smoke than worry about being seen in the right company or the right places, you know, lunching with A&R men and popping across to the New York Seminar. As far as I’m concerned, stuff like that is a load of old bollocks.” 

Andrew Weatherall’s name first surfaced in the pages of Boy’s Own, the now legendary music, football and fashion fanzine that he and Terry Farley started around five years ago as a London answer to The Farm’s ‘The End’ up in Liverpool. Sold in pubs and on the terraces, the magazine peaked in 1988, around the time that acid house clubs like Danny Rampling’s Shoom and Paul Oakenfold’s Spectrum introduced a whole new audience to dance music. Weatherall, who happily admits to never being into the funk and rare groove sounds that dominated London’s clubland in the year or two before acid, was one of them.

“I first went to Shoom to shut Farley up,” he says. “He had been going on about it for ages, saying how the music was mad and the place was full of football lads, Ibiza lads, and I just thought, ‘Fuck off, it sounds terrible’. But as soon as I walked in, I knew it was something special. The strobes and the smoke were on from start to finish and I had to keep touching people to make sure I wasn’t alone in there. I had a ball.”

Becoming a regular face at every acid club in town didn’t mean Weatherall lost any of his enthusiasm for the kind of left-field rock music that he’d been buying since he was a kid. In fact, his extensive and eclectic record collection gave him an unexpected opportunity when the Balearic beat boom turned clubbers onto groups like The Residents and The Woodentops. He persuaded Nicky Holloway to let him DJ at The Trip and a couple of months later Danny Rampling gave him a slot at Shoom. Alongside the latest house tunes, his sets regularly include everything from PiL and Chris & Cosey to Dub Syndicate and Ravi Shankar.

Towards the end of 1989, Weatherall bluffed his way into remixing, just as he had into DJing. He’d met Primal Scream a few times – “They used to sit in the corners of clubs looking winsome” – and volunteered his services when Bobby Gillespie mentioned that the band were planning a dance remix of one of their tracks. That he managed to transform ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, a fairly pedestrian song on the Primals’ eponymous second album, into ‘Loaded’ is especially remarkable since Weatherall had only set foot inside a recording studio once before, when Paul Oakenfold invited him to help out on a mix of Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’. 

“‘Loaded’ worked because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he says. “I mean, all I really did was slip a beat underneath the track, then let that great melody and those brass stabs do the rest. It was simple and direct. I knew it was a strong track, but I was completely knocked back by how well it did. I originally said I’d be happy if we managed to sell a thousand white labels.”

Not only did ‘Loaded’ come within a couple of places of cracking the UK Top 10, it also proved to be a bigger spark in the explosion of the so-called “indie dance” scene than The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’ or Happy Mondays’ ‘Wrote For Luck’.

“Yeah, people talk about ‘Loaded’ breaking down barriers, but I don’t think barriers are ever broken down, they just get moved to somewhere else. The saddest thing is how the indie dance scene is masquerading as some kind of youth rebellion. When I was 14, I wasn’t allowed to have a Sex Pistols record in the house and my mum ripped my John Lydon poster down. Now you’ve got young Fred playing his latest indie tune and Mum comes in and it’s, ‘Oh, this is a nice song, I could do my vacuuming to this’ and ‘Oh, that’s a nice stripey top, you’ve got one like that, haven’t you?’. Youth rebellion? Bollocks.

“Then there’s all this stuff about how great it is that these groups are so ordinary. They’re not ordinary, they’re not busting their guts in a supermarket, they’re fucking pop stars. The idea that they’re saying to their fans, ‘We’re just the same as you’ when they’ve signed record contracts for hundreds of thousands of pounds is sick. I mean, I met Norman Cook the other day, he’s a smashing chap and all that, but he’s into being very plain, very straight. He’s chatting away about football and I’m thinking, ‘Norman, you’ve had Number One records across the world, stop putting it on’.” 

Every Weatherall remix is a testament to his bold approach and maverick spirit. Take the brass band samples and submarine bleeps of Jah Wobble’s ‘Bomba’. Or the way that celestial voices and nagging violins collide on My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Glider’. Or Word Of Mouth’s ‘What It Is’, a record Weatherall describes as “heavy metal Soul II Soul”. Then there’s the recently released ‘101’, a Finitribe track bolstered by a Santana bassline, and Primal Scream’s ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’, his fourth remix for the group. It incorporates the same whistle he used on New Order’s ‘World In Motion’. If you don’t already know, it also features Manchester singer Denise Johnson instead of Bobby Gillespie. 

With each project, Weatherall has deviated further and further from the indie dance fusion that he helped to pioneer. He’s made his mark with loping basslines and spacey, shuffling, percussion-driven, echo-ridden beats. The incredible weight of his tracks brings to mind the work of the early Jamaican dub masters. 

“Dub is so primeval, so raw,” he says. “It really is tribal music. Those mad stories of King Tubby building his dub machines out of old bedsprings are amazing. I also admire the way people like Joe Meek and Phil Spector used to work. OK, Tubby was a black guy living in Jamaica and Meek was a white homosexual from north London, but I see a strong link in the way they both threw the rulebook out of the window and let simple lunacy run its course. At the end of the day, I think that’s what I do too. 

“It’s nice when people say they can recognise my work – even if an eight-minute intro and a huge bassline and some fuck-off breakbeat always makes it pretty obvious. I’m not into throwaway music, I want to stir people the way I’ve been stirred by something like Tom Waits’ ‘Kentucky Avenue’. I know it’s probably impossible to do that with a club tune, but I’m having a fucking good try. If I heard the Primals’ ‘Higher Than The Sun’ for the first time at a rave at six in the morning, I’d be on my knees yelling, ‘Yes! Sign me up for the Jesus Army!’. That’s my stamp – ‘Yes!’ with a big exclamation mark after it.”

Have any artists complained about what you’ve done to their track?

“Most people who ask me to work on something know I’m going to totally destroy the original and the only whinge I’ve had was from James over my ‘Come Home’ remix. I did it ages ago, but it’s only just been scheduled for a release because they basically didn’t understand where I was coming from until they heard an acetate of it in a club. My mixes work best booming out on club speakers, not with everybody gathered around an office desk. It’s like the way A&R men will sit there listening to a dance track and say, ‘Hmm, it’s a bit repetitive’. Of course it’s fucking repetitive, it’s got to hammer home an annoying riff, it’s got to make people move.

“Apart from James, I also had a few problems with ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’, because Bobby isn’t actually singing on the track. Again, it was done months ago, way back last October. It’s only being released now because Pete Tong at London Records offered to buy the tapes from Creation and put it out on Boy’s Own. 

Alan McGee was obviously having none of that. At first, I was really angry about the delay. In retrospect, though, the fact that there’s been such a massive buzz on the track for so long must be to the good.”

Do you find it easier to remix than to record something from scratch with Bocca Juniors?

“Yeah, but whatever you are doing it’s always easier and quicker to work alone. Bocca Juniors is a weird group because there’s usually Terry Farley and Pete Heller on one side, and Hugo Nicolson and me on the other. Terry and Pete are into subtle little touches, ideas I’ll often dismiss as disco shite, whereas I just want to whack the bass up full and stick loads of guitars in. I think they think I’m Rick Rubin. We’ll probably end up having to record the Bocca album in two separate halves.”

Given the chance, who else would you like to remix? 

“I’ve dropped a few hints but the final decision isn’t up to me, it’s up to the artists. I’ve turned down more work than I’ve taken on, though. I turned down The Cure, for example. Their songs mean too much to people to have some acid house DJ fucking them up. Talk to me in six months when I’m sweeping the roads and I’ll no doubt say, ‘I wish I’d done that fucking Cure track’.”

Over the last few weeks, Andrew Weatherall has remixed the next Jah Wobble single, ‘Visions Of You’, which has Sinéad O’Connor on backing vocals, and recorded a track called ‘New Age Symphony’ with In The Nursery under the name Trance Plant. Working with his Bocca Juniors accomplice Hugo Nicolson, he has also produced most of the forthcoming Primal Scream album, ’Screamadelica’, which will be out on Creation next month. 

Although he is now planning to take a long holiday – “I’m fed up of reading the word ‘ubiquitous’ next to my name” – there’s no danger that he will lose his zest for music and for life in general.

“I’m a sponge,” he laughs. “I want to soak up everything – music, literature, films, whatever you want to throw at me. The way I see it, the world is rapidly spiralling down the toilet and I want to take it all in while I can. It’s like the last days of Pompeii, isn’t it? I love it. I love weirdness. That’s why I had my hair shaved off and got a Psychic TV tattoo when I was 18, although I could never be as regimented as Genesis P-Orridge. I’ve never worked my ideas into any sort of a game plan. All I’m doing is blundering up and down alleys, bumping into things here and there.”

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