Archive for September, 2009

Jimmy J

Mark Archer Altern 8 Altern8

Admittedly, cassettes were my crack. But there was a time I almost purchased a record. The track was Infiltrate 202 by Altern 8. But at the time, I didn’t know what it was called. The only thing I knew was that it sent the 23 Hop dance floor in to a frenzy the instant it was sampled. All I could do was hum the track to the employees at StarSound and Play De who hadn’t the faintest idea what I what I was raving about. Sadly, my one and only vinyl buying mission failed.

Many of Altern 8’s tunes were anthems in the original days of Toronto raves. Fast forward 20+ years and Infiltrate 202 is widely believed to be our first rave anthem. That said, it’s an honor to include this interview with Mark Archer. A tribute to Toronto’s rave scene would be incomplete without it.

Meet Mark Archer. He’s a godfather of UK techno and an unofficial spokesperson for Vick’s VapoRub. Mark will be appearing at Reunited in Toronto on Saturday May 11.

Can you give us a brief history of your producing career?

I originally started out recording in 1988 along side Dean Meredith as a group called ‘Rhythm Mode D’ recording more hip hop based material as well as various other artist names to record a (seemingly) various artists compilation of Acid House. In 1989 we were recording some very ‘Mr Fingers’ influenced techno so decided on using the name ‘Bizarre Inc…’ for the project. Later that year I started the project ‘Nexus 21‘ and had to get someone to play keyboards so Chris became part of the group to record some more Detroit influence techno.

In 1990 we were owed studio time by Blue Chip records and recorded 9 track in that time which had wider influences than Detroit techno so it was decided to give that project a different name, it was supposed to be ‘Alien 8’ but when our then record label (Network) had the sleeves back, it said ‘Altern 8’ so we went with that name.

I’ve had various pseudonyms since 1988 which have included working with other people as well as solo, mainly C+M Connection alongside chris, Slo Moshun with Danny Taurus as well as Xen Mantra and Trackman on the solo front.

What’s your personal favourite Altern 8 tracks? And least?

Frequency and Infiltrate 202 are my personal favourites and dub pl8 would be the least, not because it’s a bad track, it just totally didn’t fit with what we were about and had absolutely nothing to do with the scene at the time.

What was the inspiration behind your suits? Did you really put Vick’s in the masks?

We were still doing pa’s as Nexus 21 in ’90 when we were first asked to perform as Altern 8. So we needed some sort of disguise, my brother was in the RAF and had 2 spare NBC (nuclear biological chemical) suits and I just added the day-glow masks and name patch to them. The Vicks thing came about in 1991 when we noticed people using it in clubs (apparently for different reasons) but we thought it would be a good idea to put it in the masks as it gets well stuffy having one of those on your face for an hour.

Was there a rift between you and the Prodigy because of the Altern 8-esque creature in their Out of Space video (roughly 1 minute in)?

Not really, we weren’t ever sure if they were taking a knock at us as there would never be a reason for them to do so. I think the video was just a representation of the scene as it was at that time and a lot of people wore the white suits and masks to a rave and they still do to this day.

Speaking of Altern 8 and Prodigy, I once head a mix that went “Charly says always” and then “watch your bassbins I’m tellin’ ya” was cut in. But I guess that’s not really a question?

Sounds like a top mix though, I may try it.

You guys were on top in 1991 and 1992 – why did you stop producing?

The UK scene had completely changed by 1993 as it was moving so fast and was totally different to scenes around the world which were playing varied styles – whereas the UK had become very pigeon holed by that time and it wasn’t going in a direction that we really wanted to follow. So we decided to start recording under the Nexus 21 name again but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Why do you think raves burned out? Are there any remnants left over in the UK?

It got way too genre specific for its own good, the law got on top and there were just so many things that contributed to the scene going back underground, but its essence still lives on and there’s a lot of events in the UK that are bringing the atmosphere of raves back as well as a retro scene that’s been going really strong since 1999. The music has influenced too many people to die out completely and there’s still people out there who want to hear the original versions of all the classics played in a set that would fit back then.

Was it a kid who said “top one, nice one, get sorted” during Activ-8? Do you feel this influenced Project One‘s kid samples?

It was the daughter of the record label boss, she was three at the time and we got her in the studio to record that and some speech that’s on the very end of the move my body remix on the same 12″. Not sure if it influenced Project One but it was along the same lines as the Prodigy using the “Charly says” sample at the time we did it. Claire who recorded the vocals is now 21 and looks a hell of a lot different to how she did – lol.

As you can tell by this Toronto rave mixtape which features Infiltrate 202 and Activ-8 – you guys had a handful of Toronto anthems. Do you have any comments on the recording?

It sounds like my early mix tapes but is very varies as far as when tracks were released compared to Uk mix tapes from clubs of that era. Amnesia was the kind of thing that would have been played in 88/89 and the same with the dance so wouldn’t have been played really on the same night as something Like Infiltrate 202 which was out in 91. Back then though, the emphasis was more on the feeling, not so much the mixing, it was just the buzz when a massive track came on in the mix and the place would go off. We were never aware that any of our tracks were being played in Toronto and it’s great to hear them in a mix alongside some real rave classics.

What projects are you working on these days?

I’m working on solo material and remixes under my own name which will be released both as vinyl and as digital downloads. I’ve got the ‘Triangle ep’ coming out on Sonic Heavy Recordings, Remixes of my remake of Armageddon coming out on Balkan Vinyl (following on from the remake of Frequency) tracks coming out on ‘Rhythmic Science’ and ‘Flatline Deep’ as well as some remixes on various labels.

They all hark back to the sound of Nexus 21, more Detroit techno styled from the late 80′s early 90′s. I also DJ pretty much every weekend playing rave classics from 1988-92 around the UK as well as places like Brazil, Malta and Germany.

When are you coming to perform in Toronto?

If someone contacted me to say they wanted us to play a DJ set in Toronto, there’s no way i’d say no. [Well we did! Mark’s in Toronto on May 11!]

Jimmy J

DJ Malik X live from 23 Hop

“Attention everyone, this an emergency broadcast. The unpleasant noise you are about to hear coming your radio is not a mistake – please do not turn off your radio but turn up the volume on your receiver as high as it can go – so that you can make the sound that we broadcast as loud as possible.”

The beginning of this tape experiences some technical difficulties but nothing a quote from one of Malik’s Radio London sound bites can’t fix in a jiffy.  As Atheama by Nebula II continues from the previous side the audio struggles to gain composure. I’m not sure what the explanation for this is but I remember it being on the original tape as well. Fear not, it doesn’t last too long.

Before we know it Annihilate by the Annihilator decimates with fully functioning decibels. Way in my Brain by SL2 gives us a little more ragga style techno and is blended with another unidentified track for a lengthy period of time. Unlike all the other mucking about/sampling on this tape the unknown track is never played on its own only used to funk-out Way in my Brain. And when it’s all said and done the trippy sample is definitely way in our brains.

What ever fires are still burning from the total destruction caused by the Annihilator keep burning courtesy of Keep the Fire Burning by the House Crew. Any one fortunate enough to survive by this point is subsequently exterminated at zero range with Exterminate by DMS. The fire and flames continue with Johnny by the Ibiza Crew “you’re going to burn for this Angel” which is a sample from the movie Angel Heart.

I’ve always thought CeCe Peniston’s Finally was an odd selection as the next track – so here’s a few theories:

1. After annihilating, burning and exterminating the crowd Malik was probably trying to ease the tension and settle things down in the room. And just for the record Finally was mostly likely hot off the presses not going commercial until early 1992.

2. Finally could have been dropped by another one of the Booming System DJs and could represent a transition to a new set. This theory is reinforced when The Future is dropped a second time at the end of the tape (would Malik have played it twice?)  If the DJ change theory is correct, the mixing still remains smooth, could it be Dr. No?

Regardless of what ever moments we had to relax compliments of CeCe the mayhem starts again with Riots in Brixton by English Friday. Another Exodus anthem Feel It by Coco Steel and LoveBomb polishes things off with its unique build up and the ever-so satisfying climax.

There’s another mic appearance during the rewind of this song at (38:55) but it doesn’t sound like Malik: “we’re gonna play that one again, whistles in the house!” The more I play it the more I believe it could very well be Captain B. himself. This would explain why he so closely guarded this particular tape and kept it completely intact for once.  And since the end of the tape is near, this places him at the scene in perfect position to eject it from the deck, pocket the master and slip out in to the crowd undetected.


P.S. By cross referencing the exact release dates of certain tracks on this tape (Finally, Activ-8) combined with the knowledge that Malik didn’t DJ most of December – we’ve determined this tape is most likely from a Saturday in November of 1991.

Jimmy J

dj malik x live from exodus - a

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard thus far, and if Exodus’ flyer copy-writing speaks the truth, then this tape is “guaranteed to blow your mind.” I can’t be sure of the date it was recorded, only that it was made sometime during the second half of 1991. I am sure, however, this example is the earliest complete recording of a rave in Toronto. If there’s another one floating around out there, please prove me wrong – the more the merrier. I’m also certain this set is specifically Malik’s, given the selection of tracks, mic work and mixing.

I obtained this recording from Captain B. Mental. Thankfully he didn’t meddle with this mix as he did all other Exodus recordings in my possession. Even better news is that this copy was taped from the master so it’s about the best quality you’re going to get. Before you get too excited, keep in mind the original was recorded on the dirty 23 Hop DJ booth’s tape deck and then duplicated for me on another low-quality deck. Then factor in a few hundred plays, 18 years of analog decay and additional loss in quality when converted to mp3 format. Truth be told, it could still benefit from a Dolby Noise Reduction button.

Another interesting tidbit to point out is that, for some reason, the tape deck in the booth wasn’t recording the mic, so a few times throughout the recording the volume dips down when the mic was in use. Do yourself a favor and jack the volume during these times. Thanks to the needle on the live turntable, sometimes you’ll faintly hear Malik speaking. His chants are heard clearly twice: “Brampton crew in the house!” (11:35) and “What’s on your mind?” (22:50). And of course, there are cameos by the whistle posse throughout.

The tape starts off with a few classic tech-house warm-ups: Amnesia by Mr. Fingers,  The Dance by Rhythm is Rhythm and I’m Not So Selfish by Techno Grooves on the Mach 2 EP. Then “Oh no, not more bass!” warns us that Altern 8’s Infiltrate 202 is about to kick things up a notch. This tune and a few others on this side are obvious 1991 Toronto anthems, given Malik’s rewinds and mic appearances.  He makes sure to take the next mix slow and not rush it, mucking about for at least two minutes blending in White Form by Never Mind masterfully. K Groove’s The Future, frequently described by Malik as “aerobic-style techno,” is smoothly mixed in after being rewound again and again. Back from Detox by Dove People throws a little ragga style our way before Altern 8 makes a second appearance with Activ-8. “Top one, nice one, get sorted” is sampled somewhat conservatively compared to some other nights when it would be stuck in my head until the next time I heard it… a week later. Human Resource’s classic Dominator arrives on the scene followed by Hurricane by Sykosis 451. Then Antheama by Nebula II leaves us in a state of confusion.