Tiny Reminders / Weatherall

This Sunday night at 10pm only live (no listen back later options!) on Aaja Music, I’ll be doing a Two Lone Swordsmen special, showcasing their music between 1996 and 2001. You can lock in here, or download the Radio Cult app from the Apple or Google store and tune in to Aaja (UK, the snake logo) on the app. Here’s a Google Calendar notification if you are that organised – that took me about ten minutes to work out how to do that. If it doesn’t work, sorry. I won’t even try with an iPhone thing, please just stick a reminder in your phone yourself! I’ll also have a vinyl giveaway on the show as always – one lucky listener will take away a Two Lone Swordsmen record. Listen in on the night to enter. You can follow @bermondseylido on Instagram for more updates.

While I have been preparing and practicing for the show, many Weatherall & related memories from over the years and thoughts came to me. On the anniversary of his passing, I thought I would share them with you. These are just a handful – there are so many others down through the years. Being bowled over by a pulsating deep house set at Blood Sugar at 333 Old Street when I was expecting something completely different. Seeing him play an absolute blinding “Hypercity” era ForceTracks set to a crowd of mostly Warp electronica snobs. Catching the Turntables & Machines tour and waking up the next day with what felt like a dislocated spine from so much robot/break dancing to electro. Watching him empty out the upstairs level of a club with what another punter referred to as “fucking 80s wedding music” and still enjoying himself doing it. Wearing my DIY “Glide By Shooting” t-shirt (RIP) at ALFOS in Plastic People and a beautiful stranger coming over to me to tell me how much joy she had experienced from the 2LS records. Being completely mashed beyond recognition at the Orb in the nineties and then somehow with the throb, he managed to get me off the gurn bench and back into the sweaty mob. Seeing the 2LS band play at the Bloc festival and just not feel it – but respecting them for their pivot and chosen direction. Hearing him talk at an event in Hackney Wick about his musical journey which promptly stopped at 1987, and understanding that he was probably sick to the teeth of repeating the second summer of love narrative.

The list goes on. I only talked to him once, and I’m usually never one for hero worship, but for me the world is a sadder place without his musical output.

Around 1999 I had cycled to Goode Beach, WA, Aus, on my own from Albany on a very old bike, on a super hot day. I was the only person on the beach, swam in the cooling water, lay on the fine sand and listened to “Flossie wears Paco and Ralph” from Skimming not Swimming. I don’t think I’d ever focused so much on the mid range melody of that track before that moment. Even though I was on my own and was a bit sad not to share the experience with anyone, having that melody playing as the sun dried me off put me at complete inner peace, which is a rare occasion for me with the usual swirl of dread in my brain. I listened to it over and over again, even though it’s not what you would term a chilled or downtempo track. That feeling of serenity at that moment has always stayed with me.

A few years later I was living in Aotearoa and was out of work, running out of money, in a trough of despair. I kept on ordering takeaways even though I was using a credit card, just couldn’t even face a supermarket. I was wandering around for a walk one evening and passed by Real Groovy records (RIP). I wandered in, killing time, thinking “I am not buying any records in here, I can’t afford it right now”. BUT – and this passed through my head, clear as day, “I will only buy the vinyl copy of Skimming Not Swimming because there are different tracks on it from the CD. That is the ONLY record I will buy”. (this was in the days before Discogs) I raked through the Vinyl racks for about half an hour, just to see what was there in case I managed to get a job. And then this came out at me, like some sort of stone tablet delivered straight from the heavens. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came across it. And then I was panicking thinking that it was only the sleeve available, and the vinyls were gone, but no – it was all there. I went home that evening with record in hand, absolutely walking on clouds for a month. I can’t say for certain whether this record was the cause of my escaping my hole, but I got a job and met a woman that month, so I’ll chalk some of it down to that.

I think I saw Weatherall DJ for the first time in 1994, still underage and no lines in my face. He played a Sabres-esque downtempo set which didn’t sit well with me on the night, being a bit rubber-legged; and I guess I was expecting a bit more groove-driven tunes having had two old battered C90 tapes of his for several years before that. But it was c. late 95 or early 96 when I caught the Emissions Audio Output tour in the most rundown but authentic venue in the city (long gone), possibly with Conemelt and Technova playing live? It’s all quite hazy now. But Weatherall’s set kicked my head right into that floating space between that era techno (getting harder, darker, more aggro) and house (handbag, glam, cocaine arseholes) and showed me it was possible to musically walk the line with despair and hope. And dancing to it, it was Schrodinger OK to be in these two states at once.

There was always a great camaraderie at any night I saw Weatherall play, in any guise, be it as the Sabres, 2LS, his own name, with others like Avery, Smagghe, Johnston, etc. One great thing about ALFOS was the huge age range of the attendees. So many nights in London seem segmented into specific age brackets, and you sometimes feel like a bit of an old codger or creep when you try to strike up a conversation with random punters that could easily be your own kid. But that was never the case at ALFOS, at any one of the nights I was at over the course of the decade or so that it ran. On the last real world iteration of it before the pandemic at Phonox, obviously completely coloured by sadness, this was still evident. And you could talk to anyone. Putting this poster up (still on my sitting room wall) in Phonox was a great way to talk with people from just legal age to pensioners. It made me realise how much of a vacuum was going to be created; and the legacy of a community Weatherall had created over many years.

I remember having a minor epiphany at a sparsely attended ALFOS at Bloc in Hackney Wick. The average age of the crowd was probably somewhere in the late thirties or early forties, with some gurning grizzled old timers surely pushing sixty (or maybe they just looked it). I was dancing, thinking, do I really want to be doing this when I am that old? And initially I thought no, I can’t handle the late nights, the weekend writeoff, the Tuesday Trough. But then later on, after chatting with many of them, I thought fuck it, who cares? You enjoy this so much, and these are good people, they’re your people, why stop? After all, drinking wine and grazing on junk food while staying in to watch shit TV on a Saturday night is just another form of getting fucked up. But far less social. Just keep dancing, and try to balance the ageing out with healthier eating and less casual beers, because it’s too much fun to give up on.

Come share your own memories in the chat room on Aaja Music this Sunday night at 10pm.

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